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July 30, 2009
U.S. must help break Haiti’s cycle of misery

Haiti is plagued by severe poverty and life expectancy is some 20 years lower than in the U.S.

Imagine a country in which a child is 10 times more likely to die before reaching five years of age than a child in the United States, a country where the overall life expectancy is 57 years old, nearly 20 years less than in your own country — a country where human beings sometimes eat dirt pies for nourishment.

And imagine finally that something can be done to resolve the tragedy facing the majority of the 9 million people who live in a nation not far south of the United States. That country is Haiti.

Haiti comes to the news pages when there is some new spot event, like the sorry case of a boat overloaded with 200 migrants capsized in the Caribbean this week, throwing a number of people to their deaths. But the nightmare of desperation never ends for Haitians, wracked by violence, hunger, fear and deprivation across generations.

Forget for the moment that U.S. policymakers looked the other way during decades of kleptocracy by the Duvalier family in Haiti during the 20th century; or that the Bush administration essentially tricked the elected president of the country, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, out of the country in 2004; and that thereafter, the United States has cared little and thought less about Haitians, whose lives were made even worse last year after the punishing hurricane season.

Change could come in the form of a new commitment to attacking the cycle of misery. The first signal was the appointment of former President Bill Clinton as the United Nations special envoy to Haiti. His role is intended to raise awareness of the problem and he has already won more than $300 million in pledges for international aid to Haiti. That’s not enough, not by a fraction.

Significant change could come if Dr. Paul Farmer, as expected and hoped, is named the new administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, which happens to exist on the flow chart under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Farmer has been in the running for the job for months now, with no announcement.

He is the visionary co-founder of Partners in Health and established a free health clinic in Haiti 20 years ago, treating the dire problems of disease and nutrition among Haiti’s impoverished majority. He has now extended his formula of consciousness-raising and local-based problem solving to Rwanda and Malawi. Partners in Health looks beyond individual health care to sustainable ecology and infrastructure. And the organization is careful to work with local governments, rather than dictating solutions on high.

Farmer’s inspiring mission was the subject of Tracy Kidder’s 2003 book, Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World.

It could be that the administration doesn’t want another high-profile issue on the front burner. Farmer, meanwhile, might not want to be dragged down by government bureaucracy. Whether or not he gets the job, his commitment inspires people to move mountains –- and the need in Haiti and other countries requires new thinking and global commitment to change. We are all diminished by suffering of such a scale that goes along chronically, untreated and ignored.

– Peter Eisner

Photo courtesy of Flickr user glasshalffull91 under a Creative Commons license.

For more Worldfocus coverage of Haiti, visit our extended coverage page: Haiti’s Poor.




Thanks Mr.Eisner
Not long ago PBS Wide Angle showed a terrible one sided piece about Haiti profiling the criminal Guy Philippe and embracing the coup d’etat as a normal side event necessary to improve the state of Haiti. I wonder why Wide Angle decided to do that. Paul Farmer was a friend of Haiti’s democratically elected JB Aristide and still is and he would be appauled about it without any doubts.


In August of 2009 I identified with the suffering in Haiti as I saw and smelled it- first hand. At the end was a prayer for Haiti. Sometimes what looks like a complete disaster can hold the keys to potential beyond anything we ask, imagine, or think. Me thinx that all around Haiti there is great opportunity for 5 star Hotels/tourism as it has fabulous blue waters. Haitian mountains have tremendous opportunity for nature climbing/whatever. I wonder if Haiti could come under America’s wing somehow.


I don’t see any problem if the American nation want to take over Haiti.It’s about time for us to stop suffering,we need changes because the Haitian government never do anything and will never do nothing to help this country.God have a reason for everything that happened.Do not let any one in this world trouble you people because doing a great a job to help Haiti, i love you America,i appreciate your work and i think you America.A good leadership that’s what we need,that’s what we are looking for,it’s your time now,do your part because we are tired of these leaders since Duvalier regime to now.Get them out please their helpless.All of this non-sense must stop.please do something and do not stop.I wish i could kick them all right at this very moment,i wish i could.America i think for you please take over Haiti that will be the best move ever,don’t let them people take over again,do not let that happen,it’s a,no.


A prayer song for Haiti during her wrenching crisis– maybe it’s time for some of us to get alone with God to ask Him what He would have us do for the poor throughout the world?


In a world where almost every tree has been cut down for coal,where the mountains and land erodes into the sea sending food or supplies will only provide a meal or two.Tomorrow is another day of starvation until a plan is made to provide these people with a means of sustaining themselves.


