Seven Years On: Haiti Earthquake. Today marks the seventh anniversary of the Haiti earthquake and the start of a challenging and tumultuous year for the country.
Here at the Haiti Support Group 2017 also marks twenty-five years since our group was first founded, an important and proud milestone in our organisation’s history. For two and a half decades, our dedicated team of Haiti watchers and supporters has been committed to campaigning for real change by amplifying the voices of Haitian civil society and grassroots organisations to key decision-makers around the world.
In 2016, this campaigning led to some very positive developments. After years of denial, in August the office of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon finally admitted that the United Nations had had some involvement in the 2010 cholera epidemic, an outbreak that killed close to ten thousand Haitians and sickened tens of thousands more. This admission of guilt was a huge breakthrough for all those working hard to push the organisation to acknowledge responsibility and to apologise to the Haitian people. HSG supporter Phillip Wearne, who has campaigned tirelessly on this issue, noted:
“Having denied its responsibilities and culpability at every turn, buried the evidence and expertise that proves liability, hidden behind its legal immunity in US courts and refused even minimal compensation to some of the poorest people on earth for six years, to Haitians, the UN does not have a humanitarian department worthy of the name.“
Just weeks after the important cholera breakthrough, in October Hurricane Matthew, a category 4 storm, made landfall at Les Anglais bringing with it 150mph winds, sheets of rain and ocean surges that cascaded furiously upon the Haitian shoreline. Despite the predictable international NGO response that drew upon a discourse of desperation, vulnerability and the need to ‘save’ the Haitian people, however, one of our members, Antony Stewart, instead argued:
“This past week…Haitians did not powerlessly watch Matthew wash through their land, waiting for foreign aid to appear. They have banded together – families, neighbours, cooperatives, work societies, community, solidarity and diaspora groups – to begin the clean-up, and get the affected regions back on their feet. Yet, once again, the media and the ‘international community’ have chosen to present Haitians as passive, fatalistic, superstitious and cavalier (yes, all at once!).”
On 20 November, following several postponements, the long-awaited elections finally took place despite the pulling of international support and accusations of fraud and dodgy tactics abound. By 27 November, Martelly’s close ally Jovenel Moïse was declared the winner. Sick and tired of this ‘democratic’ farce, however, Haitians stayed away in their droves and as little as one in five went to vote. You can read more about our work on monitoring the 2015-2016 elections here.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, 2017 promises to be a very difficult year for Haiti. In the face of a growing food crisis, political uncertainty and social unrest, next month the country will finally get a new President. The Haiti Support Group will, as always, continue to report back on the situation on-the-ground and work to improve the standard of living of the poor majority.
We look forward to working with you to achieve this goal!
Haiti Support Group Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Funding Appeal
Our work has only been possible thanks to the kind donations we receive from fellow supporters and Haiti watchers for which we say a big thank you! Yet it is becoming harder and harder for us to allocate funding for our group.