Monday, January 18, 2010

Haiti Rant

When there is a disaster, everyone jumps on the humanitarian bandwagon. The current aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti is a glaring case in point. Brangelina have held a news conference to pledge their support...



According to the BBC, the relief efforts are more large scale than for any other disaster in history. The UN has asked for $562m in aid monies to help the country over the next 6 months.

People are desperate and dying. The media is assaulting the world with the gory images of bodies and mangled survivors.



What cold-hearted wretches would not see the humanitarian aspect of this disaster, and reach out in whatever way they could, to assist?

What the world neglects, because it’s too accusatory, is the reality of what led to a disaster of this scale. Accountability is thrown out the window with the first picture of an injured or orphaned child on the side of the road.

The fact that Haiti often tops the list as the world’s most corrupt country has not been big news during this crisis. Of course it hasn’t – we are busy trying to save innocent lives, and get the basics of food and water to a desperate population.

But after the dust has settled, will the same people who are gathering the millions to pump into Haiti, be as concerned as to how it’s spent and where it goes?

Will they investigate the fact that, according to seismologists, the death toll in the earthquake will reach figures of over 50,000, “in large part because of corruption and resulting shoddy construction practices in the poor Caribbean nation”. Port au Prince is possibly one of the worst constructed cities on earth. It has been called 'a disaster waiting to happen." And then it did. Who is surprised? Whose responsible?

The relief efforts are being hampered at every turn by the lack of resources, machinery, supplies in the country. People are dying!

When do those in power in a country like Haiti become accountable for the well-being of the people? How can the fact that buildings were put together under corrupt deals, with inferior materials and design, be overlooked?

Would the carnage have been so widespread if the city was properly planned and buildings complied with regulations? The answer is no…

If the same fate had befallen a city in the developed world, would there not be massive legal implications for the building companies, the government? We all know there would.

Why is it, that the world has no expectations from, or respect for the leaders of the developing world? Why is it that aid from outside must flow without reservation into countries where the governments are notorious for their extravagant wealth at the expense of the basic needs of their people?

This issue nags at me. In Africa I’m surrounded by emergencies. Disaster characterizes the daily lives of over half the people on this continent. The governments continue to syphon the lion’s share of the countries’ resources, while the masses live in squalor, without access to healthcare, education, roads, water and electricity.

Why are people looting and shooting and running wild? The people have been desperate and ignored for a long time before the earthquake hit.



An earthquake is only the icing on the crumbling cake of corruption that has ruined so many nations.

An earthquake brings the cameras and heart wrenching stories. It brings out the motherly instinct in all of us.



But it hides and therefore condones the shameful behavior of the people in charge, who, through every corrupt deal, have sealed the fate of so many of the innocents.

And in a few months time when the media has forgotten about Haiti and turned it’s sensationalist eye to another of the world’s new and exciting disaster zones, who will ask where the relief monies have gone? Who will be benefitting? How extravagantly will the presidential palace be rebuilt at the expense of new hospitals, schools and basic housing?

Why would it be handled any differently than it ever has before…

(Photo of Haiti BEFORE the earthquake)

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20 comments:

Stephanie Faris said...

I still cringe every time I read that most of the officials have fled the city. Where are the nurses? Doctors? Gone. I wonder what will happen when they start to rebuild? Will they build the same shoddy city all over again? Or will it become like New Orleans...with everyone moving out.

Heather said...

The scale of corruption in nations such as Haiti and the ease with which it is done, is deeply disturbing. People no longer bat n eyelid, it is consdiered normal and any news of it greeted only by weary sighs of resignation. Why? why don't we care? and like you say, what will happen to all this money being pumped into the country? who is it going to help, really?

Which, as i replied to you on my post, is why I believe this ShelterBoxes are the best way to help right now. they are not money and they are being put right into the hands of those that need them by workers of ShelterBox flown in to do just that.

As far as the rebuild and the future goes, maybe some good will come of all this death and disaster.

Janet said...

... and we've been habouring one of their 'finest' . . . Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

This newspaper report made me want to gag!
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100115/ap_on_re_af/af_haiti_aristide

I have a serious dislike of politicians!!!

Lizzy Frizzfrock said...

One might say similar things about New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina struck. Louisiana has a history corruption in politics.

Debbie said...

your insight is so strong! having been born and raised as a child in Africa I know well the political corruption of that country! I believe, in America it is hard to truly grasp how corrupt , corrupt is..when there are NO checks and balances! My heart breaks for the people on Haiti and for the seemingly impossible task of making what was very wrong;right.

injaynesworld said...

Well said... but the alternative, do nothing, is also unacceptable. History shows that wherever there are humans there will be corruption and those who exploit the weak.

arlee bird said...

