Up to 7,000 Haitian migrants may try to cross the Southern California border in the months ahead. The majority of these migrants were given humanitarian visas to live and work in Brazil following the earthquake. While there were many opportunities to work in the lead-up to the Olympics, the Brazilian economy has taken a beating as of late. As work became harder to find, Haitian migrants increasingly sought opportunities elsewhere - and often travelling dangerous routes to do so.
While fragile politically, Haiti is much safer than media coverage suggests. Any violent crime mainly takes place in Port au Prince. Even there, homicide rates are decreasing (now at 3 per 100,000 people in three selected areas) vs. 52 per 100,000 people in Jamaica, generally viewed as a favorable tourism destination. Even Costa Rica has a higher rate than Haiti at 11 homicides per 100,000 people. Below is an article by Trenton Daniel on the decreasing homicide rate in Haiti's largest city. To court investment and tourism, Haiti needs to rebrand itself as historically, culturally, and artisticly rich as well as safe.
Of all countries in the western hemisphere, Haiti lags furthest behind in vaccination coverage. However, there are reasons for hope. The Haitian Ministry of Health (MSPP), the World Health Organization (WHO), The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the GAVI Alliance, American Red Cross (ARC), and key countries such as the United States, Brazil, Cuba, and Canada have pledged to coordinate in expanding coverage, including the introduction of new and much-needed vaccines. The full press release follows.
The transition from emergency relief to reconstruction is happening, albeit slowly. It won’t be easy and there will be setbacks, particularly given that the rainy season is upon us along with the risks it brings of flooding, mudslides, infectious diseases, and infrastructure damage. Engineers have completed emergency mitigation measures at six of the most vulnerable settlements to protect the most vulnerable, but much remains to be done.
Hard to believe that just a year and a half ago, there were food riots in Port au Prince and other Haitian cities. Since then, Haiti has become become politically stable to the point where firms involved in agriculture, textiles, infrastructure development and tourism are considering investing in Haiti. Livelihood opportunities are sorely needed given that half of Haitians live on less than two dollars a day. Still, the majority of Haitians are small farmers. Without opportunities to provide for themselves and their families, the influx of the rural poor to urban centers will only accelerate. Increasing agricultural productivity/opportunities is key to improving food security in Haiti.
In late 2006, we were blogging about Haiti’s kidnapping crisis. Now in late 2009, we are blogging about investment opportunities. Much has changed. Just last week, hundreds of potential investors gathered for the largest investment conference ever held in Haiti, organized by the Inter American Development Bank with financial support from the Canadian government. Will trade become more important than aid some day? This depends on the answers to two questions. First, can investors make a return on their investments? Second, will the government allocate new resources in an effective, accountable way that benefits all of Haiti and not just the cities?
Copied below is an article published last year in Biodiesel Magazine. It may be worth revisiting given several interesting videos that Haiti Xchange noticed on the Haiti Biodiesel Industry website. The first video concerns a group in Port au Prince that is converting used cooking oil into biofuel. One of the members is using it in Haiti's first biofuel powered truck. Another demonstrates a fully functional bio-stove. Finally, there is a video of a biofuel powered generator. Readers can discuss biofuels in the Haiti Biodiesel Forum. Dialogue is needed given the many unanswered questions concerning the potential of biofuels in Haiti. What is the position of the goverment? How best to coordinate among the grassroots organizations, government ministries, and private sector? What do pilot projects require to be brought to scale? Perhaps the June Jatropha conference that CHIBAS is hosting can shed light on these issues.