Haiti has many surnames including "Poorest Country in the Western Hemisphere", "Republic of 10,000 NGOs, and "at a Crossroads". For all is beauty and potential, it remains held back by poor governance, political intsability, and crushing poverty. It's a hard narrative to change when most of the coverage is of flawed elections (or no elections), power struggles, and protests. If the Haitian government truly wants to change how it is viewed it needs to show that it cares about and invests in its own people. The Miami Herald Editorial Board recommends starting with COVID vaccination - which has not yet taken place. It would be a start.
As of April 2021, Haiti still does not have vaccines to offer its population of over 11 million people. Political instability, insecurity, and poor governance continue to hinder efforts to procure vaccine and sensitize the public. Haiti was slated to receive 756,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine but missed a crucial deadline for doing so. The more the Haitian government is prepared to do in responding to COVID-19, the more the international community can support it. The full article in the Guardian follows.
In these increasingly chaotic times it is good to be reminded of the work being done by Haiti's heroes - and Dr. Jean William "Bill" Pape is one of them. Dr. Pape, one of the country's leaders in preventing and responding to infectious diseases, will be one of nine people around the world tapped by the World Health Organisation to provide guidance to its director. It is an honor for him, and honor for Haiti, and a reminder that progress is possible in spite of political instability. You can learn more about his work to date by visiting the GHESKIO website and the full article by Miami Herald journalist Jacqueline Charles follows.
Haiti has submitted its first application to the UN Agency for Education, Science, and Culture (UNESCO) for international recognition of a cultural contribution to humanity. Win or lose, its entry of Soup Joumou (Pumpkin Soup) is a unique and delicious dish that is symbolic of Haiti's identiy and freedom. As polarized as Haiti is right now, it helps to remember the things that unite people, one of which is a fondness for the country's national soup. The full article by Miami Herald journalist Jacquline Charles follows.
The UN Security Council may not agree on much but it is unanimous in urging Haiti to settle political differences and hold elections. The conditions for having an election are challenging - and flawed elections have made Haiti's situation worse in the past. Still, the current political impasse is untenable. As insecurity increases, gangs once again fill the void. Protests are frequent, the economy is not growing, and basic services do not reach those most in need. In short, the risk of collapse is real. An article by Miami Herald journalist Jacqueline Charles folllows.
There is a long history of peace-keeping operationa in Haiit - as well as a long history of peace-keepers exploting women and children. A Haitian court has ordered a former UN peacekeeper from Uruguay to pay child support to a women he impregnated in 2011. This case is a step towards justice for the mother and the child but it could also encourage more court cases nationally and globally. In Haiti alone, hundreds of children may have been fathered by UN peacekeepers. The full article by New Humanitarian Journalist Paisley Dodds follows.
One of the most distinctive aspects of Haitian culture is generousity. If you are well and truly screwed, somebody will step up to help you. Since the start of the pandemic, Haitian immigrant and Miami resident Doramise Moreau has cooked 1,000 meals a week on top of her job as a janitor. The next time a politician disparages Haiti or the Haitian Diaspora, let us remember and share stories about the kindness and decency of people like Doramise. The article in the Miami Times follows.
Haiti makes some of the best rum in the world, the most iconic of which are made by Barbancourt. Founded in 1862, it was now managed by CEO Delphine Nathalie Gardère. Barbancourt employs 500 people and works with 3000 local farmers making it a significant source of livelihoods. Her goal is for Barbancourt to be an International Ambassador of sorts for Haiti. Political unrest persists in Haiti - but so does the art, music, rum, humor, decency and everything else that makes Haiti unique. Take a look at the full article in Sante Magazine, also copied below, and see if you can find or order a bottle of Barbancourt Rum. You'll be glad that you did.
Haitian-Canadian filmmaker Michèle Stephenson’s documentary, Stateless, was the centrepiece film of this year’s Toronto Black Film Festival - which, due to COVID-19, was conducted online, It examines the strained relationship between Haiti and the Dominican Republic and the consequences, sometimes violent, for Haitian migrant laborers and Dominicans of Haitian descent who, despite having been born in the Dominican Republic, continue to be denied citizenship due to racism and xenophobia. A review by Sarah-Tai Black follows - a trailer is posted on The National Film Board of Canada’s Media Library and the documentary itself will follow.
Haiti often seems to be perpetually instable, at a crossroads, at an impasse. It is important to remember though that Haiti is full of talented young people who, if given the opportunity, go on to do great things. Haiti is sorely in need of new leaders in government, in civil society, and in the private sector. The Haitian Education and Leadership Program (HELP) has long provided scholarships to high performing students in Haiti who would not otherwise be able to pursue higher education. On 26 February, HELP Haiti will hold a webinar in which several successful alumni will speak about their experiences with the program. Think about participating and supporting their work. More information follows as well as the registration link.