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Re: “In Post-Earthquake Haiti, a Forgotten Island Is Left to Recover On Its Own

While I agreed in general with Mr. Kushner's article about the neglect by the government in Port au Prince (and the rest of the world) which is, at best misfeasance but truthfully malfeasance on the part of the government.

The citizens of Gonav, with almost no resources, has done a tremendous job of surviving. I take exception, however, about the report about the Cholera epidemic. the claim that Gonav is " remote that the epidemic of cholera that has spread to nearly every corner of Haiti barely touched the island." is simply not true. cholera did come to the island with the many thousands of refugees fleeing Port au Prince and other urban areas of the mainland. The reason that the epidemic didn't spiral out of control on Gonav is because the local citizens acted quickly and proactively to prevent its spread. Mandatory disinfection stations were established in Anse-a-Galet and other ports on the island. People and food supplies and anything else entering was inspected and, if necessary, treated or destroyed.

The island has been neglected by the government since the middle of the 19th century when the first Haitians (primarily fishermen and later farmers) began coming to the island. Later the island was used as a dumping ground for criminals and other "unwanted" people from the Haitian mainland.

While the island of La Gonav was claimed by the Empire of Haiti in the first decade of the 19th century, its inhabitants were exclusively the remnants of the once great Caribbean Taino tribe.

The establishment of permanent settlements by Haitians on the island led to a system of local governance that had its roots in Africa. As late as the period right after WWI we have reports of the people of Gonave being a self governing state without any official ties to the government in Port au Prince. To a great extent that is still true today.

La Gonav, once called "the pearl of the Antilles" has been almost completely denuded of its once lush forests. Those forests were completely destroyed to provide charcoal for the Haitian mainland. Today the island faces desertification since the denuded soil is unable to capture the rain which runs from the mountainous plateaus into the sea carrying soil along with it which, in turn, is choking the magnificent coral reefs that fringe the island.

After more than 200 years of neglect and abuse the island has no infrastructure. The 120,000 people of the island have no paved roads and few usable dirt roads, no transportation, water treatment plants, sewage systems, telephone lines, electric grid and there isn't even a postal system on the island. Added to this, the functional literacy rate is about 40%, unemployment and/or underemployment is over 80% there is one small hospital operated by a missionary group and it is understaffed and the equipment it has is antiquated.

Today, the people of Gonav, led by Mouvman Sendika Pou La Gonav, is seeking independence from Haiti. With the help of the developed world, Gonav could once again be a tropical paradise and could become a tourist destination equal to or better than any other in the Caribbean.

4 likes, 1 dislike
Posted by Frhartline on 02/02/2014 at 4:07 PM

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