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.
Associated Press Writer Jonathan Katz recently wrote an article entitled "From Haiti, a Suprise: Good News about AIDS." In reality, it is far from a suprise. We've long known that Haiti has been, despite numerous challenges, one of only a handfull of countries to reverse its epidemic. Treatment models pioneered here are being applied in Sub-Saharan Africa. Haiti shows us what an engaged civil society and sustained political will, backed by international support, can accomplish in even the most difficult circumstances. I am proud and hope you are as well.
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.
JSI Research & Training Institute, Inc. is a health research/consulting firm dedicated to improving the health of individuals and communities worldwide. JSI visited Haiti in January 2009 to identify gaps in the availability and accessibility of reproductive health (RH) services and to assess community responses for strengthening quality, accessibility and availability. Reproductive health is a social issue, a public health issue, a human rights issue, a security issue, and one that is important for countries that are fragile, stable, or in Haiti's case, teetering in between. The report is attached and deserves to be widely read.
It has been a busy month for Haiti. The Donors Conference turned out reasonably well. At the Summit of the Americas meeting, members of the Organisation of American States (OAS) expressed their willingness to offer long-term support to Haiti. OAS Secretary General José Miguel welcomed the focus on Haiti, noted that the Haitian government drafted a plan on how the international community can help. As he put it, 'Now you know exactly what you have to support…I think things are really going to begin to happen for Haiti.'' We hope so as well.
Most would agree increasing trade is important for Haiti's long term development. Where people disagree concerns what kind, how much, and where. Haiti has never been an easy place to invest, but it has enormous potential due to its large multinational Diaspora, proximity to the United States, vast labor pool, and now the passage of Hope II. Given these advantages, is Haiti open for business?
President Obama is in the United Kingdom this week as part of the G20 Summit. As Nicholas Kristof wrote an op-ed, more is at stake than banks. According to World Bank estimates, the global economic crisis will cause an additional 22 children to die per hour, throughout all of 2009. Robert Zoellick, President of the World Bank, stated, “In London, Washington and Paris, people talk of bonuses or no bonuses...In parts of Africa, South Asia and Latin America, the struggle is for food or no food.”
World TB Day was on March 24. If this were a blog about HIV/AIDS, I could write about the progress that Haiti and the rest of the world is making. However, this is a blog on tuberculosis and a fight we are losing. More than two billion people, one third of the world’s total population, are infected with TB bacilli, the microbes that cause TB. People living with HIV are at greater risk. For Haiti, much more remains to be done.
Konbit Sante is a non profit organization based in Portland, Maine. Their focus is improving the physical infrastructure of Cap Haitian’s Justinian Hospital and building the capacity of its staff. Konbit Sante has helped to upgrade facilities, water supply, electricity, medical equipment, and computer information systems. In addition, it has set in place numerous training opportunities for health care providers. The attached annual report provides background on their accomplishments in 2008. Especially exciting is the new Women’s Initiative, dedicated to improving maternal health.