Two years after the earthquake, I find myself asking are we there yet? We knew recovery would be difficult. The earthquake was one of the worst natural disasters the western hemisphere has ever experienced and arguably the worst urban disaster ever. Haiti’s institutions were/are weak. For decades, NGOs have been providing the services that a strong, capable, and accountable government should. One indication of recovery is the extent to which Haiti’s half million internally displaced persons (IDPs) are able to access new homes and livelihoods.
Thanks to Digicel and Voila Comcel, obtaining a cell phone is the least of your worries when traveling to Haiti. Almost immediately after arriving at the Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Port au Prince, one spots red and neon green beach umbrellas, under which man holding a string of calling cards and other mobile phone related products. Need a cell phone? No problem.
Sonia Pierre, Dominican human rights activist of Haitian descent, has died of heart failure at the age of 48. She was a passionate advocate for Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent living in the Dominican Republic – many of whom are stateless, not being recognized by the Dominican Republic or Haiti. She will be missed. The organization which she founded, El Movimiento de Mujeres Dominico-Haitiana or MUDHA, continues her work. An article on her passing follows below.
While the World Bank has a mixed record in Haiti, it and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) remain two of the most important multilateral funders of its post earthquake reconstruction. Yesterday, the World Bank announced $255 million in grants for Haiti which will be focused on strengthening education, agriculture, and disaster risk management – all of which are critical for Haiti’s long term development. The World Bank press release follows. More information about its activities in Haiti are available on the World Bank website.
While fragile politically, Haiti is much safer than media coverage suggests. Any violent crime mainly takes place in Port au Prince. Even there, homicide rates are decreasing (now at 3 per 100,000 people in three selected areas) vs. 52 per 100,000 people in Jamaica, generally viewed as a favorable tourism destination. Even Costa Rica has a higher rate than Haiti at 11 homicides per 100,000 people. Below is an article by Trenton Daniel on the decreasing homicide rate in Haiti's largest city. To court investment and tourism, Haiti needs to rebrand itself as historically, culturally, and artisticly rich as well as safe.
Below is a New York Times article, a reminiscence really, by Madison Smartt Bell on a simple house he once owned in rural Haiti. He recalls that one can do nothing alone in Haiti, which can make it very difficult and very special at the same time. His description of the lakou and the importance of community will resonate with anyone who has lived in rural Haiti before.
The Grand Rue Sculptors will hold the second Ghetto Biennale Art Festival from the end of November through early December. Film-makers, academics, photographers, musicians, architects, and writers will converge on Grand Rue to make and display Vodoun infused art with themes of survival, resistance, and redemption. If you cannot attend, check out the individual artists and their work online. Details and a draft schedule below.
Below is a guest blog from Nina Persi, an art student who visited Haiti to document the lives of orphans living in Saint Joseph facilities in/around Port au Prince and Jacmel. Having returned to Pennsylvania, she is using her photos to raise awareness about vulnerable children in Haiti (of which there are many) and to raise funds for the Saint Joseph Family, an organization doing exceptional work caring for them. More information on her trip, the Saint Joseph Family, and how you can get involved follows.
According to Webster’s on-line dictionary, the definition of poor is: 1. Destitute of property; wanting material riches or goods; needy; indigent. Haiti has come to be known as the poorest country in the western hemisphere, which is technically true if you base the statement according to dollars and cents. Many of the local Haitians I’ve come across say “yes we are poor” while smiling. My question is why the smile? Which leads me to ask what exactly does it mean to be poor?
The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Haitian and Canadian governments launched a maternal and child health initiative today, a continuation and expansion of two existing programs. Even prior to the earthquake, Haiti was a difficult place to be a mother or a young child. Through this initiative, mothers and children under five receive basic care without cost. The intent is to progressively scale up this initiative to 90 health care facilities throughout the country. The full press release follows.