Haiti has many surnames including "Poorest Country in the Western Hemisphere", "Republic of 10,000 NGOs, and "at a Crossroads". For all is beauty and potential, it remains held back by poor governance, political intsability, and crushing poverty. It's a hard narrative to change when most of the coverage is of flawed elections (or no elections), power struggles, and protests. If the Haitian government truly wants to change how it is viewed it needs to show that it cares about and invests in its own people. The Miami Herald Editorial Board recommends starting with COVID vaccination - which has not yet taken place. It would be a start.
As of April 2021, Haiti still does not have vaccines to offer its population of over 11 million people. Political instability, insecurity, and poor governance continue to hinder efforts to procure vaccine and sensitize the public. Haiti was slated to receive 756,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine but missed a crucial deadline for doing so. The more the Haitian government is prepared to do in responding to COVID-19, the more the international community can support it. The full article in the Guardian follows.
In these increasingly chaotic times it is good to be reminded of the work being done by Haiti's heroes - and Dr. Jean William "Bill" Pape is one of them. Dr. Pape, one of the country's leaders in preventing and responding to infectious diseases, will be one of nine people around the world tapped by the World Health Organisation to provide guidance to its director. It is an honor for him, and honor for Haiti, and a reminder that progress is possible in spite of political instability. You can learn more about his work to date by visiting the GHESKIO website and the full article by Miami Herald journalist Jacqueline Charles follows.
Weak governance and political instability continues to hinder progress in Haiti, but it is important to highlight what is working. For example, Haiti has cut malaria cases in half from 2010 by working with a range of international and national partners including the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria, the World Health Organisation, the Clinton Health Access Initiative, the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the CDC Foundation, and the Carter Center. This is welcome news, especially for pregnant women and children under five who are most vulnerable. An update from the Haitian Minister of Health Marie Greta Roy Clement in the Miami Herald follows.
In the week leading up to the election, the Trump Administration has scaled up deportation flights to Haiti. Many were deported while they asylum cases were pending using a 1944 public health law, thereby sidestepping legal obligations to give asylum seekers a fair hearing. The 1944 law allows for emergency measures to prevent the introduction of communicable diseases. The reality is that the United States is the country most affected by COVID-19 and is placing Haiti at risk by deporting people who may be infected. Haiti's political instability and poor health care system leave it under-prepared to respond to a significant increase in cases. COVID-19 continues to be a tool for the Trump Administration to block asylum to the maximum extent possible - even for those already here. The full article by the Guaridan's Julian Borger follows.
More than 850,000 Haitians have been infected with Cholera and 10,000 have died from it since being introduced by United Nations (UN) peacekeepers ten years ago. There has been no compensation provided by the UN and its member states. When the United Nations accepts no accountability for actions, it its less able to demand accountability from others. While the UN has at times been benefical to Haiti, its unwillingess to right the wrongs of its peacekeeping forces, from sexual abuse and exploitation to cholera, undermine these efforts. The full article by Miami Herald journalist Jacqueline Charles follows.
Haiti’s investment in health has dropped from 16.6 percent in 2004 to 4.4 percent in 2017 despite everything its people have been through since then - unrest, cholera, natural disasters, the earthquake, COVID-19, gender-based violence, and grinding poverty. Opportunities to consult formally trained mental health workers rmeain rare. For a country of nearly 11 million, Haiti also only has 23 psychiatrists and 124 psychologists. Some alternatives, such as hotlines, are beginning to emerge in response. Linked and below is an article by Jessica Obert in the New Humanitarian about the mental health situation in Haiti.
Haitians have long worked in the Dominican Republic due to the lack of opportunities at home. With the Dominican economy contracting due to the pandemic, many Haitian migrants are returning home. The World Health Organisation's western hemisphere branch (Pan American Health Organisation) has established screening and quarantine centers at border crossings in the region but with 269 informal crossing points and only four formal crossing points ensuring the health needs of returning migrants is a daunting task - especially when they fear their own communities may stigmatise them. The full article by New York Time journalist David Waldstein follows.
Below is an article by Miami Herald journalist Jacqueline Charles about Haiti's response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the University Hospital of Mirebalais which plays a central role in it. The University Hospital is one of the few hospitals with the capacity to stabilise patients with COVID-19 and to provide these services free of charge. The Hospital staff are preparing for a potential surge in cases which could be caused by Haitians returning from the Dominican Republic due to lost livelihoods, the near impossibility of social distancing, and a health care system that was fragile even prior to the pandemic. If you are looking for a way to help Haiti as it responds to the pandemic, consider a donation to Partners in Health which manages the University Hospital and remains the largest non-profit health care provider in the country.
In the New Humanitarian, Jessica Obert writes that Haiti never fully recovered from the earthuqake let alone cholera, political instability, and subsequent natural disasters. While Haitians themselves are resilient their government and the systems that are supposed to be in place to ensue their health, safety, and well being are not. Haiti's ever-fragile economy had already contracted 1.2 percent last year due to protests and the pandemic could result in a contraction of 2.7 percent this year according to the Haitian Ministry of Finance. Physcial distancing does not work well in settings where people are living day to day due to economic hardship. If there are positives, Haiti's population is younger and it has a history of working together with the Dominican Republic on infectious diseases. As with other countries, Haiti will be living with the pandemic for a long time to come.