Tue | Aug 22, 2017

Patria-Kaye Aarons | We owe Haiti

Published:Wednesday | October 12, 2016 | 10:00 AM

Seriously, how many times does Haiti have to get knocked down and rise again?

In the past 12 years, Haiti has got direct hits from Ivan, Jeanne, Dennis, Wilma, Alpha, Tomas and Matthew. Additionally, the hits of 2008 seem by far the most cruel. Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Category Four Ike all hit the country in the space of three weeks.

Never to be forgotten are the two earthquakes of 2010, measuring 7 and 6.1 magnitudes.

The trail of poverty and crime and misfortune and death just seems all too much for one country to bear.

The media haven't made it better. Haiti's strife has become the sum total of its story. We have all allowed Haiti's suffering to overshadow its strength, and what could and should become a story of resilience and an opportunity for the world to change Haiti's fortunes has become a repeating rhetoric of pity. And when the newsworthiness of the story dies, Haiti trods alone until the next disaster.

Haiti is well past its nine lives. And yet year after year, the Universe requires that it continually draws on dwindling strength to overcome adversity.

What has CARICOM done about it? What have we done about it? The entire world, but especially the Caribbean, has been guilty of treating the Haitian as less than.

We make up ridiculous stories about voodoo to explain away (and, for some, justify) their misfortunes. We don't want them in our countries, and we blame them for the guns-for-drugs trade. The Dominican Republic, a country they share an island with, is at times unnaturally cruel to Haitians. And we allow it.

How have we helped? Other than send canned goods and a couple of soldiers every time they lose a few hundred lives?

I am not at all knocking the relief efforts. They are necessary. And in the face of immediate needs for food, the kindness of donated canned goods is a welcome alternative to the staple diet of mud pies for some.

My question is about in-between the instances of devastation. How have we helped Haiti?

History has shown the country to be a virtual hurricane magnet. Knowing full well that temporary housing cannot stand up to ever-present hurricanes, how have we knocked heads to find a permanent solution? Jamaica is taking 50 years to pay for a road. The world can't find a way to build Haitians hurricane-sturdy housing solutions and give them 50-year mortgages?

Knowing full well that the absence of education breeds crime, who has gone there to teach? We trod halfway around the world to go to Japan and teach English and we can't go next door? The turnaround we could create if five CARICOM countries paid 20 teachers each to live and teach in Haiti for a year. We can afford it.

Where is the robust push in Haiti for lean start-up entrepreneurship? Time to teach Haiti to fish. Financing business in Haiti will take as much ingenuity as deciding on the business itself. But it is necessary and doable.

Haiti needs a break. A break the Universe doesn't seem willing to give it. In the absence of that break, Haiti needs the help of good neighbours. CARICOM needs to take action.

Let us not forget Haiti's past. These are the same people who took their freedom. The same people who risked their lives to end racial inequity. The same people who staged the largest, most successful slave rebellion, and who inspired the rest of us to fight for our own liberties.

We owe Haiti.

• Patria-Kaye Aarons is a television presenter and confectioner. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com andfindpatria@yahoo.com, or tweet @findpatria.