Given poor access to and accountability of financial institutions in Haiti, much has been written about the potential benefits of mobile money. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Haitian Government are planning 2,000 mobile money transfers over the next three months in support of housing repairs. The funds do not change hands, the possibilities for corruption are reduced, and earthquake survivors can get started rebuilding their homes. The full press release follows.
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced this week that it is providing seven million dollars to Chemonics for a three year project to promote the use of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) and improve access to improved cook-stoves. Haiti's dependence on wood-based fuels for cooking has negatively affected the environment, agriculture, and health. If combined with economic development and national reforestation efforts, projects like this could help slow environmental degradation in Haiti.
When thinking of Haitian music, Konpa, Racine, Twoubadou are probably the first styles that come to mind. Like many other Caribbean countries though, Haiti has a small and vibrant jazz community. As with its neighbors, Haiti has been hosting its own jazz festival since 2007 - with the exception of 2010 due to the earthquake. Jazz is often described as uniquely American - yet Haitians living in New Orleans contributed to its development before it even had a name. An article on the festival by Jacqueline Charles of the Miami Herald follows. Could art, music, and film festivals breathe live into Haiti's tourism sector? Please feel free to post your thoughts in the comments section below.
Two years after the earthquake, I find myself asking are we there yet? We knew recovery would be difficult. The earthquake was one of the worst natural disasters the western hemisphere has ever experienced and arguably the worst urban disaster ever. Haiti’s institutions were/are weak. For decades, NGOs have been providing the services that a strong, capable, and accountable government should. One indication of recovery is the extent to which Haiti’s half million internally displaced persons (IDPs) are able to access new homes and livelihoods.
Thanks to Digicel and Voila Comcel, obtaining a cell phone is the least of your worries when traveling to Haiti. Almost immediately after arriving at the Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Port au Prince, one spots red and neon green beach umbrellas, under which man holding a string of calling cards and other mobile phone related products. Need a cell phone? No problem.
Sonia Pierre, Dominican human rights activist of Haitian descent, has died of heart failure at the age of 48. She was a passionate advocate for Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent living in the Dominican Republic – many of whom are stateless, not being recognized by the Dominican Republic or Haiti. She will be missed. The organization which she founded, El Movimiento de Mujeres Dominico-Haitiana or MUDHA, continues her work. An article on her passing follows below.
While the World Bank has a mixed record in Haiti, it and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) remain two of the most important multilateral funders of its post earthquake reconstruction. Yesterday, the World Bank announced $255 million in grants for Haiti which will be focused on strengthening education, agriculture, and disaster risk management – all of which are critical for Haiti’s long term development. The World Bank press release follows. More information about its activities in Haiti are available on the World Bank website.
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.
Below is a New York Times article, a reminiscence really, by Madison Smartt Bell on a simple house he once owned in rural Haiti. He recalls that one can do nothing alone in Haiti, which can make it very difficult and very special at the same time. His description of the lakou and the importance of community will resonate with anyone who has lived in rural Haiti before.
The Grand Rue Sculptors will hold the second Ghetto Biennale Art Festival from the end of November through early December. Film-makers, academics, photographers, musicians, architects, and writers will converge on Grand Rue to make and display Vodoun infused art with themes of survival, resistance, and redemption. If you cannot attend, check out the individual artists and their work online. Details and a draft schedule below.