It’s the 5th anniversary of the devastated Earthquake that killed hundreds of thousands of Haitians. Please say a prayer for the decease and those who are struggling to build back better their beloved Haiti.
Four years ago, Marguerite Berthold was standing in her yard in Port-au-Prince when the earth began to shake. She ran into her house and went up to her porch. Her house collapsed but the porch remained standing and she survived.
She spent the next two days searching for her son and fervently praying. Eventually she found him alive but with two broken legs.
On Sunday, Berthold and her son, Wongaton Villace, now 15, attended a special church service in Mattapan focused on remembering those who died and offering thanks for those who survived.
Four years after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake devastated Haiti, left roughly 230,000 dead, hundreds of thousands more injured, and more than a million homeless, about 50 people — many of whom were in Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010 — gathered at First Christian Church Source of Grace on Blue Hill Avenue on Sunday morning.
Conducted in Haitian Creole, French, and English and infused with ecstatic singing, the service was joyful, but also intertwined with grief.
“A lot of our family fell,” said the Rev. Jean Jeune as he began the 2½-hour service.
“We have a lot of suffering in our soul, in our spirit, in our heart,” he said in remarks that were translated into English for a reporter who attended.
The congregation, packed into two rooms on the second floor of an office building, later joined their voices in a song proclaiming their faithfulness.
Backed by keyboard, an electric bass guitar, drums, and an accordion, many of the congregants closed their eyes and raised their hands above their head. Some cried.
“Four years ago, if it wasn’t for God, a lot of us would not be here,” Jeune said before another song began. He encouraged celebration of the blessings that had been bestowed but repeatedly recognized the struggle many of his congregants had endured since 2010.
“Four years of suffering” from the loss and trauma and memories of the devastating tragedy, he said. Read more here:
It’s been nearly four years since the Haiti earthquake and despite the billions of dollars that have been pumped into aid relief projects, the country is still recovering.
“Since the earthquake, there has been a lot of short-term aid in Haiti, but creating sustainable and long-term jobs is a different story” explains Rebecca Troxler from 3 Cords, a social enterprise whose workforce includes a number of amputees and members of a local deaf community, who otherwise would likely be unemployed.
Back in August, the Haitian finance minister, Wilson Laleau, told a reporter “we need basic jobs for people without skills”, while Georges Sassine, a prominent businessman in the garment industry, said that unskilled factory jobs were “passage obligé” – in other words, a necessary route to better things.
A glut of social enterprises, including 3 Cords, seem to disagree with Laleau and Sassine. They are critical of the commitment to low-end jobs and believe that it’s up to socially motivated ventures to develop Haitians’ skills and economic potential.
One such enterprise is Industrial Revolution II (IRII), a celebrity-backed venture producing high-end apparel through the creation of jobs that guarantee the minimum wage – a requirement that, according to a report by Better Work, other garment factories in Haiti have previously failed to meet. IRII are committed to providing skills training and donating half of their profits to community and social causes as part of their long-term plan to bring sustainability to the country’s industry.
Like IRII, Peanuts4Peanuts (P4P) are supporting high-skilled jobs too, but in peanut-butter factories. They have recently raised over $16,000 through crowdfunding and their plan is that for every jar of peanut butter they produce and sell in the USA, a portion of the profits will go towards supporting children in Haiti.
Kendra Wilkins, one half of P4P, who like her co-founder Lizzie Faust has a background in economics, rubbishes any claim that social enterprises operating in Haiti are more interested in self-promotion than altruism. She’s keen to stress that social enterprises can play an active role in bridging the gap between what is currently happening in the country and the public’s lack of knowledge of what more could be done to improve the situation.
“Natural disasters only make international news for so long. Once the media loses interest, people don’t necessarily remain as informed,” explains Wilkins. “By aligning both economic and social interests, we can leverage consumer habits to help increase prosperity in Haiti, by providing job creation and stability through sustainable factory employment.”
Wilkins adds: “The [continuing growth and] success of social enterprises indicates the desire of consumers to buy socially conscientious products. We can bring positive purpose to a decision that wouldn’t traditionally involve philanthropic considerations.”
It’s not just jobs that social enterprises are hoping to create either; it’s a better education system. This in turn could help more Haitians access economic opportunities in the first place. Camara, an Irish social enterprise, are aiming to do their part to improve education through developing learning skills and digital literacy and by supplying thousands of discarded computers to Haiti.
“Education is the most powerful weapon with which to beat poverty … without digital literacy, a skill we in the developed world take for granted, job creation and getting a job becomes so much more difficult,” says John Fitzsimons, Camara’s chief executive. “Organisations like [us] are in Haiti for the long run and are not subject to short-termism.”
Social enterprises may not solve Haiti’s problems on their own, but what they do seem to offer is transparency and a strong business case for building a sustainable future.
Read more here:
SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic — For generations, people of Haitian descent have been an inextricable part of life here, often looked at with suspicion and dismay, but largely relied on all the same to clean rooms, build things cheaply and provide the backbreaking labor needed on the country’s vast sugar plantations.
