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.
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.
One of the most distinctive aspects of Haitian culture is generousity. If you are well and truly screwed, somebody will step up to help you. Since the start of the pandemic, Haitian immigrant and Miami resident Doramise Moreau has cooked 1,000 meals a week on top of her job as a janitor. The next time a politician disparages Haiti or the Haitian Diaspora, let us remember and share stories about the kindness and decency of people like Doramise. The article in the Miami Times 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.
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.