I expected to hear of food riots in Haiti. Life has never been easy for Haitians but escalating food costs have made just getting by more and more difficult. If you and I went a day without eating and did not know if the next day let alone the next week would bring more of the same, I would not be writing this and you would not be reading this - we would be out in the streets protesting!
According to Caribbean Net News, Haitian Prime Minister Jacques-Édouard Alexis gave a speech on March 28th to the Organization of American States (OAS) highlighting significant improvements in both security and governannce. A stable, democratic Haiti is strategically important to the Americas. Haiti needs the help of its neighbors but doing so will require convincing them that Haiti can sustain this progress - that this is not another false promise.
The article below (courtesy of bonpabon) announces that the Digicel Haiti Foundation met its goal of building twenty primary schools in its first year of operation. Digicel, as the largest foreign investor in the history of Haiti, prevents a compelling model for others to follow - a socially conscious corporation that provides a much needed product, employs a substantial number of local staff, and funnels some of its its profits into education projects. It makes sense for Digicel who will need educated employees as it grows and it makes sense for Haiti where long term development will depend on education.
The First Lady recently visited Haiti (read: Port au Prince), visting the well known GHESKIO (Haitian Group for the Study of Kaposi's Sarcoma and Other Opportunisting Infections) Center as well as a school, education being one of her personal priorities. The last visit by a first lady to Haiti was by Hillary Clinton in 1998. Politics aside, this is a sign of progress. You can more about the visit in the New York Times.
According to the Brookings Institution, "Threats to international peace and security often come from the world’s weakest states. Such countries can fall prey to and spawn a host of transnational security threats, including terrorism, weapons proliferation, organized crime, infectious disease, environmental degradation, and civil conflicts that spill over borders." The Index of State Weakness in the Developing World ranks 141 developing nations, including Haiti, according to economic, political, security and social welfare. It is interesting to glance at, but how useful is it?
The South Florida Sun Sentinel ran an article concerning the failure of reforestation efforts in Haiti. While little progress has been made to date, there have been small successes. We can learn a great deal by examining the programs which are doing well, asking ourselves why, and then replicating them.
Canada is a significant donor for international development programs both in Haiti and worldwide. The country has a large Haitian population and high ranking government officials who were originally born in Haiti. During a recent trip to Haiti, the Canadian Foreign Minister reaffirmed the government's long term committment to Haiti and new activities for partnership - activities which we believe could have a positive impact on Haiti's development.
I have seen several articles lately concerning the clay biscuits that the poorest of the poor in Haiti eat to make the hunger pangs subside. This is not a new phenomenon. Much of that clay comes from an area in between Hinche and Thomonde, where I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer. We all know Haiti is desperately food insecure, but with hunger being such a complicated issue, do we know what to do in order to respond? What would a Haitian “war against hunger” be like?
Haitian leaders tend to get bogged down in ever-unstable Port au Prince. It is a matter of political survival. However, most of Haiti is rural and certainly most of what is good about Haiti is to be found outside of its largest city. Recently President Preval made a public tour of the Central Plateau. We were happy to see that public health was a recurring theme of his trip. Regardless of one's political beliefs, we can all agree increased attention to public health is essential. When a person has health, a person has hope. Where there is hope, there is also the possibility of development and a better future.
Haiti's roads are awful. When I was a volunteer, a peacekeeper told me that the only worse roads he had ever seen were in Nepal. The lack of infrastucture has affected people's ability to do business, seek health care, visit relatives, and to travel in general. But there is good news - For the first time in a long while progress is being made on Haiti's road system.