>Haiti, Sustainable Aid or Flavour of the Month?


Slowly and painfully, we are seeing worldwide acceptance of the fact that the wealthier and more technically advanced countries have a responsibility to help the underdeveloped ones. – Sir Edmond Hillary

By now everyone knows what happened in the city of Port-au-Prince on Tuesday afternoon. The images of devastation are hard to look at and even harder to ignore.

I am heartened by the outpouring of support from wealthy nations like Canada, the United States and Britain. The Canadian government yesterday pledged to match dollar for dollar everything Canadian citizens give in support of the relief effort. This is estimated to be as much as $100 million. Aid Organizations like World Vision, The Red Cross and Mennonite Central Committee have had to bring in extra staff to handle the volume of donations. But I worry that as the media spot light fades the support will dry up. As one exasperated Haitian put it “we don’t need the media, we need help.”

Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere. According to 2008 numbers from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) the gross domestic product per capita is only $1,660 per year and only 50% of the population has even a primary education. 10 million people are crammed into a land mass roughly the size of the Canadian province of New Brunswick. Haiti didn’t get this way as a result of an earthquake or even repeated direct hits by hurricanes in 2007-08. Haiti got this way as a result of bad government and a combination of international neglect/meddling. In the 90s Canada and the United States launched a joint military intervention in Haiti that ousted a corrupt president and installed a new government. They promptly left the country and never followed up with the kinds of support an emerging democracy and economy needs. The result is the Haiti we have today.

Compare this to the Dominican Republic which shares the same island; the population is roughly the same but GDP is nearly 6 times higher at $8,220 and 75% of the population is educated. Still poor by G8 standards but much better off than its neighbour to the west. As recently is 50 years ago Haiti was the stronger country and at various times throughout its history the island has been unified under one government based in Port-au-Prince.

The reasons for the differences between the two countries could take days to dissect. For a detailed analysis check out Jared Diamond’s book Collapse; How Societies Choose or Fail to Succeed.

My point is this; the problems in Haiti and other destitute countries throughout the world will not be solved by writing a cheque to the Red Cross. After the media spotlight fades your money will most likely be used to rebuild and life will somehow return to normal. Granted some of your money will end up in the hands of corrupt individuals or lost to administrative costs, that is just the way things are and I really have nothing to say to that fact. But normal in Haiti is still deplorable to most of the world.

What Haiti needs is long term assistance. Not just money but expertise in education, resource management, entrepreneurship, and government reform. $100 million dollars from Canada will rebuild a lot of infrastructure but to maintain that infrastructure and build human capital to lift the nation out of poverty takes commitment. Years and years of commitment.

Let’s hope that we don’t repeat our mistakes of the 90s and this time we follow through and support our Haitian neighbours as they rebuild not only their homes but a better life.


  1. felix ntube says:

    >It's a pity we have to discuss this part now when we should be mourning and trying to rebuild the rebuildable.But as you rightly outlined,the problems that are facing Haiti and other countries in similar conditions,is a total neglect by the world giants or super powers,who are always ready to mediatize their aid suddenly when there is a harvoc and also bad governance.I believe if we actually want poverty and disease to be eradicated in these places,something more important should be done.After the world war for example,there was instituted a MARSHALL PLAN in many countries that more than boosted their economies and livelihoods.Why has this not been done in poor nations like Haiti and given a strict followup?How long will the humanitarian community continue to give aid without seeking solutions and implanting structures to render the masses self sufficient?There are many ways to achieve certain results if we are really willing,but as we all know,if there's no hasard,be it whatever,there won't be any concrete intervention.And worse still,reinstalling some calm and disappearing later,killing the hopes instilled in millions of people;thus pushing them back to the walls…SQUARE ONE.All we need i believe firmly,is a sought of MARSHALL PLAN,guaranteed by an organised international follow up which obviously will yield better fruits in all this cases.Stay blessed!

  2. Lauren Sheil says:

    >I couldn't agree more. The problem is the UN, World Bank, IMF and most importantly the United States would never support something so socialist as a Marshall Plan today.

  3. Andrew33 says:

    >As always, the USA is the first to help and has donated more money, supplies, ect. than the rest of the world combined. So when will we have a leader strong enough to stand up to the rest of the world and demand that all the aid we give to thhe rest of the world be discounted from our national debt which is not incurred by the United States but is incurred by the FED (Federal Reserve Bank) which is a cabal of international bankers, hedge fund managers and oil barons. The United States gives away hundreds of billions of dollars of aid every year and neither gets nor asks for anything in return. Now we have a spineless excuse for a leader that feels we owe the world an apology for our generosity. These actions have incurred the wrath of the American People who will protest in April by civil disobediencece…i.e. Not paying income taxes since our "representative" government only represents special interests, unions and huge corporations who have have had a major say in Tarp, Stimulus and especially the biggest example of corruption of them all, the Obama healthcare destruction act. You are correct about the Americans not supporting anything so socialist as a Marshall Plan…Reason being we would be the ones that would have to pay for it. We are already furious because the person claiming tone our President is more interested in pursuing a corrupt socialist agenda than leading the country. That is why Massachusetts voters are about to hand the Senate seat that belonged to the Kennedy family and their cronies for 30 years back to the people. Don't get me wrong, I support giving all the aid possible to Haiti, but I also believe that the rest of the world should either pony up or pay for their own defense and get out of the way, especially where our politics are concerned. We don't like, don't want, and will not accept socialism. That is why Mr Obama is now so unpopular.

  4. Lauren Sheil says:

    >And that is also why, in opinion polls all over the world people claim that the American public just doesn't get it. You are on the wrong side of history my friend. Socialism is the form of society that will servive the 21st century. The Marshal Plan saved Europe after WWII and it was an American idea.

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