media misrepresents Haiti
In recent years, the typical media portrayal of Haiti has consistently conjured up a static image of a beleaguered nation where visible indicators of natural disaster, political instability and extreme poverty abound. Though this representation is not entirely false, it is incomplete. Haiti is well-deserving of a more fitting image that conveys its dynamism and development.

Withstanding trial and tribulation, Haiti is among the most resilient nations in the world. Like any other developing country today, Haiti is continuing to make progress despite setbacks along its way. The media misrepresents Haiti to be a place that is completely devoid of progress, forever stifled by unfortunate issues of circumstance. To the contrary, Haiti enjoys a stunningly beautiful landscape and is inhabited by hardworking, happy people with the resolve to pursue better lives for themselves and a better legacy for their country.

Education Reforms

Ensuring that children have access to quality education is an important investment in the development of any nation. Elizabeth King, former Director of Education for the World Bank, said it best: “The human mind makes possible all development achievements from health advances and agricultural innovations to efficient public administration and private sector growth. For countries to reap these benefits fully, they need to unleash the potential of the human mind. And there is no better tool for doing so than education.”

To this end, Haiti has made quality education a top policy priority over the last decade. The Global Partnership for Education granted $24.1 million in funding to improve primary education access, school performance and enrollment in Haiti.

In the last four years, Haiti has enrolled more than 73,000 students in primary education, built six additional classrooms, developed and employed more than 3,500 qualified teachers at the primary level and implemented a learning assessment system for primary education. Furthermore, the grant has helped increase student attendance to 83.5 percent in disadvantaged areas and made nutrition and health programs accessible to more than 100,000 children.

Agriculture

Suggesting that there is a dearth of economic stimulus is a particularly damaging way that the media misrepresents Haiti. It is true that many Haitians live on less than $2 a day, but economic opportunity continues to develop in the country to counteract extreme poverty.

With a climate that supports the cultivation of important cash crops like cacao and mango, as well as several staple crops, Haiti has a promising agricultural sector. USAID has worked with the country to develop sustainable agricultural techniques that increase production, improve food security and strengthen agricultural markets, ultimately increasing agricultural incomes and helping to develop and support small and medium enterprises to spur investment opportunity in the country.

Tech

Much of the media misrepresents Haiti by failing to cover recent tech advancements at work within the country. Surtab, Haiti’s answer to Apple and Samsung, has become a shining example of successful tech innovation in the country. Surtab develops and delivers a range of electronic mobile devices throughout the Caribbean and the African continent. The company employs a highly-skilled workforce, many of whom are women, and is helping to drive private sector development.

In June, Haiti will host its second annual Haiti Tech Summit, which will be attended by local and international industry leaders, digital marketers and innovators. Keynote speakers include lead developers from Facebook and Google as well as several notable figures from around the world. Aggregating some of the best tech thinkers and creators in the industry, the Haiti Tech Summit aims to accelerate local entrepreneurship and to bring global attention to Haiti’s emerging markets.

Tourism

The media misrepresents Haiti by suggesting that the country is too poor and too battered by earthquakes and hurricanes to be beautiful. The Dominican Republic and Haiti are co-located on the island of Hispaniola. They both boast beautiful beaches with glittering turquoise waters, rolling mountains and temperate, tropical weather, but only the Dominican Republic is celebrated as a place that’s worth visiting.

Despite unfair media portrayals, Haiti has been gaining traction over the last five years as a tourist destination. Haiti offers potential travelers breathtaking landscapes, complicated history and rich culture. Resort towns like Jacmel and Cap Haitien boast scenic coastal views, opulent dining and luxe accommodations that rival those of top beach communities around the world.

According to MSN, expatriate designer Victor Glemaud recently returned to Haiti after having left more than a decade ago. The country he came back to shattered his expectations: “What I was expecting from the media, and all the perceptions around the world about Haiti, were nonexistent. I saw the same vibrancy, the same resilience I remember from growing up. . . I was expecting devastation, and I didn’t see that.” Contrary to popular portrayals of the Caribbean nation, Haiti is a beautiful, thriving country.

– Chantel Baul

Photo: Flickr