Below is a PRI article about the Petrochallengers - a (mostly) younger generation of activists who, rather than just changing heads of state, want to reform the underlying systems that prevent accountability, transparency, and justice. Corruption is so pervasive in Haiti that it is all too easy to become numb to it - but the misuse/outright theft of over a billion dollars in PetroCaribe funds was the last straw . These funds could have produced the roads, hospitals, schools, and environmental programming Haiti needed to get back on the right track. Without bringing those responsible to account, it remains business as usual. While they may not think of themselves as revolutionaries, bringing about a government that invests in its own people would be nothing short of revolutionary.
Over a million people have participated in protests this month. The Carnival in Port au Prince was cancelled. Instability strains access to heath care and other basic services. Haitians are tired of unchecked corruption when life remains a daily struggle for many. Whether this government remains or is replaced, Haiti's future depends upon improving its institutions and improving accountability. As Athena Kolbe and Robert Mugga points out, it is difficult to imagine this happening without increasing the participation of women in local, regional, and national politics. It is women, after all, who are holding the country together. A new way of governing also depends upon involving youth and other civic groups to hold their government accountable, partner with it whenever possible, and to organise when it is not. The full article which appeared in NPR is linked and below.
Haiti it a tough country to be a child, but especially one without family. Insitutionalising children is rarely the right answer, especially in a country where oversight of orphanages is lax. The better option is to provide children with the option of living, even temporarily, with a foster family. At long last, Haiti is developing a national network of foster families so children don't wind up in orphanages, on the street or worse. Haiti is early in this process but it it still represents real progress. Participating famiies are not paid - they quite literally do it out of the goodness of their hearts. The full article by AP journalist David Crary follows.
The U.S State Department has released the 2017 Human Rights Reports. While not without controversy this year, these reports are valuable for tracking to the extent to which partner countries protect human rights - including for women, children, and minorities. As in previous years, Haiti's weak justice remains a major challenges. Conditions in prisons remain poor and journalism remains a dangerous business. However, they have been some modest successes including the Haitian National Police becoming increasingly professional. The full report follows.
Over the years, I have been fortunate to know many strong Haitian women in Haiti and abroad. Below is a Forbes article by Peggy Yu about two Haitian-American women, one of whom started her own company and the other whom became a nurse. Each of them takes pride and strength in their Haitian roots - and nothing any politician says will change that. International Women's Day may have come and gone, but women like Guelmana Rochelin and Johaida Jean-Francois do important work in their communities every single day. Linked and copied below is the full article.
The Haitian government has a responsibility to determine who can and cannot enter/stay in the country and under what circumstances. In the wake of the Oxfam prostitution scandal, the government has indicated that it intends to review all charities to determine the extent to which their staff have been involved in/reported sexual abuse and exploitation. The list of foreigners who have sexually exploited Haitians is long - but it especially stings when committed by people who claim they are there to help such as UN peackeepers, rogue missionaries, and aid workers. This review could be a first step to improving oversight of the multiltudes of NGOs in Haiti. The full article by Reuters journalist Joseph Gulyer Delva follows.
One thing nobody can say about Haitians is that they don't have a good sense of humor. In response to President Trump's recent and insensitive remarks, Creative Director of Parkour Studios Fabien Dodars has started a GoFundMe campaign to support a tongue-in-cheek promotional campaign that showcases the beaty of Haiti. Dodard notes Haitians are warm, humble, and inviting - humor is therefor an ideal way to speak out and stand up for Haiti. If you would like to support the campaign, take a look at the GoFundMe page. The full article by AdFreak writer Tim Nudd follows.
Haiti is a troubled but beautiful country, more sinned against than sinning, betrayed at times even by even those who claim to be its friends. Many who have lived or worked in Haiti know the kindness, the decency, and the resiliency of the Haitian people - this is where the true beauty of the country lies. For those who have not had the chance, take a bit of time to learn about Haiti. Here is a brief National Geographic Video about Haitian photographers who portray their communities as they, rather than others, see them. Older blogs on "Haiti in Photos" (Part One and Part Two) show Haiti as it really is rather than people perceive it to be. Finally below is an article by Mother Jones writer Nathalie Baptiste on the responsibility that countries such as the United States and France bear for Haiti's current situation.
In the excellent New York Times article below, Catherine Porter states that death is a plentiful resource in Haiti given that the life expectancy of Haitian is 63.4 years - twelve years below the Latin American and Caribbean average. Dying in Haiti is expensive - families often take out loans at exorbitant rates to provide funerals for loved ones while other families are forced to abandon their remains. These bodies would be dumped like garbage, as was the case in the past, but for the efforts of St. Luke Foundation volunteers who transport them for simple, cost-free burials. Haiti is full of heroes, and the volunteers who provide dignity in death to those who lacked it in life, are amongst them.
If someone, be it an individual or a politician, supports a project in Haiti it is usually an orphanage. The problem is that orphanages in Haiti are a business albeit one with almost no oversight and accountability. The vast majority of the children in orphanages have at least one parent. The smarter investments would be promoting access to family planning so families have only as many children as they can afford and establishing a foster care network throughout the country so that children can be in safe family environments instead. This is not to say all orphanages are bad - but there is a better way and the Haitian government has failed to protect children from the abuse, sexual and otherwise, that often takes place in these institutions. More information follows in a CNN Freedom Project article by Lisa Cohen.