mercredi 13 janvier 2016

Six Years

Much has happened during the last six years.
Hundreds of thousands of Haitians were crushed to death in the earthquake six years ago this afternoon. The victims included women huddled together watching a popular Dominican soap opera around little televisions at 4:53 PM. The ground shook for 35 seconds, and for many of them, it was their last show.
Haiti’s most powerful Catholic prelate fell to his death from a seminary as the earthquake crushed his cathedral nearby.
Bodies were scooped up for days like pieces of heavy debris, thrown in dump trucks, and buried in a pauper’s field just north of the capital.
And I learned that earthquakes don’t really kill people, bad buildings do.
After the earthquake 13 billion dollars of money was pledged to Haiti from all over the world. However, pledged money does not mean money given. And money that was given was given to whom? And for what?
Non-government organizations were crucified relentlessly for trying to help in Haiti but not really creating sustainability.
Cholera would hit Haiti at the end of 2010 and Haiti, the land of extremes, became home to the largest and most deadly cholera outbreak in the world. The UN would not take responsibility for cholera and words like “immunity” and “impunity” still confuse me. But I do understand “shock” and “death” from extreme loss of bodily fluids.
Hillary would pick the newest Haitian president in 2011 and he would “rule by decree”.
In early 2014, I examined four-month-old baby Princess in Port. She had complex congenital heart disease but her eyes focused very clearly. Princess died after surgery but she sent a song of sympathy directly from Heaven shortly after she left us.
Chikungunya virus hit Haiti in 2014 and made millions of Haitians quite ill. And now Zika virus (from the same mosquito vector) is sickening Haitians but we have to be quiet about it right now. And nine months from now someone may need to explain the number of Haitian babies being born with small heads and brains and intellects.
One-third of Haitians are food insecure or starving now and we can’t blame this on Syria’s Bashar al-Assad or his barrel bombs.
Daughters of Charity Sisters (and also very dear friends of ours) were burglarized in their own home in Port-au-Prince last year and beaten by the bandits…the very people they serve. Insanity rules.
In June of 2015 people with Haitian blood (some who only speak Spanish) went running and screaming from the Dominican Republic after they were told they were no longer welcome in the sugar cane fields. These folks and their children are now “stateless” and tens of thousands of them are camped on the Haitian-Dominican border in a desert existing in cardboard huts. Neither Dominican or Haitian governments act like they exist and they have no civil rights. Cholera and malnutrition and lack of hope are picking these people apart.
And Haitian politics and elections and the omnipresent corruption are an embarrassment for Haiti as 2016 comes tumbling in. People manifest in the streets almost every day because they can’t live another six years like this.

Haiti earthquake victims still homeless, struggling to rebuild six years after disaster

Haitians have paused to mourn the 200,000 people killed six years ago in a devastating earthquake that left the country with wounds that have yet to heal.
Almost 60,000 people are still homeless and living in camps, and the common struggle to rebuild has done nothing to close Haiti's deep political divisions.
"Six years on and we still don't know the exact number of our dead, nor all their names," feminist collectives Kay Fanm and Solidarite Fanm Ayisyen (Haitian Women's Solidarity) said.
"Six years in which families have struggled to grieve because they still don't know the fate of those who have not been seen since that tragic day."
President Michel Martelly, who will be replaced next month if Haiti manages to hold the second round of a delayed election, tried to brush off controversy.
We did not build well, we were not well-prepared, and people were not secure enough to avoid this catastrophe.
Haiti's President Michel Martelly "It's easy to criticise, but I ask that everyone look to themselves and ask themselves what they can do to help build the new Haiti," he said.
On Tuesday, Mr Martelly joined Prime Minister Evans Paul to lay a wreath at a memorial just outside the capital over a mass grave holding tens of thousands.
Flags flew at half-mast across Haiti, the western half of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, bleakly notorious as the poorest country in the Americas.
"We're here to pay respect to all those we've lost," Mr Martelly said, pushing his theme that it is time for Haiti to work together.
"But especially we are here to reflect on the fact that we share responsibility for what happened.
"We did not build well, we were not well-prepared, and people were not secure enough to avoid this catastrophe."
Political turmoil hampers reconstruction efforts
On January 12, 2010, shortly before 5:00pm, a magnitude-7 quake destroyed more than 300,000 buildings in downtown Port-au-Price and across southwest Haiti.
Aside from the dead trapped in the tangled webs of steel and cement formed by pancaked concrete homes, more than 1.5 million were left homeless.
The scale of the horror triggered international sympathy and unprecedented pledges of aid, much of which was swallowed up in emergency relief.
Longer-term reconstruction has been hampered by political chaos and by a cholera epidemic credibly blamed on poor hygiene at a UN peacekeeping unit.
Haiti's international partners now hope that a new chapter may begin after January 24, when voters will be called to cast ballots in a presidential run-off.
Mr Martelly's favored successor Jovenel Moise emerged ahead of challenger Jude Celestin in a first round that the opposition alleges was marred by fraud.

