Editorial: Pause for thought
For the people of Haiti, there is little hope to cling to. It’s been one year since a 7.0-magnitude earthquake brought this nation to its knees. Billions of dollars have been pledged to help the country get back on its feet, but by all accounts, the country still can’t get a foothold.
From Haiti’s grim cholera-ridden streets, we in North and West Vancouver should have a new appreciation for what we have, especially for the basics of food, water, shelter, health care and well-run government.
One leader of a non-profit organization said yesterday that working in Haiti is simply a “humbling experience.”
Reconstruction of the country is moving in slow motion. Haiti’s centralized government has hampered efforts of local authorities. Only five per cent of the rubble in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince has been cleared since the earthquake, a troubling statistic illustrating little progress has been made.
Haiti was already a nation on the brink of disaster before the earthquake hit. According to Canadian officials, 85 per cent of its citizens lived in abject poverty before the quake. Only one in five had access to clean water.
After the earth shook, 30 hospitals were destroyed. Three out of four medical schools were levelled, as was the nation’s largest nursing hospital. Haitians training at these facilities were killed.
Add hurricanes, disease and political instability to the mix and the devastation is worse than most war zones.
Meanwhile, many of us Canadians go about our daily lives and find plenty to complain about.
Some Haitians lost entire families in the quake and have little to live for. One relief worker is quoted as saying that people can’t stop themselves from crying. “They’re not functioning properly,” she said.
One million people are homeless or in camps. Sexual violence is rampant. According to one report, police officers are asking rape victims to pay gas money if they want their cases investigated. Perpetrators are rarely caught, rarely prosecuted.
There are stories of progress, but they’re coming at a glacial pace. Yet there are enough glimmers of hope that the Haitian people haven’t given up on their nation.
It’s a sombre situation that offers us plenty of reasons to pause and be grateful for what we have in Canada.