Monday, July 12, 2010

Thanks to CNN

I am extremely grateful to Anderson Cooper and all the journalists and volunteers who have gone to Haiti in the last six months.

I have not gone. I still weep when I see the pictures, so I question what use I would be.My heart is filled with gratitude for all those "blans" who were strong enough to go there and serve.

From the luxury and safety of my home, I have been able to follow the story perhaps more closely since it is my primary story, my main concern.

So as I watch the 6 month special on CNN, I did want to fill in some gaps in the story.- just some pieces that they may have missed.

First on the closing of the hospials, note that with the arrival of the medical aid for acute care from all over the world, no one thought to pay the Haitian state doctors who were already in place. Health care is not free in Haiti, not state supported. There was one report of two doctors at one state hospital who reported that they had not been paid in over three months and that no patients were coming into the hospital since so much care was being given for free. So now many of those hospitals are closed because the doctors - who probably could have stayed and would have stayed had any NGO or aid group thought to maintain some sort of support for the fragile health system.

And for the other part of the story that so outraged Anderson Cooper on being charged 20% tax on the goods his team was bringing in to help the relief efforts. For the first three months, there was no tax on any relief goods. Now there is. It does seem outrageous. But if you understand that Haiti has long been governed by NGOs -- that NGOs in Haiti operate as independent principalities and have for years. The foreign aid that is given and has been given for years has been funnelled to NGOs rather than the Haitian government, which admittedly, has always held the place in the top ten of "most corrupt" in the world.

Yet as some Haitians will say - what causes the corruption? If the NGOs have the money that the Haitian government may rightly believe should go to support the government, and then the government, which cannot pay its employees, starts charging these and other NGOs, who created the corruption?

The report was that MSF had shipments in trucks held up at the border for months and they had to rent trucks in Haiti for $100,000. That is money that went into the very tenuous economy.

I was a bit dismayed at CNNs coverage of the death of one hydrocephalic child - on the surface because there were no antibiotics - but on a deeper level because there is no hope that she would survive anyway.

People have been dying in Haiti for 204 years for lack of basic water and medical treatment that most of the hemisphere takes for granted.Much of this neglect is due to the isolation that this first Free Black Republic suffered by being a free Black nation next to the slave holding US.Instead of helping our newly independent neighbor,  we supported the reparations which Haiti was required to pay to France.

Last year, before the quake, the Haitian medical school laid off part of the faculty. There are more than 1500 Haitians studying medicine here in the Doninican Republic who might return to serve their country if there were money to pay them

So we - by that I mean the international donors - have starved the Haitin state first since its birth and more overtly since the fall of Duvalier in 1986. Now 70% of the government buildings have collapsed including the one that held the registry for land.

I do appreciate the outrage - any foreigner who has been to Haiti ever has felt the outrage.

But now perhaps there really is hope for the future.

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