Haiti has many surnames including "Poorest Country in the Western Hemisphere", "Republic of 10,000 NGOs, and "at a Crossroads". For all is beauty and potential, it remains held back by poor governance, political intsability, and crushing poverty. It's a hard narrative to change when most of the coverage is of flawed elections (or no elections), power struggles, and protests. If the Haitian government truly wants to change how it is viewed it needs to show that it cares about and invests in its own people. The Miami Herald Editorial Board recommends starting with COVID vaccination - which has not yet taken place. It would be a start.
As of April 2021, Haiti still does not have vaccines to offer its population of over 11 million people. Political instability, insecurity, and poor governance continue to hinder efforts to procure vaccine and sensitize the public. Haiti was slated to receive 756,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine but missed a crucial deadline for doing so. The more the Haitian government is prepared to do in responding to COVID-19, the more the international community can support it. The full article in the Guardian follows.
There is a long history of peace-keeping operationa in Haiit - as well as a long history of peace-keepers exploting women and children. A Haitian court has ordered a former UN peacekeeper from Uruguay to pay child support to a women he impregnated in 2011. This case is a step towards justice for the mother and the child but it could also encourage more court cases nationally and globally. In Haiti alone, hundreds of children may have been fathered by UN peacekeepers. The full article by New Humanitarian Journalist Paisley Dodds follows.
Haitian-Canadian filmmaker Michèle Stephenson’s documentary, Stateless, was the centrepiece film of this year’s Toronto Black Film Festival - which, due to COVID-19, was conducted online, It examines the strained relationship between Haiti and the Dominican Republic and the consequences, sometimes violent, for Haitian migrant laborers and Dominicans of Haitian descent who, despite having been born in the Dominican Republic, continue to be denied citizenship due to racism and xenophobia. A review by Sarah-Tai Black follows - a trailer is posted on The National Film Board of Canada’s Media Library and the documentary itself will follow.
During their years in power, the Duvaliers led a kleptocracy - stealing from the people to maintain extravagant lifestyles. They did not do so alone. Being anti-communist, they were long supported by the United States while Swiss banks hid millions of dollars from the Duvaliers and those close to them. In 2002, Duvalier funds in Geneva, Vaud and Zurich were frozen. In 2009, the Federal Office of Justice announced the money would be returned to Haiti although this was overturned the following year. These funds, which belong to the Haitian people, have yet to be returned. Doing so is long overdue.
Many of Haiti's roads are terrible - some major routes have been improved but overall it is far behind its Latin American and Caribbean neighbors. Roads are important for the economy, getting goods to and from regional markets, for public health, getting people to health care facilities when they need care, and for disaster preparedness/response, being able to get national and international responders/commodities to where they are most needed. Due to the rough conditions, travel is more difficult and expensive than it should be. To get a better sense of what it is like to be a passenger or driver in Haiti, check out the documentary "Deadliest Roads: Haiti".
According to France 24, the Haitian High Court of Auditors released a report slamming the mis-use of $2 billion in aid from Venezuela from 2008-2016. For a country Haiti's size, this level of funding could have been used for much needed schools, clinics, and infrastructure - in other words, a better future. Instead it was utterly wasted due to corruption and bad management. The Haitian political elite is quite upset that U.S Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently met the Haitian President in a hallway without the pomp and circumstance of a normal bilateral meeting. I understand that anger but until Haiti has a government that is accountable and invests in its own people instead of lining its pockets, it will not be taken seriously in a region where most of its neighbors are making progress.
Haiti it a tough country to be a child, but especially one without family. Insitutionalising children is rarely the right answer, especially in a country where oversight of orphanages is lax. The better option is to provide children with the option of living, even temporarily, with a foster family. At long last, Haiti is developing a national network of foster families so children don't wind up in orphanages, on the street or worse. Haiti is early in this process but it it still represents real progress. Participating famiies are not paid - they quite literally do it out of the goodness of their hearts. The full article by AP journalist David Crary follows.
The U.S State Department has released the 2017 Human Rights Reports. While not without controversy this year, these reports are valuable for tracking to the extent to which partner countries protect human rights - including for women, children, and minorities. As in previous years, Haiti's weak justice remains a major challenges. Conditions in prisons remain poor and journalism remains a dangerous business. However, they have been some modest successes including the Haitian National Police becoming increasingly professional. The full report 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.