Saturday, July 21, 2018
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Haitian Twitter goes in on Greta Van Susteren for ‘tents’ comment

Samuel Maxime


NEW YORK CITY, New York, US ( – Weather Channel Meteorologist, Jen Delgado, was not the only personality feeling the brunt of Haitian Twitter during the passage of Hurricane Matthew. On Sunday, former Fox News host Greta Van Susteren became a target over a tweet she made about the approaching category 4 storm and the general living conditions “most” Haitians in Haiti are living in.

Van Susteran tweeted: “Most people in #haiti live in tents, shacks or on the streets and now a Hurricane 4 is headed their way”. What then followed was outrage, perhaps unjustified, from Haitians and persons concerned with Haiti. And ultimately, unlike Delgado, Van Susteren did not issue an apology, but also may not have to.

Cooler heads seemed to prevail after a few hours of outrage. Most were focused on Van Susteren’s mention of “tents” and “streets” as living places in Haiti and because those living in those conditions would be a very small percentage of the population, comparative to the 11 million in the country, it felt unnecessary to mention.

To a broad audience, images of the 2010 earthquake are recanted and even though the situation remains dire, with thousands still in tents in the capital and new tent cities sprouting up along the border with the Dominican Republic, it is not reality for a significant number of people.

What was left as fact and vindicating for @greta is that the vast majority of Haitians live in homes that they, the inhabitants themselves, built and overwhelmingly these homes are not up to code and therefore suffice for the definition of a “shack”, as Van Susteren put it. A flyover Haiti would reveal that sheet metal makes up most roofing.

The housing situation in Haiti is problematic in this sense and caused 250,000 to die in the 2010 earthquake which was a magnitude 7.3 which lasted 35 seconds. Proving so, a week later a magnitude 8.8 earthquake (more than 1,000 times stronger) hit the populous city of Concepción in Chile, lasting 3 minutes but leaving dead much less, 500 people.

Makeshift homes are extremely common in Haiti and even after the billions squandered in the earthquake relief which brought a few thousand “earthquake-resistant” homes, what was discovered is that these homes were light, and perhaps would not kill on collapse but against gale force winds, would lose roofs and walls. The country experienced this with the passage of Tropical Storm Isaac in 2012. A storm that did not make landfall but destroyed communities that were built for those dwelling in tents.

It deserves noting that Madame Van Susteren operates an academy and orphanage in Haiti called Greta Home, in partnership with Samaritan’s Purse.

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About The Author

Samuel Maxime is a Haitian-born citizen living in the United States. He founded The Haiti Sentinel to bring Haitian issues to an English language audience.