COLUMBIA — Speaking in Haitian Creole, Reyneld Sanon said economic, housing and governmental problems existed long before the earthquake struck Haiti in January 2010.
"The problem of housing and extreme poverty in Haiti existed before the earthquake due to the social structure of the nation,” Sanon, leader of Force of Reflection and Action on Housing and a Haitian grass-roots activist, told an audience of more than 30 people at an MU-sponsored event at the Gaines-Oldham Black Cultural Center.
Sanon went on to describe the tent cities that now house multitudes of people displaced by the earthquake. The Haitian government has not taken responsibility for providing houses to the displaced population, Sanon said.
“The tents we are talking about are much different from those which you might go camping in,” Sanon said. Thin sheets of plastic, cloth and any other usable material are collected for tent making, he said.
“The natural catastrophe only made the final social cleavage between the few most powerful families of Haiti and the rest of the public,” Sanon said.
Jean-Germain Gros, associate professor of political science at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, went on to talk about the effect of the nongovernmental organizations on Haiti.
As the organizations receive more money from international groups to help post-earthquake Haiti, they begin to perform the duties and services that the state of Haiti should perform, he said.
The nongovernmental organizations have rendered the government useless, Gros said.
“People are afraid of failure, so they give the money to (nongovernmental organizations), and the state is never given a chance to rebuild and gain power,” Gros said.
He said much of the money is not used efficiently.
“Haiti has received over $2.6 billion in international aid, but no one knows what it has gone toward,” he said. “The lack of a sustainable economy leads to an unsustainable state.”