Dr. Claire-Marie Cyprien Is Making a difference in Haiti


Haitian Diaspora Sees an Opening

Source: The Wall Street Journal


PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti—Five days after the earthquake devastated the Haitian capital, Claire-Marie Cyprien stepped into a terrifying scene at the General Hospital.

Young children and old men lay on thin, filthy mattresses. Some screamed, others were silent. The hospital’s Haitian staff was barely in evidence. Volunteers from France and the U.S. rushed from patient to patient.

The Haiti Comeback

Julie Platner for The Wall Street JournalDr. Claire-Marie Cyprien returned to Haiti to help treat earthquake victims.

One emaciated man, eyes closed, writhed on the blood- and feces-streaked floor wearing nothing but a thin towel at his waist. A team of French doctors attended to a toddler whose left leg had been amputated above the knee.

Swamped by the tide of suffering, Dr. Cyprien walked up to a French doctor and told him there should be more surgeries, faster. He bristled at the woman suddenly giving him orders. “Are you from here?” he asked.

“I’m from the United States,” said Dr. Cyprien, a 43-year-old anesthesiologist who three days earlier had dropped her practice in Orlando, Fla., to rush to Haiti, the land of her birth. “And I’m a doctor.”

The U.S. is readying for a mass of refugees fleeing the disaster. But a small, well-educated and determined group of Haitians including Dr. Cyprien is heading the other way, into the country from abroad.

Both Haitians and members of the international community say diaspora Haitians represent a reservoir of talent and money that could be put to work in the country’s reconstruction. The Organization of American States said it is organizing a meeting, likely for early March, to bring together Haitian diaspora groups in the U.S., Canada, France and the Dominican Republic to help Haiti.

For generations, Haiti’s chaos, corruption and poverty pushed out many of its most talented people. Haiti has a population of about nine million, but as many as two million more Haitians live abroad, about half a million of them in the U.S. The diaspora—Haitians refer to the émigrés as Haiti’s “Tenth Province”—sends about $2 billion a year home, a sum equal to about 30% of the country’s gross domestic product.

Despite the money, émigrés have often been regarded warily by those who stayed behind. Emigration may offer a way to climb up or break out of Haiti’s rigid class structure. But new wealth inspires jealousy, while distance from the motherland opens émigrés to accusations that they aren’t as “authentic” as those who never left.

Émigrés are sometimes considered “arrogant, insensitive, overbearing and pretentious people,” writes Edwidge Danticat, a Haitian-American author. And many suspect their political ambitions. The 1987 constitution strips Haitians who take citizenship elsewhere of their Haitian citizenship, preventing them from running for office or voting.

“We diaspora, not too many people like us,” says Hilda Alcindor, a nurse who left Haiti for America and stayed 30 years before returning. “But we are needed.”

Officials here say that if Haiti is going to rebuild, the efforts of people like Dr. Cyprien will be crucial.

“The diaspora will play a key role rebuilding Haiti,” says Gérard Brun, who heads the country’s largest construction company and has been tapped by President René Préval to help plan the Port-au-Prince rebuilding effort.

For now, the exodus of talent stands to continue. Aside from the general destruction, Port-au-Prince’s devastated schools have little prospect of opening soon, and many in Haiti’s tiny middle class are likely to send their children abroad to study. That makes luring diaspora Haitians even more important, says Mr. Brun, who advocates a constitutional amendment to let them vote and run for office.

Even before January’s earthquake, economists who have been studying how to fix the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country have agreed the diaspora is one of Haiti’s most important assets. Émigrés “provide Haiti with a massive flow of remittances, a reservoir of skills and a powerful political lobby,” wrote Oxford University economist Paul Collier in a report to the United Nations secretary-general last year.

Dr. Cyprien sees the relationship to her former country in stark terms. “Haiti is a country that has been depleted of natural resources and whose human resources are outside the country,” she says.

