Haiti needs care, not crass criticism

2010-01-19 09:29

WHEN the news broke of a massive earthquake hitting Haiti earlier

this week, many people wondered, not for the first time, why disaster seems to

disproportionately befall this poor Caribbean country.

Some, like the charismatic rightwing US evangelist Pat Robertson,

took it too far.

On a TV broadcast, Robertson said the tiny country was hit by the

7.0-magnitude earthquake due to a “curse” because the nation’s founders had made

a “pact with the devil” in exchange for the country’s independence from France

in the early 19th century.

Robertson’s remarks have, rightly, been widely condemned. When

there are as many as 200 000 people feared dead and three million hurt or left

homeless in and around the capital, Port-au-Prince, it is the height of

insensitivity and the depth of heartlessness to interpret such a tragedy as

God’s wrath or judgment.

What the people of Haiti urgently need from a caring world of

believers and non-believers alike is compassion and help.

The disaster could not have befallen a less prepared nation. Less

than two years ago, Haiti was hit by four hurricanes, one after the other, in a

period of just 30 days. After the last tropical storm, Hurricane Ike, passed,

huge swathes of that country – often referred to as the poorest in the western

hemisphere – had been reduced to a wasteland.

Then our television screens were filled with images of homes and

people buried in mud. Those images were still vivid in our minds when we had to

deal with the apocalyptic ­destruction left by this week’s earthquake.

It is understandable to feel impotent in the face of such a

disaster and wonder what, if anything, one can do from far off South


There are a number of ways that one can contribute.

South Africa is one of the countries that has sent rescue teams to

Haiti. Through the Department of International Relations and Co-operation a

three-pronged effort has been mounted: search-and-rescue teams for those trapped

under the rubble; forensic pathologists for identifying bodies; and humanitarian

aid for survivors.

The non-governmental Gift of the Givers organisation has also sent

teams to boost the ­humanitarian effort in Haiti. More help is planned.

Hopefully this latest disaster will awaken the world to the

­injustices that have been visited upon Haiti since 465 000 slaves dared to

revolt against France and, in 1804 – after a war that lasted 12 years – declare

Haiti the first free republic in the Americas.

Cuba’s Fidel Castro was spot- on when he said this week: “Haiti is

the perfect product of colonialism and imperialism ... of military intervention

and having its natural resources looted.

“It is time for real and true solutions for this brother


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