Two years already since the quake, and what have we done?

Not much. That’s the shortest answer. Seriously, what have we done since the quake? What have we done with the billions of dollars of international aid? When you go through the streets of Port-au-Prince and Leogane, you can see the same disheveled buildings, empty pieces of land, tent cities, etc. as if the quake has just hit Haiti. Given the abundance of international aid unleashed toward us, we expected more. We expected shiny modern constructions replacing the demolished government buildings, health centers, hospitals, schools, colleges, and universities; skyscrapers rising from the ruins of downtown business headquarters; and quake-proof tenements sprouting like roses in the most stricken areas. We expected 24-hour electricity, safe tap water, underground sewage system, high-speed internet, etc. We expected a new Haiti, a fresh Haiti, and a modern Haiti. Instead, it’s the same old country, with the same issues.

In many seminars and conferences the experts have talked about the weakness of the government, resulting in a failed and inefficient state. We cannot expect a failed and destitute state to change a country. Change demands money and manpower. While the international donors can direct their aid more toward the government, all Haitians, particularly those employed, can contribute as well by paying taxes. The powerful and educated Haitian Diaspora has also a prominent role to play. Haven’t we known all this for years? Knowing what to do is not enough, we must do it, once and for all.

The Martelly-Conille government has brought a touch of energy and optimism to the country. They have promoted a sense of pride, as they interface with the International Community. They are pursuing many projects, both short-term and long-term. However, as far as a national health insurance program is concerned, mum’s the word. I salute the focus on education, but healthcare is also a human right. And so far, were not for the ONGs, our poorest countrymen would have nowhere to go for healthcare. It is, therefore, imperative, as we celebrate the second anniversary of the January 12th earthquake, to begin thinking about a national health insurance program for all in Haiti.

Healthcare in Haiti – Tale from the indicators

Aren’t we tired of hearing that Haiti is the poorest country of the western hemisphere? Based on what? We’d say? What is so different between Haiti and Jamaica or between Haiti and Dominican Republic? Aren’t we all poor island countries? Those who keep saying that are just ignorant or worst racist. They simply hate us; they hate our illustrious history. Those are typical Haitian reactions, right? A friend of mind, the poet Danielle George, has even written a poem about this topic:

Poem for the Poorest Country in the Western Hemisphere

Oh poorest country, this is not your name.
You should be called beacon, and flame,

almond and bougainvillea, garden
and green mountain, villa and hut,

little girl with red ribbons in her hair,
books-under-arm, charmed by the light

of morning, charcoal seller in black skirt,
encircled by dead trees.

You, country, are the businessman
and the eager young man, the grandfather

at the gate, at the crossroads
with the flashlight, with the light,

with the light.

(Copied from the Bill Moyers Journal – accessed on January 3, 2012

Well, appearance is deceiving, what you need to consider is numbers. They don’t lie, most of the time. Indicators such as per capita rate or gross domestic product give a good idea of the economic standing of a country. Similarly, for healthcare infrastructures, infant mortality rate, life expectancy, and maternal mortality ratio, say a lot about a country’s standing. For example, in the slide below, compared to the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Cuba, and USA, Haiti has the worst rates for all three health indicators.


As you can see in the table above, in 2009, Haiti’s infant mortality rate is more than twice as high as the Dominican Republic’s and 14 times as high as Cuba’s. Maternal mortality ratio presents a similar picture: Haiti’s ratio is three times as high as DR’s and five times as high as Cuba’s.

Some of our goals should be to improve those indicators, little by little, until our stats become comparable to those from the other countries of the Americas.