Diaspora

Our neighbor to the south is not a nightmare that we can avoid | Opinion – NJ.com

Medical personnel attend patients with cholera symptoms at a clinic run by Doctors Without Borders in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Thursday, Oct. 27, 2022. For the first time in three years, people in Haiti have been dying of cholera, raising concerns about a potentially fast-spreading scenario and reviving memories of an epidemic that killed nearly 10,000 people a decade ago. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)AP
By Mike Maron and Harold Previl
The collapse of civil society in Haiti is a human tragedy that cannot be ignored. It seems that the everyday reality for Haitians cannot get worse, and then it does. In its more than 200 years of independence, there have not been enough good days in its history but now Haiti is on the verge of total collapse.
There is no functioning government. Instead of civic institutions, gangs rule and the agony faced by all Haitians is indescribable. Still, the nightmare worsens as cholera, which had been eradicated in the nation as recently as February of this year, has now reappeared.
As the head of the World Food Program in Haiti recently declared, “This is not a typical humanitarian crisis at all. It’s something much worse.”
We are seeing the suffering first-hand at our 200-bed facility, Hôpital Sacré Coeur in northern Haiti. Last year, we served over 60,000 patients and welcomed almost 2,000 newborns at our hospital. For more than 20 years, Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck has taken responsibility for keeping the hospital afloat and over 100 members of our staff have volunteered there. But keeping the hospital functioning is next to impossible.
Like so many other facilities, we are struggling to obtain diesel fuel to keep our hospital operating and at the same time are preparing a 100-bed MASH-like unit to care for the likely surge of cholera in the region.
Our courageous staff makes it possible to care for Haitians, but it is like fighting a tidal wave. If not for the intervention of New Jersey’s Sen. Bob Menendez, the chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, we likely wouldn’t have enough fuel to keep the power on.
Through the good graces of allies like the senator and our supporters we can care for our patients but as human beings Haitians should be entitled to so much more. In the short-term, self-governing is an unrealistic expectation. Corruption and violence are what have replaced civil society. The rampant gangs must be stopped.
That is why Sen. Menendez was joined by Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) in unveiling the Haiti Criminal Collusion Transparency Act of 2022, bipartisan and bicameral legislation to require the U.S. Department of State to investigate and provide Congress with annual reports regarding the nature of the relationship between criminal gangs and political and economic elites in Haiti.
In response to growing gang violence that has exacerbated Haiti’s ongoing security and humanitarian crises, the new legislation seeks to grant public access to the Department’s annual congressional reports and calls for robust sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act against criminal gangs in Haiti, as well as political and economic elites found to be colluding with the gangs.
This legislation is vital to force out the criminals bleeding the nation literally to death. But we need so much more. Haiti’s only natural resource is its people and those who are most talented will do whatever they can do to get out of the country.
Two of the best surgeons we had at Sacré Cour — one a general surgeon and the other an orthopedic surgeon gave up their careers to which they dedicated their lives to protect their families. Rather than saving lives, one now works in an Amazon warehouse and the other in a supermarket. That’s the tragic reality of Haiti today and we must work to stop this brain drain.
It means that wealthy North American nations — especially the United States and Canada, which has become the Haitian diaspora — must take the lead by helping to invest in the Haitian people by building the infrastructure of roads, power, and water then allowing them the ability to get to schools and healthcare — and then build the educational infrastructure as well. It will be an expensive and long-term investment, but it will certainly help the nation to end the cycle of horror that Haitians have been forced to endure.
We must not pretend that a nation so close to our shores is a nightmare that we can avoid. We have a responsibility to protect and care for our fellow human beings.
Mike Maron is the president and CEO of Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck.
Dr. Harold Previl is CEO of Hôpital Sacre Couer in Milot, Haiti.
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