Immediately after the earthquake, the main source of information was Twitter, which I have a new respect for. Journalists and aid workers are arriving in Haiti and we are gaining a better sense of just how extensive the damage to Port au Prince is. We also know that Jacmel was seriously affected as well. Aid from the United States, other governments, and humanitarian responders both big and small is picking up. This is a summary of the current situation, who is doing what where, and how you can help. Additional updates will be posted as comments.
Strong arguments can be made that sacking Prime Minister Pierre-Louis was a mistake. Still, she served Haiti well prior to becoming Prime Minister and will no doubt continue to do so. Jean Max Bellerive has since been confirmed as the new Prime Minister. He has stated the increasing foreign investment and reducing poverty will be amongst his highest priorities. He has a much different style than Pierre-Louis, but faces the same challenges. This includes promoting food security thoughout Haiti.
Hard to believe that just a year and a half ago, there were food riots in Port au Prince and other Haitian cities. Since then, Haiti has become become politically stable to the point where firms involved in agriculture, textiles, infrastructure development and tourism are considering investing in Haiti. Livelihood opportunities are sorely needed given that half of Haitians live on less than two dollars a day. Still, the majority of Haitians are small farmers. Without opportunities to provide for themselves and their families, the influx of the rural poor to urban centers will only accelerate. Increasing agricultural productivity/opportunities is key to improving food security in Haiti.
The Center for American Progress recently released an interesting and cautiously optimistic report (attached) on security in Haiti. For Haiti watchers, the background will no doubt be familiar but there is still much of interest. Below is an analysis of the recommendations. The historical and political cards have long been stacked against Haiti but there is now more evidence and more reasons to expect security will hold and improve. With a lot of work, a bit of luck, and the support of its friends, Haiti will continue to make progress….piti piti.
The United States Institute of Peace (USIP) has been working with the Haitian Government to reform its sorely outdated criminal laws, more suited to the needs of 19th Century France than Haiti at present. For this reason, Haiti's justice system has not been able to address moden crimes which include trafficking in persons, drug trafficking, and violations of human rights. President Preval has initiated a comprehensive reform process with the participation of civil society, the United Nations, and think tanks such as USIP. This process could help bring about a new chapter in Haitian history where criminal laws protect rights instead of violating them, and serve all the people of Haiti, including the poor and vulnerable.
Haiti's long term development depends on agriculture. Yet most of Haiti's population relies on what could be called a faith based approach to agriculture - pray you get enough rain at the right time. Ressurecting Haiti's agricultural sector requires effective irrigation systems. Below is a description of an irrigation project that USAID completed with IOM and CHF in the Plaine de Cul de Sac outside of Port au Prince. The photo above illustrates what the waterways were like before the project...
InterIntel, an organization devoted to the diffusion of alternative energy technology in Haiti, recently released its first quarterly report, copied below. InterIntel has developed a number of interesting, new partnerships with the private sector and other non profit organizations operating in Haiti. If you would like to learn more after reading the update, take a look at the InterIntel website/blog, which covers a number of issues related to alternative energy in low resource settings.
Below is a post from "The Cable", confirming rumors that Paul Farmer is considering a position in the Obama Administration. The position is as of yet unclear. It may be USAID Administrator or a new position coordinating U.S. Global Health programs. Partners in Health has had a tremendous impact in Haiti, Latin America, Africa, and elsewhere. As a champion of health and human rights, Farmer's vision and expertise would be an asset to the Obama Administration.
The Miami Herald ran an article concerning Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's upcoming visit to Haiti, which will take place shortly after the International Donors' Conference. While the visit will be brief, we take this as a welcome sign that Secretary Clinton, whose responsibilities include overseeing the foreign assistance programs of both the State Department and USAID, is interested in and committed to Haiti's development.
Something too often missing from coverage of Haitian development challenges are Haitian perspectives. One of the most pressing concerns remains how to halt and reverse the ongoing environmental degradation. We kick off the "Ask a Haitian" series by interviewing Abdel Abellard, a Ouanminthe based expert in Sustainable Development and Conservation Biology, in order to find out what has and has not been working in Haiti.