The Haiti Donors' Conference is taking place today, which you can view by clicking here. In the meantime, the International Crisis Group (ICG) has released a report and recommednations for stabilizing and reconstructing Haiti. The report makes clear that stability demands a difficult balancing act between meeting immediate humanitarian needs, which will only become more pronounced during the rainy season, and laying the groundwork for long term recovery. An accountable government, an informed civil society, and an engaged Diaspora are key. The executive summary/recommendations are copied below and the complete report is attached.
Right now, the priority is saving lives by ensuring access to food, water, and health care. Recovery will take many years and the assistance of the international community will be required in order to do so. But what kind of asssistance will be most effective? The New York Times, in its blog series "Room for Debate", asked a number of individuals connected to Haiti for their thoughts on what kind of aid should be provided and how. They may have very different beliefs, backgrounds, and perspectives but all care for Haiti. Taken together, their feedback is interesting food for thought that should be taken into account now and over the long term.
When people think of Haiti, they often think of hunger, and not without reason. Though there has been significant progress over the past year, hunger remains a pervasive problem. Achieving food security is fundamental to nutrition, health, education, economic growth, stability and all the other issues we lump under “development.” There are well intentioned groups, such as this one from Kansas, that often try to send packages of food to Haiti. It might make one feel good, but in reality, it does little good. There is much that we can do to promote food security in Haiti, but it is up to us to ensure that our time, energy, and resources make an actual, and not just a perceived, difference.
Here's the good news - the first hurricane of 2009 passed on by. The bad news is that we've got a long way to go until hurricane season is over. The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts that there will be seven to eleven named storms in the Atlantic before the end of November, with the potential for three to six hurricanes. As we saw last year, tropical storms can wreck havoc on both crops and infrastructure. Humanitarian responders are gearing up.
The past month has been important for Haiti. The World Bank, IMF, and the IDB forgave $1.2 billion of Haiti’s debt. Deals were reached with members of the Paris Club to cancel an additional $152 million in debt. Bill Clinton made his first trip to Haiti as UN Special Envoy. Plus, discussions at the G8 Summit indicated we may be on the verge of a historic shift in how food assistance is delivered, to the benefit of Haiti and other food insecure countries.
Hurricane season has begun. Flooding will be inevitable each year until environmental degradation is reversed. Still, leadership, preparation, and coordination can mitigate the human and economic costs. Jacqueline Charles describes, in the Miami Herald, the last minute efforts of the Haitian government to bolster infrastructure in Haiti's most vulnerable cities, yet to recover from the consequences of last year's storms. Haiti is more ready than it was last year, but still has a long way to go.
Below is a reader blog by Daniel Schnitzer, the Director of InterIntel. InterIntel is a small organization that specializes in innovative environmental management and alternative energy projects. Presently, InterIntel is building a clean energy store in Les Anglais and establishing both an educational management course and a Jatropha project in Coteaux. You can support InterIntel by donating, volunteering, or spreading the word about their work.
The past year has been hard for Haiti. As usual, an emergency occurred that galvanized the attention of the international community temporarily. Humanitarian responders ramped up operations to deal with the crisis at hand. Commitments were made from donors, some of which were even kept. But other emergencies happened around the world in other countries, and the political will to help Haiti make it from emergency to development mode fades. Below is a Miami Herald article by Jacqueline Charles, touching on the issue of "Haiti Fatigue." Has the world grown tired of Haiti?
Haiti recently celebrated Fet Gede, the Day of the Dead. As Matt notes, it is a time for honoring those who have come before and a reminder to love those who are still here. November 18th marks the anniversary of the Battle of Vertieres, the historic battle which ensured Haiti’s place as the first free black republic and the only country to have led a successful slave rebellion. The juxtaposition of these two holidays reminds us that life is both a gift and a struggle. In Haiti, the struggle against hunger, poverty, and instability continues.
Below is a Miami Herald article on the relationship between environmental degradation in Haiti and natural disasters. Click here to see an audio slideshow of the consequences of deforestation. The article also contains a link to an interview with Jane Wynne, who is intimately familiar with Haiti's environmental issues. As she puts it, "There is hope but only if we have the will to change." There is also a link to an interview with Prime Minister Pierre-Louis. Though it will take all of Haitian society to reverse the deforestation, her role is to prepare and coordinate a governmental response. It is long overdue.