Haiti: Two Years Later

“Na Sonje” (We will remember) – Haitian Kreyol expression

You were sitting at school or at work. It was almost 5 pm. Time to check out. Head home, relax, unwind. Somebody mentioned something about an earthquake on the news. You figured it probably wasn’t that bad. You logged off your computer and headed home. You made it home, had a meal, sat down on the couch, turned on your TV and then it hit you.

Earthquake. Haiti. 250,000 dead. 1.5 million homeless. Devastation. Destruction. Screaming. Crying. Shock. Confusion. Why?

You saw the pictures in the newspapers. You heard the pleas for help on TV. You talked to friends about how lucky we are to live where we do. You wondered how you could help. And then you did. You texted, you donated online, you gave medicine and clothes. You genuinely wanted to help. And you did. And you felt good about it. You helped Haiti.

A few weeks passed. You checked up on Haiti in the news. It was easy. Front-page coverage, lead story at 10 pm, everyone was talking about it. Relief efforts were swift and well-coordinated. You were impressed.

A few months passed. You continued to check up on Haiti. Stories were peppered throughout the newspapers and the nightly news but you didn’t see them everyday. Relief moved into reconstruction. The rubble seemed mostly to be gone, people still lived in tents and camps but they were surviving.

A year passed. Haiti only occasionally popped up in the news, mostly stories about cholera and other sad realities. Reconstruction wasn’t moving fast enough. Billions of aid dollars were promised by the international community. And the result? Despite the fact that 10,000 NGOs descended upon the country, life hasn’t changed much for ordinary Haitians.

Today, January 12th, 2012 marks the two year anniversary of a devastating earthquake that shook the nation of Haiti. You had turn to page 12 in the newspaper to find any story about Haiti. Do we not care anymore? You wondered why there were still problems to be fixed there? You then looked at the history.

After a populist slave revolt in 1804, Haiti becomes the first independent black nation in the world. Forced to pay back France for that slave rebellion, Haiti spends most of its annual budget for almost 140 years on repayment. America invades in 1915 to “protect its interests” and removes its military only in 1934. Dictatorships become the norm as Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier and Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier rule with an iron fist. Subsidized American rice and clothing floods the Haitian market essentially eliminating the local production of goods. Over 90% of food is imported. And only THEN does the earthquake hit.

It’s not really Haiti’s fault is it?

So what can YOU do about it? You could lobby your government to do more, you could give money to the big aid agencies. Or, you could go see Haiti for yourself. You could build biosand water filters in Leogane, the epicentre of the earthquake, or run English classes to provide adults with a way out of poverty or run summer camps for orphans in Port-au-Prince. I’m going to do it and so should you. For more info, CLICK HERE.

But on this day, the two year anniversary of the earthquake, we owe the country at least one thing: to remember.

Na Sonje Ayiti