Things Not All That Bad in Haiti

Yesterday, Mark cited a UNICEF report on the abhorrent crimes committed against children in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Via FP Passport, though, I came across this somewhat surprising article in the Christian Science Monitor, describing that, even according to the UN force operating in Haiti, the situation is not quite as bad as it seems:

Kidnappings, gang violence, drug trafficking, corrupt police, flaming road blockades.

The reports out of the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere are enough to keep the most adventurous traveler away.

But according to security experts and officials from the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Port-au-Prince, Haiti is no more violent than any other country in Latin America.

“It’s a big myth,” says Fred Blaise, spokesman for the UN police force in Haiti. “Port-au-Prince is no more dangerous than any big city. You can go to New York and get pickpocketed and held at gunpoint. The same goes for cities in Mexico or Brazil.”

Haiti’s negative image has devastated its economy, whose once-booming tourism industry is now limited largely to aid workers, peacekeepers, and diplomats.

But UN data indicate that the country could be among the safest in the region.

While such data does not diminish the reprehensible nature of any number of kidnappings and rapes — nor is it entirely reassuring to think that one may “only” be “pickpocketed and and held at gunpoint” — there does seem to be some degree of sensationalism in reporting rampant violence in Haiti. The situation there is still intolerable, with hundreds of thousands suffering from hunger and extreme poverty, but perhaps a little tourism would help Haitians more than it might put travelers at risk.