Ten years after the earthquake, and despite billions of dollars in assistance, hunger is a growing problem in Haiti. Food insecurity has been made worse by political instability and its root cause, corruption. Up to four million people are now facing severe hunger due to the downturn of an already weak economy and inflation. Hunger undermines nutrition, health, education, and stability, and economic development or, in other words, the future. Humanitarian responders like the World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) can provide food to the most vulnerable - but they can't fix the underlying problems. This depends upon the Haitian people having an accountable, effective government that represents the interests of the many instead of the few. An article by Jassica Obert in The New Humanitarian about food insecurity in Haiti follows.
Protests, taking place throughout the country, have negatively affected the economy and the ability of schools and clinics to function. While this is regrettable, protestors are fighting for a government that is more accountable, more responsive, and that invests in the people rather than enriching themselves. Without that, nothing will change for the better. High level leaders hide while sending out the security forces, who as demonstrated by Amnesty International, have committed abuses on numerous occassions. This is unacceptable - visit the Amnesty International website to read the full report and see accompanying videos.
Hurricane Dorian was the most catastrophic storm to affect the Bahamas to date. Residents, which include many Haitians, continue to suffer. As before the earthquake, some parts of civil society continue to stigmatise Haitians while others protect them. As the country preapres to rebuilds, undocumented Haitians worry about the possibility of forced deportation. The Bahamian government has not issues an official statement but the Prime Minister has told hurricane-affected Haitians that they haven nothing to fear. Haitians are part of the fabric of Bahamian society and will also need to be part of the rebuilding effort. The full article by Jacquline Charles and Nicholas Nehamas of the Miami Herald is linked and below.
Thoughout Haiti's modern history, peacekeeping forces have come and gone. The transition to a smaller, more politically focused mission has thus been a careful one and goes into effect on October 16th. The aim is to address the underlying issues that contribute to poverty and instability. These issues are inherently political - corruption, lack of accountability, poor governance, and failure to show leadership on important issues such as environmental degradation and disaster risk reduction and response which will only get worse due to climate change. This marks yet another transition for Haiti and, one hopes, a future where no peacekeeping forces are required. The full article by Miami Herald journalist Jacquelne Charles follows.
Below is a PRI article about the Petrochallengers - a (mostly) younger generation of activists who, rather than just changing heads of state, want to reform the underlying systems that prevent accountability, transparency, and justice. Corruption is so pervasive in Haiti that it is all too easy to become numb to it - but the misuse/outright theft of over a billion dollars in PetroCaribe funds was the last straw . These funds could have produced the roads, hospitals, schools, and environmental programming Haiti needed to get back on the right track. Without bringing those responsible to account, it remains business as usual. While they may not think of themselves as revolutionaries, bringing about a government that invests in its own people would be nothing short of revolutionary.
Over a million people have participated in protests this month. The Carnival in Port au Prince was cancelled. Instability strains access to heath care and other basic services. Haitians are tired of unchecked corruption when life remains a daily struggle for many. Whether this government remains or is replaced, Haiti's future depends upon improving its institutions and improving accountability. As Athena Kolbe and Robert Mugga points out, it is difficult to imagine this happening without increasing the participation of women in local, regional, and national politics. It is women, after all, who are holding the country together. A new way of governing also depends upon involving youth and other civic groups to hold their government accountable, partner with it whenever possible, and to organise when it is not. The full article which appeared in NPR is linked and below.
At the insistence of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Haitian government had agreed to cut government subsidies on fuel which would have caused prices to increase by over half. Life is expensive enough in Haiti due to a lack of economic growth and dependency on imports. To reduce subsidies would have made life even costly when many struggle just to get by. The situation was very tense but has since calmed. Still, the IMF has yet again hurt Haiti by failing to promote policies that are pro-poor. The full article by Time journalist Billy Perrigo follows.
If someone, be it an individual or a politician, supports a project in Haiti it is usually an orphanage. The problem is that orphanages in Haiti are a business albeit one with almost no oversight and accountability. The vast majority of the children in orphanages have at least one parent. The smarter investments would be promoting access to family planning so families have only as many children as they can afford and establishing a foster care network throughout the country so that children can be in safe family environments instead. This is not to say all orphanages are bad - but there is a better way and the Haitian government has failed to protect children from the abuse, sexual and otherwise, that often takes place in these institutions. More information follows in a CNN Freedom Project article by Lisa Cohen.
Linked and copied below is a BBC article about yet another effort by the Haitian government to re-create a military force. The reasons given are job creation, disaster response, and border patrol. Costa Rica also does not have a military and is able to patrol its borders and respond to disasters through civilian institutions. In addition, Costa Rica creates jobs by encouraging investment. Given the sordid history of the Haitian military, donors would much prefer that Haiti continues to focus on strengthening the national police force. Recreating the military could very well result in more instability and uncertainty - as was the case in the past.
A World Bank study recommends that Haiti and its donors focus less on building hospitals and more on preventative and primary care. Haiti spends less than 5 percent of its budget on health care meaning that it must prioritize. The best run hospitals have long been managed by or co-managed with non-governmental organizations. Public hospitals are in need of serious reform. Ninety pecent of operating budgets for hospitals are for payroll with an over-emphasis on administration. Decentralization could potentially empower health facilities by allowing staff to make their own budgetary and human resource decisions. The full article by Miami Herald journalist Jacqueline Charles follows.