Haiti has a beautiful meaning, one filled with desperate hope of a people longing to go back to when the country thrived. In French, Haiti is called the “Pearl of the Antilles” because of the country’s natural beauty. Popular media continues to depict Haiti as a battered and bruised country; a country in a state of disrepair with no true hope. Haiti has seen a lot of death, disaster, and devastation.
Post-independence Haiti was in a financial debacle. The revolutions leading up to independence had resulted in most of the sugar plantations being wiped out. Very few people were left in the country. Several had fled for fear of their lives. It can be argued that Jean-Jaques Dessalines, Haiti’s first ruler, contributed significantly to Haiti’s demise. He was a cruel leader who was hated by many Haitians. Submission was demanded. He instigated a war with Santo Domingo, now known as the Dominican Republic, which has left the two nations at odds to this day. He was assassinated on October 17, 1806. Subsequently, civil war ensued that split Haiti into 2 divisions: north and south Haiti.
North Haiti was the epitome of opulence and prosperity. South Haiti was the opposite. When Henry Christophe was crowned king of the Kingdom of Haiti (North Haiti) in 1811, he had a vision. He wanted to bring Haiti into the modern world through better access to education for the elite and the development of sound infrastructure. When Jean-Pierre Boyer became ruler of the south of Haiti, he launched an attack on Christophe’s kingdom. Christophe committed suicide on October 13, 1818 and that brought an end to the division of Haiti.
Despite the demolition of this political divide, class divisions continued to reign supreme. Successive governments did very little to breathe life into the Haitian economy. Haiti quickly became a country where the masses were peasants trying desperately to survive and the minority was the wealthy who gained their wealth through coffee production. The wealth fed off the hard work of the peasants who cultivated the beans needed for coffee production. This culture continues today.
As if this wasn’t enough for the Haitians to endure, a slew of natural disasters have consistently wreaked havoc on the nation. In October 1954, Hurricane Hazel came with a vengeance and completely devastated the country. Other natural disasters that have severely affected Haiti include:
- Hurricane Flora on October 3, 1963. This hurricane caused over 5,000 deaths.
- Hurricane Cleo on August 24, 1964 killed 192 people on Haiti’s south coast.
- Hurricane Inez, a catastrophic category 5 hurricane, ravaged the country with winds exceeding 170 km/h on September 29, 1966.
- Hurricane Allen, another catastrophic category 5 hurricane, struck the south coast on August 5, 1980.
- Flooding in June and October of 1986 wiped out 20,000 hectares of land, damaged several homes, and claimed 31 lives.
- Hurricane Gilbert severely affected the south coast on September 11, 1988.
- Hurricane Gordon in November 1994 claimed 2,000 lives.
- Hurricane Georges in 1998 killed 147 people and displaced 167,500 others.
- Torrential rains in the south-east of Haiti resulted in 1,232 deaths, 1,443 disappearances and 31,130 people being displaced in May 2004.
- Hurricane Ivan struck on September 10, 2004.
- Hurricane Jeanne struck in September 2004 killing 1,870 people and displacing 300,000 others.
- Hurricane Dennis in 2005 left several people homeless.
- Hurricane Gustav struck in August 2008.
- A 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck on January 12, 2010 resulting in over 300,000 deaths. The after effects of the earthquake resulted in a cholera epidemic which has claimed the lives of over 3,000 people.
- Hurricane Tomas struck on November 5, 2010 killing 10 people, causing damage to property and worsening the cholera epidemic.
- Hurricane Matthew struck in October 2016. So far, there have been 840 reported deaths.
I have omitted some of the disasters that have struck Haiti because they are too numerous to list. The most popular disasters, however, have been the 2010 earthquake and the most intriguing hurricane I have ever witnessed, Hurricane Matthew. What irks me the most about Haiti’s situation is that it seems like no one has really cared about the people who comprise the country’s majority. Most, if not all, of the country’s leaders have sought to implement policies that will benefit them and the 3% minority. These policies have only served to keep the 3% wealthy and help the leaders live a life of luxury. Who cares about the countless people who live in abject poverty and continue to be devastated by one natural disaster after another?
The rest of the world claims to care, but they really don’t. The Red Cross, a reputable charity organization, has truly killed any hope I have of the good in society. When the earthquake struck in 2010, several charity organizations, including the Red Cross, raised billions of dollars to help rebuild Haiti. To this day Haiti remains in a state of disrepair that deeply saddens me. These organizations had one job: save the Haitian people and rebuild their economy. Yet, they chose to spend most of the money on employee salaries and advertising. You can read more about this gross injustice here. I believe that all of that money must be recouped somehow and a leader be placed in Haiti who will truly build the nation into what it should be.
No human being deserves to suffer the way the Haitians have suffered. The only way I believe they can rebuild is by implementing the following strategies:
- removing all surviving people from the south of Haiti where devastation seems to be commonplace
- placing these people in temporary shelter in the north of Haiti or giving them temporary refugee status in other countries
- completely demolishing all remaining structures in South Haiti and rebuilding structures that are better able to withstand the natural disasters that continuously come their way
- planting trees that grow quickly and can protect the Haitian landscape
- relocating the people who have been moved back into their rebuilt cities
- investing in state-of-the-art education for ALL children and adults
- training the people in skills that will help them create their own businesses and build the economy
Haiti needs a real leader; a leader who truly cares enough to bring the country to the glory it deserves. This continuous battering and belittling of the Haitian people needs to stop. It’s time for us to say, “Enough!”