Remembering Haiti and those who died

Monday, January 14, 2013

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IT'S been three years since our sister Caribbean country Haiti was hit by a powerful earthquake that killed more than 300,000 people and devastated infrastructure.

Quite appropriately, the Haitian Government ordered that the anniversary be observed with the Haitian flag flown at half mast and that nightclubs and similar establishments close, instead of a national holiday, as was done for the past two years.

We believe that the anniversary of a tragedy of such monumental proportions should always serve as a time for survivors, and those who arrived in this world after, to reflect, pay tribute to the victims, and commit to the most basic acts of humanity.

We therefore join President Michel Martelly in urging Haitians, as well as the international community, to remember the hundreds of thousands of people who lost their lives in what was easily one the deadliest tragedies in the Caribbean ever.

President Martelly should also be commended for his Government's intention to erect a monument to honour those who died in the January 12, 2009 earthquake, as well as the Administration's release of a new construction code aimed at ensuring that new buildings are seismically resistant.

The hope is that this new building code, if it is properly observed, will prevent similar catastrophic damage in any future earthquake.

Over the years since the earthquake, we have said a lot in this space about the aid commitments of the international community. We are still deeply disappointed that many of those who promised to assist Haiti after the earthquake are yet to make good on their word.

We are, however, encouraged by the European Union's pledge last Saturday of ¤30.5 million, essentially "for displaced people still living in camps, as well as victims of a subsequent cholera epidemic and those affected by Hurricane Sandy late last year".

The European Union has proven to be a great friend of the Caribbean, and its generosity is evident in numerous projects across the region.

The Caribbean Community (Caricom), which responded quickly to assist Haiti immediately after the quake -- despite their limited resources -- must also be commended. So, too, must the Clinton Foundation which, wire service reports have informed us, is contributing approximately 40 solar-powered street lights to a housing community north of Port-au-Prince for deaf families who were relocated there.

Many other organisations, individuals and nations have rallied to Haiti's assistance. On behalf of our Caribbean sister nation, we say thanks.

However, there is a lot more that needs to be done in that country to return some level of order and comfort to people's lives.

There are still too many displaced Haitians living in tents and makeshift homes in Port-au-Prince, which took the brunt of the earthquake's force.

Former United States President Bill Clinton, the United Nations special envoy to Haiti, has also spoken of repairing the country's agriculture industry.

It's not easy work, and the Haitian people, we are sure, realise that they, too, have an important role to play in their total recovery. They must, as their president said on Saturday, work "hand in hand".




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