Energetic and commanding, Dr. Cyprien was nevertheless momentarily stymied by the chaos around her that Sunday at the hospital. She couldn’t find a surgeon to work with. One of the two makeshift operating tables was occupied by a large man with a festering leg wound who hadn’t been prepped for surgery. “That leg smells like a dead body,” she confided, as she rushed out to find the man’s family so they could move him off the table and free it up for operations.

Worse was to come. Later in the afternoon, another patient appeared: Dr. Cyprien’s older sister, Marie Lourdes Borno, 56. Ms. Borno had escaped the Ministry of Education as the building collapsed around her, but both her hands had been badly injured. Days later, they developed gangrene. There was nothing to do but to amputate. Dr. Cyprien applied the anesthesia in the makeshift ward as her sister’s hands were cut off.

The evening of the operation, Dr. Cyprien’s usual energy had left her. “It was necessary and I did it,” she said.

That same day, 20 miles from the bedlam of the General Hospital in the outlying city of Léogâne, Ms. Alcindor, the nurse, was getting down to work. Elementary schools were crushed, hospitals flattened. In three days, more than 1,000 people had been buried in mass graves. Local police estimated there were another 10,000 dead buried among the ruins.

Ms. Alcindor had come to Léogâne from Miami in 2005 to become dean of the city’s U.S.-funded nursing college. Until international aid arrived five days after the quake in the form of two volunteer doctors, Ms. Alcindor and her battalion of nurses and nursing students had provided practically the only medical care.

The students’ performance, Ms. Alcindor said, vindicated a promise to return to Haiti she had made to her father years earlier. “There was a calling, coming back,” she said. “To give whatever I have left.”

Ms. Alcindor said she is in debt to the U.S., where she was educated and brought up her daughters. She had made a comfortable living working as an emergency-room nurse in Miami’s Mount Sinai Hospital, among others.

“I am here because of the knowledge I gained in the United States,” she said, standing amid a makeshift tent city in front of the nursing school.

But she also owed something to Haiti. “This is what I am saying to Haitian-Americans: They need to get organized and come back. This is their country,” she said. “The reconstruction of this country needs the skills of Haitian-Americans, Haitian-Canadians, Haitian-French. We need to redo the whole thing.”

Now back in Orlando, where she has taken her sister, Dr. Cyprien said she plans to return to Haiti as many times as she can to help out, especially as international interest inevitably wanes.

The daughter of a justice of the peace, Dr. Cyprien left Haiti for the U.S. as a teenager—the best decision her parents ever made, she said. She attended community college, worked her way through medical school and established a practice in Florida.

Although she owns several properties in the U.S., Dr. Cyprien still dreams about building her retirement home on a plot of land she has bought in Jacmel, an old coffee port and artists’ retreat that, with iron-grille houses imported from France in the 19th century, used to look like a bit of Paris misplaced on the Caribbean. All that is gone.

“I want Haiti to stabilize so I can build on it,” she says.


Colin Dayan says the best aid for the earthquake-ravaged nation is to empower its people

Source: Vanderbilt View: http://sitemason.vanderbilt.edu/vanderbiltview/articles/2010/02/01/real-help-for-haiti.105840

Colin Dayan says the best aid for the earthquake-ravaged nation is to empower its people

by Jim Patterson

An earthquake kills more than 150,000 people in Haiti. President Obama promises to help and the military mobilizes. There’s a televised concert to raise money, and people can text $10 donations though their cell phones.

The wheels are in motion. Aid is on the way. Cleanup will begin soon. We’ve done what we can for those poor people. On to the next story.

But wait – with the help of Vanderbilt’s Colin Dayan, let’s take a closer look. Why did this happen, and how should we react? Dayan says the destruction wrought by the 7.0 earthquake that struck on Jan. 12 was, in part, “man-made.”

Consider this: Until the 1980s, the population of Port-au-Prince was much lower than the 2 million who were affected by the earthquake. Before that, many Haitians lived in the countryside as farmers of rice and pigs.

“In the 1980s, there was a big move, mostly by the United States Agency for International Development, to get Haitians out of the countryside and into the cities for multinational assembly industries,” said Dayan, author of Haiti, History and the Gods. “The promise was to put Haitians to work in industry. Some called it the Taiwanization of Haiti.”

