Below is an article by Miami Herald journalist Jacqueline Charles about Haiti's response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the University Hospital of Mirebalais which plays a central role in it. The University Hospital is one of the few hospitals with the capacity to stabilise patients with COVID-19 and to provide these services free of charge. The Hospital staff are preparing for a potential surge in cases which could be caused by Haitians returning from the Dominican Republic due to lost livelihoods, the near impossibility of social distancing, and a health care system that was fragile even prior to the pandemic. If you are looking for a way to help Haiti as it responds to the pandemic, consider a donation to Partners in Health which manages the University Hospital and remains the largest non-profit health care provider in the country.
Repected Haitian-American author Edwidge Dandicat writes in the Miami Herald op-ed below that the United States is endangering Haitians and communities in Haiti by deporting them regardless of their health status. More than 100 Immigrants’ rights organizations, faith-based groups, academic institutions across the United States and Haiti, have sent a letter to the Trump administration, the Department of Homeland Security and ICE, urging them to stop the deportations and find community-based alternatives to detention that will prevent the spread of COVID-19. For members of the Haitian Diaspora and friends of Haiti, now is the time to contact your representatives and senators. Haiti's political and health care systems are much too fragile right now to deal with a major epidemic. The end result is that people will lose their lives.
On February 13th, a fire killed thirteen children and two adult caretakers at a "children's home" that the U.S based Church of Bible Understanding supported in Haiti. I want to be clear that there are some faith-based groups doing heroic work for health, education, and social justice in Haiti. There are, however, as many unscruplous organisations who see children as a way to fund-raise salaries, overhead, while providing little for the kids themselves. Orphanages are money-makers and thus are plentiful, numbering oven 700. Many of these children are abused and exploited in the name of God and money. If these organisations were really interested in helping, they would make familly planning available so parents have no more children than they want or can afford, would support families to take care of the children they already have, and expand adoption/foster networks for children who have no family to take them in. The church refuses to comment on the allegations of children who have come forward to say they were abused. The full article by AP journalists Michael Weissenstein and Ben Fox follows.
In the New Humanitarian, Jessica Obert writes that Haiti never fully recovered from the earthuqake let alone cholera, political instability, and subsequent natural disasters. While Haitians themselves are resilient their government and the systems that are supposed to be in place to ensue their health, safety, and well being are not. Haiti's ever-fragile economy had already contracted 1.2 percent last year due to protests and the pandemic could result in a contraction of 2.7 percent this year according to the Haitian Ministry of Finance. Physcial distancing does not work well in settings where people are living day to day due to economic hardship. If there are positives, Haiti's population is younger and it has a history of working together with the Dominican Republic on infectious diseases. As with other countries, Haiti will be living with the pandemic for a long time to come.
Haiti's health care system, a patchwork of public and private facilities, was struggling prior to the pandemic. Instability and its root causes of poor governance, corruption, and poverty have resulted in poor access to health services for most Haitians. BBC journalist Will Grant writes below that will every country in the Americas will be impacted by the coronavrius (COVID-19) pandemic, Haiti lacks the capacity and financial resources needed to increase its preparedness. As has long been the case, the hard work of addressing growing health needs falls upon non-governmental organisations such as Partners in Health who received Haiti's first cases.
According to Jacqueline Charles of the Miami Herald, a historical landmark church inside Haiti’s UNESCO World Heritage site, was gutted by an early morning fire on April 13th which destroyed its wooden dome and much of the interior. Haiti has few fire-fighters and it took the poorly equipped team in Cap Haitien over an hour to arrive, after which it was too late. Preservationists and business leaders had previously called upon the government to protect historical sites, emphasizing that "only these monuments remain testimonies of our history of struggles, suffering and hope.” It may be too late for Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church but it is not too late to better protect Haiti's many historical sites throughout the country. The full article follows.
Ten years after the earthquake, and despite billions of dollars in assistance, hunger is a growing problem in Haiti. Food insecurity has been made worse by political instability and its root cause, corruption. Up to four million people are now facing severe hunger due to the downturn of an already weak economy and inflation. Hunger undermines nutrition, health, education, and stability, and economic development or, in other words, the future. Humanitarian responders like the World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) can provide food to the most vulnerable - but they can't fix the underlying problems. This depends upon the Haitian people having an accountable, effective government that represents the interests of the many instead of the few. An article by Jassica Obert in The New Humanitarian about food insecurity in Haiti follows.
It can take years or even decades for countries to recover from major disasters. The aim is to build back better over time so the country becomes more resilient, better able to prevent and respond to a wide range of hazards. Haiti remains just as vulnerable to major disasters as it was when the earthquake hit ten years ago. There is not an improved building code nor a resourced and widely understood national emergency response plan nor drills to operationalize and refine such plans. Haiti remains consumed by political instability, the root of which is the lack of an effective, accountable government that invests in its people. Donors have become frustrated and less interested - that is until the next major disaster happens, which eventually it will. An article below by Miami Herald journalist Jacqueline Charles and Jose Iglesias traces what has happened since 2010 and why.
Protests, taking place throughout the country, have negatively affected the economy and the ability of schools and clinics to function. While this is regrettable, protestors are fighting for a government that is more accountable, more responsive, and that invests in the people rather than enriching themselves. Without that, nothing will change for the better. High level leaders hide while sending out the security forces, who as demonstrated by Amnesty International, have committed abuses on numerous occassions. This is unacceptable - visit the Amnesty International website to read the full report and see accompanying videos.
Hurricane Dorian was the most catastrophic storm to affect the Bahamas to date. Residents, which include many Haitians, continue to suffer. As before the earthquake, some parts of civil society continue to stigmatise Haitians while others protect them. As the country preapres to rebuilds, undocumented Haitians worry about the possibility of forced deportation. The Bahamian government has not issues an official statement but the Prime Minister has told hurricane-affected Haitians that they haven nothing to fear. Haitians are part of the fabric of Bahamian society and will also need to be part of the rebuilding effort. The full article by Jacquline Charles and Nicholas Nehamas of the Miami Herald is linked and below.