Haiti Six Months On

Children in Haiti

This is a letter sent to the Governor General of Canada. It is inspired by Louise, a Canadian physiotherapist, who spent her holidays working with the people of Haiti. We await the response of Her Excellency Mme. Michaelle Jean, who was born in Haiti and emigrated to Canada.

Your Excellency,

The devastating earthquake which caused such havoc and damage to Haiti was a shock to the world. It would appear that the bigger the catastrophe the greater the reaction from humankind. The response from the Canadian public was most heartening, and I have every reason to believe, your Excellency, that your lineage played no small part in the positive response of persons right across Canada.

After six months it is difficult to understand that the situation in Haiti could still be causing so much suffering. I have read reports and analyzed data about the why’s, how’s and wherefores of the slowness of reconstruction of the country. However I believe that there might be extenuating circumstances that are allowing the extensive suffering to continue.

On the very day that the United Nations and other international bodies were giving their sixth month analysis of the Haiti situation, I received an email from a friend of mine who is a physiotherapist and who had just completed a stint in Haiti. Her report  contained observations that could be quite useful to the affected and international communities.

This was Louise Delieres sixth time putting her physiotherapy talents to humanitarian use. She unselfishly offers her expertise to the most needy of persons during her holiday time. Having been invited to Haiti by the Director-General of the Hospital in Porte-au-Prince she began her preparations. The following situations happened:

“Quand j’ai décidé d’aller à Haïti, j’ai fait de nombreuses demandes de subventions à plusieurs grandes orrganisations mondiales de la santé et à des ONG. Aucune réponse positive. J’ai même demandé à des compagnies aériennes de payer mon billet d’avion. Aucune réponse positive. J’ai demandé à ces mêmes compagnies aériennes de payer pour le surplus de poids au niveau des bagages puisque j’apportais beaucoup de matériel de physiothérapie que je laissais à Haïti. Aucune réponse positive”.

She therefore left for Haiti donating her holiday-time to the cause and paying for her own ticket and excess baggage. For her the nagging question was: where was all the money and resources that were donated to help the people of Haiti?

During the month of June Louise attended to 25 patients a day 7 days a week. She relates the conditions that her patients faced:

  1. Extreme heat.
  2. Being treated in tents.
  3. Limited or no water and electricity.
  4. Primitive humanitarian care.
  5. A large number of rats, even in the hospital.
  6. Women resorting to prostitution to feed their children.
  7. Not being able to travel the 5 minutes to go and buy groceries without an armed escort.
  8. Marauding gangs controlling the streets.

Your Excellency, the situation in Haiti is painfully unacceptable. When you have persons like Louise you need leadership and organizers to make sure the resources are made available to the most vulnerable. Your good office was instrumental in sensitizing the people of Canada to such a worthy cause. It is agonizing to see so many suffering so needlessly. Is there anything that can be done? I think yes.

  • Make available the resources donated by the people of Canada to Canadians who are willing to give of their professional time and energy in the alleviation of such horrific suffering.
  • Allow teams of professional Canadians to partner with Haitians in the reconstruction of their country.
  • Encourage French-speaking people from the Province of Quebec to come to the forefront in assisting with the reconstruction.
  • Facilitate the Canadian professionals, assisting in the reconstruction of Haiti, to employ suitable Haitian apprentices.

I conclude with another quote from Louise’s letter which puts so much into perspective:

Ma mission humanitaire à Haïti demeure pour moi une des plus enrichissantes sur le plan professionnel et humain malgré des conditions de travail et de vie pénible. Enfin, je qualifierais la situation à Haïti d’enfer…pavée de bonnes intentions mais…



Br. Denis Claivaz

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