Other children wore brightly colored school uniforms. But for a full year little Fedo and Myriam wore black. My little neighbors had been orphaned when their mother Nadege died of AIDS.
That was over 20 years ago when I first lived in Haiti and the tiny nation was the first in the world to suffer the full onslaught of the AIDS epidemic. Initially many assumed that AIDS had originated in Haiti. It took years to prove that AIDS had be brought to Haiti (probably by sex tourists), and that Haiti was just especially vulnerable to the rapid spread of the virus because of extreme poverty.
The summer before last a total of four hurricanes swept over Haiti in a four-week period and killed over 1,200 people. These storms went on to strike Cuba where only 8 died. Why the difference? Again, just as Haiti had been especially vulnerable to the devastation of a virus, the denuded mountains of Haiti and sub-standard urban drainage and housing, each a consequence of extreme poverty, left Haiti much more vulnerable to flash floods from these storms.
Six months ago today thirty-five seconds of shaking from a 7.3 magnitude earthquake again demonstrated the vulnerability poverty creates. A quarter million people were crushed and killed under the rubble. Those who were spared were left traumatized and struggling to survive. Over a million and a half are still homeless.
It is this same poverty that is making recovery so difficult.
We could talk in this message about all the work that Beyond Borders is doing in Haiti, how we’re making a difference.
But in this moment when we remember all who died sixth months ago, it is more fitting that we simply take a moment to remember them, mourn their loss, and recognize that Haiti’s people suffer so much not because of natural disasters or “acts of God,” but because of an unjust economic world order that allows a people so exploited for centuries to continue suffering the consequences of exploitation and neglect.
Mourning and contrition and a re-commitment to working for a different world are all fitting for this moment when we remember all those lost six months ago today in Haiti. Too many children have been orphaned. Too many are left vulnerable.