According to France 24, the Haitian High Court of Auditors released a report slamming the mis-use of $2 billion in aid from Venezuela from 2008-2016. For a country Haiti's size, this level of funding could have been used for much needed schools, clinics, and infrastructure - in other words, a better future. Instead it was utterly wasted due to corruption and bad management. The Haitian political elite is quite upset that U.S Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently met the Haitian President in a hallway without the pomp and circumstance of a normal bilateral meeting. I understand that anger but until Haiti has a government that is accountable and invests in its own people instead of lining its pockets, it will not be taken seriously in a region where most of its neighbors are making progress.
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.
Most U.S administrations have been ambivalent or hostile to Haiti. Even the administrations that have ostensibly wanted to help it have at times done tremendous harm. The Trump Administration is amongst those that are hostile to Haiti - too black, too poor, no money to be made there. Not only is the United States deporting Haitians, including those with COVID-19, it is preparing to send back former death squad leader Emmanuel "Toto" Constant. He is truly a man who belongs behind bars, either American or Haitian, but now is not the time to further destabilise Haiti with his presence. The Washington Post Editorial Board calls for a compassionate approach - which will not happen unless the electorate in key states like Florida demand it.
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.
Repected Haitian-American author Edwidge Dandicat writes in the Miami Herald op-ed below that the United States is endangering Haitians and communities in Haiti by deporting them regardless of their health status. More than 100 Immigrants’ rights organizations, faith-based groups, academic institutions across the United States and Haiti, have sent a letter to the Trump administration, the Department of Homeland Security and ICE, urging them to stop the deportations and find community-based alternatives to detention that will prevent the spread of COVID-19. For members of the Haitian Diaspora and friends of Haiti, now is the time to contact your representatives and senators. Haiti's political and health care systems are much too fragile right now to deal with a major epidemic. The end result is that people will lose their lives.
On February 13th, a fire killed thirteen children and two adult caretakers at a "children's home" that the U.S based Church of Bible Understanding supported in Haiti. I want to be clear that there are some faith-based groups doing heroic work for health, education, and social justice in Haiti. There are, however, as many unscruplous organisations who see children as a way to fund-raise salaries, overhead, while providing little for the kids themselves. Orphanages are money-makers and thus are plentiful, numbering oven 700. Many of these children are abused and exploited in the name of God and money. If these organisations were really interested in helping, they would make familly planning available so parents have no more children than they want or can afford, would support families to take care of the children they already have, and expand adoption/foster networks for children who have no family to take them in. The church refuses to comment on the allegations of children who have come forward to say they were abused. The full article by AP journalists Michael Weissenstein and Ben Fox follows.
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.
Haiti's health care system, a patchwork of public and private facilities, was struggling prior to the pandemic. Instability and its root causes of poor governance, corruption, and poverty have resulted in poor access to health services for most Haitians. BBC journalist Will Grant writes below that will every country in the Americas will be impacted by the coronavrius (COVID-19) pandemic, Haiti lacks the capacity and financial resources needed to increase its preparedness. As has long been the case, the hard work of addressing growing health needs falls upon non-governmental organisations such as Partners in Health who received Haiti's first cases.
According to Jacqueline Charles of the Miami Herald, a historical landmark church inside Haiti’s UNESCO World Heritage site, was gutted by an early morning fire on April 13th which destroyed its wooden dome and much of the interior. Haiti has few fire-fighters and it took the poorly equipped team in Cap Haitien over an hour to arrive, after which it was too late. Preservationists and business leaders had previously called upon the government to protect historical sites, emphasizing that "only these monuments remain testimonies of our history of struggles, suffering and hope.” It may be too late for Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church but it is not too late to better protect Haiti's many historical sites throughout the country. The full article follows.