Weak governance and political instability continues to hinder progress in Haiti, but it is important to highlight what is working. For example, Haiti has cut malaria cases in half from 2010 by working with a range of international and national partners including the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria, the World Health Organisation, the Clinton Health Access Initiative, the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the CDC Foundation, and the Carter Center. This is welcome news, especially for pregnant women and children under five who are most vulnerable. An update from the Haitian Minister of Health Marie Greta Roy Clement in the Miami Herald follows.
Haiti’s investment in health has dropped from 16.6 percent in 2004 to 4.4 percent in 2017 despite everything its people have been through since then - unrest, cholera, natural disasters, the earthquake, COVID-19, gender-based violence, and grinding poverty. Opportunities to consult formally trained mental health workers rmeain rare. For a country of nearly 11 million, Haiti also only has 23 psychiatrists and 124 psychologists. Some alternatives, such as hotlines, are beginning to emerge in response. Linked and below is an article by Jessica Obert in the New Humanitarian about the mental health situation in Haiti.
In the New Humanitarian, Jessica Obert writes that Haiti never fully recovered from the earthuqake let alone cholera, political instability, and subsequent natural disasters. While Haitians themselves are resilient their government and the systems that are supposed to be in place to ensue their health, safety, and well being are not. Haiti's ever-fragile economy had already contracted 1.2 percent last year due to protests and the pandemic could result in a contraction of 2.7 percent this year according to the Haitian Ministry of Finance. Physcial distancing does not work well in settings where people are living day to day due to economic hardship. If there are positives, Haiti's population is younger and it has a history of working together with the Dominican Republic on infectious diseases. As with other countries, Haiti will be living with the pandemic for a long time to come.
Haiti's health care system, a patchwork of public and private facilities, was struggling prior to the pandemic. Instability and its root causes of poor governance, corruption, and poverty have resulted in poor access to health services for most Haitians. BBC journalist Will Grant writes below that will every country in the Americas will be impacted by the coronavrius (COVID-19) pandemic, Haiti lacks the capacity and financial resources needed to increase its preparedness. As has long been the case, the hard work of addressing growing health needs falls upon non-governmental organisations such as Partners in Health who received Haiti's first cases.
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.