If you look at the map you can see that Haiti and Dominican Republic share one island. Haiti is French speaking and DR is Spanish. DR has one of the fastest growing economies in the Caribbean and Haiti is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere.
Look again at the map and see how close they both are to Miami, to Cuba, to Nicaragua (on the left), to Colombia and to Venezuela. The island is in an interesting geographic neighborhood.
The disconnect between the broad spectrum of need, urgent need, in Haiti after 1) the earthquake, 2) the subsequent hurricane and 3) the outbreak of Cholera and the lack of visible progress on the part of the international community is baffling, disappointing, disheartening. There seems to be a lack of urgency. Some of the discussions I had during this trip were so absurd, SO ABSURD, that they become laughable, in the tradition of Jewish concentration camp humor.
One of the more memorable discussions had a frustrated NGO program manager explaining to me with a straight faces that she had encountered resistance on the part of donors because the permanent shelters they were seeking to distribute had two rooms, one for parents, one for children, and that the donors had raised concern about “what if there are boys and girls amongst the children?”. She intimated that donors would not want to support the deployment of gender neutral housing…. WHAT?! These are people who are living in plastic tents, if they are among the lucky ones to have tents, and donors are worried about gender specific “bedrooms”?! In Haiti, as in Nicaragua, it is culturally the norm for many family members to share a bedroom and even to share beds, in shifts. To hold back on the distribution of permanent shelters on the basis of lack of gender specific bedrooms is… absurd.
And, closer to my reality, relative to bamboo shelters CO2 Bambu is seeking to deploy in Haiti, another NGO Program Manager, reflecting on why there hasn’t been faster movement re our ecologically sound solutions “we are not sure we want to participate in the “bamboo-ization of Haiti”, and further “some (not sure who the SOME are?) are concerned about a Nicaraguan INVASION” (WHAT??!). And, from the same person “what are your humanitarian actions? What do you do with your profits?” I tried to explain, that, after 3 years of investing my own money to start a bamboo-based business that results in job creation in an area of Nicaragua where unemployment is 85%, and, further, that after several trips busting my chops to get eco shelters in Haiti, in the hope of participating in the reconstruction of Haiti, my conscience was clear re “MY humanitarian actions”. I asked in return why it was that so much material was stuck in this NGO’s warehouse without being deployed for people who need a roof over their head. There was an air of exasperation on the PM’s voice and the all solving justification came: “its’ very complicated, you know”.
But as far as I can tell, there is a whole lot of organizational politics going around and not a whole lot of urgency re getting homes built.
Maybe things will change / accelerate after the November 28 elections. Maybe.