To push along the move, rice was imported from Miami at prices Haitian farmers couldn’t match. A swine flu scare led to the killing of all the pigs in the country, which were replaced by less hardy pigs from Iowa – called “cochons blancs” by Haitians – that were only given to peasants who converted to Christianity. Because they couldn’t survive in the countryside, the new pigs had to be housed at the Christian missions. Haitians actually traveled to visit their pigs.

As a result, Haitians moved en masse to the cities from the countryside. Instead of growing their own food on plots of land given to their families following independence in 1804, many Haitians were working and living in the cities and more vulnerable when the earthquake struck.

“Haitians don’t need our compassion, which too often translates into ‘taking care of people who can’t take care of themselves,’” said Dayan, the Robert Penn Warren Professor of the Humanities and professor of English.

What Haitians yearn for is to be respected for the proud and resilient people they’ve proven themselves to be, Dayan said. They could help themselves if business interests and the Haitian elite would stop looking to poor Haitians as a cheap labor force, and if unfair debt dating back 200 years were wiped out.

“You get this representation of Haiti as utterly helpless and retrograde every time there’s a crisis there,” Dayan said. “You’ve got reporters saying, ‘We’ve got to change the culture. We’ve got to be tough on them. We’ve got to impose middle class values of achievement, and we’ve got to get rid of the cultural backwardness in that country – voodoo.’”

Long before the earthquake, Haiti was repeatedly a victim of Western exploitation, including a brutal occupation from 1915 to 1934 by the United States, Dayan said.

“Citibank pushed for that invasion,” she said. “It was a disaster. There was some progress in terms of building roads, but that was accomplished by using Haitians doing forced labor.”

Additionally, the Haitian Constitution was rewritten during the U.S. occupation. One change eliminated a provision that prevented foreign whites from being proprietors in Haiti.

“After that, foreign proprietors were everywhere in Haiti,” Dayan said.

Much media commentary continues to contribute to the perception of Haiti as a backward nation in need of Western reform. A television evangelist declared that the earthquake was the fruit of a deal with the devil by the people of Haiti. More shocking to Dayan, a New York Times columnist advised that sweat shops are needed to build the country’s economy.

“It seems like people think that the only way to help is to re-enslave Haitians as a captive labor force,” Dayan said.

As the first black republic in the New World and the second independent nation in the Western hemisphere, Haiti is still a beacon to many developing nations. Cuba and Venezuela were the first to send aid after the earthquake.

“Haiti was once considered Paris in the Caribbean,” said Jane G. Landers, associate professor of history and author of Atlantic Creoles in the Age of Revolutions. “There were huge cathedrals, libraries and artwork. The French made it the most profitable colony, based on sugar, which depended on slave labor.”

Landers said the successful Haitian slave revolt from 1791 to 1803 led to fear that the urge for freedom would spread.

“The papers were so fearful that they equated freedom for slaves as a plague or disease,” said Landers, who grew up in the Dominican Republic. Those attitudes continue to this day, she said, with press accounts of Haiti focusing on “poverty and tires burning around people’s necks.”

Haiti paid a huge price for its independence from France: 150 million francs to compensate the French for lost property – slaves. The country has been saddled by debt ever since. Debt forgiveness could make a massive difference, Dayan said.

The impulse to provide aid after a natural disaster is heartening, but it would help if as much of it as possible were provided through Haitian organizations instead of the U.S. military.

“I think the really important thing is to look at how we may be able to help Haitian organizations, which exist and are very important,” Dayan said. “They have tremendous expertise, and they’re already on the ground helping.”

In the longer term, Dayan hopes that calls for sweat shops and other uses of Haitians for cheap labor will fail. Haitians could industrialize or not at their own pace, hopefully with local ownership. And the voodoo traditions that are so feared and maligned by Westerners and the media should continue to be a source of hope and strength to many Haitians. Stigmatizing voodoo as a backward “zombie religion” is incorrect and harmful, Dayan said.

“To this day, many of the strongest Haitian communities are those that practice voodoo,” Dayan said.

