Toilet paper is something that it is not adequately appreciated until one does not have it - and forty percent of Haitians do not. Myrtha Vilbon, with support from USAID, has grown her toilet paper production facility significantly. While Haiti is not yet an easy place to do business, she has done well, with over 100 employees (70 of them women) in her factory. The full article by the Miami Herald's Jacqueline Charles follows.
Below is a USAID/Department of Education announcement of new funding to support the Room to Learn program in Haiti. Haiti is one of six Room to Learn focus countries, which focuses on improving access to primary education. An estimated 600,000 out of school Haitian children are functionally illiterate. Education is critical for their growth as well for the growth of Haiti's economy, civil society, and institutions.
Below is an announcement concerning the launch of a five year project, as part of USAID's Feed the Future Initiative, to bolster agriculture in northern Haiti. In addition to nuts and bolts such as preventing erosion and promoting irrigation, the project will also expand the access of farmers to new(er) technologies such as mobile money. The $87.8 million project will be led by Development Alternatives Inc (DAI) with Haitian firms Agridey and AgroConsult sub-contracting.
Below is a brief article from the Economist on the relationship between food security and food imports. Both aid and trade policies have long subverted domestic agriculture in Haiti. President Martelly has set a target of meeting 60% of Haiti's food needs through domestic production within three years. This is a tough row to hoe as it requires better resource management, irrigation, reforestation, and natural disaster preparedness. Food security isn't just about rice though. Greater production of yams, sorghum, manioc, sweet potatos, and corn would help.
Below is an article by Trenton Daniel concerning the increasing use of Haitian Kreyol in schools - which is a good thing. In a hemisphere dominated by Spanish and English, French remains the language of the Haitian elite. While true that Haiti has produced artists of note who worked in French, countless children didn't have a chance at a good education because they were instructed in a language neither they nor their teachers were comfortable with. Learning multiple languages makes sense - but so does being tought in (and proud of) your first language.
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced this week that it is providing seven million dollars to Chemonics for a three year project to promote the use of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) and improve access to improved cook-stoves. Haiti's dependence on wood-based fuels for cooking has negatively affected the environment, agriculture, and health. If combined with economic development and national reforestation efforts, projects like this could help slow environmental degradation in Haiti.
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has announced the opening of an apparel training center in Port au Prince. The intent is to help Haiti take advantage of expanded trade preferences under the Haiti Economic Lift Program (HELP) Act that passed the Senate in May 2010. My main concern is that foreign investment, while sorely needed, will primarily occur in Port au Prince. Building a better Haiti depends in large part on building a decentralized Haiti where agriculture is viable and profitable. Rural development has been all too often neglected in Haiti, but is critical for the future.
John Holmes, the UN Humanitarian Chief, yesterday expressed frustration with the humanitarian response in Haiti. Holmes stated finding available land for transitional shelters, slow decision-making by the government and new waves of Haitians moving into the settlements (often for services not available in their own neighborhoods) have made responding to the crisis particularly difficult. The Haitian government, responsible for setting priorities and developing plans, lacks staffing and expertise. It is being pulled in many directions at once on issues relating to shelter, hurricane contingency planning, governance reforms, elections, law enforcement, food security, and decentralization.
Below is an article by Jacqueline Charles on a joint USAID/Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) Grant established to promote mobile phone banking in Haiti. In Haiti, use of mobile phones has become widespread. For far too many, the only options for saving money have been to: (1) travel to urban centers; (2) utilize the services of a close by but questionable cooperative or Caisse Populaire (Popular Bank), or (3) to keep hard earned funds under the mattress. This grant could create quick and convenient access to financial services from reputable institutions. You can read more about this welcome initiative at the BMGF website.
Immediately after the earthquake, information came out of Haiti in a trickle. It is now more like a flood. As of February 3, the Government of Haiti (GOH) increased its death toll estimate to over 200,000. 300,000 are reported to have been injured, 250,000 homes destroyed, and 30,000 businesses disrupted. Assessments carried out by MINUSTAH now indicate a 15-20% population increase in the South, Grand Anse, Nippes, and Central Plateau departments due to displacement from Port-au-Prince. Below is a summary of where things stand in terms of emergency response and recovery.