When I was living in Haiti many years ago, a friend's father passed away. My friend was scraping by on odd jobs and needed to take out a large loan in order to finance the burial. He felt that to do otherwise would be disrepecting his father's memory. The poor, who can least afford it, are charged exorbitant rates for burial services in Haiti. What could change this? Cultural change, such as accepting cremation or simplified burials, will take time. William Mellon (founder of Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Deschapelles) had himself buried in a cardboard box. Government regulation and enforcement would help. Below is an AP article on the hardships that burial costs place upon Haitian families.
Below is an article by David McFadden (AP) concerning the 50,000 people who remain in camps seven years after the earthquake. Not everyone in the camps was/is is a victim of the earthquake. Some were victims of abject poverty and the camps were better places to be than the slums where they were living. Ninety six percent of those living in the camps left - either on their own or with assistance from a range of organizations. Solutions remain elusive for those who remain.
To be fair, the Haitian government is trying to demonstrate the leadership that was absent from the 2010 earthquake response. It is setting priorities and specifying what interventions it will and will not accept from the international community. Still, the government is quite fragile and has limited capacity. Some priorities are being determined not based on the needs of the survivors as much as the needs of the government to show that it has changed. New York Times writer Azam Ahmedoct reflects on how the response to the earthquake is shaping the response to Hurricane Matthew below.
Haiti cannot change that it will always be affected by natural disasters. What the Haitian government and civil society can change is the extent to which it plans, prepares, and mitigates natural disasters. Very little of the assistance Haiti receives is devoted to mitigation. Haiti's partners should expect, encourage and support Haiti so that it is ready for the next hurricane, mudslide, drought, earthquake or other disaster. It may be a week or a year away, but it will come. IRIN Migration Writer Kristy Siegfried explores whether Hurricane Matthew might encourage participation, partnerships, and prevention.
Poverty Inc. is a documentary about the organizations created to address poverty and the extent to which they succeed in doing so. Haiti features prominently in this documentary and offers cautionary lessons about how sometimes those who claim to be helping Haiti and other countries like it are in reality helping themselves.
Last month, the U.S. State Department released the 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report. As in previous years, the report noted serious shortcomings in the Haitian government's efforts to prevent and respond to human trafficking. There is some good news, though - in 2014 the Haitian government enacted a law to criminalize human trafficking which is a welcome and much-needed step. The country narrative for Haiti follows below.
The government of the Dominican Republic recently passed a nationality law which, by no means perfect, represents a step forward in addresssing statelessness. The main difficulty now lies in its full implementation across the country. Below is an article by Associated Press writers Ezequiel Abiu Lopez and Danica Coto that notes both positive and negative reactions to the nationality law.
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.
Below is an article by Trenton Daniel concerning the increasing use of Haitian Kreyol in schools - which is a good thing. In a hemisphere dominated by Spanish and English, French remains the language of the Haitian elite. While true that Haiti has produced artists of note who worked in French, countless children didn't have a chance at a good education because they were instructed in a language neither they nor their teachers were comfortable with. Learning multiple languages makes sense - but so does being tought in (and proud of) your first language.
Since 2004, MINUSTAH has played a central but controversial role in maintaining stability in Haiti. However, MINUSTAH should not and is not going to be in Haiti forever. The International Crisis Group (ICG) describes steps that can prepare Haitian authorities for when they are fully in the lead without MINUSTAH support. Key to this effort will be doubling the number of police, with adequate vetting and training, so greater responsibility can be transferred to them over time. Until then, all plans for reconstituting the army should be tabled. A summary follows below.