The Heartbreak in Haiti

There is so much going on in the world these days, causing so much heartache; from Covid 19 to Wars to Gun Violence to Forest Fires to Storms and Flooding, and from Earthquakes.

Haiti’s situation is especially heartbreaking because it’s been one thing after another for the people who live there. The history of this tiny country shows how bad it’s been.

In the 70s, dictator Baby Doc took over for his father, and repression increased, prompting thousands of Haitians to leave the island headed for Florida. They became known as the “boat people” while many died en route to the U.S.

In the 80s, Baby Doc took exile in France while Lieutenant-General Henri Namphy assumed power until General Prosper Avril took over from Namphy in a coup. Avril declared a state of siege amid protests but resigned under international pressure before an election.

In 1990 former parish priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a leftist champion of the poor, won the first free election in Haiti. He was ousted in a coup by a military regime in 1991.

In 1994 U.S. troops intervened to drive out the military regime, and Aristide returned to Haiti. U.N. peacekeepers deployed in 1995, and Rene Preval was elected president. But Aristide was elected president in 1999 for a second term in what might have been a rigged election.

Ten years later, in 2004, political unrest forced Aristide to flee again and, the country fell into violence. The downward spiral continued with food shortages, a cholera outbreak, electoral disputes, and protests.
And then, in 2010, an earthquake killed almost 300,000 people. Despite an international relief effort, the country continued to be overwhelmed.
Haiti still hadn’t recovered when Hurricane Matthew struck in 2016, killed more than 850 people, and left tens of thousands of homeless people.

A year later, Jovenel Moise, a banana exporter, was declared the winner of the 2016 presidential election. Moise steadily gained power and rules by decree after Haiti failed to hold elections due to political gridlock and unrest until Moise is shot dead when a gunman opened fire with assault rifles in his private residence this past summer.

A month later, a 7.2-magnitude earthquake strikes western Haiti on Aug. 14, likely causing high casualties and widespread disaster. The death toll is now over 2100 and is expected to climb. Injuries are in the ten of thousands, with many victims unable to find care, and many of the injured are dying due to lack of care. Tropical Storm Grace battered an already battered country, leaving many more homeless, hungry, and injured. The rain and wind from the storm are causing expected mudslides and flash flooding, which could hamper rescue attempts even further.

Earthquake-displaced people sit under blankets to shield themselves from the rain, the morning after Tropical Storm Grace swept over Les Cayes, Haiti, early Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021, three days after a 7.2-magnitude earthquake. (AP Photo/Joseph Odelyn)

Patience is running out in Haiti, considered the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Those who have already been dealing with Covid 19, gang problems, poverty, kidnappings for ransom, and loss of loved ones. With the death of Jovenel Moise, there is little, if any, government leadership. Citizens have to wait days for any assistance. Officials have said at least 7,000 homes and schools, churches, offices, and hospitals have been destroyed. Haiti’s public works ministry dispatched 55 rescue teams, composed of military and civil protection personnel, for search-and-rescue efforts, but it was not enough.

Children under the age of 10 have never known anything by fear, hunger, and despair.

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