Is There Hope For Haiti?
A Tuesday afternoon in January of 2010 the worst natural disaster in the history of the Western Hemisphere changed the course of the Haitian people forever. It’s been nearly five years since the earthquake shook Haiti and captivated Americans to generously engage in international charitable giving. Considered to be the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti is ranked 149th of 182 countries on the Human Development Index.
The earthquake was catastrophic. It took the lives of an estimated 200,000 people in under a minute and toppled an enormous amount of buildings, including the Presidential Palace and many other government facilities causing mass power outages in the only standing hospitals. The American people couldn’t help respond as NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) flooded the country with humanitarian aid. The news media were able to quickly gain entry to Haiti and reported the stench of death as there were more bodies than the Haitian government could ever recover.
With our extensive network of medical partnerships and over 40 years of service to healthcare providers in Haiti, MAP International quickly mobilized for an emergency relief response, as did the majority of humanitarian relief organizations in the U.S. In the initial onset, tents were set up in critical areas and vital medical care was given to those in the aftermath.
A magnitude 7.0 earthquake would devastate many U.S. cities, so it’s no surprise that buildings in an impoverished nation tumbled and the recovery has been slow.
Some say the NGOs have failed on their mission to rebuild Haiti, but on a recent monitoring trip to Haiti, I would have to disagree. It’s very true that the overall efforts had good intentions but somewhere along the way took a turn and money was mismanaged and misplaced by a number of organizations and the Haitian government. The clean water needs weren’t met and a cholera epidemic ensued and infected nearly half a million Haitians.
I write this to remind you that this shouldn’t put a bad taste in our mouths about disaster relief and humanitarian aid during crisis. Lives were saved. I think that needs to be said twice, lives were saved. Haitians that would have gone without healthcare and food were provided antibiotics, fortified foods, surgeries, treatment for cholera, dehydration and other serious conditions. Some of the amazing NGOs that are still on the ground, like our partners Hope for Haiti and Love A Child Haiti, have restored the hope of the Haitian people they serve. They have built clinics and schools and use MAP’s medicines to stock these clinics and stop disease from spreading and increase the quality of human life.
The Haitian people are resilient. I believe that one woman I met in Haiti encompasses the true spirit of the Haitian people. Her name is Sister Genova, a member of the Mother Teresa’s order, the Missionaries of Charity. Since 1985, she has lived and worked among the Haitian people – she herself has become Haitian and she spends every day of her life serving the people of Haiti. Six nuns care for over 300 patients, including malnourished children, disabled children and patients with HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. I have never been so amazed at what just six woman can accomplish. It was heartwarming to watch her walk through the nursery while dozens of children cried because the electricity was out causing their only fan to stop. She was very deliberate to touch every single child as she comforted them without words. Even though this sweet little woman had nothing, she still wanted to give us fruit from the hospitals garden – she washed it herself while on her knees. The children were in the hospital above us singing, joyfully. They may not have the luxuries we have in the United States, access to clean water, proper healthcare and nutrition – but what they do have is hope. This little nun is the embodiment of Haiti, tenacity and a resilient courage. I can tell you that there is hope for Haiti.