Wall Street Journal
Down the street from the house where I have lived in Port-Au-Prince for a year and a half (which thankfully survived the earthquake unscathed, though most of my neighbors homes did not), is an IDP (internally displaced people) camp. As in camps all over the city, residents of this camp began to organize themselves immediately after the earthquake. A residents’ committee is securing food and relief supplies for the 400 people there, digging latrines and building temporary shelters. Food distributions to this camp and hundreds of others like it have been respectful of residents’ dignity. Decision-making is done through community-selected leaders.
Articles like Gina Chon’s “UN Faces Mobs at Food Aid Sites” not only do not reflect the greater reality of what is currently happening in Haiti, but stereotype victims of this mind-numbing tragedy as criminals. Food distributions that do not respect local and communal structures rob disaster victims of their dignity and incite the kind of sporadic violence that the media portrays as the norm.
It’s unfortunate that images of looting, fighting at food distributions and reports of violence make for sexier news than people helping each other survive. This kind of reporting insinuates that the situation in Haiti is somehow the fault of Haitians. On the contrary, Haiti has long been subjected to external interventions such as international trade policies, food dumping, military interventions and paternalistic charity that have perpetuated the nation’s structural poverty.
We have never seen such a staggering outpouring of solidarity as we have over the last two weeks.Our neighbors rescued each other, comfort each other and share with one another. Most of the Haitians that have been rescued from damaged buildings, received food aid and been given shelter have been helped by other Haitians. I would ask that in your coverage of this catastrophe, The Wall Street Journal tell these stories. Please do not cast Haitians as criminals. Instead represent them fairly and tell their stories with the dignity they deserve.
Alexis Erkert Depp
Mennonite Central Committee Haiti