There have been many changes at Haiti Innovation over the past year. With the invaluable assistance of Development Seed, the organization which designed the Haiti Innovation website, we've effectively made the transition to a no cost, non profit consultancy. We now regularly provide technical assistance, guidance and contacts to individuals and organizations who are currently working in Haiti or interested in doing so. We also speak frequently with journalists to help impart a more balanced view of Haiti and the developmental challenges the country faces. And of course, we continue to blog. Haiti Innovation is growing and we want you to be an active member of our community.
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.
In the wake of the “food riots” the details of subsidies and international aid are still being hammered out and parliament still can’t get past determining if the prime minister elect’s grandmother’s birth certificate is in order as everyday Haitians go on living.
There a number of new items on the Partners in Health Website worth looking at. Watch (or read) an interview with Paul Farmer and Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! Paul traces the history of Haiti, discusses how a country with agricultural roots came to be tremendously food insecure, and explains how social justice and public health reinforce each other. As he puts it, "We need a movement that’s not just run by people who are experts, but the citizenry. Be part of a movement to push forward social justice, and that will lead us on healthcare, as well."
Strike two. Preval’s second nominee for the position of Prime Minister was rejected. While food insecurity continues, politicians squabble. I have a modest proposal - Give the politicians concerned one meal a day until a Prime Minister has been selected and a new goverment can be formed. This is, after all, the reality for many in Haiti. I suspect officials would work out a solution rather quickly.
I hardly contemplate the number of times I turn on a water tap in a day or barely appreciate the fortune of flushing the toilet after each use. After spending just a few days in Haiti you come to see water as the "blue gold". Access to safe water for drinking and hygiene prevents disease and dehydration and allows for economic and social growth. The RFK Memorial Center for Human Rights, Partners in Health, and NYU Center for Human Rights and Global Justice are partnering together to assess the right to water in Haiti. The launch of the Right to Water report will take place in NYU School of Law on June 23rd.
Attached is the Haitian Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper. Within it, the Haitian Government has set priorities and identified steps that need to be taken to make progress against poverty. This document provides the framework that allows international partners to calibrate their programming in order to synchronize their efforts with the government. Any plan worth its weight in paper must be ambitious, flexible, and achievable. Let's take a look at the document and see if it holds up.
Urgent Advocacy Alert from Jubilee USA (June 6): Please sign the petition to U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson Jr. to urge him to support accelerated debt cancellation for Haiti and, in the meantime, an immediate moratorium on the country's debt service payments at this meeting. Jubilee USA will deliver this petition before he leaves on Wednesday, June 11. The finance ministers of the G8 countries — the world’s richest nations — meet on June 13 and 14 in Japan to discuss the food crisis. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson Jr. will be attending the G8 meeting. By canceling debts they could help alleviate the suffering of Haiti and other affected countries.
In the past, we've written about the important work being done by FOKAL (Foundation of Knowledge and Liberty). While food security is priority number one for the Haitian government and its supporters, we must not forget about education. FOKAL will be holding a symposium called “Libraries and Human Development in Haiti." Speaking at the event will be George Soros, founder of the Open Society Institute, Michele Montas, journalist and spokeswoman for the UN Secretary General (as well as wife of slain radio personality Jean Dominique), and Lorraine Mangones, Deputy Director and visionary behind FOKAL’s cultural programming
Haiti is a creative, vibrant and ultimately unique country. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Haitian arts. The Jacmel Film Festival has proven itself to be one of Haiti's premiere cultural events, both exposing young Haitians to a new medium for and showing visitors a new side of Haiti. Even if you can't attend the Festival, you can now read the Jacmel Journals online. The website states, "Jacmel Journals are regularly updated photo and video reports produced by FFJ students...these on-line video and photo blogs further community accountability and dialogue, while providing continued on-the-job learning opportunities for aspiring documentarians and storytellers." If you like the journals, let them know and consider making a donation to support Haiti's up and coming film-makers.