Wednesday, March 17, 2010

What's Going On

There have been many developments in Haiti, some of which, of course, I'm not comfortable sharing in such a public place. But now that Haiti is hardly in the news at all, I feel responsible to keep the situation in people's minds as much as I can, so I'm going to try to write a post about some of the articles I've posted on Facebook in the last few weeks.

I don't by any means post everything I read. Now there are many people coming back from short-term visits to Haiti and giving interviews to their local news outlets. I think it's great that they are talking about what they have seen and helping others to understand what is happening, but some of the things they say are hard to read. I have lived in Haiti for over thirteen years, and I try very hard to avoid making sweeping generalizations about Haitians and their culture. Some people have no trouble drawing such conclusions after a couple of weeks. If you don't speak the language, and you're working with an interpreter whose effectiveness you are completely unequipped to gauge, maybe you shouldn't speak out quite so confidently about what you think you observed. Maybe you don't have the whole story.

Similarly, at this distance from Haiti, I don't always know how to interpret everything I read. The New York Times published a scathing indictment of the relief effort so far in the same week as the LA Times said that it had mostly been a success. Which is true? Probably both. Here's what the New York Times had to say, and here's the LA Times' take.

Here's a report on the situation in the tent camps. It's in French, and it's the most complete report I've seen. Here are the headings: Insecurity in the Camps, Sexual Violence, Sorcery, Environment of the Camps, and Distribution of Humanitarian Aid. You probably weren't expecting that third one, Sorcery. Here's an excerpt in French and an English translation follows:

...les mères et pères de famille occupant les camps se plaignent de l'absence du courant électrique, ce qui favorise le phénomène de la sorcellerie. Il est rapporté que le soir, des enfants en bas âge ont du mal à dormir alors que d'autres tombent malades. De plus, des animaux tels que des chiens, des poules, des cochons, des couleuvres, rodant autour des camps, attaquent au cours de la nuit, les nouveau-nés, les femmes enceintes, les enfants en bas âge. Si certaines personnes en âge avancé, persécutées par la population, sont arrêtées pour sorcellerie et conduites dans les commissariats, d'autres sont purement et simplement lynchées par la population. Au moins deux (2) cas de lynchage respectivement à Carrefour et à Delmas ont été rapportés au RNDDH.

My translation:

Parents in the camps complain about the lack of electricity, which encourages the occurrence of sorcery. It's reported that at night, young children have a hard time sleeping while others become sick. In addition, animals like dogs, hens, pigs, and snakes, wandering around the camps, attack newborns, pregnant women, and young children during the night. If certain older people, accused by the people, are arrested for sorcery and taken to the police stations, others are simply lynched by the people. At least two cases of lynchings in Carrefour and Delmas have been reported to the Réseau National de Défense des Droits Humains (National Network for the Defense of Human Rights).

I don't know about you but I find that a haunting passage for many reasons.

Other articles about the tent camps include this one, this one, and this one. This one tells about a wedding in a tent city, and includes this quote:

Their home is a pile of rubble, their church in ruins and their honeymoon suite a tent shared with eight relatives.

But Emmanuel Beauzile and Mary Leon found plenty to celebrate as they exchanged vows under a blue tarp in the ruins of Haiti's capital.

"We're still here," Beauzile said. "No matter what the situation is, we are going to be together."

The couple tied the knot in the shadow of the Notre Dame d'Haiti Cathedral, where they attended Mass and the bride sang in the choir before the earthquake caved in the roof and two sides.

The occasion was not entirely joyful: It was hard not think about those who would have attended had they survived the quake, but the ceremony had already been postponed once and the bride and groom felt it was important to go ahead.

This one, about the future of competitive soccer in Haiti, raises an issue that many people in Haiti are talking about: just how temporary are these tent cities? Now that the main soccer stadium in Port-au-Prince is a refugee camp,

the tent cities that have set up in the stadiums are slowly turning into semi-permanent lodging. People are replacing improvised tents with wooden shelters and they're naming the alleys between them, like city streets.

"How are we going to get them off?" Gilles said. "And where are we going to put them?"

And of course, as wherever Haitian children congregate, there are kites.

I have been interested in articles about the arts in Haiti, and there have been many. This heartbreaking article is about a professional violinist who was injured in the earthquake and lost his pregnant wife. This update on Romel's condition is more hopeful, but still recognizes what a huge job is before him. This one is about a Haitian singer and this one is about a dancer. This one talks about preserving Haiti's cultural heritage.

I have read several articles about efforts to help people with their mental health issues after the trauma. Here's one. There is a lot to mourn when, as this article puts it, many of the best and brightest were lost.

One heartening development has been the engagement of Haitians living around the world. There are many articles on this topic. Here's one about a summit in Miami to discuss rebuilding. Here's another about Haitian Americans going to help and here's another about the Diaspora.

Many people have left Port-au-Prince for the rural areas, but things are not easy there either. This article deals with some of the challenges facing the rest of Haiti.

It's always been hard to be an orphan in Haiti. This story shows how things have become even worse. Injustice is the topic of this blog post, written by an eyewitness to corruption in post-quake Haiti.

These missionaries were badly injured and now are returning to help. I was touched by her comment that as amputees themselves, they will be more able to minister to others who suffer in the same way.

I loved this article because of its personal focus and its tale of life returning to the Haitian streets.

It's hard to connect YA literature (a more common topic on this blog) with the aftermath of Haiti's earthquake, but this article manages, telling as it does about aid going into the country on the Harry Potter plane.

In my place here in the US as a refugee, I am doing my best to Haitian up through my own challenges, and to remind others that "Haiti still suffers when cameras are gone."

1 comment:

Janet said...

Thank you for putting this post together. I'm glad you're sharing this information -- you're right that Haiti is just a headline in so many major news sources.

"I don't know about you but I find that a haunting passage for many reasons." Amen.