By Anonymous (not verified) on October 27, 2010

The cholera outbreak in Haiti need not have happened.

In just a few days, cholera has killed more than 250 Haitians, with more than 3,500 becoming ill. Cholera is caused by drinking dirty water or eating food cooked in contaminated water.

Since the January earthquake, medical authorities have cautioned about epidemics that could arise from corpses still trapped in rubble and from 2 million homeless people living in the streets in crowded camps. The downpours from the hurricane season, the authorities warned, could also spread diseases.

But they expected the diseases “in areas hit by the earthquake, and certainly not cholera,” said Alex Larsen, Haiti’s minister of health. Cholera has never before been found on the island, he said.

The surprise is that Haitians not directly affected by the earthquake, living outside of the capital in areas where there has always been a shortage of clean drinking water, are suddenly getting ill. Some aid agencies are suggesting that the Artibonite River is contaminated, making the people inhabiting the regions where the river crosses sick with cholera. But how did this river, situated north of the earthquake’s devastation in Port-au-Prince (the capital), become the source of the cholera disease?

“There is no evidence,” says Dr. Gabriel Timothee, a Haitian public health official, “that the Artibonite River is the source of the disease.”

Haitian President Rene Preval says the strain of Vibrio cholerae may actually have been imported. This would undercut the facile assumption that Haitians are the diseased ones, and that the international charity workers and U.N. soldiers are all healthy from countries with no cholera diseases.

In any event, the cholera outbreak shows the failure of the international relief effort.

The displaced people in the camps of Port-au-Prince have been complaining since two months after the earthquake that the Red Cross water they’ve been given to drink, for instance, gives them stomachaches.

Meanwhile, billions of dollars of donations that could have provided permanent clean drinking water is collecting interest for the numerous charity organizations making a business out of poverty and the earthquake in Haiti. And the U.S. government itself, which has allocated $1.15 billion in earthquake relief funds to Haiti, has not yet delivered for the most part.

Those with checkbook power in Washington are not in the business of saving lives unless it serves U.S. interests. Relying on international aid and nongovernmental organizations has not gotten the Haitian people anywhere. Haiti’s problems are rooted in aid that makes the people dependent on outside organizations that benefit from their suffering.

The “aid” business has not rebuilt the infrastructure in Haiti. It has not established a self-reliant system of permanent clean drinking water. It has not put Haitians in charge.

To do any of that would have made the presence of the aid organizations obsolete. But when Haitians die from a preventable outbreak of cholera, it makes the aid organizations seem important again.

Meanwhile, the suffering of Haitians deepens. The questions mount.

Ezili Danto is an award-winning playwright, performance poet and human rights attorney. She is the founder of the Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network. She can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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