EDITORIAL: Haiti remains an urgent project
HURRICANE MATTHEW LEFT a trail of death and destruction when it pummelled a number of Caribbean islands and parts of eastern United States earlier this month, resulting in an urgent need for relief for all those in its path – Jamaica, Cuba, The Bahamas and the US. Most of the affected places have been recovering quickly. But in Haiti the need remains critical and the process cumbersome.
Haiti, already ravaged by the earthquake of 2010 which claimed over 200 000 lives and left that impoverished nation still struggling to this day, has been dealt a double whammy by Matthew whose devastation was particularly pronounced in the south-western area of the island, leaving the cities of Jeremie and Les Cayes virtually wiped out with hundreds dead.
This is a humanitarian nightmare within our region on the scale of the tragedies that have occurred in Syria, Libya and the horn of Africa. But, the Haitians have little hope of undertaking any successful migration to their richer neighbours since they will not be welcomed.
There is an urgent need for food, clean water, health care and shelter. But most worrisome is the threat of a major outbreak of cholera – the disease which the United Nations peacekeeping troops inflicted on Haiti. Yes, the world body has a moral obligation to lead in the post-hurricane rescue efforts and the United States as the regional superpower should use its enormous resources to help.
Given these circumstances, the plight of Haiti and Haitians should be of concern to Barbadians and all Caribbean people. Here is a country and people who share a common history with us, even if language, air and sea links have kept us apart. We must not forget Haiti is a member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), and that should count for something. So in this hour of need and desperation, CARICOM, despite its many limitations, must be prepared to work with Haiti.
The efforts of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency in tandem with the Jamaican military and the US government are welcome, as are the many private initiatives. But, what appears lacking is a united and well-coordinated regional response, through CARICOM, during the immediate aftermath and more critically to be in place when Haiti falls off the radar as the tragedy of Matthew becomes a mere memory.
There is going to be a need to help with issues as varied as afforestation, security, peacekeeping and even the need for skills training. These are areas that are not beyond the region’s capabilities.
It is evident that systems must be put in place to ensure Haiti has a chance of providing a better future for its people than what they have had to endure for far too long. The region’s attitude and response to Haiti must not appear to be lacklustre and lukewarm at this time when action matters most.