Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Haiti - A Year Later & Oil

A year to the day after the Haitian earthquake in which more than 230,000 lost their lives  and over a million still remain homeless what has been done?  Not only did the nation suffer that devastating quake but before it could even begin to think about regaining its strength, it was hit by Hurricane Tomas.  As if that wasn't enough, Cholera hit and to date over 3,500 people died.  They died because they weren't properly treated, medically.  Cholera in this day and age is not a killer - except if one lives in the devastated Haiti. Add all that to political savagery and you have a country which really has no chance of ever getting off the ground.

I was  watching BBC World News this morning. A Director from one of the British Aid organizations said that things are exactly as they were a year ago.  Nothing has moved or been moved.  Rubble is still lying where it fell.  Faith-based workers insist that some progress has been made but given that in addition to the rubble, the Presidential Palace is still in ruins, thousands are living in 'tent city'  and others are living in tents amongst broken stained glass windows and  more rubble in the grounds of the destroyed Catholic Cathedral, that's hard to believe.
The aid response has been severely criticized.  Questions are being asked as to the whereabouts  of  missing monies and why monies pledged from various governments have not come through.  

As a service was conducted at a mass burial site in Haiti with President Preval laying a wreath to commemorate the dead, President Obama released a statement in which he   commended the US's role in "one of the largest humanitarian efforts ever attempted" adding that helping the poorest nation would take decades.  "Still too much rubble continues to clog the street, too many people are still living in tents and for so many Haitians progress has not come fast enough."

So just why hasn't more been done? Billions of dollars in aid were promised from countries around the world, nonprofit organizations supposedly raised hundreds of millions in the weeks following the quake and the Roman Catholic Church here in Trinidad raised over 3 million US$ in less than a week.  Many of those countries have not followed through on their pledges and it is alleged that crucial funds have been misspent.

According  to a Chronicle of Philanthropy survey of 60 major relief organizations 
the US gave more than $1.4 billion to relief aid but only 38% of that has been spent to provide recovery and rebuilding aid.

A leading international charity has criticized the relief effort, calling it a "quagmire" saying that the recovery commission chaired by former US President Bill Clinton had "failed to live up to its mandate". Clinton's response was that he wished more could have been done. "Look, nobody has been more frustrated than I am that we haven't done more".

Why has the world given up on Haiti?  Granted Haitian Presidents have ruled by fear, corruption has been rife for years and years but that together with the fact that it was barely running prior to the earthquake is not an excuse.  People are involved here. Human beings who deserve to be able to live their lives with dignity. 

Where has the money that was supposed to deliver the goods, gone?         

Interestingly, it has been said that beneath the rubble and tragedy of Haiti lies what some believe to be the world's richest zones for oil and gas hydrocarbons outside of the Middle East.  If this is the case then the rumours of the US, France and Canada working on dividing the island for future mineral control, under the guise of relief work, are possibly true.  Apparently China is objecting to such a division of Haiti's wealth.   So it could be that everyone wants in on the act which would account partially, for the slowness of the 'clean up'

Not even aid comes free!


  1. An interesting blog. I have to ask what the Haitians have done for themselves? Since a year has obviously proven that help is not on the way do they still live in the rubble?

    A friend of mine that was on Kauai when Iniki hit talks of the response of the people themselves. They knew they lived on an island and since Andrew had just hit Florida could expect no outside help quickly so they went to work individually an by neighborhoods. They had streets cleared while Floridians were still sitting on the junk in their front yards screaming for ice!

    The human response to catastrophe is interesting. Granted there is always an initial shock and awe period, but some people spring to work rescuing and rebuilding and some just sit and whine and wait to be rescued.

    Since my friend shared her experience on Kauai I have watched my neighbors with just little "emergencies" like snow storms and then can be divided into can do and won't try so easily.

    The oil is an interesting side issue. And I wonder why some major company has not made a move. They build roads and hire people and would definitely boost the economy but maybe like the doctors they are waiting to find out they won't be shot at.

  2. What have the Haitians done for themselves? Nothing or very little.

    One has to understand the history of Haiti and the psyche and oppression of the people before we can start making comparisons to other disaster stricken countries.

    Innocent people through no fault of their own, are being left to fend for themselves whilst nations withhold/pocket finance and/or aid as they discuss the possible future wealth of a presently impoverished nation. If it is that the rumours are true (which I have no reason to doubt) and infiltration is allowed to happen under the guise of 'helping' Haiti regain some sort of equilibrium, the nation will always be at the mercy of the greedy first world countries and the corruption of its own politicians. Whatever the outcome of the current political situation I don't see continued stability because 'the more things change, the more they stay the same.' As Lord Acton said ' power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

    Sadly, even pre Papa Doc this nation was in trouble but with the arrival of the Duvalier family, things worsened. Papa Doc, a man who drained the treasury as did his son after him, ruled through brute force, terror and revived the tradition of voodoo. Their successors have done nothing to change or enhance the lives of the population.

    The Haitians cannot do anything to help themselves. The simple answer is that there is nothing they can do. Put simply, if there isn't a back hoe in sight there is only so much one can do with one's hands.

    Sad, so sad.

  3. Source: FP Trading Desk

    "after Haiti’s first democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was ousted, University of Texas geologists began mapping the geological data of the Caribbean Basins. The sponsors of the project are Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell and BHP Billiton."

    Questions have been asked as to why the region hasn’t been mapped earlier, particularly given the vast oil production that exists off Mexico, Louisiana, and the entire Caribbean, along with a focus on energy security in the United States.

