Thursday, October 11, 2007

The life of an average Haitian

This is from a missionary doctor's blog:

The cumulative effects of years and years of instability, coups, corruption and chaos means that for the average Haitian:

--If your child is sick or has a medical emergency, there is no 911 to call. No ambulance service. Let's hope it's daytime, because at night there's NO options. During the day, unless you are one of the lucky few who owns a vehicle, you will either have to take your sick child to the hospital on a very cramped, dirty tap-tap (the main form of public transportation here), or if you can't afford it, you'll have to walk. Once you arrive at the hospital or clinic, you might be turned away for any number of reasons (again, even if your child is severely ill)--the facility is full, you arrived after the normal "triage" time, they don't take care of children, you can't pay the doctor's fees, you can't afford to buy the medical supplies your child will need, or for no reason at all. At that point, if your child is still alive, you might try bringing him to another medical facility, which means either more walking, or more time back on a dirty tap-tap (or possibly several tap-taps). You may never find a place to take your sick child, and end up back where you started--with few to no options.

--Your kids can go to school, but only if you can afford to buy the uniforms, books, and supplies they need. And even if you can afford this, there's no guarantee that they'll receive a good education.

--If you can't afford to feed your children, there's no such thing as government assistance to help you feed them, and there's a very real possibility that your children will suffer from malnutrition, and a fair chance that you will lose a child to severe malnutrition.

--If someone breaks into your house or if there's a fire at your house, again don't bother calling 911. Hopefully your neighbors will help you out.

--You are probably not formally employed. And there sure aren't any unemployment benefits coming your way.

--If you are the victim of a crime, everything from robbery to harassment to rape to even kidnapping & murder, it's very possible the crime will never be prosecuted. You may not even be able to report the crime--because you might be able to trust the local police, but you might not. By reporting a crime, you might even face further difficulty and harassment.

--The garbageman doesn't come every Tuesday at 8 AM.

--If you have consistent access to clean water, you can count yourself as "lucky." And even if you have access to clean water, chances are you will have to go outside your home to find it, then carry it back to your home in big buckets every day.

--If you live in a substandard housing in a low-lying area, your home (which may be more like a shack) will flood whenever it rains heavily, like it just did tonight, because of the lack of basic water & sewer infrastructure. As I write this now, there are families wading through sewage and garbage-infested streams of water inside their homes. When there's major storms and hurricanes, you're lucky if your shack doesn't get swept away into the sea.

--as a Haitian you could face the very real chance that you will have to take your child to an orphanage and leave them there. Not because you don't love the child but because you DO love the child enough to give them up in hopes of a chance at a better life for them.

For the average Haitian, life can be (and often is) very, very hard.

And a comment left on that post:

For the folks who think Haitian poverty is "the same as most of the rest of the world", you are wrong. Haitian poverty is the worst in the Western Hemisphere by 50% worse thyan Nicaragua the next most poor country in the West. In the rest of the world Haiti ranks with the bottom 5 in poverty. Chad is comparable, we don't hear much about Chad these days because like Haiti, there is nothing there that anyone wants.

I have met person after person who have worked with the Peace Corps who thought they knew poverty until they came to Haiti. In Haiti always remember the people who live furthest from the road are the poorest. The government has been speaking of their stability of late, the level of corruption makes those claims laughable. Haiti is in a failed state. It will take a full generation of oversight and training to rehabilitate the populace. The culturally ingrained practices cause the corruption to continue to rot away the hopes of the people.

Haiti needs to be fully exposed to the light of the world. She is seen through the filter of insurection and rebellion. When those media fodder events pass so does the interest of the world. Ninety minutes from Miami lays the shame of the western world.

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