By Sam Bojarkski
Last February, Jacques Bingue and some friends sat down to eat at a seaside restaurant in Cap-Haitien. Not long after they arrived, the lights suddenly went out, he recalled. The staff remained calm, apparently unfazed by the occurrence. It took them about three to five minutes to turn on the restaurant’s backup generators, Bingue said.
Throughout Haiti, especially outside the capital of Port-au-Prince, the electricity grid is unreliable. This has produced impacts that range from inconvenience to human tragedy.
According to Wadson Desir, who currently lives in Laboule, the lack of lighting adds to the insecurity people often feel at night. Hospitals fail to accomplish basic tasks, and “people (have) passed away in an operating room because of a sudden black out,” he said.
Haiti also relies on relatively expensive sources – diesel and heavy fuel oil – for electricity. Meanwhile, deforestation threatens to deprive the country of wood, an energy source widely used for cooking fuel.
“Energy is one of the resources that you must use effectively if you want to have a decent quality of life,” Bingue said. “Haiti has never done that.”
Haiti’s energy mix
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Sam Bojarski, a freelance journalist, has reported in communities from Pennsylvania to Port-au-Prince. His work has appeared in national publications, as well as local newspapers in his hometown of Pittsburgh.