Till Saturday’s earthquake, the only time the words “Haiti” and “Nepal” appeared in one sentence, was in reference to the cholera epidemic unwittingly started by Nepalese United Nations peacekeepers stationed in Haiti. It seemed an excessively cruel twist to a pathetic story – dirt-poor Haiti, leveled by a devastating earthquake in January 2010, infected by soldiers from a faraway land. Nepal’s role in the contemporary life of Haiti has been unintentionally dreadful.
Now, the Nepalese earthquake has probably erased some of that Haitian angst.
Consider, an ordinary Haitian, Louino Robillard’s “message from Haiti to Nepal”. He writes: “When I heard about the earthquake in Nepal and saw the pictures, it made me remember the earthquake that hit my country Haiti 5 years ago. I remember what that felt like: I remember the dust, the panic, the fear because you can no longer trust the ground beneath your feet. Even though Nepal is halfway around the world, I feel you are my family because I know some of the pain you are going through now.”
The Nepalese quake was 16 times stronger than that in Haiti. More than 200,000 people died in Haiti. The toll in Nepal will not really be known for weeks – the more remote villages and communities have been rendered totally inaccessible. But the two earthquakes – five years apart – may have leveled sorrow, creating a crazily collapsing level playing field of grief and pain and loss.