Many of Haiti's roads are terrible - some major routes have been improved but overall it is far behind its Latin American and Caribbean neighbors. Roads are important for the economy, getting goods to and from regional markets, for public health, getting people to health care facilities when they need care, and for disaster preparedness/response, being able to get national and international responders/commodities to where they are most needed. Due to the rough conditions, travel is more difficult and expensive than it should be. To get a better sense of what it is like to be a passenger or driver in Haiti, check out the documentary "Deadliest Roads: Haiti".
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.
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.