Monday, February 15, 2010

Haiti One Month after the Earthquake: I Witnessed, And I Want to Tell

By Wadner Pierre 
All pictures by Wadner Pierre

One Month after the Earthquake, bureaucracy worsens the situation in Haiti. Because of a lack of leadership, the Haitian government has no control over the distribution of humanitarian aid. In spite of all the millions of dollars that have been raised and sent to Haiti, the majority of earthquake survivors still do not receive help. However, people do keep moving with dignity and a big hope of restarting a new life and putting their country back to work.

Haitian people always show the world that they are a strong people and can rebuild their country no matter how long it will take them. Haiti's reconstruction should and must be done in the interest of Haitian people. One month since the 7.0 earthquake destroyed Haiti's capital and a great part of the south and southeast of the country, the world has mobilized to help the Haitian people. Millions of dollars and tons of medical supplies have been sent to the country through international organizations and large nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). However, the Haitian people do not know to whom they have to turn for help, and they now are asking the following questions:

What are these millions doing for us survivors?
Who is benefitting from these millions?
Who has access to the UN operations center?
Who decides for the Haitian people?

My recent trip to my beloved country, Haiti, helped me and gave me the answers.

Twenty thousand US troops, several thousand Canadian troops, the NGO sector, armored vehicles, US ships, helicopters, and several hundred SUVs or 4WD vehicles are allowing the NGOs' representatives to continue their bureaucracy while Haitian people have no tents, no water, no food, and children are dying because of lack of care.

World Food Programme administrators are the ones who know which zones humanitarian aid has already reached and which zones have not yet received humanitarian aid. These people have no specific plan to distribute food to people and no idea of how they can better reach the communities. They do not
speak Creole; they merely speak a little French, a language that does not work for the majority of the Haitian population. WFP meetings are more accessible to foreigners than to native Haitians. The better the English you speak, the more chance you have to benefit from WFP aid. Haitian people do not know if they have the right to the humanitarian aid. 

The Haitian government has no control over the distribution of humanitarian aid. At one of the WFP meetings, a representative of the Haitian government who does not speak English, had to have a foreigner translate for him.  He barely spoke with authority regarding how the Haitian government wants the humanitarian aid distributed to reach its people.

The time has come for every Haitian, wherever you are and whoever you are, to take a stand and say "No!" to the bureaucracy that is worsening the situation in Haiti right now. Haitian people are ready to move on and want to work with everybody to rebuild their country. However, they do not need the type of help that the NGOs are offering them in their time of hardship. Haitian people are people of dignity, people who know how to help each other despite a lack of means.
Since after the earthquake, Haitian people have done the work that most NGOs have said they are going to do in Haiti. Bureaucracy is what NGOs are doing right now in Haiti. Most of the neighborhoods closest to the US and UN bases at the Toussaint Louverture International Airport have not yet received any humanitarian assistance.

In Cite Soleil, ten minutes away from the airport where all the decisions are made, people write, "We Need Help" on their walls. Next to the US military base, most of the tents are made with used sheets and used tarps. These people have no electricity, and most of them cannot afford to buy a candle. 
Meanwhile, the US troops have all they need to patrol the streets and make fun people -- even children -- under the name of humanitarian assistance to Haiti.  “We do not need soldiers because we are not at war,” said Thomas.

As I always say, the ongoing situation in Haiti is not because of the January 12 earthquake, but because of more than two hundreds years of Haiti’s exclusion by the international community that began right after Haiti’s declaration of independence on January 1, 1804.

President Rene Preval must be responsible, and he needs to be strong and accountable. Haitian people need details of what is going on in their country and what is behind the motivation of the United States, Canada and France to put Haiti under their control in the name of humanitarian assistance. Enough is enough. Haitian people deserve better treatment.

Why have none of the countries named above ever supported democracy in Haiti? Why was President Jean-Bertrand Aristide forced to leave his country in 2004 under United States, French and Canadian pressure?

The United States controls Haitian waters, customs and the airport. Haitian people are asking what is behind all these ships, armored vehicles, helicopters and so on. From the ocean to the land, Haitian people have no rights, but they have dignity and want their country back. Haitians ask for help, but not for occupation.

Despite the bureaucracy that exists among the big NGOs in Haiti, it is important and must be noted that little nonprofit organizations are willing to help and do a great job.
These nonprofit organizations mostly work with people living in the communities where they want to help. For example, the What If? Foundation, a small California-based nonprofit organization, has been working with St. Claire's rectory in the Petite Place Cazeau community of Delmas 33, a suburb of Port-au-Prince, for ten years and continues serving hot meals every Monday through Friday to people in this community and to displaced people. The What If? Foundation is able to do so thanks to the generosity of many people in the United States, Canada and Haiti. Mrs. Margaret Trost, the founder of this nonprofit, feels sorry her foundation cannot feed all people, because since after the earthquake the number of people who have come to eat has doubled and even tripled.

Now, Haitians do not need soldiers, nor can they afford the bureaucracy. Haitian people know what they want for their country, and the best way to help them is to work with them as a free people and as human beings. Let Haitian people be the first to decide on Haiti's future because they are the ones who know what is best for their country.

"En me renversant, vous avez coupé le tronc de l'arbre de la liberté, il repoussera par ses racines parce qu'elles sont profondes et nombreuses," 
"By overthrowing me, you cut the tree of freedom, it will grow again through its roots because they are deep and numerous,"     -Toussaint Louverture.

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