Tuesday, November 16, 2010

riots in cap haitien, haiti

Yesterday there were riots in the streets of Cap Haitien, Haiti's second largest city. The impetus was the experience of two realities: the spread of cholera and the presence of United Nations peacekeepers from Nepal. Haiti has no recent experience of cholera, but the disease has appeared in the country over the last month. According the the Centers for Disease Control (U.S.), the origin of the strain is South Asian. Haitians have a long and strained relationship with the peacekeepers, with the reasons being varied. It is not difficult to prompt a Haitian to express his or her feelings about U.N. presence, and the opinion will be almost universally negative (this has been my observation in Cap Haitien). As an aside, this was echoed by a United Methodist delegate from the Congo in my legislative committee at the 2008 General Conference in Fort Worth.

The protest began as residents connected the spread of cholera with the UN peacekeepers. The initial diagnosis of the disease did occur in an area where Nepalese peacekeepers were present. The Nepal government itself denies that their personnel are the source of the disease. Some argue instead that it is Hurricane Tomas, with the resulting floods that caused the bursting of some water channels. Is the Haitian protest credible? On the one hand, one cannot be certain that they are correct; it is possible that the source is not Nepalese. On the other hand, Haitians (and other poor countries) have a history of suffering from the effects of diseases introduced by outsiders.

It is possible that the rioting (with one death thus far in Cap Haitien) is also associated with the upcoming presidential elections in Haiti (November 28). And it is very likely that all of this is the result of frustration arising from a confluence of harsh experiences: the earthquake ten months ago, that killed over two hundred thousand people; the slow, almost imperceptible humanitarian response (with a few notable exceptions) at a macro level; the combination of ineffective local government in Haiti, corruption among the Haitian elite and the withholding of donor funds, again most notably the U.S. and for partisan political reasons; Hurricane Tomas; the existing daily challenges that were already present in a country that is the poorest in the Western Hemisphere; and, most recently, the spread of cholera, with the death toll now reaching over 900.

Providence UMC has a "Women on a Mission" team in Cap Haitien. They have been teaching English as a Second Language at the Haiti School of Mercy, giving ongoing oversight to a microcredit partnership with New Hope for Haiti, and as a response to immediate needs working with a Haitian physician on procuring water purification resources for several communities. Providence has a thirty year history and partnership in northern Haiti that includes a medical clinic (with 30,000 patient files), a primary school with 210 students, and a microcredit initiative with loans to fifty women (by January 1 we anticipate that 100 women will have loans). I welcome your prayers for the team's safe journey home, and also for the people of Haiti, that their cries for peace, justice and a new creation (Isaiah 65) will be heard by God, who will, in the fullness of time, come down to deliver them (Exodus 3; Luke 4).


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10:44 PM  

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