Report from Haiti
What I expected to do was to go to Haiti and be able to come back with some clear ideas about what to do and how to proceed. Actually, going to Haiti and working for 8 days literally blew my mind. I was not prepared for what I saw. The destruction of property in Haiti is nearly total in the Port au Prince area. All but the most modern buildings are destroyed. One third are reduced to rubble heaps, another third are collapsed and another third are still standing but structurally damaged. I believe less than 1/10th of the buildings will be salvageable. There is very little heavy machinery available to remove the debris and people are picking through the rubble with bare hands. They are looking for bodies, and personal belongings that have been lost, including money.
The Haitian people are in shock. They are deeply wounded –physically and in spirit. The whole nation is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, as it is now called. Nobody knows the true death toll. It is probably close to half a million. It will continue to rise with the onset of the rainy season. The worst could be ahead of us. Hundreds of thousands are injured and many are permanently disabled and unable to work to earn a living. Many are now amputees in need of physical therapy and rehabilitation, which is not available. There are hundreds of thousands of orphaned children who have no support, no education, or even a place to live.
I worked at a makeshift orphanage on the last day I was there. There were 83 orphans there who had been orphans before the quake. They had lived in 3 separate orphanages that collapsed in the quake. Out of 300 – 400 orphans only these 83 survived. The make shift orphanage was in a cleared out junkyard, with one large yellow tent and several smaller ones. A ‘kitchen’ of sorts was set up in an old rusted out truck bed. I did medical exams and set up a tetanus clinic to try and prevent tetanus (lock-jaw), which is epidemic in Haiti. The children were running around barefoot on broken glass and metal.
Nearly everybody in Port au Prince is homeless. They live in contrived ‘shelters’ made of pieces of plastic and whatever they can find in so-called ‘tent cities’. Only there are hardly any tents. One of biggest needs as the rainy season begins – there are already heavy downpours and flooding- is for tents and other temporary shelters. At least 200,000 tents are needed right away. The Rotary Club has a campaign to get tents into Haiti – they shipped 2000 that I know of.
Most of the people in Port au Prince need to be relocated. They were tricked into leaving their rural homes in the first place under the Clinton Administration. An ‘interpretation’ was made that they could earn more gold for their labor in sweat shops set up in Port au Prince. My understanding is that Haiti was to be made into the new Taiwan – cheap labor for producing export goods. For the most part that never materialized – just like the promises made to Haiti down through history by other American Presidents have never been kept. From Washington, to Lincoln, to FDR, to Obama, they have all been liars when it came to Haiti.
The most vulnerable Haitians should be evacuated to the United States where they can receive the kind of help they need and deserve. Others need to be relocated to other locations inside Haiti – to higher ground to escape the flooding.
The rainy season presents mortal danger to tens of thousands of highly vulnerable and weakened people living in intensely over-crowded conditions. There is no sewage treatment in Haiti. There is no clean up in the makeshift camps. The floodwaters will carry disease far and wide – malaria, typhus, cholera, dengue fever, etc. Many will die unless they are evacuated as soon as possible. It will take many years to rebuild the city and the homes for the people to live in.
There is much Haitian history to learn. And there are all of the political, economic, and cultural issues that are relevant as well. However, I will leave those issues to the scholars who know about such things. We had plenty of scholars on hand at the workshop at Saviour’s Day. While I enjoyed their presentations and learned a lot, to me, in an ongoing crisis emergency like the one in Haiti, everything done has to have a practical survival value. I don’t think the Haitian people need more rhetoric.
It is crucial to recognize the important things that must be done or lives will be lost needlessly. The fact of it is that the magnitude of the tragedy is not due to the earthquake itself, but to the on-going policies of the United States, France and other nations toward Haiti. Hundreds of thousands are dead due to bad and immoral policy.
It is true that the Haitian government has been dysfunctional in this crisis. But when I saw the utter destruction of the National Palace, the symbol of Haitian independence, and the other government buildings, it is clear why the Haitian government’s response is lacking. The government has been crushed. How many government workers are dead or mortally wounded, homeless? Certainly, their documents, equipment and work places no longer exist. There is no communication infrastructure. The government has to be re-organized if that is possible. How long will that take? The US military – along with the UN- has taken over, and is the de facto government. Entrée into or out of Haiti is controlled by the US military.
What role do I see for the Nation of Islam in Haiti? Frankly, I don’t really know. What is needed physically is beyond the physical resources that we have. Adoption of orphans would help. What is needed is the rebuilding of the country from the ground up. What is needed for Haiti is covered in point No. 4 of What the Muslims Want. Maybe our role is a political one – to get the US government to do by Haiti what is required by all that is moral and decent to rectify past injustices that have now been amplified by the devastation of the earthquake.
The government of the United States should:
Undertake an immediate evacuation of perhaps as many as 1 million Haitians to safety and security in Haiti and elsewhere
Undertake the establishment of temporary shelter communities out of the flood plain of Port au Prince
Undertake the building of basic infrastructure in Haiti: roads, ports, sewage and water treatment, and electricity
Undertake the reforestation of Haiti and environmental remediation
Undertake the rebuilding of Port au Prince and other areas, and even the construction of new cities
Undertake the redevelopment of agriculture and industry to reestablish a viable Haitian economy
Undertake to support education and training of the Haitian people
Undertake to immediately dismiss the so-called ‘debt’
Undertake to immediately investigate the more than 10,000 NGO’s - some of which are corrupt and have exploited Haiti’s poverty to their own advantage
Undertake an investigation into the literal enslavement of children and others in Haiti
Undertake to work through the thousands of Haitian-American organizations in the diaspora on behalf of Haiti as a whole
To disavow any US interest or intention to expropriate Haiti oil, gold, uranium and other natural and human resources and to investigate the possibility that the US military triggered the earthquake from the HAARP facility in Alaska
The recent discovery of vast oil reserves under the Port au Prince harbor, if developed for the benefit of Haiti, is more than sufficient to elevate Haiti’s economic status and pay for the rebuilding efforts. But the thieves must be held at bay.