Monday, 1 February 2010

The Many Tragedies in Haiti

I am hesitant to write something that I know will upset many people but here goes because I think this is really important.

If you give money to Haiti by all means do it to salve your conscience but not to do any real good because -

  • It isn’t needed (the USA has already put in more than $100 million and as much as it will take thereafter)
  • It won’t get to the people anyway – it never does – the Tsunami money (for instance) is still unused for the purposes intended although it’s helping the Indonesian economy
  • Money gets somehow…lost… in these situations …the Haitians themselves have a neat way of putting it “when a Haitian Minister skims 15% of aid money it’s called corruption, but when an aid agency takes 50% it’s called overheads”.
  • The NGOs are on a vanity show trying to prove how important they are (Andy Kershaw of the Independent savaged Oxfam for emptily conducting “assessments” as people died)
  • But the clincher is that the USA has put more troops into Haiti than we have in Afghanistan –20,000 it’s said - to maintain security. They fear a bloodbath could follow the turmoil with gang warfare.
  • So whatever we think has no weight or influence when compared to the US control of airport, aid, money, food, in fact - control of everything.
  • To understand the gangs in Port au Prince you don’t really need a lesson in this Caribbean island’s economic demolition by the Duvaliers (Papa Doc and Baby Doc and their Tonton Macoute militia.) and the hangover, after their removal.
  • Last and worst of all, the media. Sleek, well fed, sanctimonious and there in great and well organised numbers filming human misery commenting smugly and tersely and moving on. And you know I doubt if we can really trust what they say – 24 hour News Coverage and truth are not great allies.

I know little enough of Haiti – I haven’t been there although I hurt for all the suffering. But I have watched liberal and Christian money being hopefully used as though it were water being hosed over people dying of thirst. Except the money being given will predictably sit in some bank account until it’s too late to do much good or it’s irrelevant.

I have been frustrated and angry that money is seen as the answer.

It never is, alone.

And if it takes a catastrophe to awaken the Christian or the philanthropist in us, it’s a sad old world.

Haiti really needed help a month ago, a year ago, a decade ago.

Now it needs some really intelligent planning with the people in Haiti who matter – not the elite but most probably the mothers….the people who really know what is needed and, from what I read, the Mayor of Haiti’s second city, Cap Haiten, Michel St. Croix, who said: “this is a moment like never before for Haiti to start again”.

Most of all we hope the Americans so clearly running this show will execute the recovery in Port-au-Prince better than usual (or at least than Katrina). And that more of the brains of the world rather than the wallets of the world will be used to help plan the best solution possible.

As Lord Rutherford, the physicist originally said “we have no money so we shall have to think”…or as he might say, were he alive now, ”we have all this money. What on earth shall we do with it?”

Carry on thinking….and taking the advice of Haitian mothers and Michel St. Croix who sounds smart and honest.

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