The U.S. State Department released its 2010 Annual Report on Human Trafficking today. Haiti remains a source, transit, and destination country for human trafficking. The most significant trafficking issue concerns restaveks – forced domestic servitude of young children given to (mostly) urban families by parents (mostly) from rural areas with larger families. An estimated 225,000 children were enslaved as restaveks prior to the 2010 earthquake. Even more children are vulnerable to exploitation in the earthquake’s aftermath. Below is the Haiti section of the report, which includes recommendations for the Haitian government and the international community.
John Holmes, the UN Humanitarian Chief, yesterday expressed frustration with the humanitarian response in Haiti. Holmes stated finding available land for transitional shelters, slow decision-making by the government and new waves of Haitians moving into the settlements (often for services not available in their own neighborhoods) have made responding to the crisis particularly difficult. The Haitian government, responsible for setting priorities and developing plans, lacks staffing and expertise. It is being pulled in many directions at once on issues relating to shelter, hurricane contingency planning, governance reforms, elections, law enforcement, food security, and decentralization.
Below is an article by Jacqueline Charles on a joint USAID/Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) Grant established to promote mobile phone banking in Haiti. In Haiti, use of mobile phones has become widespread. For far too many, the only options for saving money have been to: (1) travel to urban centers; (2) utilize the services of a close by but questionable cooperative or Caisse Populaire (Popular Bank), or (3) to keep hard earned funds under the mattress. This grant could create quick and convenient access to financial services from reputable institutions. You can read more about this welcome initiative at the BMGF website.
Interaction, the largest coalition of U.S. based international nongovernmental organizations, recently launched the Haiti Aid Map, an online application that graphically represents which organizations in Haiti are doing what and where. Interaction welcomes feedback on this pilot initiative. Contact them if you would like to learn more, submit data, or share your thoughts concerning the kinds of information that should be highlighted or the features you would like to see in the future.
Port au Prince lost many of its architectural landmarks in the earthquake. One of these was the Iron Market. While the market was hot and crowded, it was also full of energy. One cannot help but miss it. Half of the market was for vendors selling Vodoun flags, paintings and other works of art. The other side was an entrepeneurial free for all where you could find just about anything. The CNN article below notes that, while it will take years, the Iron Market will be rebuilt. Hopefully it will be bigger, stronger, and safer.
Groupe Haïtien d’Étude du Sarcome de Kaposi et des Infectieuses Opportunistes (GHESKIO) was selected as the 2010 winner of the prestigious Gates Award for Global Health. The honor is well-deserved given GHESKIO’s innovative clinical service, research, and training programs and rapid response in treating those injured during the earthquake. GHESKIO's leadership is needed more than ever as the Haitian health care system is reconstructed. The press release is below, a fact sheet and an interview with GHESKIO Director Bill Pape are attached, and finally click here to see the award ceremony.
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.
Below is a recent report by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) on the state of the Haitian justice system. Prior to the earthquake, Haiti was making slow but much needed progress on improving access to justice. The Haitian government is not starting from scratch but now has the added challenge of rebuilding courts, prisons, and police stations while continuing reform efforts. Promoting a society that understands and values human rights and government that can monitor and enforce them is essential for Haiti's long term development.
The Inter American Development Bank (IDB) has announced that it will significantly expand investment in renewable energy throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. The IDB intends to spend one billion in Haiti to help develop a new energy infrastructure powered by wind, solar, and hydroelectricity. The current fuel shortage in Haiti underscored the importance of renewable, domestic energy for the country's long term development. Click here for a video clip of IDB President Moreno explaining the new initiative. A fact sheet is also attached. I'll include more information as I find it.
As we get closer to May, the rains will become more frequent and intense. Even brief rainfall to date gives an indication of how vulnerable the displaced in Port au Prince are to flooding and mud-slides. Some, such as the displaced at the Petionville Golf Club are being relocated to the hastily prepared Corail-Cesselesse site 15 km north of Port au Prince. Six other sites require urgent evacuation before the rainy season. Other sites can be made safer with engineering interventions. Disturbingly, hundreds sheltering at the National Stadium were reported to have been forcibly removed. Close coordination and rapid action are urgently needed to protect the displaced from the upcoming rains.