In What You’re Not Hearing about Haiti (But Should Be) at CommonDreams.org, Carl Lindskoog presents an excellent account of why the disaster in Haiti is neither entirely a natural one nor the fault of the Haitian people and government:
[January 14, 2010] In the hours following Haiti’s devastating earthquake, CNN, the New York Times and other major news sources adopted a common interpretation for the severe destruction: the 7.0 earthquake was so devastating because it struck an urban area that was extremely over-populated and extremely poor. Houses “built on top of each other” and constructed by the poor people themselves made for a fragile city. And the country’s many years of underdevelopment and political turmoil made the Haitian government ill-prepared to respond to such a disaster…
It may startle news-hungry Americans to learn that these conditions the American media correctly attributes to magnifying the impact of this tremendous disaster were largely the product of American policies and an American-led development model.
Lindskoog shows how USAID policies led to structural changes in the countryside, which predictably forced Haitian peasants who could no longer survive to migrate to the cities, especially Port-au-Prince. Promised manufacturing jobs failed to materialize. Port-au-Prince became overpopulated and slum areas expanded. Poorly constructed housing followed and the eventual abandonment of the US-led development model. Haitians, with virtually no financial resources were left to address the problems they had not created.
Interestingly, Nicholas Kristof’s Op-Ed in NYT (Jan 21) which, though sympathetic to the conditions prevalent in Haiti, makes no mention of the adverse effects of US policies on the country! The French get a mention, as too general “predators”.