Charcoal production is a cause of deforestation in Haiti although the true extent is debatable. Most Haitians in the countryside do not have affordable energy alternatives and many livelihoods are linked to making, transporting, and selling it. Rather than lamenting the country's dependence on charcoal, an alternative approach would be to help charcoal producers switch to fast-growing trees and harvest them in a more environmentally responsible manner. The Haitian government, J/P Haitian Relief Organization, and the World Bank are promoting efforts to do so in rural areas. More information in the AP article below.
The Haiti Tech Summit will be held from June 2-5 in Port-au-Prince (location to be announced). The Haiti Tech Summit will bring together entrepreneurs, investors, digital marketers and others to address development changes in Haiti that can be addresed through technological innovation. The event is projected to include 100 speakers, 500 companies, and 1,000 attendees. Sign up for updates and more information about program and organizers follows.
Ellen Ward (Concern Worldwide) writes below of the importance of accurate maps for promptly responding to disasters. In developing countries like Haiti, dense urban neighboods and isolated rural areas remain unmapped. The Missing Maps Initiative is an effort to fill in the blanks through crowd-sourcing. Concern and other partners have been involved in mapping neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince such as Bois Neuf, Cite Gerard, Cite Soleil in addition to communities affected by Hurricane Matthew. The Missing Maps Initiative website has resources for interested volunteers to learn how to map buildings and roads in Haiti and elsewhere using OpenStreetMap (supported by the OpenStreetMap Foundation). More information is also available on the Missing Maps Blog.
It is no secret that services at public health care facilities in Haiti are generally poor. However, these facilities are important in that they are used by Haitians who have no other alternative. Konbit Sante is a small organization based in Maine that has partnered with the Justinian University Hospital in Cap Haitian for many years. With their support, newborn and pediatric care is being moved into a new facility – but $25,000 is still needed for materials, equipment, and staffing. If you are looking for an accountable organization that is serious about capacity building, consider donating to Konbit Sante in support of the Justinian University Hospital.
As the new year approaches, Haitians get ready to do two things – paint their houses and prepare a big batch of pumpkin soup (soup joumou). Epicurious writer Sam Worley shares his experiences becoming familiar with soup joumou and what it represents to Haitians. This recipe is a good start but everyone makes theirs a little different. Vegetarians can just leave out the meat. Interested in learning more about soup joumou and Haitian food more broadly? Check out the "Liberty in a Soup" documentary or one of the many websites featuring Haitian dishes such as Home is Home (Lakay se Lakay) or Haitian Cooking. Have a favorite website or cookbook? Please share in the comments section.
MSF (Doctors Without Borders) has been present in Haiti for over 19 years, including by providing 24/7 maternal health care at its clinic in Port au Prince. All contributions received between December 13-31 will be matched by ELMA Relief Foundation, a private charitable foundation that supports communities affected by disasters. If you are interested in making a contribution to help Haiti over the holiday season, protecting the health of women and children is a great way to do it. Thanks to ELMA Relief Foundation, your contribution will now go farther. For more information, read Jude Webber's article on the state of maternal health care in Haiti and MSF's role in promoting it. Click here to make your contribution.
Below is an article by David McFadden (AP) concerning the 50,000 people who remain in camps seven years after the earthquake. Not everyone in the camps was/is is a victim of the earthquake. Some were victims of abject poverty and the camps were better places to be than the slums where they were living. Ninety six percent of those living in the camps left - either on their own or with assistance from a range of organizations. Solutions remain elusive for those who remain.
In collaboration with Doctors Without Borders (French acronym: MSF), photojournalist Benedicte Kurzen took a series of photos with sexual assault survivors in Port au Prince. The intent of the project was to emphasize their resilience, raise awareness and promote dialogue around an important but stigmatized issue in Haiti. To learn more about gender-based violence and other human rights issues, take a look at the U.S State Department's 2015 Human Rights Report for Haiti. Stay informed about MSF's work in Haiti, consider supporting them financially, and follow Kurzen on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
On December 1st, outgoing United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon offered an apology of sorts, expressing reget for not doing enough to respond to cholera while not admitting that it was caused by the poor sanitation practices of UN Peacekeepers. Had this apology been made five years ago, coupled with a committment to bring an end to the outbreak no matter how long necessary, it would have meant something. Coming months before he leaves office, one has the impression that the outbreak was not a priority until recently, that he is seeking to tie up the loose ends of his legacy before stepping down, or both. The full article by IRIN writer Samuel Oakford is below and information on efforts to hold the United Nations accountable can be found at the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH).
When thinking of Haitian exports, mangos, coffee, and rum may come to mind. However, Haiti was once and could be yet again a significant producer of cacao – the raw form of cocoa that is roasted and converted into chocolate. Expanding cacao production would mean livelihoods for farmers in rural Haiti while potentially complementing reforestation efforts. This is, all in all, a sweet deal.