#PrayforHaiti Isn’t the Same as Helping Haiti

On January 12th, 2010 Haiti was hit with a 7.0 earthquake that leveled the country and claimed roughly 220,000 lives. Not only was the disaster devastating, it occurred just as the Haitian economy was beginning to improve and stabilize. Historically seen as an impoverished country, Haiti was moving away from its past and toward more sound economic policies supported by the rest of the world. Then the earthquake hit and cost the country nearly 120% of its GDP [1]. GDP is known as the “value of the total production in a country, usually in a given year,” (thefreedictionary.com) which means that the cost of earthquake damages exceeded the total capacity for income in one year. How does a country even begin to recover from that? 

Haiti has been kept poor and isolated because it benefits the rest of the world. 

Well, for starters relief assistance from unaffected countries is a large help. Immediately after the earthquake, help poured in from across the globe. Everyone hash tagged #prayforhaiti and donated to every nonprofit that said anything about Haiti. Two things happened to that money: temporary aid was purchased like food and water, and the rest was tied up in pipe dreams. The schools, hospitals and homes that were supposed to be built, barely materialized. The agriculture it was supposed to sustain, never grew. And to make things worse, after about a year, the assistance stopped and Haiti was all but forgotten once again. Sound familiar? Haiti has been overwhelmingly a forgotten child since its slave revolution in 1791 [2]. A brief history lesson requires that I explain that once the revolution fighters won their freedom and the right to their country, they were blackballed. None of the wealthy countries, those that could colonize, would trade with them. This guaranteed that the country would remain broke and destitute until it would be forced to come crawling back to its colonial overlords. It didn’t work; despite the hardships the Haitians faced, they never surrendered their hard-fought rights. This is a testament to the strength and resilience of the Haitian people throughout history up until present day. But it’s also a testament to the general dismissal of Haiti by other, more wealthy, countries. Nothing is new under the sun.

So for the most part, Haiti has been on its own over the last seven years. The majority of earthquake survivors are nomads, living in the aptly-named “tent-city” (pictured above). The money its government uses, comes from the tiny trickle of international aid it receives. While some may think that because they’re receiving aid money, they should be able to rebuild, the reality is much more complicated. Government elections have been delayed, leaving an inefficient government in its place. Also, “tent-city” has been subject to a cholera outbreak that has led to forced evictions, sickness and death. Over the last few years, Haiti has also fallen victim to two large hurricanes that virtually decimated their agricultural output. In short, the country has simply not been able to regain its economic feet. It’s almost as if Haiti is a room with no floor, falling mercilessly farther from economic viability after each disaster. With an estimated, 10 million Haitians living in-country and a 69% infant mortality rate in 2015 [3], the world is not doing nearly enough of what it promised Haiti. Not enough homes were built because of land issues and government setbacks. Not enough hospitals were rebuilt, leaving people at the mercy of pop up clinics. Internationally, little more was done for Haiti than a show of support via high-ranking visits from presidents and directionless money being syphoned into temporary fixes. Everyone wanted to #prayforHaiti but no one wanted to do what was necessary to really help launch Haiti into the 21st century.

In my opinion, Haiti has been kept poor and isolated because it benefits the rest of the world. Much like African countries have been pilfered and used for their resources by countries like the U.S. and China, Haiti is at the mercy of the rest of the world. They are in no position to negotiate their goods. They are in no position to refuse business deals that benefit the international party more than the local people. They are at a great disadvantage in the economic field and it shows. Haiti imports 8 times more than it exports which means it spends 8 times more money than it actually makes, with its largest import margin being food. This is a direct benefit that the rest of the world receives by leaving Haiti impoverished. If the country cannot produce its own food, it has to import those goods. It the country does not have sustained industry, it will have to purchase machinery internationally. It may be rash to say there’s some great conspiracy at work against Haiti but the numbers certainly don’t lie. I encourage you to refer to the information cited and draw your own conclusions. 

- S. R. Hallmen   

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[1] Looney, Robert E. and Charles Arthur. Economy (Haiti), in Europa World online. London, Routledge. University of Baltimore, Maryland. Retrieved 11 January 2017. 
[2] Girard, Philippe R. "The Haitian Revolution, History's New Frontier: State Of The Scholarship And Archival Sources." Slavery & Abolition 34.3 (2013): 485-507. Humanities International Complete. Web. 11 Jan. 2017.
[3] Looney, Robert E. and Charles Arthur. Economy (Haiti), in Europa World online. London, Routledge. University of Baltimore, Maryland. Retrieved 11 January 2017.

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