On the fifth anniversary of the devastating earthquake that hit the poorest Caribbean nation and the second poorest in the both Americas, to its knees, expected progress has not occurred. Three hundred thousand dead and a million and a half displaced after the earthquake, as statistics state.
Five years later, millions are hungry and state propaganda is promoting tourism in the country where kidnappings are national sport. The infrastructure is non-existent, the roads are still like crumpled cans, now already ex-Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe was overthrown and forced to resign his function in mid-December after weeks of violent riots related to the millions of dollars in a fraud Education Fund, along with all the other fraudulent charges. Five years after the earthquake, the state is in disarray, which is not a novelty; demonstrations and violent protests are weekly activities and almost a form of entertainment. It was expected that a new coup would occur, or governance by decree if the ruling and opposition parties didn’t agree, which happened last minute on the anniversary of the earthquake. The President let out the song “I do not care” in the midst of events. While the President singer is attempting to call parliamentary elections, disheveled and angry senators wave guns and demand their rights. Five years after the earthquake, 78 percent of the population of Haiti lives below the poverty line (less than 2 dollars per day), 54 percent live in extreme poverty (less than one dollar per day), 40 percent of population is illiterate, two thirds of the working population has no formal employment, half of the children under the age of five are malnourished, while 80 out of 1,000 children do not live to a first birthday.
Haitians do not like to talk about the earthquake. Every time when asked about the big earthquake, I would see this shadow of shock and horror across their face. My husband rarely mentions the earthquake; I know he was hungry for days after and that the gangs gathered at the edge of the orphanage property, and it was a trouble even to pick mangoes from the tree. When I ask him to tell me about the earthquake, he always tells me that it’s over, thank God that it is, and God forbid that it happen again.
From friends, I’ve heard about bodies scattered everywhere, the fear for their lives, and the rape and murdering all over the city, because there was no law and order, on the contrary- absolute rule of chaos and horror.
Today it is no longer so, but it did not really change much. It is still not recommended to travel to Haiti, email notifications to be more cautious around the airport because of increased number of kidnappings and which routes to move because of violence and possible riots.
Illegal has another level of understanding. The system does not exist, institutions are not doing their job; bribery, corruption, crime and nepotism are the currency that speak all languages. Kidnapping, murder, robbery, robbery; the response to hopelessness. Education- bad and too expensive. And the people? The people suffer in silence, mostly. They eat rice, cassava, maize, flour porridge and mud pies; of meat they can only dream. They steal without fear and shame. They steal from the poor and the rich. Racism is ubiquitous, and among the race. Substantial amounts of rich and privileged are protected as endangered species and therefore untouchable, and they are kept together. Rumor has it that the narco-business and prostitution flourish. The proximity of Colombia and America, and the dollar, which speaks all languages. There are luxury hotels and exclusive clubs, but true luxury requires a certain level within the whole society, which is not the case in Haiti. Haitians are proud and tough people, and after four years here I believe that’s the only thing that drives them to keep on going.
The education system is ridiculous, the curriculum should be in French, but teachers and professors do not speak French; about 75 percent of the staff is not adequately educated, most of whom have barely completed high school. Sanitary facilities at school make a bucket in the corner of the improvised room where they urinate. Only two out of ten educational institutions to some extent have electricity.
What has changed in the previous five years? A new cathedral has been built, most of the rubble and debris is cleared, tent cities are displaced, the air does not smell any longer like rotten and crumbling flesh, the airport in Port-au-Prince is newly renovated. International organizations, humanitarian, non-profit and for-profit live their golden age. Across the city there are warnings on AIDS, cholera and malaria.
Changes are there, but are shamefully small. And there is only so much you can do in a country as dismantled and crippled as Haiti is.
It is assumed that only the USA has invested more than four billion dollars in Haiti after the earthquake. However, the tragic fact is, despite the money, there is no system-default parameters, nor the possibility of distribution without the huge risk. Witnesses say that immediately after the earthquake, the airport was jammed with containers full of food and medicine that had gone bad, and people were cutting gargle to each other for a bottle of water.
We have water, electricity and barbed wire around the compound. Most people called the house a shack of sticks and sheets. Stealing electricity and getting away with water. Drinking water they buy or drink untreated, and every so often we have a warning on cholera. Trade takes place on the road, the goods obtained in containers. No tax system or paying utilities. There are several supermarkets, owned by foreigners and with armed guards. Local people buy on the street and most of them are malnourished because what they eat has not or has low nutritional value. They eat peanut butter, called ‘Mamba’, bananas and bread. Beans and rice is an everyday food. Avocado and corn thrive but hardly anyone can afford it. Hygienic conditions are scary, poor medical care, medical staff ignorant and lazy, you literally pay every step you make. If you need an IV, you first pay, then bring the bill to the nurse. A bed in the hospital is paid on average $3.50 per night, but given that even the hospital air you have to pay for, only a few can afford adequate medical care. Dust and pollution are guilty without charges for the increase of asthma, tuberculosis patients and in general lung infections. Recycling does not exist, plastic is dumped everywhere, and blocked water channels due to non-existent sewage. Garbage is burned on the road, private courtyards or simply where one wants to dump it.
The greatest joy is our kids, when they’re happy, radiant and healthy, dirty from chocolate. The greatest sadness is to see a country, where you left your heart and soul, deteriorating and decaying, and that the only thing you can do is to watch it burn and cry about it. To watch and to live with them in poverty of stomach, spirit, heart, mind and morality in it’s scariest form, I can only see the defeat of humanity.