Are Haitian Picket Signs a Terrorist Threat?

[COMMENTARY] On a cold New York afternoon, heavily armed police stood suspiciously close to people who weren’t scary
The most peculiar thing took place in midtown Manhattan Tuesday – peculiar and unnecessary.
Fewer than a dozen people, most of them seemingly middle aged or older, stood on a sidewalk on Avenue of the Americas right across the street from Radio City Music Hall. They brandished picket signs protesting what they say is mismanagement of funds that were supposed to go to the victims of Haiti’s devastating earthquake in 2010.
They passed out fliers, spoke to passersby, chanted, but really didn’t seem to be disturbing the normal ebb and flow of a typical busy New York afternoon.
A few feet away, behind metal barricades stood four NYPD officers, three of which were wearing protective armor and armed with automatic assault rifles.
It gave me pause as I happened upon the scene because I couldn’t help but think of the many times I’ve seen demonstrations of all types on this very street over the years.
I’ve seen hundreds march the street in pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian demonstrations. The Free Tibet movement has also been a regular fixture there, as well as countless environmental protests, Greek austerity demonstrations, people shouting down the occupation of the Ukraine by Russia. If there’s an issue in this world, rest assured people have marched on this street to make their voices heard.
But at none of them, not one, not the loudest most raucous, most disruptive to the progression of northbound and southbound foot traffic, have I ever seen militarized police holding assault weapons as if ready to open fire if the demonstrators got out of line.
These Haitian protestors did not seem very threatening and their goal was to remind people of the still-devastating consequences of the disaster, which killed more than 200,000 people.
So why did those people need to have a group of cops nearby? I could be wrong, but it didn’t seem like the purpose was to protect them.
An NYPD spokesperson told me that the detail could have been posted there for any number of reasons, including the officers being posted in front of the Time-Life building on an unrelated issue and the protestors were there coincidentally. But there was no specific, threat he said.
It’s true that Avenue of the Americas (which non-tourists call Sixth Avenue) is a heavily trafficked street and safety precautions are and should be taken there, if anyplace in the city. But if these people were not brandishing weapons of their own and not threatening people, then why could they not stage peaceful protests (the same as everyone else does) without such heavily armed police nearby?
Mind you, this is the same police department that booted me from the subway system two days before Christmas because I refused to let them search my shoulder bag. It makes you wonder if non-threatening Black people are that much of a threat to the NYPD.
“We are the original terrorists,” one gentleman told me in a Kreyol accent, as he passed out flyers. “Because we demanded our freedom years ago.”
He explained that the demonstrators did have a permit to be there and that they were breaking no laws. I asked him how he felt about having those cops there, if it made him feel any safer. He just laughed and shook his head. I left before the demonstration broke up, unsure how many people had been reached by their message. The brisk afternoon was moving fast and like everyone else passing by, I had to get back to work.
But will the next protest on this avenue necessitate assault-ready cops? Will all small groups of not very loud people spur an order from a police captain to have Emergency Service Unit officers ready with AR-15s?
Maybe the subliminal message from the NYPD is this: Don’t hold peaceful demonstrations. And if you do, make sure you’re not a group of middle aged Haitians. Apparently, they are almost as much of a threat as ISIS.
Madison J. Gray is Managing Editor of Ebony.com. Follow him on Twitter @madisonjgray
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