UPDATE: On October 4, 2016, when Hurricane Michael came charging up the Caribbean, it’s course locked on Haiti as a Category 4. The hurricane pummeled “towns, farm land and resorts, toppled trees and power lines, and destroyed at least one major bridge.Tens of thousands of Haitians lost power to their homes. The damage was so severe that the country postponed the Oct. 9 presidential election. So many houses were destroyed, particularly in the southwestern corner of the country, that U.N. officials declared Matthew as “the worst humanitarian crisis to hit Haiti since the 2010 earthquake.”
At this writing on October 13, 2016, the death toll continues to rise over 800, and the daunting clean-up and worldwide efforts to bring in aid continue. Another health issue has cropped up – the fear of a repeat of the devastating cholera outbreak in 2010 that infected hundred of thousands in Haiti, seems to be coming about. Dozens of post-Matthew cholera infections have already been reported along with several related deaths.
Haiti is all too familiar with struggles of poverty, injustices, political strife, and a constant fear for one’s survival.
Historically, Haitians were subjected to aggressive government take-overs by both Spain and France, leading to revolts by the people. The country later experienced further oppression by France’s importation of nearly 50,000,000 African slaves.
After prolonged struggles, Haiti became the first black republic to declare its independence, in 1804. Fast forward to twentieth century, as continued upsets led to an armed rebellion in 2004, that resulted in a forced resignation and exile of then-president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Despite continued violence and numerous obstacles, the Haitian people finally inaugurated a democracy and elected President Rene Prevail and a Parliament was created, in 2006.
Sadly, the Haitian economy continued to decline, which resulted in tremendous country-wide demonstrations regarding the rising food prices. Demonstrators’ outcry escalated between 2008-2009, including actions such as burning tires in streets, to block major roadways and to get the government’s attention,a s well as that of the world looking in.
On January 12, 2010, a 7.0 earthquake rocked the country of Haiti. The lack of a solid economic infrastructure, combined with widespread poverty, increased the magnitude of the disaster. The death toll was so high, that mass graves were created and the missing were impossible to find. Thus, estimates for total deaths remain approximate, between 230,000 – 300,000. Hundreds of thousands of people were badly injured, with hospitals overflowing with patients, some not fully functioning due to flooding and building destruction. Temporary emergency tents and triage units were set up across the country, many set u by world relief and volunteer organizations, who flew in to offer medical aid as well as clean-up assistance.
About a year later, in April, 2011, with Haiti still in major disaster mode from the earthquake damage, MIchel Martelly was elected as new President of Haiti. Martelly’s nickname is “Sweet Mickey”, from his former days as a musician and businessman. His non-political background made him an unlikely choice but it also presented him as a hopeful president who would be of and for the people. Martelly even visited Hope for the Children, which was a highlight for the kids and the staff!
Unfortunately, Haiti has not seen the recovery and economic turnaround that the Haitians and the world watching, would have hoped for.
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