This is not the first time that insecurity, poverty, a compromised police force, and a polticial power vacuum has enabled a surge in kidnappings. What is different this time is both the extent and the methods - police officers, doctors, priests, and entire busses of people have been kidnapped. Both rich and poor are vulnerable. The companies that continue to operate in Port au Prince are moving their staff into compounds, transporting them in armored cars, and some are commuting by boat to avoid the roads entirely. In this environment, instability will persist, the economy will not grow, and those who can will leave through either regular or irregular means will do so. As is so often said, Haiti is at a crossroads - the way ahead is uncertain. The full article by Washington Post contributor Anthony Faiola and Widlore Merancourt follows.
The Haitian President has been killed in his home and his wife wounded. He came into power in 2017 and has been ruling by decree since January 2020. While he did little to address Haiti's underlying issues, and may in fact have made them worse, neither he nor his wife deserved this. The former president's seventh prime minister had not been nominated yet, the President of the Supreme Court died of COVID, and the path ahead for replacing the President is unclear. Amongst all of Haiti's problems, the government is now in disarray. The full article by Miami Herald Journalists Jacqueline Charles and Johnny Fils-Aime is below with updates to follow.
The U.S State Department has releaed its 2021 Trafficiking in Persons (TIP) reports. Haiti is "Tier 2" country meaning it is falling short in many areas. The economic downtown, political instability, and conflict increased vulnerability. Of note, the government did not make efforts to combat child domestic slavery with estimates of the number of restaveks in Haiti as high as 300,000. The number of street children has likely increased and "orphanage entrepeneurs" continue to operate unlicensed shelters as profit-making enterprises. The concrete steps Haiti could take to improve prevention and response are laid out in the Haiti section of the report copied below.
Haiti has yet to deliver a single dose of COVID-19 vaccine. There are many reasons for this - a weak government, political instability, an already over-burdened health system, other pressing problems such as gang violence, and a false sense of confidence that the pandemic would affect Haiti only minimally. According to the Miami Herald, USAID announced a $16.1 million commitment to assist Haiti in the battle against COVID-19, it was providing lab equipment, disease surveillance, hand-washing stations and 50 oxygen concentrators to be distributed to 16 hospitals. It remains to be seen whether Haiti will be able to secure and use vaccines that the United States could provide. The full article by Jacqueline Charles is linked and copied below.
Haiti is a religious country and social movements, when they take off, often have the participation of its faith communities. The Catholic Church has closed its institutions for three days to demand the release of kidnapped priests and nuns. Regardless of religious affiliation, nobody is safe until the present political crisis is resolved, the country has a government that actually governs, and security can be restored. It is time for the faith communities to work together in making that happen. The full article on the strike by AP journalist Evens Sanon follows.
The UN Security Council may not agree on much but it is unanimous in urging Haiti to settle political differences and hold elections. The conditions for having an election are challenging - and flawed elections have made Haiti's situation worse in the past. Still, the current political impasse is untenable. As insecurity increases, gangs once again fill the void. Protests are frequent, the economy is not growing, and basic services do not reach those most in need. In short, the risk of collapse is real. An article by Miami Herald journalist Jacqueline Charles folllows.
There is no justice without a functioning judicial system and Haiti's is broken. Prisons are sorely over-crowded in part due to 80% of inmates being held for years with no trial. In addition, activists report a distrubing increase in illegal preventive detentions. Judges are few, overwhelmed, and often threatened. Haiti remains a fragile democracy and will remain so without justice and the rule of law. If the judicial system improves, then we will know that Haiti is, at last, changing for better. The full article by AP journalists Evens Sanon and Danica Coto is linked and follows below.
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.
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.
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.