Thu | Jan 17, 2019

Haiti still suffering nine years after devastating earthquake

Published:Sunday | January 13, 2019 | 12:00 AMErica Virtue
The aftermath of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti captured by Gleaner photographer Ian Allen.

Nine years after a magnitude 7.0 earthquake devastated Haiti and killed what some estimate to be more than 300,000 persons, the country is still suffering the debilitating effects, with very little to show from the massive international aid package that was promised.

Nationals and supporters of the impoverished Caribbean country yesterday held a vigil in Miami to commemorate the anniversary of the January 12, 2010, earthquake.

Last Friday, in an interview with The Sunday Gleaner, Rhemie Dalger, public relations officer for the Florida-based Family Action Network Movement (FANM), said Haitians are still suffering.

"Recovery has been really very slow, and the people are facing more hardships than ever. There is still so much suffering there, and much of the promised assistance did not reach the people who need it most," said Dalger.

"Haitians are still living in the streets. There is still so much sickness and so much suffering. Many of the promises made immediately after the earthquake have not materialised. If you investigate what happened with the Red Cross, for example, after more than US$500 million in aid, they only built six permanent houses," alleged Dalger, with deep disappointment in her voice.

The Red Cross has been heavily criticised for the massive waste of funds in Haiti, with not much to show.

Investigations found that the Red Cross grossly mismanaged its response to the 2010 earthquake, spending only 25 per cent of the millions collected on individuals in need. The organisation said it contributed millions to other charitable organisations operating in the country.

Speaking to the annual vigil, which attracted thousands when it first started, Dalger noted that it was now down to a faithful few hundreds.

Following the earthquake, Haiti suffered a cholera outbreak, which took the lives of several thousands of its citizens. The strain of cholera was traced to soldiers of one of the delegations in the country at the time.

According to Dalger, there was no compensation for the families of the persons who died and also none for the survivors of the child-sex exploitation after the earthquake.

"You know, it seems like they just look at us and say, 'well, it's Haiti, so it's nothing.' If all these had happened in the bigger countries, something would be done. I always second-guess someone who says, 'I am going to Haiti to help. Most times, they are going to Haiti to make money," charged Dalger.

Yesterday's vigil took the form of a silent march and prayer at North Miami Avenue and 62 Street (in front of a statue of Toussaint L'Ouverture). After a brief programme, participants walked to the Little Haiti Cultural Center in Miami.

The march was organised by Marlene Bastien, executive director of FANM.

erica.virtue@gleanerjm.com