    “Now it emerges that major oil companies were at least generally aware of the huge oil potential of the region long ago, but apparently decided to keep it quiet.”

    Read more:

  4. I guess I was raised with the rather hard assed, "God helps those that help themselves" attitude. Yes, backhoes make it easier but a lot can be done one rock at a time. And I was merely asking what had the people of Haiti accomplished while waiting for backhoes.

    And I was not drawing a line in the sand between the world's peoples. My two examples were both in the US. But I cannot help but wonder if by constantly "rescuing" we are creating an attitude of victim where everyone just waits. What is that line about feeding people fish or teaching them to fish for themselves.

    I think we need to take a long hard look at our response to mega events because there will no doubt be more of them in our future.

    The oil issue I find rather frightening. Drilling for oil in such an unstable geological area is close to the US's tendency to put nuclear reactors on the San Andres fault - which we did.

  5. the situation in Haiti is indeed complex and I dont know what I would do if I lived in such horrendous chaos. I would hope that I would be able to help myself and my neighborhood just as we do here in times of need- however I have not ever lived in such a place as Haiti

  6. I find your comments very interesting, Jacqui. Are you suggesting that we should not send aid to other countries that suffer natural disasters?

  7. Some think that when we, as countries give aid to disaster areas, it comes free and we get nothing in return. That is not the case.

    Recently when Hurricane Tomas swept through St Lucia destroying every banana crop in sight (their main source of income) the people of the Caribbean were offended when the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago said that we would help but that Trinidad would expect something in return. Unfortunately she worded it badly.

    Yes we would help but in return they had to guarantee that when there were contracts (i.e. rebuilding etc...) Trinidad contractors would be used. And this is not unusual. All 'big' countries do the same thing and I agree with that. She also said at a meeting in Jamaica that Trinidad and Tobago would no longer be the ATM machine of the Caribbean. That didn't go down well either.

    Strangely enough I was going to use the line about teaching a man to fish Jacqui but in this case I don't think that's what the people in charge want.

    Kathew, the situation in Haiti is complex - I believe it's on a par with Somalia (minus the pirates) as far as governance or lack of it is concerned.

    I watched a woman on television the day of the anniversary. She was standing at what was left of her house under which her husband and one child are still buried. There is no way that any one could have moved those rocks with their hands.

    The people of Haiti suffer because their politicians cannot get it right - if indeed they intend to get it right. And now with the revelation of natural resources, you have first world countries battling for the rights and it seems, if reports are to be believed they're withholding aid and using it as a bargaining tool. Can that be ethical?

    Let the Western countries go in and do what they have to - create jobs - but at the same time ensure that the nation benefits from the revenue. Looks a bit like colonization all over again but maybe this time people will be taught to fish so that when a national state oil company is established, the locals know how to run it. Those natural reserves after all, belong to Haiti. I suppose the Dominican Republic will also try to lay claim.

    Do you know that Royal Caribbean is actually in the process of developing a wild life reserve/tourist resort in Haiti? That will mean jobs.

  8. And no, Becky, I did not say no aid. I just think we need to rethink the paradigm. Geologists say we have been through a very quiet 200 years for earth quakes and that is coming to an end. Trying economic times also limits money that can be spent on aid sadly.

    And any aid that comes from outside has the problem of mobilization. Response time is faster (unless it is the US and Katrina) when aid is provided "in house" as in Chile.

    I just see some really rough times ahead for all countries on the Pacific rim and others in major fault areas. It is wise to develop emergency plans before they are needed. And I think several mega disasters around the world have proven that what we have been doing doesn't work.

    I just read a book on the "recovery" from Katrina and briefly we haven't.

  9. About an hour ago, as a result of this blog, daughter, ex boyfriend (you know the one!) and I had what ended up to be quite a heated discussion!! Dealing with an ex Sociology student who is also a final year law student can be daunting - even for me!

    You're right Jacqui - there are trying times ahead - there's no doubt about it but to my way of thinking, how we deal with them is of paramount importance to all mankind.

    Chile came up in the conversation and it's interesting that you said their response was 'in house'. I was talking about the miners before your response to Becky appeared. I said the same thing only to be told that it wasn't 'in house' at all and that an American company was called in and they developed the capsule that brought the miners out!! Not only did they do that but they set up the camp at the mine entrance as well!

    I don't purport to have the answers - what I do know is that we need to look after each other and in times of crisis, be ready to put our money where are mouths are.

    It will take years to recover from Katrina but had the response been quicker and Bush had done more than just fly over the disaster zone, the outcome would have been very different.

    Look at what's happening in Australia and Brazil at the moment.

  10. The Chile Earthquake aid was largely in house. No doubt there are times when companies have rescue vehicles like the robot submersibles that have to be called in. A company I worked for made dams and when one collapsed anywhere in the world they were johnny on the spot mobilizing their specialized equipment to the site.

    But it is the human part of the equation that needs work in my opinion. We must find a way that empowers the people and in such a way as they are stronger and better prepared for the next disaster. We must work on helping them help themselves. That does not degrade them so they are more powerless and helpless the next hurricane.

  11. quote:

    "But it is the human part of the equation that needs work in my opinion. We must find a way that empowers the people and in such a way as they are stronger and better prepared for the next disaster. We must work on helping them help themselves. That does not degrade them so they are more powerless and helpless the next hurricane."


  12. When unimaginably terrible things happen to people who already live in abject poverty with no hope of rising above it, who barely survive from day to day, could one blame them if they say, "I am not in control. I am helpless."

  13. To have no choice in being able to have some control over one's destiny is just dreadful.


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