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.
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.
Ten years after the earthquake, and despite billions of dollars in assistance, hunger is a growing problem in Haiti. Food insecurity has been made worse by political instability and its root cause, corruption. Up to four million people are now facing severe hunger due to the downturn of an already weak economy and inflation. Hunger undermines nutrition, health, education, and stability, and economic development or, in other words, the future. Humanitarian responders like the World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) can provide food to the most vulnerable - but they can't fix the underlying problems. This depends upon the Haitian people having an accountable, effective government that represents the interests of the many instead of the few. An article by Jassica Obert in The New Humanitarian about food insecurity in Haiti follows.
Protests, taking place throughout the country, have negatively affected the economy and the ability of schools and clinics to function. While this is regrettable, protestors are fighting for a government that is more accountable, more responsive, and that invests in the people rather than enriching themselves. Without that, nothing will change for the better. High level leaders hide while sending out the security forces, who as demonstrated by Amnesty International, have committed abuses on numerous occassions. This is unacceptable - visit the Amnesty International website to read the full report and see accompanying videos.
Hurricane Dorian was the most catastrophic storm to affect the Bahamas to date. Residents, which include many Haitians, continue to suffer. As before the earthquake, some parts of civil society continue to stigmatise Haitians while others protect them. As the country preapres to rebuilds, undocumented Haitians worry about the possibility of forced deportation. The Bahamian government has not issues an official statement but the Prime Minister has told hurricane-affected Haitians that they haven nothing to fear. Haitians are part of the fabric of Bahamian society and will also need to be part of the rebuilding effort. The full article by Jacquline Charles and Nicholas Nehamas of the Miami Herald is linked and below.