O
n January 12th, 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake shook Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Perhaps “shook” is an understatement. The quake destroyed 250,000 Haitian residences and 30,000 commercial buildings and claimed (depending on who you ask) between 100,000 and 300,000 lives. In the days that followed the quake, foreign aid poured into Haiti, along with monetary pledges from nations all across the world.

Fast forward two years, to 2012. According to numbers released by the UN special envoy for Haiti, the U.S. had only disbursed 30 percent of the $914.4 million they pledged for reconstruction. Venezuela had only disbursed 24 percent of its pledged aid. All told, on 53 percent of the promised aid had been delivered. Further compounding the country’s problems, October 2010 brought one of the worst cholera outbreaks in recent memory. By August 2013, the bacteria had killed at least 8,231 Haitians and hospitalized hundreds of thousands more. According to a report released by the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, over six percent of Haitians have had the disease. Despite overwhelming evidence, the UN — widely believed to have accidentally started the epidemic — refuses to take responsibility.

But numbers never quite capture a country’s conditions, culture or people, as GP staffer K.B. Gould discovered during a recent visit. Traveling with the JDC, an American organization that raised $8.79 million for Haiti (96% of which has been allocated), he visited NGOs in Port-au-Prince, schools in Zoranje and Cité Soleil, medical facilities in Fondwa, and a Kanaval celebration in Jacmel, where he met Haitian Vodou rock ‘n’ roots band RAM, as well as Arcade Fire. His trip revealed the humanity of a country so often defined by foreboding headlines and tragic statistics.

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