Patrick Ferrell of the Miami Herald won a Pulizer Prizefor his striking pictures of the terrible floods that hit Haiti last year. However, the bigger tragedy was described in an article from the New York Times last month, “Living in a Sea of Mud.” Eight months after the floods and just over a month before the start of the new hurricane season, Haiti has not finished digging out from last year’s storms.
When the floods hit Haiti last year, a number of people asked me what happened to the millions of dollars that Haiti received after the floods in 2004. “After all the money that the international community invested, why wasn’t Gonaives better protected?” The sad truth is that there was never much money. I was part of PADF’s reconstruction team and can attest that we did the best that could be done with the small amount of money that we had. However, we only had money to patch a few problems and to try to help them return to things to their previous condition. There was almost no money to make the town safer. Imagine New Orleans if the US government had only tried to make the levees nearly as strong as they had been pre-Katrina and then walked away!
The reconstruction following last year’s floods was even less. Although a lot of assistance was provided in the days following the floods to help people survive, almost nothing has been done to protect Gonaives. The people of Gonaives worked hard to clean up as best they could with their own tools, but they were buried under a mountain of mud. The Haitian government has no resources to protect Gonaives or to evacuate it. The people know what they have to do when the next floods come, but the best that most people can do is to climb on their neighbor’s roof and pray for help. PADF’s disaster exert, Joe Felix, says that the population of Gonaives gets scared every time it rains.
I hope and pray that Haiti is spared in this year’s hurricane season. I don’t think I could stand to see any more pictures of Haitians struggling to survive while I know that we never gave them the tools that they needed to protect themselves.