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Irma Destroys Haitian Farmland as Recovery Goes On from Recent Natural Disasters & Cholera Outbreak

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The death toll from Hurricane Irma has reached at least 27 in the Caribbean. The numbers are expected to rise as rescuers reach the hardest-hit areas. Irma destroyed major parts of several Caribbean islands, including Barbuda and Saint Martin. Cuba also suffered major flooding in Havana and other cities, but there were no reported deaths. The entrepreneur Richard Branson has called for a "Disaster Recovery Marshall Plan" for the Caribbean. Cuba has already sent more than 750 health workers to Antigua, Barbuda, Saint Kitts, Nevis, Saint Lucia, the Bahamas, Dominica and Haiti. While Haiti avoided a direct hit from Irma, the hurricane still caused substantial damage in a country still recovering from the 2010 earthquake and Hurricane Matthew last year. Hurricane Irma displaced more than 100,000 Haitians and destroyed crops in the north of the country. We are joined here in New York by Kim Ives, an editor at Haïti Liberté.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: But we are also joined in studio by Kim Ives. And it’s really important to talk not only what’s happened in the United States, but Hurricane Irma was the largest to cross the—was the largest ever in the Atlantic. The death toll from Hurricane Irma has reached at least 27 in the Caribbean. The number is expected to rise as rescuers reach the hardest-hit areas. Irma destroyed major parts of several Caribbean islands, including Barbuda and Saint Martin. Cuba also suffered major flooding in Havana and other cities, but there were no reported deaths. The entrepreneur Richard Branson of Virgin Airlines, among other things, has called for a "Disaster Recovery Marshall Plan" for the Caribbean. Cuba has already sent more than 750 doctors and other health workers to Antigua, Barbuda, Saint Kitts, Nevis, Saint Lucia, the Bahamas, Dominica and Haiti. While Haiti avoided a direct hit from Irma, the hurricane still caused substantial damage in a country still recovering from the 2010 earthquake, as well as Hurricane Matthew last year. Irma displaced more than 100,000 Haitians and destroyed crops in the north of the country. So, Kim Ives joins Edwidge Danticat to talk not only about what’s happened in Florida, but what’s happened on the island of Haiti.

Kim, welcome to Democracy Now!

KIM IVES: Thanks, Amy.

Yeah, to the TPS question, you have about close to 60,000 Haitians who are facing deportation in January. This is really a triple whammy, because most of Haiti’s foreign exchange comes from remittances from people working in the U.S., so that’s going to be cut off. They’re going to go into a country which is debilitated, not only since the earthquake, but since Hurricane Matthew. And thirdly, a lot of their homes were damaged in the flooding, in the winds that hit southern Florida. So, it’s a terrible situation for the Haitians in Florida. But, for Haiti, it was also bad, because you have to take, 11 months ago, October 4th, 2016, the country, the southern peninsula, was hit by a Category 4 hurricane. That was Matthew. And that destroyed 80 percent of the country’s—85 percent of the grains, of, you know, corn, rice, sorghum, peas, millet, comes out of that southern peninsula. That was wiped out. And 40 percent of the fruit comes out of that part of the country. And so it was the north that was picking up the slack, if you will. And that area has now been hit by Irma. So, also, we should say that the south had a three-year drought before the hurricane, so there’s this sort of climactic whiplash that’s happening. You’re going from drought to these floods. You know, the new climate is so volatile, it’s really hurting a country like Haiti, which in the past six years has gone from the seventh to the third most climate-vulnerable country.

AMY GOODMAN: And so, while Haiti did not get a direct hit, because of its devastation, it is impacted in a way most people are not talking about. They’re just saying, "Oh, it was a miss for Haiti."

KIM IVES: Right, exactly. But it’s a glancing blow, which was still devastating for farmers in the north. People had their crops wiped out by flooding and by wind. And it’s been just a terrible blow to a country which is already food-insecure.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the massive outbreak of cholera since the earthquake and how that fits in here with what’s happening now?

KIM IVES: Well, that’s the huge dilemma, is that cholera was brought to the country by the United Nations occupation troops, which have occupied the country for the past 13 years. They came in after the 2004 coup d’état and were supposed to be there for six months. Now, 13 years later, they’re supposedly winding down to leave on October 15th. This is not the case. In fact, they’re just being replacing—they’re just replacing soldiers with policemen and women. And so, you have a cholera epidemic, the worst in the world, brought by Nepalese peacekeepers back in October 2010, seven years ago. And cholera, for those who don’t know, is a waterborne disease. It’s basically when sewage gets in your drinking water. So when you have this massive flooding, you’re definitely going to see a huge spike in cholera cases in Haiti.

AMY GOODMAN: And just to update us on the cholera case, when you talk about peacekeepers, you’re talking about U.N. peacekeepers.

KIM IVES: Yeah, quote-unquote "peacekeepers."

AMY GOODMAN: And the latest on the responsibility the U.N. has taken for this massive outbreak? How many people died?

KIM IVES: It’s about a million have been affected. Maybe 10,000 have died. Those figures may be conservative, because a lot of people are not registered who do die. But yeah, the cholera—the U.N. has taken no responsibility, essentially. They finally admitted last year that their response was not great, but Ban Ki-moon, when he was going out, made a sort of half-apology. But they have not given any reparations to Haiti. And, you know, this has been taken to the courts here in New York City, but the courts keep saying the U.N. has immunity.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go right now to the former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON: [translated] Let me, at the start, directly address the Haitian people. The United Nations deeply regrets the loss of life and suffering caused by the cholera outbreak in Haiti. On behalf of the United Nations, I want to say very clearly: We apologize to the Haitian people. We simply did not do enough with regard to the cholera outbreak and its spread in Haiti. We are profoundly sorry for our role.

AMY GOODMAN: "We are profoundly sorry for our role," said Ban Ki-moon as he was leaving as U.N. secretary-general. As we wrap up, the significance of what he said and what he didn’t say, Kim?

KIM IVES: But stopping short of saying that it was U.N. troops that brought the cholera into Haiti. So, they’ve avoided this because, legally, they’ll be liable. But it’s been brought by—the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti brought a suit, which has been rebuffed in the U.N. claim system and also rebuffed in the United States courts here.

AMY GOODMAN: And before we go, I was asking Edwidge Danticat before we lost her—I mean, power is out to half the people of Florida—

KIM IVES: Correct.

AMY GOODMAN: —so it’s very difficult even to get that phone call. But the issue of TPS and Haitians both dealing with this terrible hurricane and having to leave? You have 10 seconds.

KIM IVES: As I say, they’re—

AMY GOODMAN: Fifty thousand.

KIM IVES: Yeah, they’re going back. It’s close to 60,000 who will be sent back. And again, it’s a triple whammy. They lose the remittances. They lose their homes. And now they’re going to be sent back to Haiti, which is suffering food insecurity.

AMY GOODMAN: Unless President Trump changes his mind.

KIM IVES: Unless he changes his mind.

AMY GOODMAN: Kim Ives, I want to thank you for being with us, editor at Haïti Liberté.

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