Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Using Aid Money in Haiti as a Slush Fund Must Stop

After reading that the Red Cross of Haiti is considering building a hotel in Port-au-Prince (you can read that full article here), the Executive Director of the Lambi Fund of Haiti got to thinking about how misusing aid money in Haiti has become the norm.

     I am appalled at the liberties people take in the name of humanitarian AID.  If you travel through Haiti and wander through the camps, you have to begin wondering as I have: who is being cared for from the gifts of so many loving people across the world?  The administrators, the politicians, and the employees.  Not the people for whom it was intended. Those relegated to the harsh conditions of the camps do not sleep well. They are living on one meal a day.  They get wet in the rain and scorching hot in the middle of the day.  I am sickened by this deliberate abuse of those in need.  The practices reflected through humanitarian aid in Haiti constitute an attack on democracy, for they yield as a result: subjugation, subservience and create an elite class of so called "providers" who usurp a great majority of the resources intended for those so desperately in need.

In the name of assistance:

Do not brandish your gun in my face; I am not at war. I am trying to survive.

Do not teach me how to wash my hands when the water is not clean – it is already contaminated.

Do not teach our youth yoga without a meal in their stomachs.

Do not have meetings in English.  We speak Kreyol; this is not inclusion.

Instead, I suggest you try your hand at earnestly providing the funds to those in need.  This means engaging the so called beneficiaries you talk so frequently about.  Ask the single mother of four who has been living under a tent for over two and a half years what she needs to climb out of the depths of the tent city and into a living situation that has dignity and a chance for an improved livelihood.

Work on developing a real plan for water and sanitation infrastructure.  The illnesses and deaths will not stop until everyone has access to clean and safe drinking water and long-term sanitation solutions. 
Invest in small farmers living in Haiti’s countryside.  Ending Haiti’s dependence on food aid will be achieved when the thousands of hard-working peasants have the means, tools and training in organic and sustainable agriculture to increase crop productivity and outputs.  Doing this will not just increase food production, it will create a vibrant and robust food economy in communities throughout the country.

The real beauty in this strategy is that strengthening the local food system creates a bounty of opportunities for Haitians to make a fair and honest living in the countryside.  This means that the thousands currently toiling away under Haiti’s hot sun in tent cities will be incentivized to leave Port-au-Prince – most of whom moved to the capital in search of jobs and better economic opportunities only to find living conditions even worse than before.  Investing in programs that empower, train and provide Haitians with the resources they need to not just leave poverty behind, but to realize that they have the knowhow to be the stewards of their own destiny is what justice in Haiti looks like.

Marie Marthe Saint Cyr
Executive Director of the Lambi Fund of Haiti

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