The myth of Haiti’s lawless streets
To withhold aid because of the ‘security situation’ is a miserable excuse for agencies’ failure to deliver desperately needed help
By Inigo Gilmore | The Guardian | January 20, 2010
A man carries an injured child in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, six days after the earthquake.
Photograph: Emiliano Larizza/Contrasto / eyevine
As a member of the media covering the tragedy in Haiti, it’s with a sense of alarm and astonishment that I’ve witnessed how some senior aid officials have argued for withholding aid of the utmost urgency because of sensational claims about violence and insecurity, which appear to be based more on fantasy than reality.
John O’Shea, who runs the well-known Irish aid agency Goal, has joined this chorus, telling the Guardian he couldn’t get his trucks from the Dominican Republic to Haiti because he had no guarantees his drivers wouldn’t be “macheted to death on the way down”. He added that Goal has no plans to deploy its much-needed doctors and nurses on the streets of Port-au-Prince.
From what I’ve observed, such chilling claims do not match the reality on the ground; and by trumpeting a distorted and sensational picture about the violence, some senior aid officials may be culpable of undermining the very aid effort they are supposed to be promoting. When I traveled into Haiti’s disaster zone last week from the Dominican Republic, I did so alone and on a bus, whose passengers were mostly Haitians, including some living in the US. Since then, whether on the road to Port-au-Prince or within the city, I have not witnessed anyone wielding a gun, a machete or a club of any kind. Nor have I witnessed an act of violence. (I have seen one badly wounded man who had been shot in circumstances which were unclear and who was eventually rescued by US soldiers after an American reporter sought help.)
Any violence is localised and sporadic; the situation is desperate yet not dangerous in general. Crucially, it’s not a war zone; it’s a disaster zone – and there appears to have been little attempt to distinguish carefully between destructive acts of criminality and the behaviour of starving people helping themselves to what they can forage. For Haitians and many of those trying to help them, the overriding sentiment is that a massive catastrophe on this scale shouldn’t have to wait for aid because blanket security is the absolute priority.
Moreover hundreds of journalists, volunteers from churches and private individuals have traveled in from the Dominican Republic, some of them bringing in desperately needed aid. From what I know, not a single person who has attempted to provide assistance to the people of Port-au-Prince, including medics, has run into any serious trouble.
En route to Port-au-Prince I met David Pierre-Louis, a 31-year-old Haitian-American, who had come to find his mother and bring much needed medical supplies. Happily, he found her alive and well, and later, she and a local nurse used the medicine David brought all the way from Seattle to set up a makeshift clinic on a street near her shattered home.
David, who runs a jazz club in Seattle, is now trying to fill the void by sending in his own medical supplies paid for by donations from the Haitian-American community and other concerned Americans. He told me:
“Haitians here cannot understand why they’re not getting help, especially as the way the violence is portrayed is not right. The people are unhappy that there’s been no assistance but do you see them rioting in the streets? No.
“People are hungry and needy and yet they’re being portrayed as savages. Aid is not getting there quick enough and that’s sad because the solution is right there and we have the power to do it.”
John O’Shea has shown in the past that his aid agency has the power to do it. Yet this time, while the Irish people have generously donated more than 1m euros to Goal for their Haiti operations, the agency has yet to swing into action. While announcing that they hope to start some limited food distribution in one location in Port-au-Prince, O’Shea is insisting on a change in the security situation first before their operation can be rolled out, medics and all.
There are some real security issues in Port-au-Prince but some of the more alarming images and incidents portrayed in the media must be seen for what they are, and in context. Reports about marauding, machete-wielding gangs taking over Port-au-Prince are very wide of the mark. The people are welcoming and helpful to those who come to help them and, if anything, go out of their way to ensure you are safe.
