Stateless persons are not recognized as citizens of any country. They are often vulnerable to exploitation due to a lack of access to health care, education, work, and justice. It is a major problem in the Dominican Republic where the the government has long been reluctant to grant citizenship to Dominicans of Haitian descent. Last week, the Haitian Parliament voted to accede to the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, making it the third member state of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the 69th country in the world to do so. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) issued a statement praising Haiti for its committment. To become involved, consider joining UNHCR's "I Belong" Campaign to End Statelessness.
MSF (Doctors Without Borders) has been present in Haiti for over 19 years, including by providing 24/7 maternal health care at its clinic in Port au Prince. All contributions received between December 13-31 will be matched by ELMA Relief Foundation, a private charitable foundation that supports communities affected by disasters. If you are interested in making a contribution to help Haiti over the holiday season, protecting the health of women and children is a great way to do it. Thanks to ELMA Relief Foundation, your contribution will now go farther. For more information, read Jude Webber's article on the state of maternal health care in Haiti and MSF's role in promoting it. Click here to make your contribution.
The U.S. State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) is mandated to release annual country-specific human rights reports that address individual, civil, political, and worker rights, as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The 2015 report for Haiti is linked and copied below. There have been some modest improvements from last year - for example in improving oversight of the police. However, there is a long way to go in reforming the justice system, corrections, and protecting the rights of women, children, and the disabled. Post your thoughts about human rights in Haiti below.
Below is an article by the International Press Service's Ansel Herz describing upcoming legislative changes that would make it easier for survivors of rape to prosecute their attackers. The reforms have high-level support and could pass within a year. While much more remains to be done, these reforms would represent significant progress.
Adoption can be controversial. In the case of Haiti, many orphanges are poorly managed and with little oversight. Major challenges are a lack of livelihoods and access to family planning information and commodities. Many children in orphanages are not really orphans as they have parents - albeit parents that could not afford them. Trention Daniel notes Haiti is in the process of updating its adoption laws for the first time in 40 years. This would being Haiti's adoption practices closer to international standards.
The Service to Serve Haiti Committee is a group of individuals from the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington, DC committed to supporting recovery efforts in Haiti. Its members have organized a screening of "Lift Up", a documentary about two Haitian brothers who return to Haiti in order to memorialize the grandfather they lost after the earthquake. The screening will benefit Fonkoze, the Haiti Micah Project, and the Saint Vincent's School for the Handicapped, each of which the Committee's members have worked with and know first hand the impact these groups are making for women and children in Haiti. Below is the official press release.
Each year, the U.S. State Department Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor is mandated to release country specific human rights reports that address individual, civil, political, and worker rights, as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The 2010 Human Rights Report for Haiti, attached and copied below, indicates much remains to be done. Protecting human rights is a critical element of governance and one which the new administration must take on as institutions and infrastructure are reformed and reconstructed. Protecting human rights will help Haiti become a country that is more fair and just for the whole population, not just the rich and powerful.
The U.S. State Deparment's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (G/TIP) today announced a grant of $4.75 million to ten grantees to strengthen the capacity of the Haitian government and civil society to prevent and respond to human trafficking. Information about grantees and their activities follows in the official announcement below. Background on human trafficking in Haiti and the Dominican Republic can be found in the 2010 Trafficking in Persons Report.
Most agree that efforts to protect the safety, dignity and rights of the most vulnerable populations (women, children, the disabled, the elderly, etc.) in post earthquake Haiti could and should have been more effective. Women and children are still vulnerable to a range of protection threats including sexual abuse/exploitation and human trafficking. Interaction, an advocacy group for American non-governmental organizations (NGOs) has released two reports, on improving protection and on preventing and responding to gender-based violence (GBV) respectively. Both are thorough, well thought out, and are copied below.
Lens, the New York Times photography blog, recently covered a Zanmi Lakay photography project in Jacmel. Through Zanmi Lakay, 28 Haitian children were given cameras and asked to document different aspects of daily life in a city trying to recover and rebuild. A description of the project is below. The photos are well worth a look and you can view them by clicking here. Who knows? Perhaps one day, some of these children will become photojournalists themselves.