Recent natural and man made catastrophic events in Haiti have dominated the news about the country, emphasizing its critical conditions of poverty and despair. Among all the disastrous aftermaths, it has been reported the alarming cases of children dying from hunger and malnutrition. Whether the number is 60 or 600, at Cité Soleil within the capital Port-au-Prince, or in a remote area, these children should not be subjected to such degradation.
Haitians in Miami, New York and elsewhere in the Diaspora have collected clothes and food they sent as rapidly as they could with the support of several benevolent U.S. citizens and organizations. Those who could travel to the country came like these volunteers from Hollywood, American and Italian artists, led by John Edwards, former U.S. senator and presidential candidate. They came to participate, as reported, in the inauguration of a rehab center for deficient children.
This Rehabilitation Center called “Kay Sent Jèmèn”–“Maison des Petits Anges” [Little Angels House} is established by the humanitarian organization NPES (Nos Petits Frèrs et Soeurs} [Our little Brothers and Sisters]. It will provide consultation services to 5000 children and assist 400 continuously every year. According to John Edwards, “It is clearly a combination of efforts and works by many people. I am only here to call attention on the situation of the Haitian people in its search for a better life.” Open on the commemoration of World Day of the Handicapped, the center “will give the children one daily hot meal, physiotherapy care and school activities in order to improve their conditions and develop their talents.”
However, as much as private initiatives can help they should be part of a well planned, coordinated and controlled program to rehabilitate the Artibonite Valley and Gonaives, the city of the independence. Instead of a master plan the Haitian government is at the stage of make do with temporary shelters and some school buildings scattered here there to accommodate some 2500 adults and children who are trying to survive.
These people are now sending an SOS, because they say, “the autorités want us to live by December 15, without telling us where to go. They only offer us mattresses, some roughing sheet metals, some pounds of nails and 1000 gourdes.” These stricken people have lost their homes and all their belongings. They survive mainly thanks to the help of some international organizations.
Since the first Gonaives flood, the Haitian government should have considered a master plan for the construction of a larger and modern city.
It could have taken advantage of the Brazilian Senate’s decision since July 2008, to approve the sending to Haiti of 100 military engineers, integrated in the UN Mission of Stabilization (MINUSTAH) to help in infrastructure works in the country. As we have once suggested, a well plan and built Independence city of Gonaives could become the “Brazilia” of Haiti and a world tourist attraction.
All it takes is a vision and a will!
What was true for Gonaives then is still true for Port-au-Prince and Haiti as a whole now. Without a master plan and a national socio-economic program, the country and its population will not progress.
This editorial was written on Feb. 1, 2008 by Roger Savain. Three years later the actors have changed but the conditions are still the same.