Haitian grad student: "This is a shame"

"Man-Yiti (mother Haiti)," why you again! Beloved country, how can we, Haitians, turn your present tragic and shameful situation into a promising future?

Jean-Élie Belleroche

For the last few days, like many Haitians, I have been asking why my country should experience all of these tribulations. I have yet to come up with plausible answers. Thus, I have told myself: excuses put us where we are today. They will always keep Haiti as the lone least developed country in the Americas, and possibly move it to the top of the Unites Nations' world's poorest countries listing, if we Haitians, for God's sake, don't finally say as the Creole saying goes: "fout tone, enough is enough!"

For the past few decades, Mother Nature surely has struck our country hard. In 2008, four major storms -- Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike -- hit the island. These hurricanes ruined several cities. In the city of Gonaives, thousands were killed, missing or injured. At least one million people were affected throughout the country.

The recent earthquake, by far, is the worst disaster we've seen. We may never know the exact number of people who have lost their lives, but it is massive. According to several official sources, the death toll may go beyond 300,000. In Port-au-Prince, at Titanyen alone, tens of thousands of dead bodies are anonymously buried daily without ceremony, without dignity.

This is a shame.

The Haitian authorities show no respect for their people; they made no effort to identify their country's victims. They continue to dump bodies in mass graves along with debris picked up in the streets. In the entrails of their beloved country and its cities, Haitians are powerlessly waiting for assistance, as their loved ones are still trapped in the wreckage of collapsed buildings.

The international community's response has been coherently strong and instant, but Haiti's poor infrastructure and its government's incompetence have slowed the rescue and relief efforts.

Corruption, poor governance and political instability have always been Haiti's serious challenges. From the Duvaliers' era until today, Haitian leaders have stolen hundreds of millions of dollars from our country and mismanaged our resources. Half of Haiti's population today is still illiterate. The country's child mortality rates are among the highest in the world, life expectancy has gone down and most Haitians are living under $2 a day.

Deforestation is our worst nightmare, but we have not done much to address this problem. Less than a century ago, about 70 percent of the country was forested; just over 1 percent of Haiti is wooded today. On the island charcoal is still the primary fuel.

Haiti has more than 100 political parties, but few of these have a strong organizational base and national representation. The Haitian political leaders don't live up to the high expectations of their people. Consequently, there have been more than 30 coups in Haiti's history. To acquire power, Haiti's leaders are constantly ready to fight each other, compromise Haiti's interest and kill their people. Haitians need leaders with a common vision for a better tomorrow. The Haitian political and dominant classes should quarantine their unscrupulous practices. If they don't, our beloved country's future will be worse than its tragic present.

We Haitians are resilient people. We surely can make the impossible possible again. We can turn Haiti's tragic and shameful situation into a promising future. This will be possible when we:

  • Start loving our beloved Haiti.
  • Take our country's destiny at hand.
  • Are determined to foster hope among ourselves, in line with the rest of the world.
  • Address the serious problems of governance and political instability that is like a cancer and ruins "Man-Yiti (mother Haiti)."
  • Stop corruption and misuse of public funds.
  • Agree on a concerted plan to solve Haiti's chronic poverty problems.

It is easier to accuse other countries and to use excuses to justify our innocence and our nation's failure rather than accept our responsibility. However, just as our ancestors fought powerful nations for freedom, forced the abolition of slavery, sounded the death knell of the global slave system, and echoed their desire to "live free or die" to humanity, we must be resolute and map out strategies that will lay the foundation for a wealthy Haitian nation today.

Haiti can be the Pearl of the Caribbean again -- our beloved country will smile at last!

Born and raised in Haiti, Belleroche studied journalism at Haiti State University and taught French and Haitian literature in high schools in Port-au-Prince. He worked as a news journalist and talk show host for numerous radio stations in Haiti and is available to share commentary on the day-to-day life of the Haitian community, and how Haitians turn to local radio stations for comfort.