There’s a theory about Haiti that surfaces on the heels of every tragedy and each disaster the country is faced with — whether man-made or an act of God.
Following reports of the rising death toll of Hurricane Matthew victims in Haiti, I came across my neighbor, who lamented the familiar sayings after misfortune hits.
“How horrible, this is a disaster, I’m praying for Haiti.”
She went on to express her confusion about why Haiti was so badly affected compared to the several islands that were also in Hurricane Matthew’s path.
“It’s as though the county is …” — and there it was. She held her tongue and let the sentence trail off, finishing with promises of prayers she would be reciting that night for Haiti.
We’ve all thought it — myself included. Haiti must be cursed. How else would you explain the misfortune that has plagued the country since its self-liberation from the French more than 200 years ago?
Televangelist Pat Robertson drew criticism in 2010 when he cited the Vodou ceremony before Haiti’s slave rebellion as a source of the country’s woes.
However, I present a more secular explanation — the Haitian government, regardless of who is in power, is structurally and ideologically deficient, albeit partly through no fault of its own.
It would be easy to point out the number of international socioeconomic policies that crippled Haiti from its inception as retribution for its audacity to remove itself from French oppression; however, listing grievances has never and will never do much to address the current problems, despite where they were born.
Haiti lacks infrastructure and the political stability to plan ahead for predictable natural disasters. The country lacks a national building code to ensure structures are built to certain standards. The small island nation, barely able to fund its own elections, is simply not in the position to help its people.
Hurricane Matthew was not a tragedy that struck by surprise, nor was this the first time a hurricane devastated the country – after all, hurricanes on tropical islands are not unheard of. Yet each time, Haiti and the international community reacts as though the storms are isolated incidents.
A look at neighboring Cuba offers a different perspective. The hurricane barreled through the country like Haiti; and while there were homes and property damaged, there have not been any reports of fatalities. The Cuban government employed a strict evacuation plan and has mandatory hurricane drills every May. However, for Haiti, the hurricane was met with bewilderment and confusion on the part of the Haitian government.
Haiti’s greatest strength lies in its Diaspora, in those who have made a home again in Haiti and devoted their lives to effecting real change in communities across the country.
The countless small nonprofits and organizations that operate in the neglected provinces in Haiti offer hope for a country where little attention is paid to anything other than politics.
They are there long after the newsworthiness of the latest tragedy in Haiti has worn off and work toward lifting the country up to where it once was decades ago.
While the outpouring of support, sympathy and donations to Haiti are appreciated; I for one am tired of seeing, reading and hearing “Help Haiti.”
The country’s inability to plan accordingly for something as common as hurricanes on a tropical island feeds into this notion that the country is “cursed” and thus forever incapable of truly operating as a sovereign nation.