Via his Dispatches from Haiti blog in the Peoria Journal Star, Dr. John Carroll writes: Five Year Anniversary of Haitian Earthquake—Have We Learned Anything? Excerpt:
I have learned five important things during the past five years since the earthquake:
1. Earthquakes do not kill people. Bad buildings do. And bad buildings exist because of incompetent government officials. Natural disasters like this one are never good but are made much worse by corrupt politicians.
2. Americans are a very generous people. One out of two households in the United States donated money to Haiti. $32 million alone came in the form of text messages to the American Red Cross. Can you believe that?
There are over 6 billion people worldwide and, as we say here in Peoria, most are “good people”. An unprecedented amount of money (9 billion dollars? 13 billion dollars) was pledged to Haiti from all over the world. And thousands of people flocked to Haiti from everywhere to try to help out in any way that they could. And many did help out significantly.
3. The third thing I learned is that “pledged money” may not mean much of anything. In reality, most of this money did not make it to the Haitian lady and her kids in the tent, the guy clinging to life on the side of the mountain, or the farmer in the country side.
Even though people are well-meaning most of their money never made it to the Haitians it was meant to help. So where did the money go? Some global development analysts say that the vast majority of money was funneled through foreign contractors instead of the Haitian government or local outfits and that there was a serious lack of accountability and transparency. “In truth, a great deal of the “redevelopment” has gone to help the rich and powerful, not the impoverished and displaced people who need it the most.” (The Washington Post)
4. So what happened to the 1.5 million people who immediately became homeless as the quake crushed their pathetic homes? They moved to tents and lived under tarps. They lived on the concrete islands of busy boulevards as diesel and gasoline fumes choked them and their children. And the women got raped and many babies were born in these horrible places and still live there now. Tens of thousands of poor souls still live in these wretched hot tents and still have to stand and hold their babies when the rains come and water gushes through their tent.
Ninety-five percent of the 1.5 million people who were in camps in 2010 have been moved, but many of them are still not in permanent housing. At least 200,000 people are in new hillside slums, known as Canaan-Jerusalem, where there are wooden and tin homes but no running water, electricity or sanitation. This encampment is short on everything except a relentless unmerciful sun. I have been there and in my opinion it is just another corner of hell.
5. The earthquake challenged medical caregivers from all over the world. It challenged their medical abilities and their medical ethics. Triage became very important. Who to try to save and who to leave in the corner of the medical tent to die. Materials were scarce. Whose leg do we amputate now and who do we amputate in the morning? Vodka for anesthesia or no anesthesia at all to save their lives? Many doctors and nurses would return to help out again but many would never return to Haiti and considered it a hopeless case.
There are 10 psychiatrists for 10 million Haitians. Mental illness is not a high priority in Haiti and is a disease that you REALLY don’t want to have. Haitians don’t believe in “depression” like we do. But they do believe in “constricted hearts”. Constricted hearts is as good a description that you will find of many Haitians who survived the earthquake five years ago today.