Now, intensifying a long and furious debate over their place in this society, the nation’s top court has declared that the children of undocumented Haitian migrants — even those born on Dominican soil decades ago — are no longer entitled to citizenship, throwing into doubt the status of tens of thousands of people here who have never known any other national identity.
“I am Dominican,” said Ana María Belique, 27, who was born in the Dominican Republic and has never lived anywhere else, but has been unable to register for college or renew her passport because her birth certificate was no longer accepted. “I don’t know Haiti. I don’t have family or friends there. This is my home.”
In a broad order that has reverberated across the hemisphere, the court has instructed the authorities here to audit all of the nation’s birth records back to June 1929 to determine who no longer qualifies for citizenship, setting off international alarm.
The United Nations high commissioner for refugees warned that the decision “may deprive tens of thousands of people of nationality,” while the regional alliance of Caribbean nations, which the Dominican Republic has sought to join, condemned how masses of people are “being plunged into a constitutional, legal and administrative vacuum.”
“It is remarkably sweeping in terms of numbers: over 200,000 made stateless — a staggering figure,” said Laura Bingham, who tracks citizenship issues for the Open Society Justice Initiative. She and other legal experts called it one of the more sweeping rulings denying nationality in recent years.
To some extent, the ruling, issued Sept. 23, and the intensity of emotions around it carry echoes of the immigration debate in the United States and other countries, with wide disagreement on how to treat migrant workers and their children.
But given the history of the Dominican Republic and Haiti — a sometimes cooperative, often tense and occasionally violent relationship between two nations sharing one island — the decision has brought to the surface a unique set of racial tensions and resentment toward the waves of impoverished Haitian migrants that fill menial jobs on this side of the border.
An estimated 200,000 people born in this country have Haitian parents, according to the last census, by far the largest immigrant group here and thus the one most widely affected by the ruling. Haitian immigrants occupy the lowest rungs of society here, and have for generations, living in urban slums or squalid sugar plantation camps where wage abuse remains common, as a United States Department of Labor report found last month.
For decades, Haitians, housed in remote shantytowns known as bateys, were brought over on contracts for sugar plantations to cut cane under the blistering sun. Many still labor in the fields, while others work as maids, construction workers and in other low-paying jobs.
Many Haitians proudly embrace the slave rebellion that led to Haiti’s founding as a nation. But Dominicans, although they rushed aid to Haiti after its devastating 2010 quake and maintain many cultural and social exchanges, historically have viewed their neighbors with qualms, identifying more with their nation’s Spanish colonial past and, despite their own racially mixed heritage, often deriding anyone with dark skin as “Haitian.”
“The Dominican Republic is at a crossroads right now over the question, ‘What does it mean to be Dominican in the 21st century?’ ” said Edward Paulino, a historian at John Jay College who has studied the relationship between the two countries. “It is a country of immigrants, but no other group is like the Haitians, which arrived with the cultural baggage of a history of black pride in a country that chose to identify with the European elite.”
A scientific analysis has come close to concluding beyond all doubt what the United Nations has long strenuously and heartlessly denied, namely that UN peacekeepers were responsible for importing cholera to earthquake-torn Haiti.
The revelations must finally awaken the world body to its moral responsibility to aid families of the more than 8,000 Haitians killed by the man-made epidemic.
After the devastating 2010 quake killed more than 150,000 people and brought the island nation to its knees, the UN upped its presence to answer crying needs.
This was a humanitarian mission, one for which Haitians remain deeply grateful.
But it soon became clear that cholera, the terrible bacterial illness that annually kills 100,000 worldwide, had appeared in the country and was spreading rapidly.
Despite the fact that, for over a century, there had been no reported cases in Haiti, men, women and children were suddenly dying of dehydration and diarrhea, hallmarks of the infection.
The ailment soon spread to towns across the countryside.
It turned out that a group of UN peacekeepers came from Nepal, where cholera is common. Powerful anecdotal evidence tracked the outbreak back to their camp, from which sewage had leaked into a river.
As Haitian deaths mounted, so did the accusations. The UN hid behind a characteristic wall of diplomatic mumbo jumbo, insisting that its people were faultless — and that, in any case, they had legal immunity from prosecution.
UN brass, all the way up to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, sent a supposedly independent panel to investigate; two years ago, the group concluded that a link between cholera and the peacekeepers could not be definitively established.
Those very same experts, no longer on the UN payroll, have now changed their tune.
Last week, citing new evidence, including microbiological samples, the scientists reported that “the preoponderance of the evidence and the weight of the circumstantial evidence does lead to the conclusion that personnel associated with the” UN facility “were the most likely source of introduction of cholera into Haiti.”
Haiti has suffered enough. The United Nations has stonewalled enough. It is past time for the world body to acknowledge its role in creating this disaster upon a disaster — and begin paying victims’ families the compensation they are due.
PORT-AU-PRINCE (AFP) – Thony Belizaire, who won numerous awards while working as Agence France-Presse’s photographer in his native Haiti for more than 25 years, died on Sunday. He was 54.
Belizaire, who joined AFP in May 1987, died at a hospital in Petion-Ville from complications related to respiratory difficulties.
