The U.S. State Department released its 2010 Annual Report on Human Trafficking today. Haiti remains a source, transit, and destination country for human trafficking. The most significant trafficking issue concerns restaveks – forced domestic servitude of young children given to (mostly) urban families by parents (mostly) from rural areas with larger families. An estimated 225,000 children were enslaved as restaveks prior to the 2010 earthquake. Even more children are vulnerable to exploitation in the earthquake’s aftermath. Below is the Haiti section of the report, which includes recommendations for the Haitian government and the international community.
The Inter American Development Bank (IDB) has announced that it will significantly expand investment in renewable energy throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. The IDB intends to spend one billion in Haiti to help develop a new energy infrastructure powered by wind, solar, and hydroelectricity. The current fuel shortage in Haiti underscored the importance of renewable, domestic energy for the country's long term development. Click here for a video clip of IDB President Moreno explaining the new initiative. A fact sheet is also attached. I'll include more information as I find it.
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.
March 22 is World Water Day. Growing up, like many others, I did not appreciate how lucky I was to have clean, safe water. We need it to drink and become sick if we do not have it. We need it for agriculture and would become hungry without it. We need it for washing, bathing, and clean health care facilities. Likewise we need sanitation and hygiene to protect food, water, and health. One billion people around the world still lack clean drinking water and 2.6 billion lack access to basic sanitation. It doesn’t have to be this way. World Water Day is an opportunity to ask what we can do in the year ahead to address the world's water crisis.
A Humanitarian OpenStreetMap (HOT) Team was deployed to Port au Prince last night with all the equipment needed to train earthquake responders on OpenStreetMap. Essentially, OpenStreetMap is a free, editable map of the whole world. Why does this matter to Haiti? OpenStreetMap, being available to everyone without cost, provides a mechanism for humanitarian responders and development actors to rapidly share geographic information. The HOT team will spend the next several weeks in Port au Prince helping to bring this about.
Each year, the U.S. State Department Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor is mandated to release country specific human rights reports that address individual, civil, political, and worker rights, as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As this report pertains strictly to 2009, it does not address human rights issues in post earthquake Haiti. Still, it is highly relevant as long term recovery and reconstruction will depend in part upon creating a culture that respects human rights and a government that can enforce them.
The northwest is the poorest part of Haiti, long neglected by the Haitian government and the international community. Most Haitians have neve been here and comparatively little has been written about the region. I recently was able to visit both Port de Paix and the Ile de Tortue, a nearby island that was once a hotbed of piracy. Below is a summary of the area's past, present, and also its potential.
Peace Corps/Haiti was never a very large program. However, Peace Corps Volunteers have long made a difference in Haiti both through the projects we participated in and the relationships we made. Likewise, Haiti made a difference for us, most of all, in the way we view the world. While Peace Corps is no longer active in Haiti, those who served there certainly are. All have been affected by the earthquake and all are taking action in some way. Below is a summary of what Haiti Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) are thinking, feeling, and doing in response. In this way, we both bear witness and re-affirm our commitment to stay connected to Haiti.
The suffering caused by the earthquake is difficult to fully comprehend. Haitian authorities report that at least 72,000 bodies have been recovered. Some predict the final death toll will be as high as 150,000 in Port au Prince alone. Up to 1.5 million people may be homeless. ICRC reports approximately 55,000 people in 40 informal temporary camps throughout the city. As you read this, many people are going back to the countryside. While most of the damage took place in the southern portion of Haiti, the whole country will be affected. The Government has declared a period of national mourning until February 17. We all grieve for what Haiti has lost.
When people think of Haiti, they often think of hunger, and not without reason. Though there has been significant progress over the past year, hunger remains a pervasive problem. Achieving food security is fundamental to nutrition, health, education, economic growth, stability and all the other issues we lump under “development.” There are well intentioned groups, such as this one from Kansas, that often try to send packages of food to Haiti. It might make one feel good, but in reality, it does little good. There is much that we can do to promote food security in Haiti, but it is up to us to ensure that our time, energy, and resources make an actual, and not just a perceived, difference.