On February 13th, a fire killed thirteen children and two adult caretakers at a "children's home" that the U.S based Church of Bible Understanding supported in Haiti. I want to be clear that there are some faith-based groups doing heroic work for health, education, and social justice in Haiti. There are, however, as many unscruplous organisations who see children as a way to fund-raise salaries, overhead, while providing little for the kids themselves. Orphanages are money-makers and thus are plentiful, numbering oven 700. Many of these children are abused and exploited in the name of God and money. If these organisations were really interested in helping, they would make familly planning available so parents have no more children than they want or can afford, would support families to take care of the children they already have, and expand adoption/foster networks for children who have no family to take them in. The church refuses to comment on the allegations of children who have come forward to say they were abused. The full article by AP journalists Michael Weissenstein and Ben Fox follows.
As the United States has stepped back from humanitarian leadership, Canada and Mexico have stepped up. Rather than deporting Haitains who had become stranded in Mexico trying to reach the United States, the Mexican government has offered them one year renewable visas allowing them to work. This has benefitted the Haitian migrants and it has also benefitted Mexico, which now has a new and manageable pool of very hard workers. It is a good example of solidartiy in a world that is sorely in need of more of it. The full article by AP journalist Elliot Spagat follows.
Adoption can be controversial. In the case of Haiti, many orphanges are poorly managed and with little oversight. Major challenges are a lack of livelihoods and access to family planning information and commodities. Many children in orphanages are not really orphans as they have parents - albeit parents that could not afford them. Trention Daniel notes Haiti is in the process of updating its adoption laws for the first time in 40 years. This would being Haiti's adoption practices closer to international standards.
While fragile politically, Haiti is much safer than media coverage suggests. Any violent crime mainly takes place in Port au Prince. Even there, homicide rates are decreasing (now at 3 per 100,000 people in three selected areas) vs. 52 per 100,000 people in Jamaica, generally viewed as a favorable tourism destination. Even Costa Rica has a higher rate than Haiti at 11 homicides per 100,000 people. Below is an article by Trenton Daniel on the decreasing homicide rate in Haiti's largest city. To court investment and tourism, Haiti needs to rebrand itself as historically, culturally, and artisticly rich as well as safe.
Immediately after the earthquake, the main source of information was Twitter, which I have a new respect for. Journalists and aid workers are arriving in Haiti and we are gaining a better sense of just how extensive the damage to Port au Prince is. We also know that Jacmel was seriously affected as well. Aid from the United States, other governments, and humanitarian responders both big and small is picking up. This is a summary of the current situation, who is doing what where, and how you can help. Additional updates will be posted as comments.