Last Week’s News: Haiti – One Year Later

I’ve had this post in draft mode for so long, hesitating to write it because I did not want to simply blog a lament about Haiti.  The post was to be about the cholera outbreak and my absolute disbelief that yet another disaster could and was striking that country.  I wanted to scream why why WHY?!  But that would help nothing and no one.  My heart breaks for Haiti but all my tears weren’t going to help the millions of people trying to get back on track after the devastating earthquake of January 12, 2010.  Soon after the EQ I blogged about Haiti – what I thought the Caribbean response should be (or should have been) and on what I thought the large presidential palace meant to and for Haiti.  I thought that the EQ was really the worst that could happen.

Then there was the outbreak.

I recall drifting off to sleep at that time that straddles two days…it was October 18/19 and I heard on NPR in my woozy state that there had been 15 deaths of an unknown stomach ailment.  At the time I said “Please God, not cholera.”  That prayer was in vain because by the end of day on October 19 there were 150 deaths.  As it turned out there was a cholera outbreak in rural Haiti, the region outside of the damaged earthquake zone.  The last article I saw reported almost 3,000 deaths; I suspect that by now that 3,000 barrier has been eclipsed.  The cause of the outbreak is unknown but it has been suggested that the disease was brought to the country by a contingent of Nepalese peace keepers, assigned to Haiti after January 12, 2010.  A few cases of cholera have been reported in neighbouring Dominican Republic.

Then there was Hurricane Tomas that deluged a deforested and psychologically battered Haiti in November.  Elections were held in December but they were condemned for being so fraudulent and official results haven’t yet been released.  I mean, seriously, what the hell was happening?

But I promised that I would not lament.

During my usual blog reading I came across a post from @petchary that pulled me out of the funk.  In her post about Haiti she wrote about Jamaica’s relationship with its neighbour.  But the blog post did more than that: it also talked about the many good things about Haiti like its art and music.  Her post yanked me.  I am glad for it.  There is much more to Haiti.  Much more.

Powerful writers like Edwidge Danticat who wrote so eloquently about the EQ days after it happened.  So too did anthropologist Gina Ulysse, a professor at my alma mater (and she warned about Haitians being engaged in the aftermath and during the rebuilding process).  Ms. Danticat has written much and writes again in Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work to dispel the notion that Haiti is just about poverty and hopelessness.  Professor Ulysse performs to accomplish much of the same but also to highlight what Haiti symbolizes.  Both speak very honestly and powerfully about their homeland; both use creative means to educate and provoke us about Haiti.  Both teach.  These women are constant reminders that there is more to Haiti than suffering and that Haiti deserves more than out pity.

Already the reports are being submitted and articles written about the ineptitude and perhaps unwillingness of the international community to make good on its promises to Haiti, as well as the lack of strong & good leadership from Haiti’s leaders.  Why is that?  Why after all the public statements and aid pledges has so little been done? Is it as Professor Dupuy writes in “One year after the earthquake, foreign help is actually hurting Haiti” that it’s just more of the same for Haiti? I do not know, but I say don’t get bogged down in all the one year reviews that don’t seem to offer much positivity or hope.  It’s easy to lament and sigh in frustration but that doesn’t do much.

Instead I suggest learning from the women I’ve named above.  And if not them, then there other men and women who show that Haiti and Haitians have more to offer than what we too often see or readily think about.  The person could even be your neighbour or a classmate. Someone who will provoke your brain from its complacency.  January 1, 2011 was Haiti’s 207th Independence Celebration so maybe now’s a good time to access and absorb information about Haiti’s history – it’s undeniable place in world history as the first independent black nation, a status (still?) so feared by France.  And of course if you can, then find a way to actually work with Haitians to move forward.  Whatever it is, though, just get it done.  Don’t be content to just offer pity, shake your head, and lament for a few minutes.  Both you and Haiti deserve better.

10 Responses to “Last Week’s News: Haiti – One Year Later”
  1. Carole-Anne says:

    I never tire of reading and re-reading your blog posts. Kudos…

  2. petchary says:

    Dear CucumberJuice: Thanks so much for mentioning my blog. I am in total agreement with your sentiments, and that’s exactly how I felt when I wrote that blog post last November. I was tired of wringing my hands (or hearing others do so) over Haiti. “Lament” is exactly the right word. It does not help Haiti or the Haitian people to do so. I am quite sure they don’t want our sympathy, even if it is well-intended. I love Edwige Danticat – I remember buying her first novel, and treasuring it – and I must look up “Create Dangerously.” It sounds very interesting. Meanwhile, check out Nadine McLeod’s excellent reporting from Haiti on TVJ – sensible, balanced, not lamenting but just telling it like it is. She reported on the cholera this evening (yes, sadly the numbers have gone over 3,000 but the doctor she interviewed was relatively hopeful). Thanks again for this thoughtful post.

    • Thanks Petchary for your comment & encouragement. You’re right that well-meaning or not, sympathy can’t be all we have to offer Haiti. Or all we direct at the country. I will try to watch the TVJ stream to see Ms. McLeod’s commentary…I’m glad that the doctor is hopeful.

      Danticat is great…I’m going to locate that book & re-read the ones that I have.

  3. Miss Sara says:

    Great post. My feelings are this: the cholera outbreak was something that should have been expected; look at the living conditions. Malaria is also a concern. Ppl are (still) living in tents. The number of women and children who are being sex trafficked is on the rise. The election chaos? & the list goes on… IMO Haiti needs support so that they can re-build and remain on their own. They need a fresh start.

    I believe in all things, our trials can make us stronger. Haiti was forgotten by many, a lot purposely wanted to forget them… There is a message within this (these) mess(es).

  4. CJ says:

    Every effort will be made to ensure that Haiti remains underdeveloped. Change will come but it will be a looong time in coming. Whoever heard of Black people taking over and running a whole country sucessfully? Really now!

    On another note, silence continues on the source of the cholera outbreak, I guess the polio outbreak will go the same road. Question – support for Baby Doc’s return came from …?

    In relation to the Caribbean governments at the level of CARICOM there is on-going support for Haiti and the reconstruction process. Several organisations have donated cash and other items and again in some institutions this support was being provided prior to the earthquake.

    What are you doing in your neck of the woods to help?


    • Right now I can do nothing concrete for Haiti but I’ve not forgotten it; there are some opportunities available through local churches and my law school.

      How much more time must Haiti wait though? And what polio outbreak???? baby Doc apparently returned of his own accord but there is a theory being floated that he did so to avoid the negative effect of some new Swiss law on the money he stole from Haiti. Aristide recently got back his passport too. And I have little faith in CARICOM and its ability to affect the course of Haiti reconstruction.

  5. petchary says:

    It seems that Haiti is full of rumors and upheaval, but that is probably nothing knew. The people need to elect their own leader and hold him/her accountable. It’s not other countries trying to “under-develop” Haiti, it is an issue of leadership to me. I think CARICOM is doing very little, except talk – that’s all they ever do. Once they have a passport any former Haitian leader/dictator can return. It doesn’t have to be engineered by anyone. Duvalier had his reasons for returning; Aristide must have his reasons for not wishing to return.

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Sandy, Miss Sara. Miss Sara said: RT @cucumberjuice Last Week's News: Haiti – One Year Later: #jamaicanblogger #haiti […]

  2. […] to Carol Guzy, Nikki Kahn and Ricky Carioti of The Washington Post for their coverage of the January 2010 EQ in Haiti.  Their photographs are gripping.  The one that stood out to me the most is of tears streaming […]

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