Hurricane Sandy is another blow to Haiti

by Roger Annis (for Haiti Liberte)
Hurricane Sandy struck another
heavy blow to Haiti on Oct. 23 and 24, 2012. At least 54 people died, and
dozens more are missing. Several tens of thousands of people were flooded out
of their homes or earthquake survivor camps.
are some 370,000 people stuck in appalling conditions in the camps while
hundreds of thousands more have gone back to damaged homes or whatever other
inadequate shelter they can find.
Canada’s media reports, and doesn’t report, on Sandy in Haiti
The Montreal daily La Presse assigned Gabrielle Duchaine to
report from Haiti in the aftermath of the hurricane. Her reporting was the most
substantive to appear in Canada. She wrote two informative articles on the
difficult conditions she observed in the south of Haiti where Hurricane Sandy
struck hardest, including dealing a severe blow to food production.

to preliminary estimations by Haitian government officials, 70% of the crop
that was ready to be harvested in the south of the country was destroyed,
including bananas, beans, rice, avocado and corn. Cattle were also lost. The
losses amount to more than $100 million.
the food problem, areas in the north of Haiti experienced drought conditions
earlier this year, while the drought in the U.S. Midwest this past summer has
sent prices of corn and other staples soaring. United Nations officials say
that one million people in Haiti – one tenth of the population – are now
threatened by food insecurity.
is the translated introduction to one of the articles by Duchaine:
            “When Hurricane Sandy descended on the U.S.
east coast, all eyes were turned to New York and the huge reserves of emergency
assistance that were deployed. Yet, some 2,500 km from there in Haiti, the
population was left to its own means to deal with the full force of the
elements. The result: an unceasingly heavy outcome with more than 100 deaths,
tens of thousands of affected people, new outbreaks of cholera, and, especially,
the destruction of some 70% of the country’s food harvests in the south of the
country. Now that the waters have receded, the grumbling is growing louder in
communities where people are still waiting for assistance…
were already on the rise in Haiti over rising food prices and an ineffective
national government seen to have little sympathy or plan to get the country out
of its downward, post-earthquake economic and social spiral. Protest will only
deepen in the months ahead.
            The Globe and Mail published several
short articles from Haiti on Oct. 30 and Nov. 2 reporting on the damage to food
production caused by the hurricane. Radio
(French CBC) broadcast a brief radio news report from an AFP
journalist in Haiti.
website of Montreal’s English language daily The Gazette (one cog in Canada’s largest newspaper chain, Postmedia) contains several short,
perfunctory news reports on Sandy’s aftermath in Haiti. Meanwhile, the site
features dozens of substantive articles on Sandy’s impact on the United States.
Cholera threat and UN denial
A Nov. 1 feature article in the Toronto Star, Canada’s largest
circulation daily, reported tangentially on the hurricane. The article was a
personal profile of Nigel Fisher, the Canadian west coast resident who is the
UN’s humanitarian coordinator in Haiti.
article reported Fisher’s typical upbeat message on Haiti, to the effect,
“Yes, things are bad, but we are doing the best we can.” Titled “Nigel
Fisher, caretaker of the world’s children
”, the article reports:
            Fisher was at his Port-au-Prince office on
Wednesday [Oct. 31] at 6:30 a.m., juggling yet another set of crisis logistics
in the hard-luck country, where he has overseen earthquake relief and recovery
since 2010.

