According to the United Nations, over 470 people have been killed, injured or are missing in recent violence as gangs war with each other and the government. Government officials have been told to stay home and the violence is getting closer to key governmental institutions including the National Palace. This is not the first time that elites have used gangs as mercenaries and/or pawns for achieving their political or economic ambitions. What is new is the sheer scale of the violence, made worse by illicit shipments of weapons. The Haitian police are simply out numbered and out-gunned. Unless the Haitian government and its partners can develop sufficient numbers of well-trained, well-armed, sufficiently paid and reasonable accountable police officers with the right leadership, the situation will only get worse. The full NYT article by Maria Abi-Habib and Andre Paultre follows.
New York Times
Haitians have long worked in the Dominican Republic due to the lack of opportunities at home. With the Dominican economy contracting due to the pandemic, many Haitian migrants are returning home. The World Health Organisation's western hemisphere branch (Pan American Health Organisation) has established screening and quarantine centers at border crossings in the region but with 269 informal crossing points and only four formal crossing points ensuring the health needs of returning migrants is a daunting task - especially when they fear their own communities may stigmatise them. The full article by New York Time journalist David Waldstein follows.
In the excellent New York Times article below, Catherine Porter states that death is a plentiful resource in Haiti given that the life expectancy of Haitian is 63.4 years - twelve years below the Latin American and Caribbean average. Dying in Haiti is expensive - families often take out loans at exorbitant rates to provide funerals for loved ones while other families are forced to abandon their remains. These bodies would be dumped like garbage, as was the case in the past, but for the efforts of St. Luke Foundation volunteers who transport them for simple, cost-free burials. Haiti is full of heroes, and the volunteers who provide dignity in death to those who lacked it in life, are amongst them.
Today is Halloween, a day when zombies abound. Zombies have their roots in Haiti, specifically in the pain and suffering of slavery. Amy Wilentz reminds us zombies exist throughout the year. As she puts it, “The zombie is devoid of consciousness and unable to critique the system that has entrapped him. He’s labor without grievance. He works free and never goes on strike. You don’t have to feed him much. He’s a Foxconn worker in China; a maquiladora seamstress in Guatemala; a citizen of North Korea…” In zombies, one hears echoes of oppression, in Haiti and elsewhere around the world. Her full article follows.
Plumpynut revolutionized the treatment of acutely malnourished children. In Haiti, Partners in Health (PIH) has produced a local variant, Nourimamba, since 2007. The Abbot pharmaceutical company is working closely with PIH to further improve Nourimamba and to expand production. The opening of a factory is scheduled for end 2012. This is good news for malnourished children, the health care providers who treat them, and the farmers who produce the ingredients for Nourimamba. An article by New York Times writer Duff Wilson on the PIH/Abbot partnership follows.
Plumpynut, a peanut based paste, has revolutionalized the way in which severely malnourished children around the world are treated. Many young lives have been saved as a result. There is now increasing attention on how Plumpynut variants can prevent children from becoming malnourished in the first place. In Haiti, both Meds and Food for Kids (MFK) and Partners in Health (PIH) produce products similar to Plumpynut. In the below New York Times article, Andrew Rice describes the promise, politics, and profitability of Plumpynut. Considering the negative impact that malnutrition has on the health and cognitive development of children in Haiti, it is well worth a read.
Lens, the New York Times photography blog, recently covered a Zanmi Lakay photography project in Jacmel. Through Zanmi Lakay, 28 Haitian children were given cameras and asked to document different aspects of daily life in a city trying to recover and rebuild. A description of the project is below. The photos are well worth a look and you can view them by clicking here. Who knows? Perhaps one day, some of these children will become photojournalists themselves.
"Mesi" to Nicholas Kristof for his article below in defense of the Haitian people. Development "experts" and religious "leaders" alike have put forth their own theories, ranging from fatalism to God's will, to explain Haiti's poverty. Friends of Haiti know that Haitians are a strong, proud people who did not deserve what has happened to them. As Kristof writes, " ...the implication of belated seismic revenge on Haitian children seems defamatory of God." Haitians have made it through natural and man-made disasters before this. While Haiti won't be the same, it will recover - the ultimate rebuttal to those who say it cannot.
The rainy season will soon begin in Haiti. As a result of deforestation, flooding will be inevitable. What is not inevitable is how well the Haitian government and civil society respond in Gonaives and elsewhere. Unfortunately, Gonaives remains vulnerable and those who live there know it. Below is a piece by the New York Times about the uncertainty felt by the residents of Haiti's historic yet battered city.
Maybe I should call this blog the Fuel Security update instead. The big news this past week was the elimination of the government gasoline subsidy which drove fuel prices up to over six dollars a gallon. With limited funds and infinite needs, the government decided to focus its attention on agriculture and other programs to fight poverty. However, transporting food and other commodities (or oneself if seeking health care) is less affordable now and out of reach for many. The tap-taps are all charging more. Also, the price hike is eating into the budgets of the international and non-governmental organizations which are active throughout the country. More money on fuel means less for programs.