The World Today for September 03, 2021

NEED TO KNOW

HAITI

A Country Named Despair

In July, the president of Haiti was assassinated. In mid-August, an earthquake in the south killed more than 2,200 and left a million injured, homeless and destitute. Then came a hurricane.

And in between it all arrived an interim government so shaky that no one but the gangs seems to be in charge.

“We’re on our own,” said Michel Milord, a 66-year-old farmer, who told the New York Times he lost his wife and his house in the earthquake.

Haiti still hasn’t finished rebuilding from the last earthquake a decade ago or Hurricane Matthew in 2016 – the National Palace in the capital of Port-au-Prince is still a vacant lot, “a metaphor for a failed state felled by political corruption and nature’s inexorable pummeling.”

So wrote Francesca Momplaisir, a Haitian-born scholar and novelist of the fate of Haiti. She called the earthquake a disaster that just added insult to injury.

In the neighboring Dominican Republic, natural disasters such as hurricanes hit just as often. However, a combination of geography, poverty, political and social turmoil, gang violence, kidnappings and corruption means that Haiti is just always hit much harder.

“It is as if we are cursed,” Rev. Lucson Simeon told the Washington Post, just before officiating at yet another funeral for a quake victim, echoing a long-held sentiment in Haiti. “We just keep getting beaten down. I ask myself, how can this be?”

Weeks after the earthquake and hurricane, people are still seeking medical attention – the region has few doctors and only one surgeon. The hospitals were badly damaged. “We have…no hospitals to go to,” said 14-year-old Edmund Lobobouin, who told NPR that five of his relatives were injured in the quake.

Lobobouin came last week to get food from one of the few aid trucks that made it through to the region. One reason is the area lacks paved roads and some of the few are now blocked by mudslides and rocks. Meanwhile, gangs have hijacked aid trucks and even ambulances, forcing relief workers to transport supplies by helicopter, a tricky feat because of the mountainous terrain, reported NBC News.

Last week, one of the capital’s most powerful gangsters said his allied gangs had reached a truce and would help relief efforts, via a Facebook video. Meanwhile, crowds of desperate people continue to fight over food and supplies, sometimes looting aid convoys, France24 said.

For many, the quake brought back memories of the 2010 earthquake that killed more than 220,000 and devastated the country. But this time around, it’s even worse, locals say.

After President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated on July 7 with help from foreign mercenaries, an interim leader took over but didn’t fill the power vacuum. The country, however, lacks a head of state and lawmakers, Vox wrote. September’s elections have been postponed.

Meanwhile, some judges involved in investigating the killing have gone into hiding because of pressure to manipulate the investigation, the Washington Post wrote. Other key figures in the country have been arrested. Now, many Haitians say the authorities are using the investigation to crack down on political foes of the administration.

So what’s next? No one dares to think about the future because the disasters have stolen it, say residents. For example, it will take decades to rebuild schools and hospitals, power plants and electric grids, bridges and roads in the rural south. The water supplies are contaminated because of corpses upstream. And foreign aid often doesn’t filter down to these rural communities – too many hands in the capital have to take their slice first.

And as the Associated Press noted, scientists expect another earthquake – soon.

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