5 Misconceptions About Haiti
As a country that suffered greatly after the 2010 earthquake and subsequent cholera outbreak, Haiti is often mischaracterized as a hopeless and helpless nation. However, the country is slowly starting to improve due to the hard work of its people and the help of thoughtful organizations like Mijaba Bainet. Below are some common misconceptions and facts about Haiti.
Misconception: It’s too dangerous to visit
Fact: While visiting Haiti requires careful preparation, it’s not impossible to travel and help. Planning food and water for your stay will help with preventing contamination and using scarce resources. Also, working with a local group to arrange housing and transportation is essential for safety. In general, the precautions for food and safety are similar to any humanitarian aid mission. Listening to the local contacts is key to a safe and healthy trip.
Misconception: Poverty is linked to laziness
Fact: While Haiti’s unemployment and underemployment is high (reported 40-50%), that doesn’t mean people aren’t working. In fact, the people keep very busy gathering water, caring for their gardens, and traveling on foot. Even those who do work make an average of $1 per day. The country’s struggling infrastructure has led to a lack of formal jobs. This is something that both the government and non-profit organizations are working to change by creating opportunities for work and education.
Misconception: Vodou is the dominant religion
Fact: While elements of Vodou are often added to other religions, it is not the main religion. Only 2.1% declare Vodou as their primary religion. Also, about half of those declaring other religions add some Vodou practices. However, after the earthquake in 2010, the practice gained more negative attention as Vodou priests were blamed for the subsequent cholera outbreak. Strong spiritual leaders, like those working with Dr. Jeff at Mijaba Bainet, are working with locals to understand the truth of the Gospel and turn to the Bible for hope.
Misconception: Haiti’s ecosystem can’t be fixed
Fact: Haiti’s ecosystem is struggling and the reports remain grim. According to CNN, 3% of Haiti’s original forests remain. Additionally, Haitians have been criticised for cutting down trees to make and sell charcoal. However, organizations like Mijaba Bainet are educating residents on the value of trees and their role in the ecosystem. In fact, Dr. Jeff is actively teaching children how to plant and care for trees. This program both helps replenish the trees and shapes youth’s attitudes about the environment.
Misconception: Helping Haiti is impossible
Although there are still needs, the conditions in Haiti are slowly improving. This includes employment, disaster response, government, and disease control. For example, employment and education are both improving as both the government and aid workers focus on these important issues. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) explains that the amount of people living on $1 a day is slowly starting to decline. After the earthquake, 240,000 part-time jobs were created as citizens rebuilt their neighborhoods. Leaders like Dr. Jeff know the importance of both education and employment and make this a key part of strengthening local communities.
As another example, the CDC reports several improvements related to health and disease control since the 2010 earthquake. The UNDP reports several encouraging changes. First, there is a focus on a green and protected Haiti. In 2014, 5.5 million seedlings were planted, 50,000 Haitians were sensitised to climate change, and 150 environmental surveillance agents were trained. In the same way, organizations like Mijaba Bainet teach locals to care for the land and replace harvested trees.
To summarize, there is hope for Haiti — especially when myth is separated from fact. Visionaries like Dr. Jeff and his team at Mijaba Bainet are working in their neighborhoods to both change attitudes and create opportunities.