“Voodoo is a fascinating religious practice,” she said. “It’s a way of reinterpreting history, a thinking-through of the history of Haiti that springs from the people rather than from enslavers or occupiers like the French or the Americans. The only thing that can destroy voodoo is Protestantism, because if you don’t have rum and you can’t dance, the gods are not going to come.”

Numbers tell stories of horror, heroism in Haiti

Numbers tell stories of horror, heroism in Haiti


View Image

Port-au-Prince, Haiti (CNN) — Two weeks after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake devastated Haiti, the numbers have mounted. The numbers tell stories of death and destruction, as well as a global outpouring of aid.

CNN has compiled the latest, most reliable figures available as the devastation continues to unfold:


150,000: Latest estimate of the death toll, from the Haitian Health Ministry. The European Union and the Pan American Health Organization, which are coordinating the health-sector response, have estimated the quake killed 200,000 people.
194,000: Number of injured
134: Estimated number of people rescued by international search teams since the quake


9 million: Population of Haiti
3 million: Estimated number of people affected by the quake
1 million: Estimated number of displaced people
800,000 to 1 million: People who need temporary shelter
235,000: People who have left Port-au-Prince using free transportation provided by the government. The number who left by private means is undetermined.
At least 50: Aftershocks of magnitude 4.5 or higher that have hit Haiti since the January 12 quake

Full coverage


300,000: Children younger than 2 who need nutritional support
90: Percentage of schools in Port-au-Prince that have been destroyed
263: Haitian orphans who have been evacuated


$1.12 billion: International aid pledges
$783 million: Funds received as of Tuesday
$317 million: U.S. assistance as of Monday

iReport: Haiti’s missing and found | Are you there?


17,000: U.S. military personnel in and around Haiti
8 million: Meals the World Food Programme has delivered to nearly 400,000 people
300: Aid distribution sites that are up and running
130 to 150: Flights arriving every day at the single-runway Port-au-Prince airport with aid


12,000: U.N. workers in the country at the time of the quake
53: U.N. workers still missing
At least 82: U.N. workers dead
27: U.N. workers injured or hospitalized
11,500: Americans and family members who have been evacuated
4,800: Americans unaccounted for

Find aid locations

Sources: Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the Red Cross, the United Nations, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.S. State Department and the World Food Programme

Tout bouge autour de moi

Tout bouge autour de moi , By Dany Laferrière (http://bibliobs.nouvelobs.com)

Created 21/01/2010 – 10:16

Le grand écrivain haïtien, prix Médicis 2009 pour « l’Enigme du retour » [1], était à Port-au-Prince pour le Festival Etonnants Voyageurs quand la terre a tremblé. Il raconte


1.      La minute

Tout cela a duré à peine une minute, mais on avait huit à dix secondes pour prendre une décision. Quitter l’endroit où l’on se trouvait ou rester. Très rares sont ceux qui avaient fait un bon départ. Même les plus vifs ont perdu trois ou quatre précieuses secondes avant de comprendre ce qui se passait. Haïti a l’habitude des coups d’État et des cyclones, mais pas des tremblements de terre. Le cyclone est bien annoncé. Un coup d’État arrive précédé d’un nuage de rumeurs. J’étais dans le restaurant de l’hôtel avec des amis (l’éditeur Rodney Saint-Eloi et le critique Thomas Spear). Thomas Spear a perdu trois secondes parce qu’il voulait terminer sa bière. On ne réagit pas tous de la même manière. De toute façon personne ne peut prévoir où la mort l’attend. On s’est tous les trois retrouvés, à plat ventre, au centre de la cour. Sous les arbres.

2.      Le carnet noir

En voyage, je garde sur moi toujours deux choses : mon passeport (dans une pochette accrochée à mon cou) et un calepin noir où je note généralement tout ce qui traverse mon champ de vision ou qui me passe par l’esprit. Pendant que j’étais par terre, je pensais aux films de catastrophe, me demandant si la terre allait s’ouvrir et nous engloutir tous.  C’était la terreur de mon enfance.