[…] 33. Oh, how Haiti hurts– and her tears fill the streets where poverty trickles of poisoned wat… […]


Christian greetings. Instead of sending just money to Haiti, why not send people who have faith that if they can get into the situation the people are in, God with them will show them what to do to lead the people out. These faith people are poor in material wealth because otherwise they would go to Haiti on their own to start solving the problem. With God all things are possible, and all things are possible for the one who believes. Send the ones who believe and want to help Haiti. Send me. Glory to You, O Christ. You are great, and You are good. I love and adore You forever and trust You for everything. Maranatha!


It is really quite sad that almost on the shore of one of the world’s wealthiest nations is what seems to be obtuse poverty. Moving deep into the streets of Port-au-Prince the smell of poverty is everywhere- just everywhere. Curbs trickling with water where observable parasites move children and adults alike washing/bathing. Clothes worn for years draping their AID’s-like bodies. Bright smiles desperately trying to sell wood carvings and unique Hatian canvess paintings. Moving in towards government buildings sounds of gasoline-cocktails going off putting fear in travelors and enslaving a nation to one unstable government after another. OH- my Lord and Savior- OH, that You have put the fate of so much into our hands and we so easily and simply fail and falter to meet the task at hand- humanitarianism and from my point of view the most basic of Christian response “Love not in word only but in deed also..” Help Lord Jesus– Help. Let me not curse the darkness but rather- light a candle. Will anyone out there help Haiti??? Canada???


As a caring, compassioante, justice-seeking citizen of the world, by way of Jamaica, and many other home/host countries, my heart BLEEDS for Haiti. I am CONFIDENT that things WILL begin to change for Haiti under the humane & caring leadership of the new administration of the USA.
The underlying & ongoing saga of Haiti’s heartwrenching problems is fundamentally NOT of Haiti’s making. For anyone who is TRULY interested in learning the TRUTH about Haiti – it’s history & beyond – I would STRONGLY recommend reading the brilliantly researched & eloquently written, “An Unbroken Agony”, by Randall Robinson.
With genuine international assistance, led by the USA, the proud, industrious people of Haiti WILL, one day, hopefully in the not-too-distant-future, be TRULY FREE!!!

Carlene Y. Francis
Fairfax, VA


Great little piece by Eisner and coming from a respected PBS News Program, this is very welcome. CH 13 should show the doc “Aristide and the Endless Revolution” which features Paul Farmer extensively.


the people will have to go through a peace and reconciliation conference
like the ones in set up in SA if we truly want peace and stability in haiti.
one good film to advise to understant the recent troubled history of my country is the film aristide and the endless revolution. great doc. was just too short but great doc.


the people will have to go through a peace and reconciliation conference
like the ones in set up in SA if we truly want peace and stability in haiti.
one good film to advise to understant the recent troubled history of my country is the film aristide and the endless revolution. great doc. was just too short but great doc.


Mwen ta priye Bondieu ke se pa Ayisyen ou ye. M’ pa kwe prop Ayisyen ta vi’n pale fre ak se yo mal devan lot pep pou desann nou pi ba toujou. Monche ou se yon San wont. Mwen byen kontan pou ou tout afe ou ap mache aletrange. Bondye beni’w ke ou kapab pale angle pou bay fre’w ak se’w kout lang. Oh Bondye, kile pep nou an ap sispann fe tisousou?


You cannot blame Haiti for its misery, and you cannot blame its people neither since they’re 90 % un-educated. Blame Haiti’s corrupt government. Haiti has been lacking an “average” let along a good “tough no-nonsense” leader since Jean-Claude Duvalier. A good leader would not let its country’s own citizens tear down all progress made once a leader leaves office. As an example, the haitian people often burn down homes, (I.E. Aritide’s homes), hotels, markets, etc after these officials leave office..How smart is that? These are places that could have been tourist attractions resulting in jobs for Haitians. I, a haitian, went to Haiti in July 2009, and let me tell you, the practice of “kraze brize” and “burning tires” must stop by the end 2009. The government/policy/UN need to make an example out of the idiots doing this just like when they cracked down on kidnapping. “Kraze brize” means people have riots, burn tires, burn factories, burn supermarkets, burns hotels, etc. Now tell me why in the world would folks burn down their own factories that provide jobs? The un-educated and the lack of tough policing/tough government. All the problems starts at the top. We need great leadership that’s all.

Please forward this to all your Haitian friends and family.

Peter Eisner is an editorial consultant with Worldfocus and a 30-year veteran of international news. He has been an editor and foreign correspondent at The Washington Post, Newsday and The Associated Press. He co-authored “The Italian Letter,” which details fraudulent intelligence leading up to the Iraq War. He was founder and president of Newscom, an international online news service, and speaks Spanish and Portuguese.

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