Haiti and the Dominican Republic have always had a complicated relationship. Much of this is due to different interpetrations of, and not coming to terms with, historical events. One such event was the "Parsley Massacre" of 1937 during which the Dominican military executed both Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent. It is unclear how many were killed during the massacre. An article by NPR contributors Marlon Bishop and Tatiana Fernandez on the impact of the massace for families on both sides of the border dollows.
On October 5th, the UN Peacekeeping Force in Haiti (MINUSTAH) concluded after thirteeen years and was replaced with a force of 1,300 international civilian police officers. While MINUSTAH did help stabilise the country during a fragile period, its efforts were marred by, as in so many other countries, sexual abuse and exploitation by peacekeepers. In addition, UN reluctance to take responsibility for the still ongoing cholera epidemic caused by peacekeepers is shameful. The emphasis now is on buiilding Haiti's law enforcement capacity. The full article by Al Jazeera follows and is accompanied by a short video regarding the MINUSTAH transition.
As the United States has stepped back from humanitarian leadership, Canada and Mexico have stepped up. Rather than deporting Haitains who had become stranded in Mexico trying to reach the United States, the Mexican government has offered them one year renewable visas allowing them to work. This has benefitted the Haitian migrants and it has also benefitted Mexico, which now has a new and manageable pool of very hard workers. It is a good example of solidartiy in a world that is sorely in need of more of it. The full article by AP journalist Elliot Spagat follows.
Haitians are increasingly seeking asylum in Canada for fear of being deported when a six month Temporary Protected Status extension concludes on January 22nd . According to the Miami Herald copied below, the Montreal City Council estimates that half of the 6,500 asylum seekers arriving since January are Haitian. In the United States, civil society groups continue to advocate for another extension.
Haiti has long had a sanitation problem, being one of a very small number of countries where sanitation worsened over the last twenty five years. Port au Prince, its largest city, has no central sewage system and is unlikely to ever have one. There are other models for sewage management but implementing them without good governance, the rule of law, and a well-informed public is, as with anything else, challenging. However, there are champions for improving sanitation both within and outside the Haitian government. The full NPR article by Rebecca Hersher follows.
Haiti's infant mortality rate remains the highest in the western hemisphere. This is due in part to a lack of accessible health care facilities with sufficient staffing, training, and equipment. With funding from Every Mother Counts, Midwives for Haiti have been training skilled birth atttendants (midwives) to asist mothers during delivery. Ideally, every Haitian mother could deliver in a facility staffed by health care professionals available to them twenty four hours a day. That's isn't the reality for most Haitian mothers, making the work of skilled birth attendents critical for them and their babies. Take a look at the full Washington Post photo essay to learn more.
Linked and copied below is a BBC article about yet another effort by the Haitian government to re-create a military force. The reasons given are job creation, disaster response, and border patrol. Costa Rica also does not have a military and is able to patrol its borders and respond to disasters through civilian institutions. In addition, Costa Rica creates jobs by encouraging investment. Given the sordid history of the Haitian military, donors would much prefer that Haiti continues to focus on strengthening the national police force. Recreating the military could very well result in more instability and uncertainty - as was the case in the past.
Doctors Without Borders, also known by its French acronym MSF, has released a report on sexual violence in Haiti. Gender-Based Violence (GBV) is a human rights and a public health issue as it can cause mental trauma, unwanted pregnancies, and transmission of HIV and sexually transmitted infections. Stigma remains intense in Haiti due to lack of access to justice and survivor-centered health care. In 2015, MSF opened a clinic in Port-au-Prince that specializes in providing health and psychological support to GBV survivors. Take a look at the report (available in English and French with summary below), and if you would like to support MSF, you can do so here.
A World Bank study recommends that Haiti and its donors focus less on building hospitals and more on preventative and primary care. Haiti spends less than 5 percent of its budget on health care meaning that it must prioritize. The best run hospitals have long been managed by or co-managed with non-governmental organizations. Public hospitals are in need of serious reform. Ninety pecent of operating budgets for hospitals are for payroll with an over-emphasis on administration. Decentralization could potentially empower health facilities by allowing staff to make their own budgetary and human resource decisions. The full article by Miami Herald journalist Jacqueline Charles follows.
The U.S State Department has released the 2017 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) reports. The Haiti Country Narrative (copied below) notes that while Haiit does not meet minimum standards for preventing and responding to TIP, it is making significant efforts to improve. This included strengthening its interministerial anti-trafficking commision, working more closely with international organizations, improving investigations and prosecutions and obtaining convinctions under the 2014 antri-trafficking law. In short, progress is being made although much more remains to be done.