The lost Haitian revival

As Mark Goldberg writes for the Daily Beast, Haiti just can't catch a break. The country, which has been through years of war and upheaval, and remains woefully poor, yesterday was hit with a massive earthquake which has caused critical damage to its major city and capital, Port-au-Prince. Casualties are expected to be massive, and as many as 3 of the country's 9 million citizens are without basic services. What makes it all sadder is that things had, just recently, seemed to be looking up.

Around 800,000 tourists traveled to Haiti last year -- a sizeable number for a small nation.  But 500,000 of them never ventured further than Royal Caribbean Cruise Line's heavily guarded man-made enclave on the northern shore of the island; therefore, they did little good for Haiti's economy. (Royal Caribbean apparently installs most of its own staff in Labadee, seen above, meaning fewer Haitians hired.)

Haitians as well as U.N. staff on the island were battling the country's image as a failing state, a murder and kidnapping capital. Its safety statistics are in fact in line with or lower than those in other Caribbean nations, after spiking in 2004 during the Aristide crisis. 

Just last week, Comfort Inn announced it was planning on building a small hotel on the island. It would have been the only major international chain to have an outpost on Haiti. Additionally, via Tyler Cowen, Haiti was just one of two Caribbean countries expected to have GDP growth in 2010, of around 2.5 percent.

Image via RobinH00d on Flickr


Fears about the United Nations mission in Haiti

Very troubling reports out of Haiti this morning. The earthquake struck near the country's main population center, Port-au-Prince, and its surrounding suburbs and slums. Elisabeth Debrosse Delatour, the first lady, said much of Port-au-Prince is destroyed. Cell phone service is available on just one of the major networks; the other remains out, as do landlines and electricity. Hospitals, including the Doctors Without Borders surgical center and many other medical facilities, and essential-service plants were severely damaged in the quake.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon calls it a "humanitarian emergency," and countries around the world are racing to deploy emergency aid to the estimated 3 million impacted by the quake -- a 7.0 on the Richter scale, with 13 serious aftershocks (the largest of which was a 5.8). 

The quake also reportedly severely damaged the five-story U.N. mission headquarters in Port-au-Prince. As of this morning, there are reports of five U.N. staff dead and more than one hundred missing, many presumed dead, as the quake struck during the workday.  Hedi Annabi, the U.N. Haiti chief, a Tunisian, is feared dead.  The hotel in which much of the U.N. staff lived was also destroyed.

Update: I've seen this misreported in a few places, so just to clarify. The U.N.'s peacekeeping chief on Haiti, Alain Le Roy, is safe and speaking with the press. The U.N.'s mission chief, Hedi Annabi, has died. 

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