Originally: Haiti, I’m ashamed

Haiti, I’m sorry. Caricom failed you. We remained the duds we always were. Once again we’ve turned our backs, on you. We know that more than 260,000 people could be dying of hunger, and yet we sit smug, pointing fingers. Haiti, I’m sorry.

Caricom leaders are pompous, passing judgment, instead of food and supplies. Haiti, I’m ashamed, now you’re dependent on French, Canadian and US troops to restore order, while our soldiers sit around eating fried chicken. Haiti, I’m sorry, we knew all along that you’re convulsed with poverty, wiped out with Aids, yet instead of helping, we slam the U.S.

Haiti, I’m sorry, instead of embracing you in your time of need, we are thinking of throwing you out of Caricom councils. Haiti, I’m sorry, just a month or so back, we treated your people like criminals before sending them back. Haiti, I’m sorry we know you’re our neighbours, but all you’ll get from us is a statement. Haiti, I’m sorry, your fifteen-member family, the Caricom can’t help you since we are defunct, impotent and invisible to the world.

Call it U.S. arrogance if you like. But it sounds like pragmatism to me. Caricom has never been anything beyond an annual statement by leaders who lime for two days a year. No wonder the world has appropriated our territory, our neighbour as their responsibility.

No surprise that Democratic White House front-runner John Kerry last week blamed President Bush’s “neglect” for the political instability in Haiti and called for the naming of a special envoy to help end the crisis. “The current crisis in Haiti is yet another example of Bush administration neglect in our own hemisphere,” he said in a written statement. He wasn’t guilty of brushing Caricom off like a fly, stepping on our toes, usurping our role.

He simply forgot about us. “As a result,” he added, “Haiti is now on the verge of collapsing into a failed state, potentially creating untold hardships for the Haitian people and an enormous influx of refugees on our shores.” Ouch. Nothing worse than being treated as if we are not even here, next to Haiti, independent proud countries.

We deserve it. Every bit of it. The Economist too writing as if Haiti is Americas business, forgetting us entirely, but telling the truth nevertheless: “But perhaps America’s bigger mistake was to allow Mr Aristide’s untrammelled rule to last as long as it did. This has left a country that is wretchedly poor, riddled with corruption and awash in drugs. A sign of how out of touch Mr Aristide, a former priest, had become with the poor is the $350,000 in rotting, unusable $100 bills that looters found in a secret chamber under his house.”

The world if they see us, (mostly they don’t) must think we are jokers. This is Haiti. In OUR backyard far more than it is in the Americans’. On OUR Caricom councils, and America is assuming responsibility.

That’s why, ladies and gentlemen, America can afford to flex their muscles in our territories. If the Americans had the audacity to kidnap Aristide and whip him out of that volatile situation, we handed them that power. We didn’t, haven’t done anything for Haiti for years.

Instead typically, typically, our fifteen leaders are waylaid by pompous self-importance calls for an investigation to mask their incompetence, and impotence and the fact and wouldn’t know where to begin to orchestrate a plan to help.

Anyway, why does Aristide’s departure prevent us from doing our part in what is now widely recognised as a humanitarian crisis in Haiti?

Haiti has been convulsed by street violence and rioting between supporters and opponents of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide since early February. Oxfam calculates at least 80,000 people in Port-de-Paix and 60,000 in Cap Haitien have no access to clean water. PAHO officials warn that there is almost no emergency care for poor people. There have been unattended obstetrical emergencies and growing difficulties in getting gasoline, water, essential medicaments and vaccines out to the population PAHO staff in Port-au-Prince reported. The United Nations World Food Programme said it was unable to deliver supplies to about 268,000 people dependent on food aid in northern Haiti.

Let’s look at the ill creature that has lain, ignored on Caricom’s doorstep for decades.

According to a World Bank report Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and one of the poorest countries in the developing world. This island nation has a population of eight million people, 70 per cent of who are poor, 50 per cent illiterate and 70 per cent unemployed. This lethal cocktail has also produced a country packed with sick people dying from HIV/Aids. Some 300,000 Haitians have died from it; more than 160,000 children have been orphaned, and about 260,000 currently live with the virus. Haiti accounts for 67 per cent of all HIV/Aids cases reported in the Caribbean. Only about one-fourth of the population has access to safe water. In the face of this daunting reality, Haiti’s population continues to grow at a high rate estimated at almost 200,000 people per year.

It gets worse. Haiti has long been a drugs transhipment point for Colombian cocaine traffickers. By the mid-1990s, the drugs trade was out of control, capitalising on Haiti’s internal squabbles and the greed of the country’s police chiefs, especially those who, like Mr Philippe, the firepower behind this rebellion served in the port city of Cap-Haテッtien. Under Mr Aristide the priest in whom so much hope was invested the Haitian government’s has had a deteriorating record on human rights, economic development and democracy.

In this truly damned country where a state of emergency has been declared, where up to 150 million pounds worth of goods have been looted where some 100 people have died as a result of gun battles between Aristide’s supporters and police, Caricom pauses.

The rest of the world acts.

Troops from America, France, Canada and Chile with a UN mandate to provide security are building its presence in Haiti to the proposed total of around 5,000. US marines are patrolling the cap. The UN children’s agency (Unicef) has sent 30 tons of medical supplies. Canada, which is contributing $1.15 million in humanitarian assistance to Haiti, has set aside $350,000 for PROMESS, the central pharmacy programme which has been supplying essential drugs since 1992. The US Agency for International Development has contributed $400,000, along with 12 medical and 3 surgical kits. Aid agencies such as PAHO succeeded against the odds in getting two convoys of essential medicines, and vaccines to the tension-riddled northern cities of Gonaives and St Marc, in supplying essential drugs since 1992.