            A call to the Haitian
prime minister was on his agenda because, in addition to handling the newest
human casualties from Sandy, a food shortage now looms. A drought early in the
year stunted crops before they had a chance to mature. Then, a damaging summer
storm reduced harvest estimates by about 40% – a worrisome situation even
before the massive hurricane struck last week.
            “Sandy just about
finished it off,” Fisher says. “So on top of everything else that
this poor country faces, now we’re facing a real problem of food security
throughout the winter.”
article concludes:
            “I feel so much of the news that comes
out about Haiti is all about disaster and hopeless and yet, I’ve been here
almost three years now and I’ve seen a lot of change.”
            He believes it’s vital
to tell donors in wealthy countries such as Canada about progress in tough
places, not just stories about sadness and hardship. He cites the fact that,
while the number of Haitians remaining in camps, 350,000, seems “a heck of
a lot,” about 2 million were displaced by the earthquake. “That means
80% have gone home.” *
            After a year, the
worst of cholera’s infectious surge is over, with Haiti and its island neighbor,
the Dominican Republic, working together on disease-eradication plans. Fisher
reports that more children are in school than before the earthquake.
Vaccination rates for kids are up too. “There are always points of
UN’s moral standing among the Haitian people is at an all-time low, not only
because its soldiers recklessly introduced the cholera bacteria into the
country but also because the agency has since denied responsibility and, to
this day, refuses to undertake rapid and meaningful redress, notably in
building clean water delivery systems.
May 2011, a scientific panel convened by Ban Ki-moon five months earlier
published its
, saying that the cholera bacteria likely originated at a UN
military base at Mirebalais, Haiti that was staffed by recently-arrived
soldiers from Nepal. The strain of cholera was identified as the one prevalent
in cholera-endemic Nepal. But the report then went on to say that the spread of
the bacteria (the epidemic) was caused by a “confluence of
of the UN’s point men on the cholera file is Fisher himself. He has insisted
that the agency’s culpability is unproven. He says finding the source of the
epidemic is secondary; what’s important is to treat the victims. But as the
evidence has mounted and become incontrovertible, the UN response has shifted.
of the world’s leading cholera experts, Daniele Lantagne of Harvard University,
was a member of the 2011 panel and recently said after
studying new scientific data that the “most likely” source of the
outbreak was the UN base at Mirebalais. Hers was only the latest in a string
of epidemiological studies
to pinpoint the source of the epidemic as being
UN soldiers.
voiced the new response of the UN to cholera accusations recently to the BBC’s
Mark Doyle:
            “I know there’s new information
there,” Mr. Fisher said. “But the investigation is still with the
[UN’s New York] legal office, so I’m not able to say anything at this time
until that’s gone through the due process.”
one year after legal action was undertaken on behalf of the past and future
victims of cholera, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s office has yet to issue
a statement as to how it intends to deal with the legal action. In addition to
denial mode, then, the UN is by all appearance in “stall” mode as
resurgence of cholera infections is feared after Hurricane Sandy. La Presse’s Duchaine reported from Les
Cayes in the south of Haiti that the local hospital received dozens of infected
patients following the storm that brought four days of intense rain. Doctor
Joseph Yves Domercant, director of the hospital, told Duchaine that he expects
many more victims.
Watts reports in The Guardian recently
that Haiti has more cholera cases than the rest of the world combined.
According to the World
Health Organization
, Haiti was recording increasing cholera cases even
before the latest hurricane. Six hundred thousand people have been infected and
more than 7,500 have died since the start of the epidemic in October 2010.
Showcasing sweatshop labor
One week before Hurricane Sandy
struck, Bill and Hillary Clinton were in Caracol, northern Haiti to showcase
the recently-opened clothing factory complex of south Korea’s SAE-A.
Caracol Industrial Park is touted to eventually employ tens of thousands of
workers. It is a centerpiece of the “Open For Business” theme of the
government of President Michel Martelly and Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe. The
U.S. and Canada
say that “Open For Business,” which is a polished-up version of the
failed, sweatshop labor model of the declining years of the Duvalier tyranny in
Haiti, is key to the country’s economic future.
Caracol park was built on prime agricultural land on the opposite side of the
country from the earthquake zone. The land was provided by the Haitian
government. The installations – factory buildings, electricity supply, housing
for workers – were paid through grants from the U.S. government and the
Inter-American Development Bank.
has shifted production to Haiti from a factory it closed in Guatemala where
workers were seeking to form a union in the face of stiff opposition by the
            A report by the Better Work
international agency that was released in October shows that 21 of the 22
sweatshop factories surveyed in Haiti (not including Caracol because it is just
getting off the ground) were failing to pay the country’s factory minimum wage
of US$5 per day.
What you can do
One of the most effective ways
to express solidarity with the Haitian people is to support the Under
housing rights campaign. If you haven’t already done so, please
sign its international petition demanding action on housing from the Haitian
government and its international backers, including Canada. You can also read
about other ways to support the campaign.
Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti and its partner office in Haiti is
spearheading the legal action on behalf of cholera victims. Find out more about
that case and how you can support at
In Health Canada has recently launched an awareness and action campaign for
global health, including in Haiti, called ‘Prove what is possible.’ Check out
that campaign at
complete information on Haiti:
Postscript: On Nov. 13, 2012, the Boston Globe print daily published an editorial, “UN must make
amends for cholera that organization brought to Haiti.” The editorial
criticizes the UN for “foot dragging” on the legal action against it
that seeks measures to halt the spread of cholera. On Nov. 17, 2012, the New York Times published an article on
Sandy’s impact on Haiti, reporting that “three weeks after the hurricane’s
deluge, Haiti, still struggling to recover from the earthquake in January 2010,
is facing its biggest blow to reconstruction and slipping deeper into crisis,
United Nations and government officials say, with hundreds of thousands of
others at risk of hunger or malnutrition.”
* Nearly half of the structures
in Port au Prince were rendered unsafe to inhabit by the 2010 earthquake. Many
of the people who left earthquake survivor camps moved back into these damaged
homes. UN agencies do not track what happens to those who have left camps.
Hurricane Sandy caused devastation on Haiti’s southern peninsula,
wiping our up to 70% of this season’s crop.