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#3507: Why do Haitians risk their lives? (fwd)


By Peter Greste in Port Au Prince (BBC NEWS)
 09:31 GMT 10:31 UK   Why do Haitians risk their lives?

That Haitians should want to flee the Caribbean state comes as no
surprise to people here. A recent survey found that almost 70% of the
 population would leave if they had a chance. For most that means by
boat. The news that at least 14 of their countrymen lost their lives
trying to reach other shores may make some people think again about
escape but it is unlikely to have a significant impact on those already
preparing  to go. The incentives are powerful. Haiti is the poorest
nation in the western hemisphere. At least 80% of the population of   
seven million lives in poverty. The numbers of Haitians who are
illiterate and  unemployed are also staggeringly high. And at least in
the short term there are few signs of improvement. 

 Aid denied 
Over most of the past year and a half a political crisis has denied
Haiti millions of dollars in desperately needed foreign aid. President
Rene Preval sacked the entire  Chamber of Deputies and two-thirds of the
Senate in a political dispute in January last year, leaving the country
without any effective administration. Many foreign donors,including the
European Union and the World Bank, say they w ill not give any money   
without a proper parliament to run a budget. The lack of any real      
government also means a lack of government services. Electricity,
telephones and water are all highly unreliable and the few people who
can afford cars need four-wheel drives to negotiate all but the most
important roads. Elections are due to fill the vacant government     
posts in three weeks' time and that poll may well improve the situation
here in the long  term, but few Haitians are convinced. "We might well
die in the sea," one Haitian told me, "but it's better than staying put
and dying here".