"The Covenant" Painting For Jacco & Mary Oldenkamp Wedding
Port Au Prince, Haiti Food Distribution (Last Day)

Behind The Haiti Photos Pt1 Haitian Sanitation And Motivation

by Peter on February 23, 2010

Everyone these days seems to like behind the scenes stories. Stories are what give meaning to the mundane, don’t they? So I thought I would do the same with a few of my photographs from Haiti. The first thing that everyone notices about Port Au Prince is the trash. It is everywhere! What you will also notice is that there is no interest in sanitation. In short, the reason Haitians typically have no regard for sanitation is because it isn’t available to them. If the only water that you have is unclean how long do you think it would take you drink a little bit of it so that you don’t die of thirst? Not very long I think.

Mothers would bathe their children in a nearby gutter while the same water that was just used for bathing is used for washing fruit.  You may ask, “how could anyone do this?” Well, first you only ask that because you have been taught that disease and germs and exist even if you don’t see it. Also, there is not a one-for-one ratio with germs. Just because you drink contaminated water doesn’t mean you will always get sick. TRUE STORY: As a child I would eat raw bacon every Saturday morning when my parents weren’t looking. Does that mean it is okay for children to eat raw bacon since I never got sick from it? Of course not. This is the same for Haitians and others in third world countries.

haitian man washing clothes on sidewalk

Haitian man washing clothes on sidewalk

During the bus ride through Port Au Prince I noticed a man cleaning his jeans with water from a drainage. Although washing clothes in the equivalent of river water is not necessarily bad this man would have no problem drinking it as well. One thing I want to point out is that I noticed that Haitians took care of their clothes. They dressed up for church in suits. They would have no problem in walking in the heat wearing their finest all day! I certainly had a lot of respect for them because this showed me that no matter how bad it got they would always hold their head high.

Hog eating trash on sidewalk in Port Au Prince Haiti

I know that you cannot tell but that pig on the left hand side probably weighs 500-600 lbs. He is eating the trash that lines the streets. Everyone just throws their trash wherever they like. Public trash bins do exist but most people will throw their trash in its general direction. While I was there I think that I only saw three trash trucks but they just cleaned up the trash bins and not around it. One thing you have to remember is that there really is no motivation to clean up since life is already pretty depressing.

Hog eating trash at food market in Port Au Prince Haiti

Here is a close up photo of another 500-600 hog eating the trash on the side of the street. Unlike the previous photograph this hog is eating trash in a public market. I don’t think this would go well in the mind of a competent health inspector. Since everyone is poor there is no need for a business man to clean up because it’s not going to increase his market share. In addition, when you are poor sanitation and aesthetics are relegated to the bottom of your hierarchy of needs. For more info on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs click here.

The heart of the matter is that the government is corrupt and all the money that the world has given to the Haitian government for the betterment of their people has only lined their pockets and Swiss bank accounts. The Haitians are an entrepreneurial people and I hold them in high regard and have a deep respect for their motivation. So the problem doesn’t lie with the Haitian citizens but with the government who has stolen their lives.

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