Haiti: six months later… have you forgotten?
With constant news of the BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico dominating the media for the past two to three months, it’s been easy to forget about Haiti. We’ve gone back to our cushy lives and forgotten about the people who are still suffering with no imminent relief of recovery.
A dear friend alerted me to Democracy Now!’s interview with Sean Penn who has consistently been a great part of the earthquake relief among NGOs (non-governmental [private] organizations). Penn, co-founder of the J/P Haitian Relief Organization, had tremendous insight on the current condition in Haiti and what the future holds for the country. However, I want to call out a particularly interesting bit of information from the interview:
AMY GOODMAN: $11 billion promised. Where is it?
PENN: I don’t think about $11 billion. I don’t believe in $11 billion. I think that pledge money is smoke and mirrors that evaporates as the years go on. The way it’s going to happen, is if bold organizations come in here, create manufacturing— I’d like to see them start as co-ops with philanthropic commitment to that for a period of time with a kind of sunset and then they can participate in the profit.
But right now, the donor’s conference, I think, was completely misconceived. And the way that it should have been done is somebody should have raised their hand and said, “I’m gonna rebuild every school in Haiti.” Somebody else should have raised their hand and said, “I’m gonna rebuild the hospitals and we’re gonna do it right now.”
—And instead, what happened was one after another, in Port-au-Prince — the biggest city in the biggest natural disaster in human history —systematically hospitals closed following the earthquake because money was not available and not coming in to those hospitals. The money exists and existed.
Six months later and only two percent of the promised reconstruction aid has been delivered to Haiti. The Haitian government remains crippled, most governmental humanitarian forces have left the country leaving NGOs to do the dirty work of rebuilding the country.
So what needs to be done?
- Construction and architecture. Construction needs to come in and start clearing away fallen debris. Architectural planning of new buildings should begin to address the issues that caused such devastation in the first place. Beginning with the Haitian Presidential Palace would serve two purposes:
- Symbolic move: it would show the people of Haiti and the world that action is being taken.
- Practical move: it would set the wheel in motion for the government to have a central place of operation again.
- Societal infrastructure. Community planning organizations need to begin mapping out feasible infrastructure (eg, roads, sewers, clean water) starting with the capital then working outward to nearby villages.
- Job opportunities. Manufacturing needs to come in and Haitians need to be put to work to earn a decent living.
These are basic things that occurred in America and Europe during the Industrial Revolution. Is Haiti so far backward that we can’t even get 18th and 19th century innovation started in a third-world country? Yes, Haiti has suffered much devastation since January 12 but the country is also fertile ground for positive change if people are willing to invest the money and the time.