Friday, May 8, 2020

COVID-19 and Hunger in Haiti

 


 

Haitians are well aware of the COVID-19 pandemic. Following the report of Haiti's first two cases on March 19, President Jovenal Moises closed Haitian airports and seaports, and locked the border with the Dominican Republic. As of May 6, there has only been a total of 79 cases and 12 deaths reported in Haiti. These numbers are incredibly low compared to reporting from Haiti's neighbor, the Dominican Republic, where there have been 8,807 cases and 362 deaths. However, only approximately 1,000 Haitians have been tested and, undoubtedly, there are many undetected cases. Still, the dreaded COVID-19 apocalypse has not appeared yet. This has raised questions of a natural or acquired immunity among Haiti's population or, more likely, suggests that the country shut down quickly (it was already in lockdown from recent surges in violence) and effectively kept coronavirus-infected foreigners outside its borders. 

 

The Haitian response to the pandemic has been mixed. In the capital, Port-au-Prince, a large number of people wear masks, some stores demand that masks be worn to enter, and many stores offer disinfectant gel to be used before transactions. Nevertheless, local industrial parks like the Karakol Industrial Park have returned to work in shifts. Thousands of employees are crowded together while entering and leaving the plants, despite President Moises' assurance that workers would be able to adhere to effective social distancing measures.

 

In the countryside where MFP works, few wear masks and most do not adhere to social distancing guidelines in the crowded markets. The major issue that occupies rural Haitians is not the COVID-19 pandemic... it’s food. Brittany Galvin, a nurse in Gros Morne, summarized the situation: “As the cost of goods has increased and the value of the goude has dropped, the average Haitian does not have enough money to put rice on the table.”

 

The relevant statistics are quite grim. 6 million Haitians (out of a total population of 11 million) live below the poverty line. More than 2.6 million Haitians live with food insecurity -- a million of whom have no food. There is food in the markets but, as Ms. Galvin stated, prices have risen sharply and have surpassed what most Haitians can afford. The major reasons for this dire situation include: 

 

·      Government corruption and incompetence. Haiti has been in a deepening recession for more than a year. The value of Haitian goude continues to spiral downward and its buying power dropped by 20% since last year.

 

·      Civil disruption and violence, including road blockades, have impeded the distribution of food to the countryside.

 

·      Heavy reliance on imported food, including 80% of rice, its staple grain. Imported food is less available and prices are inflated. The price of rice has doubled since last year. Shamefully, the destruction of the local agricultural sector by foreign aid intervention is a devastating but integral part of Haiti's history of foreign food dependency. 

 

·      Schools have been closed since the first of the year and will not reopen until next fall. As such, children are being denied access to the one constant source of a nutritious meal each day: the school feeding program.

 

·     Remittances from Haitians living abroad (approximately 3 billion dollars) is the major source of money for the average Haitian. Many in the Haitian diaspora are now unemployed. 

 

We believe that the critical solution to many of these societal problems is Government reform. The Haitian Government must be committed to avoiding famine in the countryside. In the meantime, foreign aid should be targeted on feeding the most vulnerable Haitians. Finally, the United States, contrary to its present stance, must support Haitian politicians who are committed to transparency and who are willing to purge the corruption that has been so prevalent in the past two administrations.

 

Saturday, April 4, 2020

MFP Earns Platinum GuideStar Non-Profit Seal for Transparency


Medicine For Peace has earned the 2020 Platinum GuideStar Nonprofit Seal of Transparency, the highest level of recognition offered by GuideStar, the world’s largest source of nonprofit information. More than eight million people visit the GuideStar website each year. By sharing metrics that highlight its progress, Medicine For Peace is helping donors move beyond simplistic ways of nonprofit evaluation such as overhead ratios.

“We are honored to receive this powerful acknowledgement from GuideStar,” said Dr. Michael Viola, Director of Medicine For Peace.  “We take our responsibility as the stewards of donor contributions very seriously. By updating our GuideStar Nonprofit Profile to the Platinum level, we can now easily share a wealth of up-to-date organizational metrics with our supporters as well as GuideStar's immense online audience, which includes donors, grant-makers, our peers, and the media."

To reach the Platinum level, Medicine For Peace added extensive information to its Nonprofit Profile on GuideStar: basic contact and organizational information; in-depth financial information; qualitative information about goals, strategies, and capabilities; and quantitative information about results and progress toward its mission. By earing this recognition, Medicine For Peace has demonstrated its commitment to transparency and to giving donors and funders meaningful data to evaluate the organization.

To learn more or to make a contribution to Medicine For Peace, please visit our website at www.medicineforpeace.org


Tuesday, March 24, 2020

COVID-19 and the Threat to Haiti

Chest x-ray film drying in courtyard of Alma Mater Hospital.

Yesterday, the Haitian Ministry of Public Health and Population (MSPP) announced four additional confirmed cases of COVID-19­­. This announcement brings the suspected total to six cases. News reports state that more than one-hundred Haitians are currently in quarantine.

Dr. Lauré Adrien, the Director General of MSPP, has stated that the Haitian government is attempting to be transparent during this crisis but offered no information on number of patients tested, testing capacity, or strategic plan to prepare for the anticipated surge of cases. Moreover, the hospital beds, trained personnel, and ventilators available in Haiti are known to be inadequate for handling a major infectious disease epidemic, as illustrated in the cholera outbreak.

Last Thursday, President Jovenal Moise declared a State of Emergency, closing airports, schools, factories, and Haiti’s border with the Dominican Republic. The act also imposed a curfew, effective daily from 8pm to 5am. A campaign is currently underway to encourage Haitians to wash hands frequently and maintain social distancing. However, this will most likely be difficult in the poorest and most densely-populated country in the Caribbean. A large proportion of Haitians lack access to water and many engage in the informal selling of small goods. At present, it appears that Moise’s State of Emergency goes unheeded: markets remain open and busy, and tap-taps (local buses) are crowded with travelers.

At this time, many North Americans residing within Haiti are eager to leave the country. Despite the ban of travel, the Haitian Government has allowed some flights to leave Port-au-Prince flying to Miami (i.e., two flights departed yesterday). The U.S. and Canadian embassies are working with airlines to facilitate the scheduling of more flights in an effort to allow their citizens to return home. However, as of yesterday, road blockades and robberies on National Route 1 (both north and south of Port-au-Prince) have been reported – severely complicating travel to the airport.

Despite their limited capacity, hospitals are preparing for an influx of patients infected with COVID-19. The Medicine For Peace Women’s Health Clinic in Gros Morne remains open, and nurses are complying with all WHO recommendations in an effort to protect health workers and patients.