Haiti can overcome the problems it is facing if its people and leadership do not despair and focus on ways of tackling the challenges they face.
The observation was made by President Paul Kagame, while featuring on CNN’s “Piers Morgan Tonight” show, Wednesday, to speak about the prospects of the Caribbean island, recovering from last year’s devastating earthquake.
Also appearing on the show was the President of Haiti, Michel Martelly, Dr. Paul Farmer, US Special envoy to Haiti and renowned fashion designer, Donna Karan.
President Kagame emphasised that Haiti needs to possess the kind of resilience Rwanda had in order to overcome the devastating effects of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
“The first advice I would give the people and the leadership of Haiti is not to despair and feel that they cannot overcome the kinds of problems they are facing, however, insurmountable they may seem,” Kagame said.
“If the leadership and the people pool together to mobilise resources, then Haiti can pull through like Rwanda has done in the last 17 years. Globally, the political will to help is there, if they can get organised and target the kind of assistance in specific areas and priorities”.
The Head of State added that the direct assistance Haiti received from the United Nations and several countries was very helpful at the beginning - during the emergency situation - but the most important thing the country needs today is to have national ownership of the recovery process.
Kagame added that without coordination, the help Haiti is receiving will not be of great use and would not result in any tangible outcomes.
Haitian President Martelly, said that despite the massive support received after the disaster struck, there is little to show for it.
“After the earthquake, the world moved in and a lot of money spent, but unfortunately, when you look back, you can barely see what has been done with the money,” Martelly said.
The Haitian leader added that a lot of funds meant for relief had been lost through corruption and some people used the earthquake as an opportunity to make money.
President Martelly said that Haiti is closely following the Rwandan model to rebuild and will use some of the approaches Rwanda used such as marketing its coffee to propel its way back on the development path.
Dr. Paul Farmer who authored the newly launched book “Haiti After the Earthquake,” said that the country is now at a stage where it needs fully fledged support to reconstruct.
“What the people of Haiti need is not just relief but reconstruction, and the imperatives are getting kids back in school, building infrastructure and coordinating the goodwill that is turning to Haiti,” he said.
Dr. Farmer backed the two Presidents’ idea to have a coordinated way to distribute aid and ensure effectiveness or else the implications will be much worse.
Farmer further called on aid to be channelled through the government and public service instead of NGO’s, where efficiency cannot be guaranteed.
Karan, the founder of Urban Zen and clothing company, Donna Karan International, said that the only way out for developing countries is to rely on their “souls and spirits”, who are the citizens
Karan, who has an initiative to provide shelter to displaced Haitians through her Hope, Help and Rebuild Haiti (HHRH) foundation, said that countries like Haiti can develop using the energy and resources available to its people.
She noted that through small initiatives like weaving beads and recycling paper to several products, many lives have been turned around, noting that it is this kind of creativity which does not require a lot of resources that people need, to move forward.