With gangs operating in almost total impunity throughout Port-au-Prince, catastrophic levels of hunger in some areas, and a growing cholera epidemic, the United States has decided to back a multinational rapid reaction force to Haiti. This will not be a UN peacekeeping force and the USA is expected to play a major role in its operations. At the same time, the USA has deployed a USAID Disaster Assessment Response Team (DART) and is expected to ramp up its humanitarian support. The current situation is untenable and hopefully the multi-national force can help stabilise Haiti somewhat. The full article by MIchael Wilner and Jacqueline Charles in the Miami Herald follows.
Gang violence in Haiti's largest city continues to have a pervasive negative impact that reverberates throughout the country, affecting security, the economy, food security, education, and health care. According to Jacqueline Charles of the Miami Herald, dozens of people have been killed and more than a hundred injured in a new round of deadly violence "aggravating fuel shortages, raising transportation costs and making an already troubling humanitarian crisis even worse." Further, 20,000 residents of the densely populated slums have been displaced by gang violence since May. A July 8 article about gang violence in Port au Prince is copied below and linked is an update by Charles.
The World Food Programme (WFP) has launched an emergency appeal to assist one million Haitians affected by prolonged drought made worse by El Niño. According to WFP, 3.6 million people face food insecurity. Haiti struggles to feed itself even in the best of times due to deforestation, erosion, vulnerability to natural disasters, land tenure issues, lack of modern equipment and techniques and questionable aid and trade practices. WFP will rely not only on food distributions but also cash assistance so beneficiaries can buy the food they need locally. WFP’s efforts are needed, welcomed, and worth supporting - as is the long-term development of domestic agriculture.
The UN has released its 2014 Humanitarian Action Plan for Haiti. While 89% of camp residents have moved out and significant progress has been made against cholera, significant challenges remain such as halting environmental degradation and reducing vulnerability to disasters. The plan focuses on meeting the basic needs of those remaining in the camps, addressing the cholera epidemic, increasing food security, and strengthening the leadership and capacity of national authorities. A summary of the plan follows.
The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has announced a $27 million grant for a pilot program to improve land tenure security in northern and southern Haiti. This grant could benefit up to 40,000 farmers and cut the costs of slow and inefficient land administration services. More importantly, it could potentially be replicated and expanded elsewhere. Land tenure reform may not be particularly sexy, but it is especially important for Haiti's long term development. The full announcement follows.
Below is an article Phil Cruver, President of KZO Sea Farms, wrote for the Christian Science Monitor on the need for a modern aquaculture industry in Haiti. With half the fish consumed worldwide each year having been farm-raised, this is clearly a growth industry. But could it work in Haiti? Even traditional fisheries are rare in Haiti despite its oceans having become largely overfished. However, aquaculture could provide jobs, affordable protein, and contribute to better marine management. It is certainly worth considering.
Regardless of the outcome of the upcoming elections, one hopes that promoting agriculture and rehabilitating the environment will be high priorities for the next administration. Countries that import the majority of their food staples, as Haiti does, are vulnerable to price shocks when international food prices increase. Rural development depends in large part upon making agriculture viable again. This will require tackling environmental degradation, improving disaster preparedness, upgrading infrastructure and resolving long simmering land tenure issues. These challenges are difficult but not insurmountable.
Copied below is a strategy paper that Prime Minister Pierre Louis recently released on how the Haitian government intends to meet its short term goals. I was pleased to see the attention devoted to agriculture, the private sector, and infrastructure development. Unfortunately, the Haitian government has yet to receive one gourde from the Haiti Donors' Conference. Hopefully, Special Envoy Clinton has not lost his touch and will be able to encourage Friends of Haiti to honor their pledges. The paper is brief but balanced and well thought out. Please feel free to post your thoughts about it in the comments section.
Many papers, books, and presentations have covered in great detail how Haiti came to be deforested. Fewer have focused on what Haitian government and civil society should do, with the support of the international community, to reverse the environmental destruction. Doing so is neccesary for food security, disaster prevention, nutrition and public health, social/economic stability, and ultimately security. The attached report by the International Crisis Group lists concrete actions that could be taken in the short and long term to promote security through rehabilitating the environment.
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.