Haiti cannot change that it will always be affected by natural disasters. What the Haitian government and civil society can change is the extent to which it plans, prepares, and mitigates natural disasters. Very little of the assistance Haiti receives is devoted to mitigation. Haiti's partners should expect, encourage and support Haiti so that it is ready for the next hurricane, mudslide, drought, earthquake or other disaster. It may be a week or a year away, but it will come. IRIN Migration Writer Kristy Siegfried explores whether Hurricane Matthew might encourage participation, partnerships, and prevention.
It is no secret that the environmental degradation caused by Haiti's over-reliance on wood fuels negatively impacts the country's ability to feed itself, to prevent disasters, and to protect the health and nutritional status of its children. After the earthquake, many people are now finding themselves more reliant than ever on wood charcoal, while having less money with which to pay for it. Securing access to alternative, inexpensive fuel sources is key to Haiti's future. Yet no one agency owns this issue. To address the need for increased attention, resources, and coordination, the Women's Refugee Commission and the World Food Program carried out a joint assessment of cooking needs in post earthquake Haiti, attached and copied below.
The United Nations has called this the most challenging disaster response in its history. More challenges lie ahead, one of which is the upcoming rainy season. While it will not begin for several weeks, heavy rains are already occurring sporadically. Recently, eight people were killed in flooding around Les Cayes. The rains also caused a landslide that destroyed a school in Cap Haitian two weeks ago. Those who have been displaced in Port au Prince require solutions, whether that be temporary shelter or staying with a host family. Their protection, health, and well being depends upon finding shelter before the rains become a daily event.
While the impact of the earthquake was felt most acutely in Port au Prince, the entire country has been affected. Hundreds of thousands of the displaced have returned to a long neglected countryside and to secondary cities like Cap Haitian. Nate Nickerson, Director of Konbit Sante, provides an update on how Cap Haitian is dealing with the influx and what is being done to meet the health needs of returnees. You can learn more about Konbit Sante's important work, and how you can support them, on their Website and Facebook Page.
Haiti is forever changed. At least 150,000 people, equivalent to the population of Tallahassee, have died. At least 600,000, more than the population of Seattle, are without homes. Over 130,000, approximately the population of Syracuse, have left Port au Prince for the countryside. After a disaster of this magnitude, life does not go back to normal. Still, even in the face of great uncertainty, life goes on. Telecommunications are mostly up and running, some banks are opening, more gas stations are functional, markets and factories are re-openening. Neighborhood committees are meeting and people are attending church services. All agree it will take many years to rebuild. The question is how Haiti can recover and be built back better than it was before?
Haiti faced a number of challenges in 2009 including decreased remittances from the Diaspora as well as a messy transition at the Prime Ministerial level. All things considered though, Haiti enters 2010 stronger than it was at the beginning of 2009. The capacity of ministries to deliver basic services is improving and partnerships have been solidified with the United States, Canada, and a number of Latin American and European governments. Haiti has more investment opportunities than at any other time in the post-embargo era. The next challenge will be the February 2010 legislative elections, already controversial. Improving food security will undoubtedly be an important theme throughout the new year.
Strong arguments can be made that sacking Prime Minister Pierre-Louis was a mistake. Still, she served Haiti well prior to becoming Prime Minister and will no doubt continue to do so. Jean Max Bellerive has since been confirmed as the new Prime Minister. He has stated the increasing foreign investment and reducing poverty will be amongst his highest priorities. He has a much different style than Pierre-Louis, but faces the same challenges. This includes promoting food security thoughout Haiti.
It is Kanaval season in Haiti! This is not a time to dwell on one’s sorrows but a time to focus on living. It is a loud, vibrant, and wonderful time of the year. No matter how bad things get, Kanaval will always be for friendships, relationships, music, dancing, tradition (and drinking.) But as another proverb goes, after the dance the drum is heavy. When Kanaval is over, it’s back to work for all. Achieving food security is task #1.
Haiti recently celebrated Fet Gede, the Day of the Dead. As Matt notes, it is a time for honoring those who have come before and a reminder to love those who are still here. November 18th marks the anniversary of the Battle of Vertieres, the historic battle which ensured Haiti’s place as the first free black republic and the only country to have led a successful slave rebellion. The juxtaposition of these two holidays reminds us that life is both a gift and a struggle. In Haiti, the struggle against hunger, poverty, and instability continues.