3.          Le silence

Je m’attendais à entendre des cris, des hurlements. Rien. Un silence assourdissant. On dit en Haïti que tant qu’on n’a pas hurlé, il n’y a pas de mort. Quelqu’un a crié que ce n’était pas prudent de rester sous les arbres. On s’est alors réfugié sur le terrain de tennis de l’hôtel. En fait, c’était faux, car pas une fleur n’a bougé malgré les 43 secousses sismiques. J’entends encore ce silence.

4.      Les projectiles

Même à 7.3 sur l’échelle de Richter, ce n’est pas si terrible. On peut encore courir. C’est le béton qui a tué. Les gens ont fait une orgie de béton ces 50 dernières années. De petites forteresses. Les maisons en bois et en tôle, plus souples ont résisté. Dans les chambres d’hôtel souvent exigües, l’ennemi, c’était le téléviseur. On se met toujours en face de lui. Il a foncé droit sur nous. Beaucoup de gens l’ont reçu à la tête.

5.       La nuit

La plupart des gens de Port-au-Prince ont dormi cette nuit-là à la belle étoile. Je crois que c’est la première fois que c’est arrivé. Le dernier tremblement de terre d’une telle ampleur remonte à près de 200 ans. Les nuits précédentes étaient assez froides. Celle-là, chaude et étoilée. Comme on était couché par terre, on a pu sentir chaque tressaillement du sol au plus profond de soi. On faisait corps avec la terre. Je pissais dans les bois quand mes jambes se sont mises à trembler. J’ai eu l’impression que c’était la terre qui tremblait.

6.      Le temps

Je ne savais pas que soixante secondes pouvaient durer aussi longtemps. Et qu’une nuit pouvait n’avoir plus de fin. Plus de radio, les antennes étant cassées. Plus de télé. Plus d’Internet. Plus de téléphone portable. Le temps n’est plus un objet qui sert à communiquer. On avait l’impression que le vrai temps s’était glissé dans les soixante secondes qu’ont duré les premières violentes secousses.

7.      La prière

Subitement un homme s’est mis debout et a voulu nous rappeler que ce tremblement de terre était la conséquence de notre conduite inqualifiable. Sa voix enflait dans la nuit. On l’a fait taire car il réveillait les enfants qui venaient juste de s’endormir. Une dame lui a demandé de prier dans son cœur. Il est parti après s’être défendu longuement. Son argument c’est qu’on ne peut demander pardon à Dieu à voix basse. Des jeunes filles ont entamé un chant religieux si doux que certains adultes se sont endormis. Deux heures plus tard, on a entendu une clameur. Des centaines de personnes priaient et chantaient dans les rues. C’était pour eux la fin du monde que Jéhovah annonçait. Une petite fille, près de moi, a voulu savoir s’il y avait classe demain. Un vent d’enfance a soufflé sur nous tous.

8.      L’horreur

Une dame qui habite dans un appartement dans la cour de l’hôtel a passé la nuit à parler à sa famille encore piégée sous une tonne de béton. Assez vite, le père n’a plus répondu. Ensuite l’un des trois enfants. Plus tard, un autre. Elle n’arrêtait pas de les supplier de tenir encore un peu. Plus de douze heures après, on a pu sortir le bébé qui n’avait pas cessé de pleurer. Une fois dehors, il s’est mis à sourire comme si rien ne s’était passé.

9.      Les animaux

Les chiens et les coqs nous ont accompagnés durant toute la nuit. Le coq de Port-au-Prince chante n’importe quand. Ce que je déteste généralement. Cette nuit-là j’attendais sa gueulante.

10.  La révolution

Le palais national cassé. Le bureau des taxes et contributions détruit. Le palais de justice détruit. Les magasins par terre. Le système de communication détruit. La cathédrale détruite. Les prisonniers dehors. Pendant une nuit ce fut la révolution.

D. L.


“Are You Listening” with Kirk Franklin & Friends

Mapping the Haiti tragedy

Rescues, recovery and relief efforts: Mapping the Haiti tragedy

Haiti map shows damage, relief details