When a natural disaster strikes, the attention of the world becomes riveted on the affected area. Aid workers are dispatched, funds are raised, and heartfelt prayers are whispered for those at the front line.
However, here at Grace House Children's Project we know better than most that the path to recovery can be a long one. One-off offers of help are good, but soon enough, our attention wanders. And while people at ground zero continue to suffer, we start to get distracted by the newest release in theaters.
7 years after a devastating earthquake, Haiti is still struggling. What challenges is this nation still facing, and what can we do to help?
More than an earthquake
Even before 2010, Haiti was one of the poorest nations in the world, with over half of the population living below the poverty line. Years of dictatorial rule and unhelpful foreign intervention left Haiti with an unstable infrastructure. The devastating 2010 earthquake impacted about 80% of rural housing and killed hundreds of thousands of people. Soon after the earthquake, Haiti was hit by one of the worst modern cholera epidemics, infecting about 6% of the population. Devastating tropical storms hit in 2012 and 2016, all amplifying the strain on a tenuous political structure and crippled healthcare system. Violent protests and political unrest reignite after each disaster, as people experience food shortages and a resurgence of sickness and disease.
Although the situation looks grim, it’s inspiring to see the Haitian people doggedly rebuild after each wave of disaster. However, sometimes the wounds that take the longest to heal are internal. Due to the earthquake and following sickness, thousands of children were instantly orphaned. But even children with surviving parents are easily victimized by the widespread poverty. In order to provide funds for the remaining children, “orphans” are surrendered to local orphanages. While some of these orphanages are accredited and valid institutions, others are solely set up in order to attract philanthropic funding from abroad. Even worse, this lack of regulation provides the perfect conditions for rampant human trafficking.
In Haiti, much of human trafficking doesn’t occur in the way you might think. Rather, it operates around a system called “restavèk,” or live-with. When a family can’t afford to feed everyone, one child is sent out to another household with more money and resources, and incorporated into the home as a servant. These children all too often become prey to individuals who will take advantage. This trend is alarming, and especially troubling when we realize that this becomes a self-perpetuating pattern. Childhood trauma, untreated, can lead to more broken families, make it more difficult for children to thrive through education, and increase the risk of addictive behaviors and criminal activity.
Although the disasters that prompted the sympathy of the watching world seem long ago, it’s clear that the healing process is ongoing, just as so many personal trauma cases that we’ve seen. However, with hope, healing is always possible. Learn more about our International Mobile Trauma team and our work in Haiti here.