Four years later, Port-au-Prince looks just as it did the day a 7.0 Earthquake rocked country, its capital the epicenter. Even four years later there is no official death toll though according to multiple sources it’s at least 100,000, most in and around Port-Au-Prince. Let me put that in perspective: At the time of the earthquake, Haiti’s population was 4 million. It’s believed there are 8 millon Haitian nationals living around the world. Not a single one of that 8 million did not know someone who died in the Earthquake. It was the first time since another catastrophic natural disaster–Huricane Katrina–that I followed the news so closely in the days and weeks following the earthquake.
One thing that jumped out at me was the call for relief aid not from Haiti but from the international community. And boy did it come pouring in. Never before and never again has hundreds of billions of dollars–I’m not exaggerating–been raised in relief aid. That’s nothing short of miraculous. Unfortunately, one can only imagine the great good all the money and resources amassed could have done. For a nation that even before the Earthquake has 95% of its population living below the poverty line, it it also has the most corrupt in the Western Hemisphere. Know the billions in relief aid I just mentioned? It’s sitting in a warehouse in Haiti collecting dust and has been since it started pouring in.
Haiti’s beginning is one to be admired: It became the first African Republic in thew Western Hemisphere when it gained its independence from France in 1848. In the 178 years since then daily life in Haiti is not what one would come to expect compared to its neighbors. As a friend at a school I worked at often told me, being poor in the U.S. is nothing compared to being poor in Haiti. In the U.S. you can get government assistance. In Haiti you pray a relief organization comes to your neighborhood before you die of hunger. Some children eat mud pies just to stop the pangs of hunger.
Why, oh why would a government that clearly lacks the resources and the will to feed its own people deny said people the aid the world readily sends to them? As much as people like to knock Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and North Korea they welcome outside aid. The obvious fact the Haitian government doesn’t care about their own people aside, it’s common knowledge that they seize all aid supplies brought in as “contraband” and turn around and sell it on the black market. There have been coups and coup attempts over the years but it’s just been one corrupt government replaced with another. Former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide–the last democratically elected president of Haiti–was ousted in a coup during the 1990s and fled to Kenya, taking the hundreds of millions he stole from the country with him.
Will things ever improve in Haiti? Only if someone who actually cares comes to power. Considering the people of Haiti has been relying on outside aid just to scrape by for the last 40 years, one might wonder why a developed nation like the United States isn’t doing more than it has to help the country. The US Military took over Haiti’s only international airport in Port-au-Prince in the days following the earthquake to help coordinate relief efforts but that privilege was quicky revoked after the Haitian government realized they were deliberately being left out of the planning and logistics of the relief efforts. This was quckly followed by reinstating an import tax on aid supplies being brought in that was intially waived. Yes, I’m serious: It is on the books in Haiti that the country of origin is to be billed for the AID they willingly give to help the people of Haiti. Said aid is then seized upon arrival and put in a warehouse, never making it to the people who need it.
To those from Haiti who may be reading this I’m not trying to knock your homeland. The Haitian government’s the problem, not the people. The problem is the country has yet to have a government worthy of its people.