PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti—The annual rainy season has begun, already causing floods that have reportedly killed a dozen and displaced thousands while damaging crops and soil in the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country.Haiti’s rainy season, from May-October, has heightened concern since after the 7.0 earthquake that hit the country in January 2010. Aside from the more than 316,000 people dying as a result of the quake, according to disputed Haitian government figures, more than 1.5 million people were left homeless with little if any stable shelter from the rains or flooding.
Contributing to the concern, in October 2010 cholera broke out in the country, reportedly killing at least 7,000 people and inflicting more than 500,000 more. As cholera is known to spread through water, floods serve as a heavy breeding ground for the bacteria, described by the World Health Organization (WHO) as an “intestinal infection” that results in “watery diarrhea,” and vomiting, quickly leading to “severe dehydration” and death if not treated.
While mainstream news outlets report that cholera-related deaths have been decreasing, a Haiti-based media outlet, Haiti Libre, reports that Haiti’s cholera-related fatality rate is increasing along with the number of cholera patients. Treatment centers in some areas have reached capacity while some medical staff members have not been paid since January 2012, the outlet adds.
Haiti Libre continues, reporting that when the rainy season is over, the funding recedes and there is little, if any, emphasis on cholera prevention, leaving the population vulnerable when the epidemic begins again.Inside tent camps, where nearly 500,000 people displaced by the 2010 earthquake still reportedly live, less than one third have adequate drinking water and 1 percent of them have received soap, Haiti Libre reports.
“It is worrying that the authorities are not better prepared and keep reassuring speeches that do not correspond to reality,” Haiti Libre quotes Gaëtan Drossart, head of the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) humanitarian aid mission in Haiti. “There are many meetings between the government, the UN and its humanitarian partners, but few concrete solutions.”
Brief history of HaitiHaiti is located in the Caribbean Sea, west of the Dominican Republic. Both countries share an island, which was called Hispaniola upon Spanish colonization.
The 1492 Spanish colonization killed off much of Hispaniola’s Taino Indigenous population by introducing foreign disease, warfare, and slavery to the island. To supplement the work of building a colony, the Spaniards brought Africans to Hispaniola as slaves.
The French also came to the western part of Hispaniola, breeding competition with the Spanish. In 1697, the island was divided in two: the western, or French, part of the territory was the area now known as Haiti, while the eastern, or Spanish, part is the area now called the Dominican Republic.Uprisings among free and enslaved Blacks in the area now known as Haiti reportedly caused all French colonies to abolish slavery in 1794. While the French attempted to reestablish slavery in the area now known as Haiti, the country declared its independence in 1804, the French not recognizing the independence until 1825.
Part of France’s acknowledgement would mean that Haiti had to pay retribution to France for the French loss of “property,” including slaves, land, and equipment, etc.While the retribution Haiti paid lifted a trade embargo placed on the country by France, Britain, and the United States, Haiti had to take out high interest loans to fully pay the retribution. This took the country until 1947 and Haiti is still plagued by perpetuated debt.
Help from U.S.Upon the 2010 earthquake, humanitarian aid organizations from throughout the world rushed into Haiti, bringing dry foods, hygiene kits, school supplies and more.
Though, as Haiti was an impoverished country since before the earthquake, there were villages that were not hit by the quake yet the village people insisted otherwise so they could have access to aid they had needed for years, a Viễn Đông reporter learned from humanitarian aid organizations during a trip to Haiti in March 2010.
Before Fountain Valley’s Coastal Community Fellowship Pastor Kene Panas had heard of such stories, he was already helping to set up a food packing event for Haiti’s children through the organization Kids Around The World (KATW).
Pastor Panas told the Viễn Đông during an in-person interview that his congregation is one of many that is hosting such an event, contributing to 1 million packaged meals in May 2012.The event will consist of a single two-hour shift, with about 200 people helping to package $25,000 worth of dried food stuff including protein and dehydrated vegetables, Pastor Panas said. He added that the food will be packaged into bags that will go into boxes, each box holding 36 bags, enough to feed a single child for about seven months.
While Pastor Panas said that his church will think through their humanitarian aid plans more thoroughly in the future, he feels that packing up dry food and sending it to Haiti will help the people in his congregation and the general community to “think outside of themselves.”He invites the community to the packing event on May 19, 2012 from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. at the Coastal Community Fellowship church lawn, located next to the Fountain Valley City Hall at 10460 Slater Ave., Fountain Valley, CA 92708.