Haiti needs help, not patronizing, after the earthquake and assassination | Editorial

·3 min read

It’s been just over a month since a powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti’s southern peninsula, killing more than 2,200 people. Hundreds more are still missing and many in the terribly disadvantaged nation — with so many ties to South Florida — are still struggling to find basic aid and shelter in an unfolding humanitarian crisis.

That natural disaster occurred amid one that was man-made: the political turmoil from the July 7 assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse. Repercussions continued this week when Port-au-Prince’s top prosecutor asked an investigative judge to charge Prime Minister Ariel Henry in connection with the slaying — a request complicated by news that the prosecutor had been fired a day earlier by that very prime minister.

A strong earthquake, a president assassinated and a confusing power struggle at the very top of the government? Haiti is in a world of hurt, again. It seems too much to bear.

Determined to move forward

But even that exceedingly grim picture is not without bright spots. As Haiti has demonstrated again and again, its strength is its people, and a Miami Herald story Tuesday by Caribbean correspondent Jacqueline Charles highlighted one earthquake-ravaged community where the residents have refused to despair. Instead, they are determined to move forward, no matter the obstacles.

The residents of Camp Perrin have a saying about their home. They call it “a special place” — Yon ti kote apa, in Creole. They take pride in being unique. And their focus after the quake was on getting back up. A month after the disaster, they were working to get students back into school in October — education is the backbone of the community — and dispense aid to those who need it most.

As Jeff Pierre-Louis, a 34-year-old Haitian man, told the Herald as he stood in front of his family’s collapsed home, “We will certainly rebuild. It’s the effort of the people who transformed Camp Perrin into what it is today; it wasn’t always developed like this.”

Need for aid

When the quake struck, the country was already facing major problems, including rising hunger, gang violence, limited or no access to healthcare and rising fear of sexual violence. Long-promised elections have been delayed. Haiti is still reeling from the shock of Moïse’s death. The allegation about Henry, an apparent attempt to politicize the investigation, only increases the turbulence there.

And let’s not forget that Haiti hasn’t fully recovered from the damage from the 2010 earthquake that killed over 300,000 people.

The United Nations and non-governmental organizations have said the country will suffer without additional aid from the international community. The need for aid is urgent. A number of nonprofits are on the ground working, and not a moment too soon: One analysis conducted by CARE, U.N. Women and the Haitian government on the impact of the earthquake on people’s lives indicated three areas of the hard-hit south were left without access to clean water.

Yes, Haiti needs help from others to recover from these multiple crises. But in past catastrophes and efforts by outsiders to fix things there, Haitians have too often been left out of decision-making. The Haitian people must be full partners on anything done in their name.

The helpers must remember: Haiti’s biggest asset is its own people.

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