News Local

Haiti: a land in crisis

By Diana Storen, Northumberland Today

Diana Storen

Diana Storen

On Oct. 4 of this year, Hurricane Matthew slammed into Haiti, killing thousands, leaving more than a million people homeless, and susceptible to cholera. The storm destroyed not only lives, homes and crops...but hope.

On the same date the Toronto Blue Jays won their wildcard game, allowing the team to proceed to the American League Division Series. Then Canada cheered as they defeated the Texas Rangers a few days later. These victories had us dreaming of another World Series appearance.

On Oct. 12, U.S. presidential candidates faced off in their second debate, one of the final parts of a lengthy campaign that has become a must-watch TV reality show. The Nov. 8 election will end up costing five billion dollars.

Haiti never fully recovered from the devastation of the magnitude 7.0 earthquake, which struck the nation in 2010, and is ill-equipped to face this new disaster. Those who survived must wonder what they have done to deserve such a fate. Food, water, shelter, clothing and medical aid are needed desperately.

Blue Jays player José Bautista earns a staggering $14 million per year, which works out to $38,350 per day! Some folks would be happy to make that much in a year. Teammate Edwin Encarnacion is almost as rich; his $10 million annual salary breaks down into $27,400 a day. Both players hail from the Dominican Republic, which is located on the eastern end of the Caribbean island Hispaniola. Haiti occupies the western third of the same island. These two players, along with about 80 more Dominicans who play in Major League Baseball come from a place whose next-door neighbour is in crisis.

Donald Trump’s Palm Beach resort is only 1,200 kilometres from the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince. He could get there on his private jet in less than two hours. The plane cost him $100 million.

It’s occurred to me, as I’ve watched the news over the past two weeks, that there is a way to break the cycle of dire misery that grips Haiti. It is the poorest country in the western hemisphere, where most of the wealth is held by a privileged few. Its 11 million inhabitants live crowded into a space about half the size of Nova Scotia. Corruption, fragile political situation, poor infrastructure, limited natural resources, deforestation, illiteracy and human rights abuses are some of the issues that need to be addressed.

Whenever there is an emergency in Haiti – and there have been many – the world reacts, and gets the country through it. And when the next catastrophe arises, the pattern repeats itself.

“True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”(Martin Luther King Jr.).

Using Mr. King’s words with reference to Haiti, it’s not just a lack of clean water. Not just a food shortage. Not just poverty. These are only symptoms of the problems that plague Haiti. The country has to be fixed. Permanently.

Its residents would have to be evacuated, in stages, so that good roads and bridges, and sturdy homes with proper sanitation facilities could be built. Then, in collaboration with the humanitarian agencies already working in Haiti, the remaining concerns could be dealt with. I believe Haiti can be saved if the right people are involved.

What is required is private money from caring, wealthy individuals. Athletes, politicians, financial giants from the business sector. It doesn’t matter who they are, as long as they possess the compassion Mr. King describes, the desire to want to help others and the determination to make it happen.

Band-aid solutions are not the answer.