Haiti is a troubled but beautiful country, more sinned against than sinning, betrayed at times even by even those who claim to be its friends. Many who have lived or worked in Haiti know the kindness, the decency, and the resiliency of the Haitian people - this is where the true beauty of the country lies. For those who have not had the chance, take a bit of time to learn about Haiti. Here is a brief National Geographic Video about Haitian photographers who portray their communities as they, rather than others, see them. Older blogs on "Haiti in Photos" (Part One and Part Two) show Haiti as it really is rather than people perceive it to be. Finally below is an article by Mother Jones writer Nathalie Baptiste on the responsibility that countries such as the United States and France bear for Haiti's current situation.
In the excellent New York Times article below, Catherine Porter states that death is a plentiful resource in Haiti given that the life expectancy of Haitian is 63.4 years - twelve years below the Latin American and Caribbean average. Dying in Haiti is expensive - families often take out loans at exorbitant rates to provide funerals for loved ones while other families are forced to abandon their remains. These bodies would be dumped like garbage, as was the case in the past, but for the efforts of St. Luke Foundation volunteers who transport them for simple, cost-free burials. Haiti is full of heroes, and the volunteers who provide dignity in death to those who lacked it in life, are amongst them.
Below is a beautiful article (with similarly beautiful photos) taken by New York Times contributer Peter Kujawisnki. The author, who previously lived in Haiti, visited as a tourist recently and reflects on what has and has not changed. As with many of us who previously lived in Haiti, his memories are complicated and filters what he experiences now as a visitor. He sees signs of progress and the potential renewal of long dormant tourism in a country that remains much in need of livelihood opportunities. Visting Haiti, and experiecing what it has to offer, as he puts it is now neither brave nor unusual - just normal.
If someone, be it an individual or a politician, supports a project in Haiti it is usually an orphanage. The problem is that orphanages in Haiti are a business albeit one with almost no oversight and accountability. The vast majority of the children in orphanages have at least one parent. The smarter investments would be promoting access to family planning so families have only as many children as they can afford and establishing a foster care network throughout the country so that children can be in safe family environments instead. This is not to say all orphanages are bad - but there is a better way and the Haitian government has failed to protect children from the abuse, sexual and otherwise, that often takes place in these institutions. More information follows in a CNN Freedom Project article by Lisa Cohen.
The Trump Administration has announced it will end Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitians in 2019 meaning they must return by then or face deportation. While such status is meant to be temporary, Haitians have integrated, are working, and part of their American communities. It is clear that the Haitian government does not have the capacity to reintegrate tens of thousands of its citizens - particularly given the impact of Hurricane Matthew and the ongoing cholera outbreak. This could further destablise Haiti. The full article the Miami Herald's Jacqueline Charles follows.
The United Kingdom and the United States are blocking the re-purposing of leftover UN funds already designated for Haiti that could potentially support woefully under-resourced cholera response programming. As the United Nations now acknowledges, although only as of last year, UN Peacekeeping Forces brought cholera to Haiti. The epidemic affected hundreds of thousands of Haitians and killed 10,000. To not allow unused funds to the cholera effort is both misugided and mean-spirited. Friends of Haiti in both the United States and the United Kingdom should make their voices heard to their elected officials on this important issue. The full article in The Guardian follow.
Haiti and the Dominican Republic have always had a complicated relationship. Much of this is due to different interpetrations of, and not coming to terms with, historical events. One such event was the "Parsley Massacre" of 1937 during which the Dominican military executed both Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent. It is unclear how many were killed during the massacre. An article by NPR contributors Marlon Bishop and Tatiana Fernandez on the impact of the massace for families on both sides of the border dollows.
On October 5th, the UN Peacekeeping Force in Haiti (MINUSTAH) concluded after thirteeen years and was replaced with a force of 1,300 international civilian police officers. While MINUSTAH did help stabilise the country during a fragile period, its efforts were marred by, as in so many other countries, sexual abuse and exploitation by peacekeepers. In addition, UN reluctance to take responsibility for the still ongoing cholera epidemic caused by peacekeepers is shameful. The emphasis now is on buiilding Haiti's law enforcement capacity. The full article by Al Jazeera follows and is accompanied by a short video regarding the MINUSTAH transition.
As the United States has stepped back from humanitarian leadership, Canada and Mexico have stepped up. Rather than deporting Haitains who had become stranded in Mexico trying to reach the United States, the Mexican government has offered them one year renewable visas allowing them to work. This has benefitted the Haitian migrants and it has also benefitted Mexico, which now has a new and manageable pool of very hard workers. It is a good example of solidartiy in a world that is sorely in need of more of it. The full article by AP journalist Elliot Spagat follows.
Haitians are increasingly seeking asylum in Canada for fear of being deported when a six month Temporary Protected Status extension concludes on January 22nd . According to the Miami Herald copied below, the Montreal City Council estimates that half of the 6,500 asylum seekers arriving since January are Haitian. In the United States, civil society groups continue to advocate for another extension.