“Sak vid pa kanp. / An empty sack can't stand up.” -Haitian proverb
It’s hard to imagine that just a short plane trip from US shores is a place unlike any in the world—a place where the daily search for human survival is a constant way of life.
Haiti is usually defined by its deficiencies—crushing poverty; lack of access to quality food, clean water, and basic health care; high unemployment; high employment; and solid infrastructure. By every statistical measure, Haiti is suffering. It ranks as the poorest country in the Americas. More than 80% of the population lives in extreme poverty with the average family earning less than two dollars a day. Over two-thirds of the labor force does not have formal jobs.
Children suffer the most. Haiti has the highest infant mortality rate in the Western Hemisphere with 59 out of 1,000 never reach their first birthday. Due to the lack of adequate nutrition, 22% are moderately to severely stunted in their physical growth. Approximately 300,000 children endure the afflictions of child slavery.
According to Michael VanHook, Executive Director of the International Strategic Alliances, “The daily mission of the average Haitian child is to find food, clean water, clothing, and to live another day. Today, some will be successful, and some will not.”
In recent years, several massive catastrophes have ravaged this tiny island nation. The 2010 earthquake claimed approximately 250,000 lives and has displaced over a million people while destroying the center of government. Devastating hurricanes in 2008 and 2017 destroyed homes and food sources. Presently, a cholera epidemic is raging throughout the countryside.
Former international diplomat Robert Rotberg has stated, “Haiti is the hardest country in the world to help.” Historically, it has been disdained and ostracized by its neighbors and the international community. In isolation its people have never known a period of civil justice and economic prosperity.
But our friends in Haiti also have hope and dreams.
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