Editorial: Déjà vu?

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The case of Haiti is instructive. Yeah, yeah, yeah, you have heard the warnings before – that we should be careful that we not repeat the debacle in Haiti. Of course, we are sounding the alarm out of an abundance of caution. And our trepidation stems from the fact that we had a déjà vu moment when we saw former U.S. President, William Clinton, delivering one of the keynote addresses at the U.N./CARICOM pledging conference in New York yesterday. The thing is that William Clinton was one of the influentials who galvanised support for the reconstruction effort in Haiti. He delivered grandiose speeches and uttered much lofty rhetoric to any and everyone who would listen. And many folks and bodies with deep pockets, did listen.  And they dug deep, and donated generously.
Sadly, it is still quite a mystery as to what has happened in Haiti, some seven years after the 7.0 earthquake that killed over 220,000 Haitians, and Hurricane Tomas that took the lives of a few hundred more. Seems, the island is not nearly back to what it should be. And by that we mean, that with the massive amounts of donations pledged and collected, and with the involvement of so many world bodies, like the U.N. and the Bill Clinton Foundation, Haiti should be showing some semblance of what is often referred to as that “Shining city on a hill.” Alas, Haiti is far from that! Indeed, Port Au Prince, the Haitian capital is still a tangled, rubble-strewn mess, and thousands of Haitians are still eking out a miserable existence in tent cities amidst much squalor and blight. Even after the all-clear was given after the cholera outbreak that killed ten thousand, Haitians still live in fear of the ever-present threat of disease and death. Grinding poverty, undernourishment, unemployment and much suffering are the order of the day, and many Haitians now live in deep despair and quiet desperation.  They seem resigned to their fate.
And please resist the urge to say, “Cus pon Haiti!” Much of the problems in Haiti are man-caused and not the result of any sort of supernatural phenomenon. For example, Kim Ives, the editor of Haiti Liberte recently reported, “A lot of Haitians are not big fans of the Clintons, that’s for sure. The fact that they kind of took over things after the earthquake and did a pretty poor job of it translates to why the Haitians have a pretty dim view of them.” And it is not only the Clintons! Former President George W. Bush even though he was given quite a mandate to use his status to help Haiti, he never really seemed engaged. Then there is the U.N.  True, they got engaged, but again, the results of their efforts were mediocre, at best. Indeed, if the loss of the thousands of Haitians due to the United Nations-caused cholera outbreak is any measure, U.N. involvement in Haiti was an unmitigated disaster. And never mind the Red Cross. It is still a head-scratcher, according to Justin Elliott of Pro Publica and Laura Sullivan of NPR, “How the Red Cross raised half a billion dollars for Haiti and built six homes.”
Ah, yes, billions raised for Haiti, and yet the Haitian outlook is still quite bleak! Ah yes, over one billion pledged at yesterday’s pledging conference, and we are certainly hoping for a vastly different outcome! There needs to be a single, central custodial body in charge of the funds raised, and these should be disbursed judiciously, to wit, with due care and diligence. Funds for first-class travel and five-star dining and penthouse suites will not be countenanced. Then there is this small thing called remuneration. We submit that too often the greater part of every dollar donated to many charities and governments go to perks and salaries (remuneration) and not to its intended victims. This insidious practice must stop! In that regard, we are calling on all those entrusted with the solemn responsibility of overseeing the reconstruction funds in all the hurricane-ravaged islands of the Caribbean, to not add insult to the grievous injuries caused by Irma and Maria. Let there be no repeat in these islands of the travesty inflicted on Haiti. And let it never be said of our reconstruction stewards, “When I leave you, you will finally understand why storms are named after people.”[Caitlyn Siehl]

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