You have said all of this very well. A lot of focus was placed recently on condemning Pat Robertson. He spoke some truthful words that were grossly misinterpreted. If he had said this same thing a month ago, it still would have been true, but would have been ignored by the media. And comparing Haiti to New Orleans is not a very close comparison -- there might be some similarities, but nothing in New Orleans was on the scale that we see in Haiti.
Lee

Erin said...

The media loves natural disaster stories. They're simple. You can leave out all the context (in this case the fact that it was the first colonized nation to overthrow their colonizers and then had to pay ridiculous reparations to France, has been meddled with by the US and Canada and others ever since and yes, has corrupt leadership..) and they just boil it down to: big earthquake--thousands dead--world comes to rescue. As a journalist, I know it is essential that the story gets out and people see the destruction so that help does come. But many of the images and insincere journalists thrusting themselves into the chaos are little better than disaster pornography. Ratings are soaring as people are dying...

#167 Dad said...

thanks for your honest take on the situation. thanks for making me think...

The pale observer said...

Wow - thanks everyone for your insights and comments. Makes me more dedicated to investigate the whole story.

I think the answer lies in prevention aid - with strict controls. Instead of playing catch up with disaster relief.

And I agree that the media frenzy is approaching disaster porn!!!

Juli Ryan said...

Thanks for writing this post. I agree with Jayne. But like you, I am sad that only an earthquake will bring the cameras and that the media soon will try to shift our attention to the next natural disaster.

Ekua said...

There are a lot of good points in this article. It's great that people have been so willing to respond, but what about the before and the after? I feel like it's only a matter of time before something new happens and Haiti is once again forgotten.

Abena Serwaa said...

Indeed, we cannot ignore corruption whether it happens in Haiti, Accra, Chicago or DC. We cannot ignore it even if it involves well-meaning policemen accepting bribes, lobbyists ensuring the interests of special interest groups in DC or multinationals propping up dictatorships across the globe. But what I am wondering is whether the media focusing on corruption in Haiti right now will really help the situation today as it is in Port au Prince. It is good to think about rebuildin process but what about the bodies, rubble and desperate people slowly starving to death? I've also been thinking; Is it easier for some people to subscribe to the senility-infused ramblings of Rev. Pat Robertson that Haitians brought this upon themselves than to come to terms with the cruelty of it all? Does me spewing vitriol all over Pat Robertson on my blog today offer me some distraction from the real and tragic earthquake reality I'm still trying to get to grips with? Yes.. sadly it does.

Expat mum said...

I feel your frustration. To be honest, one of my reactions was "Shoot, I can't expect people to donate to my little Ghana school with this going on". And, I am ashamed that this amount of attention wasn't given to the earthquake in Pakistan a few years ago - even as people knew that the following winter would be fatal for many of the people. And of course, it was in Pakistan.
Having said all that, the situation is dire. A friend's family runs a hospital in P-au-Prince and all they are doing at the moment is amputations. I think because it is so close to the US and offers realtively easy access, there's a lot of coverage.
At my end, I am trying to teach big, fat, spoiled Westerners, (myself included) that we need to eat less and spend the money on our fellow humans. I'm into shaming people.

Michael said...

Thanks for writing this. I can't help but wonder if Haiti doesn't hold up an example of the future for more of us than would want to admit. Theft of resources can only intensify as those resources become more scarce. Look at the oil hording that went on during the 2007-2008 spike while simultaneously we failed to produce enough food to feed everyone for the first time in decades.

I've got a lot more to say on the subject, but I'll leave it at this: I've made my donation to the Red Cross and I'll hope that it finds its way to those in need.

Eternally Distracted said...

The sad truth is that you are so right. Your post is one that I will read again and again today... and one that will stay with me.

Steve said...

What a balanced viewpoint. Great post. If only the press had this viewpoint.

Jo said...

Hi, Holli.

I couldn't agree more. While I don't have a ton to give, I did donate $20.00 and I keep thinking that if EVERYONE donated even $5.00 -- that's GOLD to these people who are in such need.

I feel the same way when I fundraise every year for the 'MS Society' -- it's slow going this year (with the economy) but, again, I think the same thing -- if EVERYONE on my donor list donated even $5.00 (which is a lot for many people, I know) we could do some real good with that.

Blessings having the conviction to live your life doing for others.

Thanks for your comment on my blog and for becoming a follower.

Peace and serenity,
~Jo
'The End Of The Rainbow: Life After Bankruptcy.'

corvedacosta said...

I feel their pain. I hope they will get all the help they need.

Alexsandria said...

The nations who have the power and influence to see to it that developing nations have the support and guidance they need have no incentive to do so. None of them want more competition for their standing in the world.

Love your blog.
And thanks for checking out mine!

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