During their years in power, the Duvaliers led a kleptocracy - stealing from the people to maintain extravagant lifestyles. They did not do so alone. Being anti-communist, they were long supported by the United States while Swiss banks hid millions of dollars from the Duvaliers and those close to them. In 2002, Duvalier funds in Geneva, Vaud and Zurich were frozen. In 2009, the Federal Office of Justice announced the money would be returned to Haiti although this was overturned the following year. These funds, which belong to the Haitian people, have yet to be returned. Doing so is long overdue.
Haitian women hold together families, communities, and the country. Despite this, violence against women and girls remains a persistent problem. The kindnapping, torture, and murder of a high school girl has infuriated civil society who are pushing artists, influences, and politicans to do more to prevent and respond. The girl, Evelyne Sincère, has become a symbol of injustice - but not indifference this time. If Haiti is to change, both civil society and the government will need to work tirelessly for the protection of women and girls. The best way to honor Evelyne is to prevent it from happening to anyone else. The full article by Miami Herald journallist Jacqueline Charles follows.
Weak governance and political instability continues to hinder progress in Haiti, but it is important to highlight what is working. For example, Haiti has cut malaria cases in half from 2010 by working with a range of international and national partners including the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria, the World Health Organisation, the Clinton Health Access Initiative, the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the CDC Foundation, and the Carter Center. This is welcome news, especially for pregnant women and children under five who are most vulnerable. An update from the Haitian Minister of Health Marie Greta Roy Clement in the Miami Herald follows.
In the week leading up to the election, the Trump Administration has scaled up deportation flights to Haiti. Many were deported while they asylum cases were pending using a 1944 public health law, thereby sidestepping legal obligations to give asylum seekers a fair hearing. The 1944 law allows for emergency measures to prevent the introduction of communicable diseases. The reality is that the United States is the country most affected by COVID-19 and is placing Haiti at risk by deporting people who may be infected. Haiti's political instability and poor health care system leave it under-prepared to respond to a significant increase in cases. COVID-19 continues to be a tool for the Trump Administration to block asylum to the maximum extent possible - even for those already here. The full article by the Guaridan's Julian Borger follows.
Many of Haiti's roads are terrible - some major routes have been improved but overall it is far behind its Latin American and Caribbean neighbors. Roads are important for the economy, getting goods to and from regional markets, for public health, getting people to health care facilities when they need care, and for disaster preparedness/response, being able to get national and international responders/commodities to where they are most needed. Due to the rough conditions, travel is more difficult and expensive than it should be. To get a better sense of what it is like to be a passenger or driver in Haiti, check out the documentary "Deadliest Roads: Haiti".
More than 850,000 Haitians have been infected with Cholera and 10,000 have died from it since being introduced by United Nations (UN) peacekeepers ten years ago. There has been no compensation provided by the UN and its member states. When the United Nations accepts no accountability for actions, it its less able to demand accountability from others. While the UN has at times been benefical to Haiti, its unwillingess to right the wrongs of its peacekeeping forces, from sexual abuse and exploitation to cholera, undermine these efforts. The full article by Miami Herald journalist Jacqueline Charles follows.
According to France 24, the Haitian High Court of Auditors released a report slamming the mis-use of $2 billion in aid from Venezuela from 2008-2016. For a country Haiti's size, this level of funding could have been used for much needed schools, clinics, and infrastructure - in other words, a better future. Instead it was utterly wasted due to corruption and bad management. The Haitian political elite is quite upset that U.S Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently met the Haitian President in a hallway without the pomp and circumstance of a normal bilateral meeting. I understand that anger but until Haiti has a government that is accountable and invests in its own people instead of lining its pockets, it will not be taken seriously in a region where most of its neighbors are making progress.
Haiti’s investment in health has dropped from 16.6 percent in 2004 to 4.4 percent in 2017 despite everything its people have been through since then - unrest, cholera, natural disasters, the earthquake, COVID-19, gender-based violence, and grinding poverty. Opportunities to consult formally trained mental health workers rmeain rare. For a country of nearly 11 million, Haiti also only has 23 psychiatrists and 124 psychologists. Some alternatives, such as hotlines, are beginning to emerge in response. Linked and below is an article by Jessica Obert in the New Humanitarian about the mental health situation in Haiti.
Haitians have long worked in the Dominican Republic due to the lack of opportunities at home. With the Dominican economy contracting due to the pandemic, many Haitian migrants are returning home. The World Health Organisation's western hemisphere branch (Pan American Health Organisation) has established screening and quarantine centers at border crossings in the region but with 269 informal crossing points and only four formal crossing points ensuring the health needs of returning migrants is a daunting task - especially when they fear their own communities may stigmatise them. The full article by New York Time journalist David Waldstein follows.
Most U.S administrations have been ambivalent or hostile to Haiti. Even the administrations that have ostensibly wanted to help it have at times done tremendous harm. The Trump Administration is amongst those that are hostile to Haiti - too black, too poor, no money to be made there. Not only is the United States deporting Haitians, including those with COVID-19, it is preparing to send back former death squad leader Emmanuel "Toto" Constant. He is truly a man who belongs behind bars, either American or Haitian, but now is not the time to further destabilise Haiti with his presence. The Washington Post Editorial Board calls for a compassionate approach - which will not happen unless the electorate in key states like Florida demand it.