Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Are You There, World? It's Me, Haiti...

Six months ago, the region around Port-au-Prince, Haiti was rocked by a titanic earthquake, which leveled buildings, cut essential services, crippled the government, and killed over two hundred thousand people, leaving five times that number homeless. Aid and assistance came in from all over the globe, as the plight of the Haitian people touched hearts and minds everywhere. For a brief moment, Haiti was central to the world, not just the Caribbean Sea. Tent cities were erected to house the homeless, food and water were shipped in continuously, and medical staff from everywhere converged on makeshift hospitals and clinics to treat the wounded.

Now it is six months later, and while rubble has been cleared and some semblance of normalcy is slowly returning to everyday life in Haiti, the problems still remain. Infrastructure -- what little of it there was -- is still in bad shape. Tents dot the landscape, as permanent structures have yet to be built. Hospitals are still crowded. Jobs are scarce. The Haitian government still seems afflicted with the same torpor.

The grand promises of the United States and other nations, in the form of aid money and expertise to help get Haiti on its feet again, are not materializing quickly enough, and where groups and organizations want to make inroads on the critical problems of creating proper water supplies, consistent waste management, and adequate housing, the Haitian government seems incapable or unwilling to act. Six months in, and the average Haitian is still struggling to survive, living in refugee conditions in their own country, clinging to hope and not much more.

There is a unique opportunity here, to rebuild Haiti in such a way, as to make it more self-sustaining and prosperous. It as if the earthquake has provided a blank canvas for the world to work on, and here is the chance to put theories to the test. Earthquake and hurricane resistant housing could be built, to minimize damage from catastrophes. Sewer systems and water purification plants could provide clean drinking water and sanitation to everyone. Solar power could be used to provide everyone with clean and cheap electricity. A fiber-optic network could be constructed, to give Port-au-Prince the latest in communications capabilities. Between construction and operation of these systems, jobs would be created, and the tourist industry could be revitalized. Finally, the poorest members of this proud nation might be brought up from the depths of their poverty, to share in the wealth that is available.

Such a revitalization would be a draw for global businesses, bringing badly needed investment and jobs to an island with few natural resources. Proper business and tax law would ensure that Haiti remained attractive to business and commerce, while supplying it with the revenue necessary to maintain and expand on the systems that promote growth. In essence, Haiti could be an incubator for new ideas and concepts in business, infrastructure development, renewable energy generation, and telecommunications. Investment would allow the government to properly fund the school system, assuring future generations the education require to work in the wider global marketplace.

Maybe this is all a pipe dream, but the potential is there, if only someone or some group will seize the reins and drive it. Haiti deserves no less for the depredations it has suffered over the decades. It is time for the world to make good on its promises.

1 comment:

  1. Sadly, it doesn't take much for us to forget Haiti and move on to the next BIG NEWS HEADLINE.

    Meanwhile, I wonder what Angelina's new tattoo says?!