Last weekend, in the park near the destroyed presidential palace, which has become a makeshift refugee camp for tens of thousands, we meet three Cuban doctors and nurses. They were working alone, without an escort, and they were treating a large group of injured men women and children, who calmly waited their turn. That night, on the other side of the park, I saw a group of homeless queueing patiently to collect water in plastic containers. No one was harassing them, and there was no sign of any of the criminal gangs that supposedly now rule the streets.
I can see no reason why, with some concerted pressure and a little coordination, aid agencies like Goal cannot deploy securely into the heart of Port–au-Prince, with their clinics and food distribution outlets. With thousands of the injured living in close quarters at makeshift camps, the rapid deployment of medical care is still paramount.
Of all the disasters I’ve covered in recent years, the response to this has perhaps been the most perplexing, and disastrous in itself. From the Haitian perspective, if anyone is dragging their feet it’s the aid agencies. One thing is clear: if aid agencies do not quickly roll out a coordinated and comprehensive response, then not only will many more die, but the deteriorating security situation, which is being talked up so much, may perhaps become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
So John O’Shea, if you are reading this, I put down this challenge to you: if you are prepared, in the next few days, to bring an aid van or truck to the Dominican/Haitian border, I will travel with it into Port-au-Prince. I will even help you to distribute the aid.
The Haitian people need help now, not excuses.
13 Comments »
or go to
From the Archives
“NATO, the planet’s strongest alliance… can absolutely take advantage of the opportunities that are presented by crisis”
RT | April 30, 2014
NATO must return to its original goal of fending off Russia, seizing the chance presented by the Ukrainian crisis to sever Europe from Moscow and move it closer to America, the US secretary of state said. Or else the bloc’s global leadership may be lost. … continue
Aletho News Exclusive Content
This article will examine some of the connections between the US and UK National Security apparatus and the appearance of the anthropogenic global warming (AGW) theory beginning after the accident at Three Mile Island. … continue
Also by Aletho News:
September 19, 2011
March 8, 2011
January 2, 2011
October 10, 2010
July 5, 2010
February 25, 2010
February 7, 2010
January 5, 2010
December 26, 2009
December 19, 2009
December 4, 2009
May 9, 2009
- Bolivian president: Israel is a terrorist state July 30, 2014
- Medics recover 35 bodies from Libya army base overrun by Islamists July 30, 2014
- Israeli tourists flee Maldives after destroying anti-Israel poster July 30, 2014
- Israeli forces abduct shepherd, goats from southern Lebanon July 30, 2014
- Ex-Lebanese MP shoots self in the face, survives July 30, 2014
- Botched bomb attack kills three in Cairo July 30, 2014
- Hundreds protest fuel price hikes in poverty-stricken Yemen July 30, 2014
- Turkey sees outcry after deputy PM says women shouldn't laugh in public July 30, 2014
- Turkey keeps 11 police officers accused of wiretapping in custody July 30, 2014
- Libyan fighters seize military special forces headquarters in Benghazi July 30, 2014
- Gaza Ministry of Health: “Israeli attack on crowded market during ceasefire is ‘barbarity personified’” July 30, 2014
- Gaza: Black sky turns orange July 30, 2014
- Video: Free the bubbles July 29, 2014
- The Emperors Rage: Let Chaos Envelop the World! July 28, 2014
Categories"Hope and Change" Aletho News Civil Liberties Corruption Deception Economics Environmentalism Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism False Flag Terrorism Full Spectrum Dominance Illegal Occupation Islamophobia Mainstream Media, Warmongering Malthusian Ideology, Phony Scarcity Militarism Nuclear Power Science and Pseudo-Science Solidarity and Activism Subjugation - Torture Supremacism, Social Darwinism Timeless or most popular Video War Crimes Wars for Israel
Looking for something?
This site is provided as a research and reference tool. Although we make every reasonable effort to ensure that the information and data provided at this site are useful, accurate, and current, we cannot guarantee that the information and data provided here will be error-free. By using this site, you assume all responsibility for and risk arising from your use of and reliance upon the contents of this site.
