Hurricane Matthew has caused widespread destruction in Haiti, specifically affecting rural areas to the south and isolated areas within the country. The infrastructure in Haiti has been battered by Hurricane Matthew. Haitian hospitals are poorly equipped to deal with the devastation, lacking critical medical supplies. The heavy winds, rain, and flooding destroyed many homes, bridges, and schools. Crop fields have been destroyed and strewn with garbage. Power lines are down, and residents can’t communicate with each other or get the news.
The immediate danger has passed, but there are still lingering questions about the availability of drinking water, medical supplies, and food. International aid is coming, but the aid is looked upon with suspicion. Al Jazeera’s Teresa Bo reports that cholera is a big fear, but many of the town residents report concern over their crops. When an earthquake hit Haiti in 2010, aid programs were heavily criticized for not helping build localized infrastructure. They came in, set up a system that they benefited from, and only temporarily solved the problems, without giving Haitians the necessary resources to fix any problems themselves. The UN peacekeepers, in Haiti after the earthquake, were the ones who brought cholera to Haiti.
Unfortunately, these international aid groups are needed to help the government at this time. Haiti’s current government is an interim government and elections were scheduled for the weekend after the hurricane hit, and have since been postponed. The unavoidable damage of a natural disaster has set back Haiti’s political process again. The government of Haiti wants to effectively govern, and be the relief for its own country. Yet when bridges and roads have been wiped out, as well as hundreds of schools, this is no small task. The New York Times, reporting on many of the same problems as Al Jazeera, contains a very telling perspective: Jean Senozier Despreux claims people died because they didn’t believe the authorities who told them to evacuate. They distrusted the government, and weren’t prepared for the hurricane.
Reuters reports that over 300 schools have been destroyed, and many more have been converted into shelters for those who have lost their homes. Schooling was already a hot-button issue in the upcoming presidential election, which will no longer be held. Expanded access to education has been seen as a way for Haiti to develop itself. Better schooling, from primary education on up, should lead to less dependence on foreign aid through improving the skills of Haiti’s own workforce. Haiti is looking to take the steps it needs to be economically and developmentally independent. When Hurricane Matthew intervened, the discourse surrounding Haiti instead becomes one of self-control vs. foreign control. In the face of a natural disaster, conflict presents itself with many faces. A place that was rebuilding education, politics, and health systems, all gets destroyed in a matter of hours when a hurricane hits. Not only are the people of Haiti struggling for food and their health, but the entire school system that has taken over a decade to build up has been completely wiped out. The primary concern is the health of the people of Haiti, but with over 300 schools wiped out, the education system becomes set back two decades.
For more information on the school crisis in Haiti, look here.
For an overlook on the damage in Haiti, watch this video.
Al Jazeera, “Horrors left by Hurricane Matthew become clear in Haiti”
Reuters, “Hurricane Matthew closes schools for thousands of Haiti’s children”
NY Times, “Hurricane Matthew makes old problems worse for Haitians”