Belizaire was AFP’s eyes in Haiti for the past three decades, covering the political upheaval that has bedeviled his homeland and natural disasters such as the 2010 earthquake that left more than 250,000 people dead.
In the last months of his life, Belizaire had been working on a photo essay about the environment and the work that needs to be done to improve the lot of the Haitian people.
Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe said the country had lost an “outstanding professional.”
“Mr. Belizaire devoted more than 30 years of his life to covering the major social, political and cultural events in the life of the Haitian people,” Lamothe said.
“He was a profound influence on Haitian photographers, particularly photo journalists.”
David Millikin, AFP’s regional director for North America, also paid tribute to Belizaire.
“Thony was a gentle but very courageous man — not only for ignoring personal risk while covering the momentous events which marked Haiti’s recent history, but also for pursuing his career with passion and diligence despite battling serious health issues in recent years,” Millikin said.
Belizaire is survived by his wife, Marie-Florence, and three children Jeremie, 17, Jonathan, 13, and Jovanny, 5.
Port-au-Prince- The gleaming white hospital appears out of nowhere in the bustle of this impoverished city in the Central Plateau of Haiti. It seems even more out of place when you consider what’s inside: 300 beds — more than All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg. Six operating rooms. A neonatal intensive care unit. A CT scanner, the only one available to the public in Haiti. Most important, patients. More than 10,000 have seen clinicians since the hospital opened this spring.
It’s one of the few visible signs of progress since the 2010 earthquake leveled Port-au-Prince.
More than half of American households donated after the earthquake to help a poor country with bad luck. But for the most part, the grand plans of building back better have not materialized. The 1.5 million people living in tents after the earthquake are fewer, but many were forcibly evicted. A garment factory and a luxury hotel, both underwritten by aid, opened with fanfare. These milestones hardly amount to a resounding victory for the people of Haiti.
Against this disappointing effort, University Hospital stands out as a testament to how much can be accomplished in Haiti. It can teach us how to achieve rebuilding and development with effective aid that endures, and better deliver on the generosity of the American people.
The popular narrative would tell you the recovery fell short because Haiti is difficult, unstable, dangerous and corrupt. Just a few days after the quake, New York Times columnist David Brooks blamed Haiti’s trouble on “progress-resistant cultural influences.” It’s a facile explanation of a complex place, but a lot of people found it convincing.
My experience has led me to believe something else. I lived in Port-au-Prince for nine months and now work in Boston at Partners in Health, the global health nonprofit that built L’hopital Universitaire de Mirebalais under the guidance of Brooksville native Dr. Paul Farmer. In my view, the problem lay not with the Haitians but the aid industry that came to their rescue.
The earthquake recovery was largely composed of nonprofit organizations that are more eager to please donors than the people they purport to serve. Too often, they pay lip service to working with communities while largely ignoring them in designing their programs. Many of the so-called experts on alleviating poverty had little experience in Haiti and no plans to stay long term.
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — A new report on American aid to Haiti in the wake of that country’s devastating earthquake finds much of the money went to U.S.-based companies and organizations.
The Center for Economic and Policy Research analyzed the $1.15 billion pledged after the January 2010 quake and found that the ‘‘vast majority’’ of the money it could follow went straight to U.S. companies or organizations, more than half in the Washington area alone.
Just 1 percent went directly to Haitian companies.
The report’s authors said that a lack of transparency makes it hard to track all the money.
‘‘It is possible to track who the primary recipients of USAID funds are, yet on what are these NGOs and contractors spending the money?’’ authors Jake Johnston and Alexander Main wrote. ‘‘What percent goes to overhead, to staff, vehicles, housing, etc.? What percent has actually been spent on the ground in Haiti?’’
USAID did not respond to requests to comment on the report Friday.
The group has been a critic of U.S. foreign policy in the past, accusing the U.S. of a top-down approach to aid that does little to alleviate poverty in impoverished Haiti.
The report also finds that the biggest recipient of U.S. aid after the earthquake was Chemonics International Inc., a for-profit international development company based in Washington, D.C., that has more than 4,800 employees.
Aside from the World Bank and United Nations, Chemonics is the single largest recipient of USAID funds worldwide, having received more than $680 million in fiscal year 2012 alone. In Haiti, Chemonics has received more than the next three largest recipients since 2010, a total of $196 million, or 17 percent of the total amount.
In Haiti, Chemonics’ mandate has involved setting up a temporary structure for Parliament, renovation of public plazas and repair of the country’s main courthouse, as well as organizing televised debates for the 2011 presidential election.
Typically, major players such as Chemonics subcontract project work to smaller firms, some of them of them local.
USAID has awarded $27.8 million of the $1.15 billion to Haitian and Haitian-American firms since the quake, according to the agency’s website.
The obstacles blocking Haitian businesses from the contracts are many. They’re often not competitive because they may not be able to get the financing they need from local banks.
Smaller firms also lack the resources to prepare costly, time-consuming applications, nor do they have the big companies’ track records in other parts of the world or the kinds of connections that help open the right doors.
The report said subcontract information should be made available and called for increasing direct contracts for Haitian entities.