4.01.2012

Going to Haiti

On my way to Haiti, changing one airplane after another, I was obliged to stop thinking my usual activities and focus to a usually forgotten reality.

According Wikipedia, with a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) estimate of US$6.56 billion in 2009, Haiti is routinely regarded as one of the poorest nations in the western hemisphere. Based on estimates by the World Bank in 2005, the percentage of people living below the US$1 per day poverty line in Haiti is 54%, and the percentage of people living below US$2 per day is at 78%!

Trying to understand the situation in the country, I discovered that it has the world’s lowest electricity coverage, just a little bit above 12%! And the high Infant Mortality Rate of 64 deaths per 1000 live births is a result of the poor healthcare system, and the lack of a well-planned education system is the cause of low literacy rates (45%) in the country.
And regarding waste management, the situation is maybe even worst. The current waste management system includes collection of maximum 35% of waste generated. The rest is left in the streets where it is usually burned.
In Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital and major urban centre, the inefficiency of the solid waste management system represents a critical risk to public health. The current solid waste management system has never been fully integrated into the metropolitan public services system; instead, it is characterized by a high level of institutional instability, poor governance, limited human and financial capacity, and improper solid waste-disposal practices by urban communities. Moreover, the 7.3 earthquake that shook the capital city on January 12 of 2010 and destroyed over a quarter million homes and businesses has further compromised an already strained formal and informal waste management sector. And of course it left more or less 20.000.000 tons of debris waste that are still waiting to be managed.
Well, going to Haiti, just before my airplane will be landing, I realize once more that what is called Poverty Trap is very real and very strong and it concerns more or less 50% of the planet’s population.
I am also feeling deeply in my heart that the Poverty Trap and the Environmental Degradation (what a nice scientific phrase we use to describe the daily misery of living within any kind of waste, without access to clean water and elementary sanitation rules) will never be separated. As long as the Trap exists, it is further reinforced by Environmental Degradation and vice-versa.
But there is something more. Does anyone from the western world thinks or speaks about the situation in Haiti today? Does any NGO campaign for it? Or the countries trapped at the Poverty Trap simply do not provide business opportunities, not even for NGOs, so there is no reason to campaign about them?
I am thinking much more but I will write them after some days, as soon as I will have finished my trip to Haiti and I will have a much better idea about it.
Until then, please do not forget that if we leave Haiti alone, it will never be able to escape the Trap.  


3 comments:

Ranjith Annepu said...

Even though I've never been to a low income country, I hear from my colleagues and sparsely but of course media on how worse the situation can get for people, especially children to live in unsanitary conditions. I can only relate to that partially with my experience during my research on solid waste management in India. Its bad in India but not as bad as compared to a situation a colleague of mine described from Senegal. When I say bad, I'm speaking about the quality of life.

However, once we decide that low income countries need Aid, we should provide it taking into consideration the incentives it might create, its ability to sustain itself on a long term. Otherwise, like it is in most cases of solid waste infrastructure aid, the projects will fail, leaving the population with no operating solid waste infrastructure for a longer time.

Antonis Mavropoulos said...

I agree 100% with your final comment. We have to learn a lot from failures

Chris Charles said...

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