Haiti. She’s a recurrent, permanent living disaster for millions, a cash cow for international disaster capitalists. Read journalist and author Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.
Also, in her seminal work, Dead Aid, which focuses on Africa, Zambian-born economist Dambisa Moyo points a wags a finger at post-colonial Africa, claiming that aid is the cause of all of Africa’s problems.
Maybe not all, but many of them; decades of international aid, ostensibly to foster many African countries development always seem to quickly evaporate. Depending on where one is on the continent, continued underdevelopment is the casualty [of international aid]. The impact on generations of the continent’s peoples is evident.
Referencing Dead Aid, an online article states, “While one has never argued that development assistance is a panacea, the facts are clear that targeted aid does have a positive role to play in promoting development in the poorest countries – especially at this time of global economic crisis. This role must be seen alongside other prerequisites for progress: trade, private investment and improved governance…”
It is through the Dambisa Moyo lens that one can, and must, view Haiti, a Western reflection (in the Caribbean) of certain African countries. And aid, specifically money necessary for human, infrastructure and other necessary development remains the lingering and pressing issue in both parts of the world.
With another major natural disaster, many are referring to the catastrophic aftermath of Hurricane Matthew as “the latest humanitarian crisis in Haiti” and many are once again lining up, full of good intentions — to “help Haiti.”
More than that, most people (who have given in past disasters) are asking about the money, all the financial aid given in the wake of past natural disasters to Haiti – to help in Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath, the Magnitude 7 2010 earthquake, or all the final aid given to “help the Haitian people decades and generations prior.”
In Matthews wake the resounding sentiment is that nothing seems to change. And reports that
The question just about everyone asks each time there’s another natural, as opposed to man-made Haitian disaster is “What happened to all that money raised [for the] last disaster?
I too, have asked the same question in the wake of that country’s latest disaster, Hurricane Matthew.
It seems like that country, called the “Pearl of the Antilles”, has been (is) left to its own devices each time there’s another calamity. Because when all is said and done, Haiti always appears to be right back where it was left: in recovery mode. It seems to be in a permanent state of recovery.
That reality, as one cynical donor said in a conversation about Hurricane Matthew, “Haiti will never recover.” He then suggested that Haiti’s natural disasters along with its socio-political quagmire is recurring punishment for being so bold: daring to become the first Black independent nation on Earth.
A twisted form of Divine intervention perhaps? The Deity must be European after all.
Each Haitian disaster, stupendous amounts of money is raised “to help the victims”, which is the mantra of the ubiquitous Help agencies, otherwise described as NGOs; problem is the expected improvements are never visible.
The 2010 earthquake is an example of “letting down the Haitian people” that were expecting so much from the billions of dollars pledged by the international community, yet the status quo of the Haitian social fabric remains unchanged. It’s as if Haiti is a permanent disaster (after another disaster) awaiting a fix that never happens.
According to reports, out of the billions raised for earthquake relief, just six permanent structures have been rebuilt from the dust and rubble. And many people were hoping for a new Haiti to emerge from the dust and rubble of Port-au-Prince.
Reiterate, “What happened to all the money pledged and received?” What will happen once Matthews’s aftermath is cleaned up?
Politics, hurricanes, man-made health disasters… (Cholera brought to the country by the UN’s ‘Help Haiti’ forces, there to help Haitians recover… the one that’s currently afflicting and killing hundreds of Haitians). What are Haiti’s people supposed to do? How do they pull themselves out of that international quagmire of false promises “to help…” and its socio-political domestic morass? Billions being raised to help, but the money is not getting to the Haitian people. The evidence is there (or not there, as it were) to prove it.
There are reports that remnants of the 20i0 earthquake damage are still there for all to see. And it seems like… the Haitian people have become oblivious to all the reminders of disasters past they live, as they go about their daily lives as normal. So where’s the money, all that money that have been pledged? Where has it gone?
Often described as the “poorest country in the Western Hemisphere” Moyo’s quote is representative of Haiti’s generational condition. She states, “In a perfect world what poor countries at the lowest rungs of economic development need is not a multi-party democracy, but in fact a decisive benevolent dictator to push through the reforms required to get the economy moving…”
In an ideal world and given similar conditions, that would be a propitious prescription for the Pearl of the Caribbean.
Truth is, the Haitian people have had to live with more than a couple or three “benevolent dictators” (let’s say benevolent “Lite”) as far as that country goes. The Duvalier dynasty and their cronies come to mind.
Nevertheless, would such a prescription applicable to Haiti’s historical woes?
Dambisa Moyo continues, “The notion that aid can alleviate systemic poverty, and has done so, is a myth. Millions in Africa are poorer today because of aid; misery and poverty have not ended but increased. Aid has been, and continues to be, an unmitigated political, economic, and humanitarian disaster for most parts of the developing world.”
An Internet article on the 2010 earthquake states, “Scarcely a month into the reconstruction process, it was being described in a diplomatic cable as a “gold rush” for government contractors and aid groups. The offer was for “major assets in Haiti” from a company called DRC Emergency Services. On its website, the company boasts of having performed emergency response work at disasters around the globe, with over $2 billion in disaster response contracts…”
All that talk of Haiti is “the Pearl of the Antilles” is what it is. [In some U.S. media it’s portrayed as the basket case of the hemisphere…] But all that inviting, feel-good branding is only to attract tourists to the perennially battered nation. It does nothing to improve the lives of the perpetually battered, hopeless Haitian underclass.
According to Dambisa Moyo, “[…] Africa’s proximity and historical context has absolutely been with Europe and the United States (Haiti exists in America’s orbit), but their approach in dealing with the economic challenges that Africa faces in particular has been one of handing out aid, not developing economies, not building a long-term relationship around agriculture and so on.”
So as the Hurricane Matthew aftermath continues, “Many foreign NGOs are on the ground… Once again, Haitians have to turn to foreigners. International aid groups are appealing for donations. And the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere now faces famine in its already drought-ravaged land and fears of diseases like cholera…”
“This explains the mixed reception foreign humanitarians get in the country. With an estimated 10,000 non-governmental organizations operating there, locals ironically refer to Haiti as an “NGO republic.”
And many Haitians point out that, “six years after the quake the country has little to show for the billions of foreign cash received. It is as poor and aid-dependent as ever. Tens of thousands of quake victims still live in temporary shelter.”
“I’ve never believed in foreign aid. Please, don’t come back promising us billions again if nothing is to come of it,” an earthquake survivor told Agence France Presse.
If she survived Hurricane Matthew, I bet her feelings haven’t changed.