Today marks six months since the catastrophic earthquake that killed as many as 300,000 Haitians. To mark the date, some mainstream media are checking back in with Haiti. Thankfully, so are some indy journalists and writers who have followed Haiti closely in recent years.
Yves Engler has an op-ed at AlJazeera.Net, while Isabel Macdonald asks in the Huffington Post, ‘Where’s Haiti’s bailout?’ Macdonald has compiled a devastating index of the failed “humanitarian efforts” of the West, noting in particular France’s neglect of its aid commitments, all the more contemptible given their historic extortion of indemnity payments from post-independence Haiti:
“-Value of total French humanitarian assistance to Haiti since the earthquake: $35,956,408
Democracy Now! broadcast today from Haiti, and it’s essential listening for getting a true picture of where the country is at and what is needed for a just and equitable rebuilding. Amy Goodman’s interview with Patrick Elie is particularly insightful. Elie is the former Defence Minister under Jean-Bertrand Aristide who took the historic step of disbanding the notorious Haitian army. Here is his explanation for the shocking failure of the promised aid to reach the Haitian people:
“AMY GOODMAN: Now I want to ask you about the aid. There has been close to $11 billion promised. Haiti hasn’t seen even 10% of that. Why is that?
PATRICK ELIE: Well, you might point to the bureaucracy of, you know, the international donors; but also I think that the weakness of the Haitian state also explains that. You see, it is a vicious circle. The powers that be—and I mean by that, the U.S., France, and Canada—but mostly the U.S., have worked over decades to weaken the Haitian state. And then now they are using this weakness as a pretense, not to free the aid or have it go through Haitian authorities. So, that 10% of aid that has been released actually, most of it did not go through the Haitian state. And I can say, even though I am not a specialist, that a lot of it went into things that were not indispensable for reconstruction. As you know, in the beginning we have 82nd Airborne being deployed around Haiti and in Haiti. These cost a lot of money and all this money, if you want to count it, is money that went to help Haiti. So, it gives you a false sense that, you know, already a lot had been done and we are not seeing the result on the ground.”
The failure to deliver promised aid money should give pause to every Canadian who generously wrote a check or texted in a donation in the weeks after the January 12 earthquake. After the telethons and the music videos, the historical pattern of betrayal continues.
Given this reality, it’s worth remembering the message that Haitian trade union leader Dukens Raphael brought on a recent speaking tour across Canada: “Haiti wants solidarity, not charity”. Charity is designed to flatter and clear the conscience of the donor, whereas true solidarity is an exchange that empowers oppressed people to determine their own future.
So if you are moved by the images of the ongoing suffering in Haiti, track down a solidarity group to find out how you can help. The Canada Haiti Action Network (CHAN), as I’ve noted before, has organized important actions and events for years with only meager resources, and there are affiliates in a number of Canadian cities whose work you can support.
The CHAN website also has information on the best organizations to which you can make a financial donation for emergency aid. And you can be sure that this money will actually reach the Haitian people, which is more than can be said for the aid promised by Canada, the US, France and the other powerful countries who bear so much of the historic responsibility for Haiti’s current plight.