Haiti can be a rewarding but challenging tourism destination. Having an organization to help with logistics and orientation during the first visit can be helpful. The Kiskeya Guest House in Leogane, in addition to offering a nice place to stay outside of Port au Prince, now offers tours that celebrate Haiti's cultural traditions with an emphasis on Port au Prince, Jacmel and Cap Haitien. Haitian anthropologist Jean-Yves Blot an Professor Erold Saint-Louis will lead the various trips and Haitian Creole immersion programs. The agenda for their "Cultural and Mystical Haiti" tour follows. Note: The Kiskeya Guest House is associated with Kiskeya Aqua Ferme, a community initiative devoted to raising tilapia and growing cassava, hot peppers, and sweet potatos.
The Haitian Government has announced a commission to examine the country's prisons, which have long known to be over-crowded and unsafe. Due to Haiti's weak justice system, most prisoners have not been convicted of crimes but are instead being held in pre-trial detention. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and other organizations have for many years tried to improve conditions in the prisons but lasting change requires governmental committment, planning, and resources. For more information on Haiti, visit the World Prison Brief. The full article by AP reported David McFadden follows.
The UN Peacekeeping Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) has been active in Haiti for more than a decade. During the early years, MINUSTAH was instrumental in countering gang activity and a kidnapping crisis. However, MINUSTAH forces have also been responsible for sexual exploiting and abusing children and the country is still dealing with a cholera epidemic resulting from irresponsible sanitation practices by Nepali peacekeepers. The logical transition would be to continue strengthening Haitian institutions responsible for human rights, justice and rule of law - so MINUSTAH will not be needed in the future. Full Reuters article below.
On February 6, the Haitian Government along with UN and other partners, launched a two year, $291 million response plan to help 2.4 million persons affected by the earthquake recover. The UN notes that the October hurricane was exasperated by pre-existing humanitarian, socio-economic and environmental vulnerabilities and disparities. In other words, these communities had many problems even before the Hurricane struck. The plan incorporates activities to promote the resilience of affected communities so they will be better prepared and better able to respond when the next hurricane comes. This being the Caribbean, there will also be another hurricane. The full response plan can be viewed here.
Anastasia Moloney (Reuters) reports that Haitian police have arrested nine people, Americans and Canadians, in connection with sex trafficking at the Kaliko Beach Club near Port au Prince. In 2016, Haiti was downgraded to the lowest grade (level three) in the 2016 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report meaning that no progress had been made before and that foreign assistance from the United States could be reduced in certain areas. Haiti does have a national TIP action plan but it has yet to be resourced or implemented. The arrests may be a welcome sign that the government is beginning to take TIP more seriously.
Charcoal production is a cause of deforestation in Haiti although the true extent is debatable. Most Haitians in the countryside do not have affordable energy alternatives and many livelihoods are linked to making, transporting, and selling it. Rather than lamenting the country's dependence on charcoal, an alternative approach would be to help charcoal producers switch to fast-growing trees and harvest them in a more environmentally responsible manner. The Haitian government, J/P Haitian Relief Organization, and the World Bank are promoting efforts to do so in rural areas. More information in the AP article below.
The Haiti Tech Summit will be held from June 2-5 in Port-au-Prince (location to be announced). The Haiti Tech Summit will bring together entrepreneurs, investors, digital marketers and others to address development changes in Haiti that can be addresed through technological innovation. The event is projected to include 100 speakers, 500 companies, and 1,000 attendees. Sign up for updates and more information about program and organizers follows.
Ellen Ward (Concern Worldwide) writes below of the importance of accurate maps for promptly responding to disasters. In developing countries like Haiti, dense urban neighboods and isolated rural areas remain unmapped. The Missing Maps Initiative is an effort to fill in the blanks through crowd-sourcing. Concern and other partners have been involved in mapping neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince such as Bois Neuf, Cite Gerard, Cite Soleil in addition to communities affected by Hurricane Matthew. The Missing Maps Initiative website has resources for interested volunteers to learn how to map buildings and roads in Haiti and elsewhere using OpenStreetMap (supported by the OpenStreetMap Foundation). More information is also available on the Missing Maps Blog.
It is no secret that services at public health care facilities in Haiti are generally poor. However, these facilities are important in that they are used by Haitians who have no other alternative. Konbit Sante is a small organization based in Maine that has partnered with the Justinian University Hospital in Cap Haitian for many years. With their support, newborn and pediatric care is being moved into a new facility – but $25,000 is still needed for materials, equipment, and staffing. If you are looking for an accountable organization that is serious about capacity building, consider donating to Konbit Sante in support of the Justinian University Hospital.
As the new year approaches, Haitians get ready to do two things – paint their houses and prepare a big batch of pumpkin soup (soup joumou). Epicurious writer Sam Worley shares his experiences becoming familiar with soup joumou and what it represents to Haitians. This recipe is a good start but everyone makes theirs a little different. Vegetarians can just leave out the meat. Interested in learning more about soup joumou and Haitian food more broadly? Check out the "Liberty in a Soup" documentary or one of the many websites featuring Haitian dishes such as Home is Home (Lakay se Lakay) or Haitian Cooking. Have a favorite website or cookbook? Please share in the comments section.