With gangs operating in almost total impunity throughout Port-au-Prince, catastrophic levels of hunger in some areas, and a growing cholera epidemic, the United States has decided to back a multinational rapid reaction force to Haiti. This will not be a UN peacekeeping force and the USA is expected to play a major role in its operations. At the same time, the USA has deployed a USAID Disaster Assessment Response Team (DART) and is expected to ramp up its humanitarian support. The current situation is untenable and hopefully the multi-national force can help stabilise Haiti somewhat. The full article by MIchael Wilner and Jacqueline Charles in the Miami Herald follows.
It is no secret that services at public health care facilities in Haiti are generally poor. However, these facilities are important in that they are used by Haitians who have no other alternative. Konbit Sante is a small organization based in Maine that has partnered with the Justinian University Hospital in Cap Haitian for many years. With their support, newborn and pediatric care is being moved into a new facility – but $25,000 is still needed for materials, equipment, and staffing. If you are looking for an accountable organization that is serious about capacity building, consider donating to Konbit Sante in support of the Justinian University Hospital.
The Haitian Government and the Famine Early Warning System (FEWS-NET) report that a drought is causing food insecurity in northeast Haiti due to the loss of crops and livestock. The National Coordination of Food Security Office and the World Food Program (WFP) are planning a response which will involve seed distribution to farmers and food distribution more broadly. Below is a Miami Herald article with more information.
Travesty in Haiti: A True Account of Christian Missions, Orphanages, Fraud, Food Aid and Drug Trafficking” is not a new book, having been published in 2008. However, it should be required reading for volunteers, missionaries and development workers interested in Haiti. Drawing from his experiences as an anthropologist and consultant in the northwest, he describes how NGOs in the region caused serious harm in the name of development. Schwartz is frustrated but not anti development – he is against dependency, corruption, and disempowering the people we say we want to help. You can read a preview and/or purchase his book on Amazon. A few thoughts below.
Haiti is in the midst of a cholera outbreak, the origin of which is and may remain unclear. We live in a mobile world and the source could be Africa, Asia, South America, or it may have already been in the environment. Where it came from is less important than the fact that Haiti, and especially the poorest of the poor, will always be vulnerable without clean water, adequate sanitation, and good hygiene. This is an update on the current cholera emergency and a reflection on actions that can prevent this from happening again.
Plumpynut, a peanut based paste, has revolutionalized the way in which severely malnourished children around the world are treated. Many young lives have been saved as a result. There is now increasing attention on how Plumpynut variants can prevent children from becoming malnourished in the first place. In Haiti, both Meds and Food for Kids (MFK) and Partners in Health (PIH) produce products similar to Plumpynut. In the below New York Times article, Andrew Rice describes the promise, politics, and profitability of Plumpynut. Considering the negative impact that malnutrition has on the health and cognitive development of children in Haiti, it is well worth a read.
March 22 is World Water Day. Growing up, like many others, I did not appreciate how lucky I was to have clean, safe water. We need it to drink and become sick if we do not have it. We need it for agriculture and would become hungry without it. We need it for washing, bathing, and clean health care facilities. Likewise we need sanitation and hygiene to protect food, water, and health. One billion people around the world still lack clean drinking water and 2.6 billion lack access to basic sanitation. It doesn’t have to be this way. World Water Day is an opportunity to ask what we can do in the year ahead to address the world's water crisis.
The United Nations has called this the most challenging disaster response in its history. More challenges lie ahead, one of which is the upcoming rainy season. While it will not begin for several weeks, heavy rains are already occurring sporadically. Recently, eight people were killed in flooding around Les Cayes. The rains also caused a landslide that destroyed a school in Cap Haitian two weeks ago. Those who have been displaced in Port au Prince require solutions, whether that be temporary shelter or staying with a host family. Their protection, health, and well being depends upon finding shelter before the rains become a daily event.
Haiti was struck today by the largest earthquake in the region since 1770. Information is spotty but we do know the following: The General Hospital, the Ministry of Commerce, the National Palace (left), and many homes have collapsed. What we do not know is how many have been injured and how many have died. Power lines are down. Comms were also down but are slowly improving. The international airport is still intact. We heard from Matt and he is ok. If half of the Twitter reports are true, this has been a major catastrophe. We will post updates in the comments section, please do the same.