marlienebastien_fc.jpgIf I were superstitious, I would think the Caribbean was the victim of a curse!  Four hurricanes: Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike mercilessly slammed the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, Turks and Caicos and Cuba.

The storms struck with a vengeance rarely seen, leaving a trail of death, destruction and agony. To be expected, countries with sound infrastructures suffered limited damages.

But those countries with frail infrastructures like Haiti are still recovering from Tropical Storm Noel, which destroyed 20,000 homes and killed more than 70 (some people think the number is higher). They are also still recovering from Tropical Storm Jeanne, which left close to 3,000 homeless and killed almost 3,000 in 2004.

Haiti is practically in ruins. Of all four hurricanes, Ike was meaner, colder, with no regard for nature or its people. Haiti’s vulnerable landscape and soil degradation made it no match for Ike. The entire country is under water and mud. Four major bridges have collapsed. Crops are completely wiped out.

For a country that only recently witnessed food riots strong enough to topple a popular prime minister, this is a kiss of death. One million people are homeless, hundreds if not thousands are feared dead.  Thousands more are still unaccounted for.  Everywhere you turn, a family is grieving a loved one, a mother is rocking her dead baby, a father questions his worth after failing to protect his loved ones.

He questions God. He is angry one minute, shouting incomprehensible questions that remain un-answered, sobbing and pleading for mercy the next. He is triste, Creole for sad.

Women and children fared worse. Pictures of little girls and boys piled up to be buried abound the Internet.  Memories of their little bodies carried away by strong currents, their cries stifled, strangled as water and mud invaded their young lungs, will scar our souls forever!

Bondye Pa Janm Bay Penn San Sekou!
That’s Creole for, “God Never Gives More Than We Can Endure!’’

It is hard. But we have to believe! Despite this Caribbean Tsunami, aid to the region has been very timid.  The U.S. sent a military hospital boat and a few helicopters, and promised $10 million in financial aid.

Cuban-Americans are pulling together to pick up donations for Cuba, but they can’t travel there to see their loved ones, not even their dying parents, all in the name of politics.

I have not heard much about Turks and Caicos. While the Caribbean is reeling from four monster storms that left millions stranded, the world of nations remains silent.  We seem to care more about what happens 100,000 miles away than what is going on at our doorsteps.  We can and should do better!

Turks and Caicos needs help to rebuild all the homes and crops that were destroyed.  The country needs help to rebuild its damaged infrastructure.  The U.S. must lead the way.  It must  lift the family ban on Cuba so that Cuban-Americans here can travel and assist those who lost so much on the island, especially at this time of deep crisis and upheaval.

Haiti is worse off than all its counterparts because of its weak infrastructure, environmental degradation and abuse of the land.  It needs more helicopters to assist in the rescue efforts, portable bridges to restore access to millions who are still stranded and sleeping on trees. It needs assistance to build roads, bridges and replant crops to prevent the worst famine in its history.

Haitians leaders need to stop politicking: Step to the plate to devise a plan now to ameliorate the environment and plant trees.

Most importantly, the U.S. must stop all deportations to Haiti and give TPS (temporary protected status) to Haitians who have lived here for an average of 10 years!

Haitians send $1.17 billion in remittances to the island every year.  Americans must use all the energy that they can muster to collect goods.

Send a letter or make a phone call to President Bush.  Ask him to stop all deportations to Haiti. I’m grateful for the goods.  I’m more concerned, however, about
Haitians attempting to leave by boat to come to the U.S. Their only source of support has been destroyed:  remittances.

We can’t afford any more loss of life in rickety boats!  One life lost is one too many.  The world of nations must make a commitment to help these Caribbean nations rebuild.

Le ou Bay, Ou Resevwa!  That’s Creole for “To whom much is given, much is expected.’’

When you give, you receive.  As the most powerful country in the world, it is our duty to take care of our own. Our brothers and sisters in Texas need our help at this time. 

We must open our hearts to help others in need.  Congresswoman Maxine Waters is asking for $300 million in aid for Haiti.  U.S. Reps. Alcee Hastings and 
Kendrick Meek have sent strong letters to President Bush, asking him to be compassionate. They are outraged by the continued deportations. They’ve asked
President Bush to open his heart and award TPS. He has nothing to lose at this point.

Do your part. Call President Bush today, tell him that it is the only decent and humane thing to do!

Marleine Bastien is the founder and executive director of Fanm Ayisyen Nan Miyami (FANM), or Haitian Women of Miami, Inc.