After the 2010 earthquake, along with the many changes Haitians would have to get used to, it became clear that we were to now wrap our minds around a new kind of conversation about Haiti. The one-liner used to describe our home that had become a sort of cynical nursery rhyme, or the repetitive hook of an annoying pop song that gets stuck in your head despite yourself “Haiti, the poorest country of the Western Hemisphere” made new friends. Words like “earthquake, ravaged, devastating, rubble, ruins” joined the one line we had grown so accustomed to.
The brutally honest headline, the sentimental headline, the problematic headline, the hyperbolic headline— they all piled in. Recurring words, recurring themes, all coming at us at full speed, bringing to us tales of the conditions of back home. To us Haitians, headlines about Haiti may sound surreal, inaccurate, biased, lacking nuance. These are our usual complaints. Whether they are factual and we are just too sensitive, or all reporting about Haiti is grossly sensationalized; the truth remains that they are never fun to read.
- One Year After Earthquake, Haiti Still in Ruins – Voice of America
- Two Years on, Haiti Still Reeling from Quake – CNN
- Three Years Later, Haiti Still Struggling – Eurasia Review
- Four Years After Haiti’s Earthquake, Still Waiting for a Roof – IPS News
- Voices: Haiti, Still Suffering 5 years later – USA Today
“Still,” that tiny yet poignant word hammering the nail into our coffins. “Still” implies that we have remained stagnant. “Still” means that the anecdotes about neighbors rebuilding and getting back on their feet, are just that: anecdotes. “Still” means that we are failing. And if we research the facts, all of those implications seem correct. What do we know? We know, according to an Amnesty International report, there are about 85,432 people still living in the 123 still existing IDP camps. And while the number of people left homeless has significantly dropped since the aftermath of the earthquake, this is owed in part to a series of forced evictions after which 176 camps were closed. We know that cholera has killed over 8,600 Haitians, infected over 700,000, and every attempt to hold the UN accountable has failed; leaving victims still waiting for justice. We know that five years later “where is the pledged money” is still a valid question yet to be answered. Jonathan Katz gives some insight on this in his book The Big Truck That Went By: “Ninety-nine-point-one percent of humanitarian funding after the quake had gone to NGOs and the Red Cross movement, contractors, or UN agencies, or stayed with the foreign governments themselves.” Katz explains, donors tend to pledge amounts to Haiti that they have to later rethink, some craftily pledge funds that have already been designated to existing Haiti initiatives. The last factor Katz states, is that once the eagerness dies down, donors move on from Haiti to other more exciting, or pressing matters. All of this resulting in little to show in terms of donated money, leaving us with the same unanswered questions, leaving us with the still. No matter how hard it is to swallow, “still” just might be correct.
- In Haiti, the Art of Resilience – Smithsonian Mag
- Haiti: Trauma and Resilience A Year After the Earthquake – Huffington Post
- Secretary-General Praises Faith, Resilience of Haitian People Amid Tragedy – UN News Centre
“Resilience” is an odd form of praise. Resilience implies that Haitians find strength to sit in the remains and garbage of a catastrophe. It suggests that Haitians have not broken even when basic human needs have not been met. If all of the things denoted by the word “still” are true, is “resilient” just a fancy way to call us complacent? Is being resilient akin to being the victim of domestic abuse, too psychologically and physically battered to leave or demand better treatment? The blows in the headlines are even found in the praises. Will we ever be happy?
Many of us call reporting on Haiti biased because it focuses mostly on the negative, ignoring the positive. While this may be true, how realistic is it for the news to notice the positive when so little is improving? We can sing the praises of the fascinating initiative of Surtab the Haitian tablet. We can (and should) applaud the significant drop in crime rates in the country over the past few years, and even the 4.5% percent growth of the economy in 2013. We can cheer on the recent efforts in tourism slowly reestablishing Haiti as a viable vacation destination. But we will always simultaneously be reminded of the still.
So we fight these painful truths with our #ThisIsHaiti beach photos on Instagram, and we retweet the Prime Minister’s updates about the various strides being done because they say “Haiti is Open for business.” We soothe the sting by blogging and tweeting about our small triumphs, and personal efforts to change our home. We do this to remind ourselves that though things are still or stagnant, our determination is not. We cringe at the implication of our resilience because we know we have personally resolved to never be complacent. We choose to share our #12JanvyeMDeside inspirations and initiatives on January 12th not because the harsh reality being reported in foreign news is unwarranted or completely false (though we may wish for it to be.) We do it because we deserve to hear our voices included in the noise. Weaving and bobbing among the sea of headlines about Haiti are our pledges and promises to Haiti:
- #12JanvyeMDeside: the Haiti earthquake inspired Us to take action – Woy Magazine
- Let Us Make January 12 a new January 1, 1804 – Ayibopost
- Haiti We will never forget – L’union Suite
(Kreyòl translation coming soon)