A shocking account of how the world failed Haiti
Jonathan M. Katz
Such is the enduring tragedy of this blighted nation that we have no idea how many people died. You can choose any number from the 85,000 claimed by US researchers through to the 316,000 suggested by the Haitian government.
As Katz, a news agency reporter who had spent two and a half years in the country, shows, few things are clear in
In a book that is an absorbing mixture of memoir, reportage and investigation, Katz tries to find out how the global relief effort backfired so badly and what happened to the money raised. More than
The scenes are chilling as he describes the horror that followed the earthquake. Some bodies were torn to pieces, some left whole, as shocked families searched for relatives in the debris. Katz uses his camera's flash to light up a pile of rubble with a foot sticking out. It is only later, reviewing the photographs he has taken, that he sees there was a man's head there, clearly alive and in agony. No wonder the author was to suffer post-traumatic stress.
The huge search-and-rescue efforts saved at most 211 people. From the start there was little consultation with -- and often an ill-disguised contempt for -- the Haitians. The international rescue squads focused on trapped foreigners. Aid teams, fearing riots and looting, remained isolated in compounds and cars. The
Local people were frozen out of key meetings and not trusted to spend the donated money -- much of which never actually came through. Foreigners -- rotating in for a few weeks at a time and imposing 'solutions' from the centre -- made blunder after blunder. One veteran relief worker, for instance, was ignored when pointing out that distributing food in the tent cities that sprang up would make them permanent, as proved to be the case.
The aim of the earthquake response was to prevent riots, ensure stability and prevent the spread of disease. As Katz points out, for all the huge sums of money and genuine goodwill that accompanied it, the international effort did the opposite: they helped spark unrest, undermined stability and imported a lethal disease.
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