As the UN Peackeeping Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) winds down, it leaves a mixed legacy - less insecurit and better police along with an ongoing cholera epidemic and a number of Haitian women who became pregnant by U.N peacekeepers. Reuters journalist Makini Brice notes in her article below that while the United Nations has a "zero tolerance" policy on sexual exploitation and abuse, peacekeepers move on while their children grow up without any support. Haitian lawyers intend to file law suits although the timing is unclear. The United Nations has a long track record of promising but under-delivering on accountability in peace-keeping operations - how these women are treated will be an indicator of whether anything has changed.
The current administration has granted undocumented Haitians in the United States an additional six months of Temporary Protected Status (TPS), protecting them from deportation...at least for now. The Department of Homeland Security has warned that this may be the final six months of TPS and Haitians should prepare for return. It is difficult to imagine how Haiti can absorb 60,000 returnees at this point in time - especially those who would be returning to the hurricane affected Grande Anse. Due in large part to Hurricane Matthew, the economy is expected to contract ths year. Additional information follows in a Miami Herald article by Jacqueline Charles below.
You don't have to go to Haiti to experience live Haitian music. There are venues in Boston, New York City, Montreal, and Miami that feature Haitian music a swell as annual festivals, the best of which is Miami's Compas Festivals. It has always been outdoors, features many different musicians, and count on a large, enthusiastic audience. An article by the Miami Herald's Jacqueline Charles about how the the Compas Festival has evolved over the years, and the challenges it still faces, follow. More information and tickets are available here.
Below is an article by the Evening Standard's Claire Dodd about her experience visiting Haiti - not as an aid worker, missionary, or Haitian visiting family - but as a tourist. Getting around Haiti may not be easy, but for those with a sense of adventure, it is well worth it. Haiit's history of resistance, rich culture, and artistic traditions make it a unique and rewarding country to visit. People often ask how to help Haiti - but as Jean Cyril Pressoir puts it, “...if you want to help...come as a tourist. Help us break from away from this pre-conceived idea, this prejudice that has us defined as a place where you come to help. Don’t come to help us. Come to enjoy yourself.”
Director and long-time Haiti enthusiast Jonathan Demme died on April 26th. He lived a long life and, through his films, made people aware of Haiti - and more than that, its heroes. Demme was reponsible for "The Agronomist", easily my favorite film about Haiti, concerning the life of Jean Dominique - a journalist and human rights activist who gave his life for what believed in. Author and fellow Haiti enthusiast Amy Willentz writes below that best way to honor his memory is to learn about Haiti, engage, and to continue the struggle for human rights and democracy. Organize, resist, and win - it's what Demme and Dominique would have wanted.
Below is an article by Orlando Sentinel journalist Sandra Pedicini about the hundreds of Haitian Disney employees who will be forced to leave the United States should the government end their Temporary Protected Status (TPS). TPS was given to undocumented Haitians in the United States after the 2010 earthquake to protect them from deportation. Advocates, as well as Senate Democrats, argue that the ongoing cholera epidemic and aftermath of Hurricane Matthew justify TPS. Further, companies such as Disney are speaking out against the possibility of losing hard-working and dependable employees. More information about TPS available at the USCIS website.
Jacqueline Charles (Miami Herald) reminds us in her article below that life in communities struck by Hurricane Matthew six months ago remains difficult. Food insecurity, which depends in large part on agriculture, is tenuous and replacement shelters have yet to be constructed. The Haitian Government has been clear that it leads the recovery efforts although it is clear much remains to be done. Beyond meeting food and shelter needs remains the challenging task of preparing for furture hurricanes to mitigate the damage they will cause.
On Thursday, April 13 the United Nations Security Council is expected to pass a resolution extending the mandate of MINUSTAH for a final six months, during which its 2,370 military personnel will phase. After, a smaller mission of 1,275 police officers will focus on training the Haitian National Police. The full article by Edith Lederer (AP) follows and more information is available on the MINUSTAH website.
When I was living in Haiti many years ago, a friend's father passed away. My friend was scraping by on odd jobs and needed to take out a large loan in order to finance the burial. He felt that to do otherwise would be disrepecting his father's memory. The poor, who can least afford it, are charged exorbitant rates for burial services in Haiti. What could change this? Cultural change, such as accepting cremation or simplified burials, will take time. William Mellon (founder of Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Deschapelles) had himself buried in a cardboard box. Government regulation and enforcement would help. Below is an AP article on the hardships that burial costs place upon Haitian families.
Stateless persons are not recognized as citizens of any country. They are often vulnerable to exploitation due to a lack of access to health care, education, work, and justice. It is a major problem in the Dominican Republic where the the government has long been reluctant to grant citizenship to Dominicans of Haitian descent. Last week, the Haitian Parliament voted to accede to the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, making it the third member state of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the 69th country in the world to do so. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) issued a statement praising Haiti for its committment. To become involved, consider joining UNHCR's "I Belong" Campaign to End Statelessness.