This site and the information available through it do not, and are not intended to constitute legal advice. Should you require legal advice, you should consult your own attorney.
Nothing within this site or linked to by this site constitutes investment advice or medical advice.
Materials accessible from or added to this site by third parties, such as comments posted, are strictly the responsibility of the third party who added such materials or made them accessible and we neither endorse nor undertake to control, monitor, edit or assume responsibility for any such third-party material.
The posting of stories, commentaries, reports, documents and links (embedded or otherwise) on this site does not in any way, shape or form, implied or otherwise, necessarily express or suggest endorsement or support of any of such posted material or parts therein.
The word "alleged" is deemed to occur before the word "fraud." Since the rule of law still applies. To peasants, at least.
This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more info go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.
This is information for anyone that wishes to challenge our “fair use” of copyrighted material.
If you are a legal copyright holder or a designated agent for such and you believe that content residing on or accessible through our website infringes a copyright and falls outside the boundaries of “Fair Use”, please send a notice of infringement by contacting email@example.com.
We will respond and take necessary action immediately.
If notice is given of an alleged copyright violation we will act expeditiously to remove or disable access to the material(s) in question.
All 3rd party material posted on this website is copyright the respective owners / authors. Aletho News makes no claim of copyright on such material.
Visits Since December 2009
- 1,813,604 hits
Contact:atheonews (at) gmail.com
- Kosovo Liberation Army harvested Serb organs – EU inquiry July 30, 2014
- How sanctions will affect the West’s $35bn invested in Russian oil July 30, 2014
- Mystery Surrounds U.S. Justice Department Move to Wrap Anti-Iran Group in Shroud of Secrecy July 30, 2014
- Gaza Ministry of Health: Israeli attack on crowded market during ceasefire is ‘barbarity personified’ July 30, 2014
- Is killing civilians part of Israel’s plan? July 30, 2014
- The Blood of Palestine is on the Hands of the Bribe-Takers July 30, 2014
- Zionism’s Prior Condition: Propaganda July 30, 2014
- Israeli bombing of Shujaiyya market kills 17 despite ceasefire July 30, 2014
- Israeli forces abduct shepherd, goats from southern Lebanon July 30, 2014
- Gaza: Black sky turns orange July 30, 2014
- UNRWA condemns school shelling in ‘strongest possible terms’ July 30, 2014
- 62% of British public says Israel committing war crimes, as polls show sympathy for Palestinians July 30, 2014
- Israel kills 20 in sixth UNRWA school bombing July 30, 2014
- Chile, El Salvador, Peru Recall Israel Envoys in Protest of Gaza Offensive July 30, 2014
- President of the Canadian Green Party channels Mark Regev July 29, 2014
- European Union agrees on Russian sectoral sanctions – top EU officials July 29, 2014
- Shooting and crying over lost moral army July 29, 2014
- Journalist, His Family, Killed By Israeli Missile In Rafah July 29, 2014
TagsAfghanistan Africa al-Akhbar Al-Manar American Civil Liberties Union American Israel Public Affairs Committee Argentina Bashar al-Assad Benjamin Netanyahu Brazil Britain Canada Central Intelligence Agency China CIA Colombia East Jerusalem Egypt European Union FBI Federal Bureau of Investigation France Fukushima Gaza George W. Bush Germany Gilad Atzmon Hamas Hebron Hezbollah Honduras Hugo Chávez Human rights India Intelligence International Atomic Energy Agency International Middle East Media Center International Solidarity Movement Internet Iran Iraq Iraq War Israel Israeli settlement Japan Jerusalem John Kerry Latin America Lebanon Libya Ma'an Middle East National Security Agency NATO New York Times NSA Obama Pakistan Palestine Palestinian prisoners in Israel Press TV Russia Sanctions against Iran Saudi Arabia South America Syria Turkey UK Ukraine United Nations United States USA Venezuela West Bank Zionism