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.
Below is a recent article in the Economist about the current state of Hait's development. The Canadian government funded the Copenhagen Consensus Center (CCC) think tank to study the impact of different policies in Haiti - what would they cost and what would have the greatest impact? The Haitian government can't do everything at once and the intent is to help it prioritize. Interventions that come out on top include fortifying wheat flour with micrconutrients and reforming the electrical system. Learn more at the CCC website which includes a PPT presentation on the top ten proposed interventions.
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.
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.
To be fair, the Haitian government is trying to demonstrate the leadership that was absent from the 2010 earthquake response. It is setting priorities and specifying what interventions it will and will not accept from the international community. Still, the government is quite fragile and has limited capacity. Some priorities are being determined not based on the needs of the survivors as much as the needs of the government to show that it has changed. New York Times writer Azam Ahmedoct reflects on how the response to the earthquake is shaping the response to Hurricane Matthew below.