Monday, June 20, 2011

Haiti: The World's Garbage Dump?

By Mildred Legrá

The richest in the world like to call the small island of Haiti "the garbage dump of the world,” as a derogatory way to describe the extreme poverty of the people living in this region.

The Haitian population is estimated at 6.7 million with close to 74 percent of the population living in rural areas. Ninety-five percent of Haitians are the descendants of black slaves and the remaining five percent are a mixture of African and French. The rivalry between these two communities has long marked the political life of Haiti since its independence.

Most of the population is illiterate and only those with good fortune have been able to attend higher studies and at great sacrifice. The rich people, only a handful, go to universities in the United States, Canada or France; they constitute a social class that exploits the poor and dispossessed majority.

Visiting Haiti is like arriving in a country that is not country. It's like a huge piece of land ruled by unspoiled nature and garbage. The lands have been embraced by a natural environment, which many Haitians look at with indifference. They do not work the lands. They prefer illegal trade, such as prostitution and drugs.

But that attitude to take the “easy” route is not their fault. It is due to centuries of extreme poverty and little attention. Despite being the first country in Latin America to win their independence, it was forgotten in time. And although the different governments have made some genuine efforts to improve things, they have not managed to save a society polluted by the world's great scourges.

And to make matters worse are the hurricanes that ravage the island leaving destruction and death, since Haitians are not prepared for such contingencies. It becomes a "save yourselves if you can" and nothing else. Nobody cares. The same happened during the last earthquake, which left an estimated 50,000 people dead. It is true that various global organizations and governments provided aid, but several countries promised funding which never materialized.

The destruction brought by the earthquake was followed by a cholera epidemic. It is as if "evil" persecuted these people allowing not a single second of respite. The consequences, in a country with no health infrastructure, poor environmental conditions and millions of people in need, were dramatic,

Today, no one speaks of Haiti; Cuba is the only country that continues to offer support. The Cuban doctors are still there, in the midst of very difficult conditions and under constant threat of disease.

The world needs to be more sensitive to Haiti. There are very rich countries that should share what they have with this poor nation. Even a little bit to help to pave the path to a better standard of living. It is not a matter of designer clothes or shoes, but rather of sharing medicines, education and food.

If the most powerful countries would stop waging war and instead provide knowledge, medicine and a little bit of food to the Haitians, they would be undertaking a great charity. But it is more comfortable for them to look down on Haiti and imagine it as an eternal garbage dump, which no one has the responsibility to clean up.

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