Posted by: stiltsville | January 14, 2010

Haiti deserves more than a handout

Drone image of collapsed Presidential Palace

Haiti is the poorest country in the western Hemisphere, making New Orleans’ Ninth Ward look like Beverly Hills. Haitians have resorted to eating dirt just 700 miles east of Ocean Drive.
Today, 7,000 Haitians were buried in a mass grave and the Red Cross ran out of supplies. Water, food and medical supplies are beginning to trickle in. Unfortunately, Haiti’s main port is out of commission and the airport is limping along on generators.
The Haiti Royal Palace collapsed. The UN Mission, the prison, hospitals, the tax office, schools and the leading hotels collapsed, taking down whatever meager economy existed. The parliament building collapsed. Several government buildings collapsed and many government workers and legislators are unaccounted for. The UN contingent is searching and caring for their own.
Haiti’s Notre Dame Cathedral collapsed and the country’s senior church leader was killed. 100 priests are missing. Millions of Haitians lost everything, including their hope and faith. Haiti has now utterly collapsed as a functioning country.
Certainly, Haiti needs immediate assistance. But, what Haiti really needs is someone smart to sit back, take a deep breath and think about the future. This is not New Orleans, struggling, but recovering. This is the straw that broke the camel’s back. Haiti’s future can not be left up to a constant influx of aid, canned goods and used clothes. It just won’t do.
Haiti has a long history of colonialists and dictators looting the country, leaving the people desperate, impoverished and without hope. Every couple of years, another hurricane comes along and blows away whatever the people built up.
Haiti needs to invest this incoming aid in basic infrastructure: clean water, communications, schools and hospitals.
Haiti needs modern cement plants. In Haiti, many buildings are constructed with high sand content cement, salt water and no rebar. That’s why they fall down. In Haiti, you can’t just go down to Home Depot and buy new stuff, there is no Home Depot, and no stuff. They make their own cement blocks.
Haiti needs a building code and experienced builders. We can not simply rebuild the tarpaper and tin shacks to see them blown down in the next hurricane. And Haiti needs a reforestation program so the hillsides don’t wash away in every storm, leaving the people unable to even feed themselves.
Haiti needs metal and cement recycling plants. Otherwise, what’s going to happen to all the rubble, crushed cars and debris?
People have short attention spans. Soon enough the world will go back to video games and reality TV, and we’ll stop texting money to Wyclef Jean. If we don’t set Haiti up to begin to take care of herself, what happens when the canned goods, used clothes and cash runs out?
Haiti spent more than 100 years paying war reparations to France. Haiti is the victim of corruption, agricultural devastation, a thieving upper class and just plain bad luck. “Only gravity and air” is working now. Haiti deserves more than just a handout, Haiti needs a hand up. It is now, finally, time to declare Haiti a UN Protectorate and forgive their debt.
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