To be fair, one must understand that the situation in Haiti is difficult for all involved. By all, I mean the people of Haiti and the organizations that are trying to help.
This morning I visited an orphanage where I saw some amputee children. It’s really understating it to say that their lives have been disrupted but in spite of it all, they still manage to smile.
The problem is not only physical. The mental repercussions will also be great. Haiti does not have a good track record dealing with members of the population who are maimed. In fact, according to Phadoul Amizial, the public relations representative for the orphanage, handicaps have traditionally been treated like animals, often tied to a tree to allow the caretaker to go out. The most fortunate count it a blessing to be able to beg on the street.
Now with a possible 300,000 physically handicap members of society, Haiti will have to look at them differently, the population will need to be educated in order to understand that they too are “normal” people. The infrastructure will need to cater to their needs and the education system will need to adapt as well. The coming generation will truly be known as the “Amputee Generation”.
Following my visit to the orphanage, I went to the tent city situated at “Place Boyer”, a park that was one of my hangouts as a teen. What a sight! I expected to see sad, angry people. To my surprise, they were very welcoming, busy going about their lives, washing, cooking, building shelter and hoping. Hoping that something will be done soon to rebuild their homes, their schools, their playgrounds… their lives.
Yet, in an interview with a local journalist with contacts in the government and the diplomatic circles things don’t look hopeful, at least not for now. You might have heard that tents had arrived in Haiti. Well, the tent cities I’ve seen are more like bed sheet and tarpaulin cities. Only a few tents have been distributed. I’ve received different reports. One says that not enough have been sent to the country, the other advocates that they are there, in storage, but there is no coordination for effective distribution.
I believe it’s a bit of both. I am sure that more tents need to be donated, but there is the coordination situation. So here is my assessment. I will not call it my conclusion since there is so much more still to investigate. But my assessment is that the government in Haiti is truly impotent. There is a vacuum of leadership. Consequently, the many ONGs who are trying to help are left to their own devises, often replicating work that is already being done by other ONGs. There is not a plan of action. There is not a central body lead by the government that is directing the efforts. I have received reports of ONGs being territorial. I have heard reports of experts, “latrine experts” spending more time on their laptops projecting, pie charting and pontificating about latrines rather than building the things.
I have heard reports of experts coming in “guns blazing” disregarding the expertise of the local doctors, nurse, etc…
The international community has amazingly responded to the needs of Haiti. People all over the world have given of their hard earned money, I hope… the people living in the tent or should I say tarpaulin cities hope that politics and egos will not jeopardize their return to normality.
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick” Proverb 13:12
A few pictures