I did not take Dr. Bernat's class on Haiti, but when I did a presentation on the country, he was more than willing to sit down with me to go over details. By now, you have all heard Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemesphere, and when you learn about the recent political history of the country, it's not hard to understand why.
In December of 1990, Jean Bertrand Aristide won 67% of the vote in a Presidential election for the country of Haiti. President Aristide was looked at as a symbolic figure who would be able to bring economic stability and development to the country. However, in September of 1991, a coup was staged to overthrow Aristide. The act was led by the economic elite of the country, a long with elements of Haiti’s army.
From 1991-1994 an interim government was formed. It was not until the United Nations passed Resolution 940 where members were supposed to use all necessary force to oust the interim government. The United States took the lead in this initiative, and in mid-September of 1994 U.S. troops prepared to enter Haiti. In June of 1995 local and parliamentary elections took place with a pro-Aristide contingent winning. President Aristide then took the Presidential office back in September of 1995. After that though, there were many problems with the legitimacy of future elections. In 1996 Rene Preval won the Presidential election with 51.15% of the vote that was looked at by many of the international community to be illegitimate.
Without full legitimacy, it has been hard for the international community to come together to work with the country, and harder for the President Preval to bring the country together in order to help it. And remember, this was all before the earthquake.
People were already living in unsanitary conditions. There was barely any running water, and the only way to get any was through a public filtration system. There was also no sanitation department to pick up the trash so people left it on the streets and walked around it.
There had also been law enforcement issues making the country a dangerous place to live. After the international community went into Haiti, the military was disbanded, but its members still kept their weapons. This left thousands of guns on the streets with no counter force to help keep the peace. This is a picture of Haiti's former military personel on the streets of Port au-Prince:
In 2008, the Caribbean was hit by three storms, Haiti getting the worst of it. This is how the country looked after that:
This country needed help way before the major earthquake that destroyed the little people had in the country. If any good can come out of this, its that there might be a sustained effort to build stability and economic growth to a place that has needed it for a long time.
The American Red Cross has had members going to Haiti for a long time now. They and other organizations will be conducting much of the heavy lifting that is now necessary more then ever. That link will lead you straight to a place where you can donate what you can. Large amount of funds will be necessary to carry the effort out now, and into the future.