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Why Haiti has remained poor

Although I don't agree with Kevin Myers' article ('Disasters -- where would showbiz be without them?', Irish Independent, January 26), I acknowledge that some people may be asking such questions.

Mr Myers rightly quotes Plan International's Stuart Cole in saying that Plan has been working in Haiti since 1973.

However, I am taken aback at how surprised Mr Myers is that the country's problems have not been solved yet. Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the western hemisphere, with high mortality rates among under-fives (76 per 1,000 in 2007), poor school enrolment rates (net primary school enrolment dates for 2000-2007 was only 50pc) and it has an unfortunate history of political and social unrest.

These difficulties, added to frequent natural disasters, all hinder Haiti's rise out of poverty.

To suggest that one agency will solve a country's woes in 40 years is quite naive and foolish and rather skims the surface of what is a complex situation.

Countries like Haiti suffered centuries of colonisation with extensive exploitation by western powers.

The past 40 years have seen Haitians live under the rule of the notorious Francois 'Papa Doc' Duvalier, and his even less pleasant son, 'Baby Doc'. Four of the last six governmental changes have been by military coups.

Now, is Mr Myers really suggesting that 40 years should be ample time for a country to recover from such robbery and rise out of poverty?

Plan, indeed, has been working in Haiti for 37 years. We work with government partners, national organisations, child, youth and women's groups, village development committees and international partners to help the people build a stronger, more educated and prosperous nation.

Plan seeks to support communities in building resilience to man-made and natural disasters, which are outside of the control of any international NGO, and to assist communities in recovering from such trauma.

Plan is not "an English charity based in Woking", but a truly international, non-governmental organisation that was established by a British journalist and an American refugee worker in response to the suffering of children they witnessed during the Spanish Civil War.

Plan has national offices in 20 countries, including Ireland, which support programmes throughout the developing world.

Mr Myers, and indeed his readers, can learn more about Plan and its work for and on behalf of impoverished children by logging on to plan.ie.

Damien Queally
Plan Ireland, Dublin 2

Irish Independent