Haiti: Interview with the Ambassador of the Order of Malta
Rothe: “The Haitians must take the future into their hands”
Santo Domingo. Prior to the earthquake on 12 January 2010, Haiti ranked as the poorest country within the Western hemisphere. In the following interview, H. Exc. Hans Walter Rothe, Ambassador of the order of Malta to Haiti, reports on the process of reconstruction and rehabilitation in the country as well as on the contribution of the Haitian population.
Question: Excellency, how would you describe the present situation in Haiti?
Rothe: Haiti’s problems, which already existed prior to the quake, became even bigger due to the disaster: The existing Haitian State is too weak. The run-off election for the new president has been postponed on short notice. The earthquake destroyed all government buildings, many politicians and administrative specialists died. The Haitians have to make a new beginning.
Question: What can the people do?
Rothe: The emergency relief still continues. Two hurricanes and the cholera further impaired the families’ chances of survival. The society has to re-organise itself, that is part of the country’s recon-struction process. The Haitians also have to make use of their self-help capacities, they must take their future into their own hands.
Question: How can they help themselves?
Rothe: First, the country needs decentralised administrative authorities which are able to quickly provide proper answers to local concerns. The construction or rehabilitation of hospitals, schools or houses needs to be approved quickly. This cannot be the responsibility of the government based in the capital. Second, the civil society needs to grow. Local committees have to become the engines. When there is a deficiency, they can point out the problems and contribute to solutions. There are already numerous attempts, however, they are not yet enough.
Question: Millions of Euros and Dollars have already been spent to help the country. Is that not enough for the reconstruction and rehabilitation?
Rothe: Money by itself is no guarantee for effective help. One of the main reasons being that prop-erty rights are often not regulated. In Haiti, the problems regarding the ownership of property are much higher than - for example - after the German reunification. More than one million Haitians still live in tent camps. The system of land registry collapsed. Racketeers sell properties multiple ti-mes. Without clear land tenure, reconstruction often is not possible. The government needs to launch a land reform to be able to give property to the people dislodged by the quake. For them, a long-term perspective is necessary.
Question: How much longer will the international community have to support Haiti?
Rothe: The reconstruction and rehabilitation of Haiti needs patience. Otherwise, the country cannot be stabilised. The Haitians whish for a stable society without violence and poverty. However, up to now such a society has never existed in Haiti. Thus, foreign countries should support the people in their pursuit. If we really want to help the people of Haiti, we need a lot of patience.
Question: The media report a lot on corruption. Those who want to help have to pay, they say. How do the relief or-ganisations deal with this issue?
Rothe: The relief organisations are in agreement: We are taking the difficult way, which means that our help might take longer to arrive where it is needed because we will never pay „special fees”. Concerning the question of bribery we follow a policy of zero tolerance. This denial must be noticeable, corruption has no chance at all.
Hans Walther Rothe, born 1929 in Mülheim/Germany, in 1953 on behalf of a German export com-pany went to the Dominican Republic. Three years later, he became an associate and after twelve years he started his own business in Santo Domingo. The trained merchandiser for export is mar-ried, has two children and four grandchildren. Since December 1996 he is – on a voluntary basis – the Ambassador of the Order of Malta to Haiti.
Further information about the relief activities of Malteser International in Haiti
Malteser International is the worldwide relief agency of the Sovereign Order of Malta for humanitarian aid. The organisation provides aid in about 200 projects in more than 20 countries without distinction of religion, race or political persuasion. Christian values and the humanitarian principles of impartiality and independence are the foundation of its work. For further information: www.malteser-international.org and www.orderofmalta.org
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