U.S. help for Haiti is a fraud and a shame

By News | Last updated: Apr 9, 2013 - 1:36:12 PM

What's your opinion on this article?

A resident sits at a destroyed area after a major earthquake hit the capital Port-au-Prince, January 14, 2010. Today the country remains beset by non-profits that deliver services that should be handled by government, which strengthens these organizations and further weakens Haiti’s ability to handle her own affairs.
It’s been over three years since the deadly earthquake that struck Haiti, killing thousands, leaving about one million people homeless and bringing a new level of misery to the strong, proud people of the first Black Republic.

If you’ve wondered why there appears to have been so little progress consider a few things: All the money pledged and promised was never given to help Haiti. The Haitian government has seen little of the money that was supposed to go toward rebuilding the country. And, according to a new report, the United States has done much better at claiming to support the Haitian people than actually assisting our still suffering brothers and sisters.

What the U.S. is doing and has failed to do is horrible but if we fail to tune in and act as information comes out, we should feel immense shame. It is one thing for the enemy to do what he has always done, it is another to ignore or turn your back on your own people. We owe a debt to Haiti for breaking the chains of slavery in 1804 and defeating the French. We owe a debt to Haiti for showing us that freedom must be fought for and earned, not gratuitously given.

Judging from information in a new report by the Center for Economic and Policy Priorities, the U.S. Agency for International Development has suffered serious failure: The report “shows that of the $1.15 billion in contracts and grants awarded since the 2010 earthquake, over half went to the top 10 recipients of global USAID awards, with the largest recipient being the for-profit company Chemonics International Inc., the single largest recipient of USAID funds worldwide aside from the World Bank and U.N. Meanwhile, just 0.7 percent of USAID awards have gone directly to Haitian businesses or organizations.”

“Contractors have hired far fewer Haitians than promised, Haitian businesses were largely excluded, goals were not met, there was inadequate supervision of grantees, and USAID had not conducted internal financial reviews of contractors,” the center said.

So if you wonder why Haitians are still suffering, it’s in large part because Haitians are not in control of the money or resources that were supposed to help. The regular mantra and rationale used to deny Haiti’s government funding is to raise questions about corruption and mishandling of funds. Not that it has anything to do with the country’s ruling administration, it’s just the way the debate about Haiti is slanted for disaster capitalists, charities and non-profits to benefit while Haitians suffer.

Besides with the Duvalier family, a U.S. backed dictatorship, ruling the country for decades, corruption was allowed to go on unrestrained because those in power supported America’s agenda, which was concerned about Communism, Cuba and keeping the Black country in its place. Today the country remains beset by non-profits that deliver services that should be handled by government, which strengthens these organizations and further weakens Haiti’s ability to handle her own affairs.

Months after the earthquake, a group of Black news outlets, including The Final Call, visited Haiti and heard U.S. officials try to defend why the U.S. Army was getting paid out of U.S. funds for doing work in Haiti and explain how they were inflating the numbers of Haitians employed through U.S. programs. Haitians were given short stints of work so that numbers for those employed would be higher than the actual number of jobs created. U.S. officials, at the time, tried to call it a kind of rotation to make sure the maximum number of people had a chance to get some work. It’s infuriating that while the U.S. was rationing the few dollars ordinary Haitians were getting for public work like street cleaning, U.S. corporations were clearing hundreds of millions with no problem at all.

Not only has the U.S. government failed to give the Haitian government the financial wherewithal and control any ruling government should have, it has effectively starved private businesses in Haiti that would have benefited greatly from the infusion of funding and opportunities to rebuild. Haitians are an industrious, creative people but that creativity and the expertise and commitment of Haitians in the Diaspora has been neglected to the point where it is criminal. So good old American capitalism works everywhere and should be supported everywhere except in Haiti, where strong businesses would help the republic rise.

The U.S. suffers from an old disease, an old hatred that lingers from the days when Haiti took her independence. Then, as now, this country was able to find ways to justify not having a good relationship with her neighbor in this hemisphere. It harkens back to observations made by Frederick Douglass in 1893, when he made a speech in Chicago about Haiti-U.S. relations. He noted “a deeper reason for coolness between the countries is this: Haiti is black, and we have not yet forgiven Haiti for being black or forgiven the Almighty for making her black. In this enlightened act of repentance and forgiveness, our boasted civilization is far behind all other nations. In every other country on the globe a citizen of Haiti is sure of civil treatment. In every other nation his manhood is recognized and respected.  Wherever any man can go, he can go. He is not repulsed, excluded or insulted because of his color. All places of amusement and instruction are open to him. Vastly different is the case with him when he ventures within the border of the United States. Besides, after Haiti had shaken off the fetters of bondage, and long after her freedom and independence had been recognized by all other civilized nations, we continued to refuse to acknowledge the fact and treated her as outside the sisterhood of nations,” said the former slave, who also served as a U.S. ambassador to Haiti.

Neglect of Haiti is nothing new, but how will we respond; where do we stand? Do we still see our people there as strangers and foreigners, as inept basket cases? Do we still harbor such self-hatred that we could watch our people there die simply because they have no clean water to drink?

In the 21st century Black America must not display the self-hatred ingrained by our former slave masters, we must unite with our Haitian brothers and sisters, lawmakers and true allies and force the government to cease its mockery of humanitarian efforts and deliver what Haiti needs and deserves. If we do not, we are perhaps worse than those who keep Haiti in a sorrowful position.