Helping Haiti

(Screen shot from "Brooklyn Cafe Serves Up Help for Haiti," Nicole Ashley for new York City News Service)

(Screen shot from “Brooklyn Cafe Serves Up Help for Haiti,” by Nicole Ashley, New York City News Service)

After the southwestern part of Haiti was pounded on Oct. 4 by Hurricane Matthew’s 145 mph winds and torrential rains, the death toll started to mount in the hundreds and the international effort to help Haiti began. In Brooklyn, where many Haitians and Haitian-Americans live, Joanne Saget, co-owner of Kafe L’Ouverture, started a drive to help collect much-needed items to send to the nation. Nicole Ashley of NYCity News Service spoke with Saget and others in the community about reaching out to help.

But the diaspora, writes Garry Pierre-Pierre in The Haitian Times, should think twice about how it helps Haiti. He argues that the government of Haiti is “complicit” in the death and destruction that resulted from this and other natural disasters such as the 2010 earthquake, “because successive Haitian governments have done precious little and have left people vulnerable to face untimely death.” And he says that some goods sent in the wake of earlier tropical storms remain rotting portside.

Pierre-Pierre recounts the behavior of various leaders after the departure of the despot Jean-Claude Duvalier in 1986, noting that leaders “mistook anarchy for democracy,” and permitted construction and development to take place willy-nilly.

So people want to build flimsy houses perched on denuded mountains, go for it. You want to open a nightclub in a residential neighborhood? No problem. I started following Haiti in 1990 as a young reporter. I’ve seen lush mountains become a ghetto in the span of a few years. I’ve seen entire communities sprout out of ravines.

The attitude of these governments has been to let it go because after all, these poor people need a roof and we can’t provide it to them. So if they can carve out a niche for themselves, so be it.

No leader has thought to enforce laws to address the environmental degradation that has systematically made Haiti vulnerable to a light rain, let alone a category 4 storm.

In any other country, there will be hell to pay for such dereliction of duty. Then again, Haiti is unlike any other country. There will be periods of mourning and by next month, just about everyone would have forgotten about the dead, just like few people remember the thousands who died in January 2010 after the earthquake.

So what should the Haitian diaspora do to help friends, relatives and countrymen back home?

Go to The Haitian Times to find out about the “tough love” Pierre-Pierre advocates, and what sort of a “clear plan” for help he thinks should be forthcoming from the Haitian government.

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