There have been many changes at Haiti Innovation over the past year. With the invaluable assistance of Development Seed, the organization which designed the Haiti Innovation website, we've effectively made the transition to a no cost, non profit consultancy. We now regularly provide technical assistance, guidance and contacts to individuals and organizations who are currently working in Haiti or interested in doing so. We also speak frequently with journalists to help impart a more balanced view of Haiti and the developmental challenges the country faces. And of course, we continue to blog. Haiti Innovation is growing and we want you to be an active member of our community.
One must be entrepeneurial to survive on less than a dollar a day. A wide variety of organizations throughout the world are using microfinance, the provision of small loans, to tap this entrepeneurial spirit and help rural women improve their livelihoods. Pioneered by the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, this pro poor model has been proven effective again and again in India, Rwanda, Haiti, and elsewhere. The number of organizations offering micro-credit in Haiti has grown considerably but there is still a need for expansion.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recently released an interesting and easy to understand guide on the relationship between investments in water/sanitation/hygiene (WASH) and public health. The international community, and Haiti Innovation included, have been paying a lot of attention to food security. However, children with diarrhoea from poor water are not able to absorb nutrients, are more likely to become malnourished, and subsequently come down with a life threatening disease. Worldwide 1.4 million children a year die (6,000 a day) die from diarrhoea. In Haiti, 10% of all deaths are estimated to be water-related. Access to water, sanitation and hygiene, together are key to promoting public health in Haiti and elsewhere.
Maybe I should call this blog the Fuel Security update instead. The big news this past week was the elimination of the government gasoline subsidy which drove fuel prices up to over six dollars a gallon. With limited funds and infinite needs, the government decided to focus its attention on agriculture and other programs to fight poverty. However, transporting food and other commodities (or oneself if seeking health care) is less affordable now and out of reach for many. The tap-taps are all charging more. Also, the price hike is eating into the budgets of the international and non-governmental organizations which are active throughout the country. More money on fuel means less for programs.
In the wake of the “food riots” the details of subsidies and international aid are still being hammered out and parliament still can’t get past determining if the prime minister elect’s grandmother’s birth certificate is in order as everyday Haitians go on living.
There a number of new items on the Partners in Health Website worth looking at. Watch (or read) an interview with Paul Farmer and Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! Paul traces the history of Haiti, discusses how a country with agricultural roots came to be tremendously food insecure, and explains how social justice and public health reinforce each other. As he puts it, "We need a movement that’s not just run by people who are experts, but the citizenry. Be part of a movement to push forward social justice, and that will lead us on healthcare, as well."
Strike two. Preval’s second nominee for the position of Prime Minister was rejected. While food insecurity continues, politicians squabble. I have a modest proposal - Give the politicians concerned one meal a day until a Prime Minister has been selected and a new goverment can be formed. This is, after all, the reality for many in Haiti. I suspect officials would work out a solution rather quickly.
Haiti is the country most affected by HIV/AIDS in the Western Hemisphere. That having been said, Haiti is also one of only a handfull of countries to have halted and reversed a generalized epidemic. This is something to be proud of. Credit mainly goes to Haitian civil society but also to national and international non-governmental organizations as well as commited government officials. The President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Global Fund for HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria have, in different ways, both helped accelerate progress.
I hardly contemplate the number of times I turn on a water tap in a day or barely appreciate the fortune of flushing the toilet after each use. After spending just a few days in Haiti you come to see water as the "blue gold". Access to safe water for drinking and hygiene prevents disease and dehydration and allows for economic and social growth. The RFK Memorial Center for Human Rights, Partners in Health, and NYU Center for Human Rights and Global Justice are partnering together to assess the right to water in Haiti. The launch of the Right to Water report will take place in NYU School of Law on June 23rd.
Malnutrition is a major problem throughout the developing world including Haiti. It saps the immune system, making it easier to get sick with and die from an infectious disease. It slows cognitive development reducing the contributions a person can make to his or her country. After years of business as usual, there have been several very promising developments such as the Ready to Use Therapeutic Food called Plumpynut. There is another important intervention called Sprinkles - a easy to use nutritional supplement that has proven effective in Haiti and elsewhere.