- Last year, during a one-month period, hurricanes Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike devastated the country. Over 1000 people were killed; countless others were reported missing and injured.
- The hurricane damage was equivalent to 15 percent of Haiti’s gross domestic product (GDP). A recent international donors’ conference raised $324 million in emergency and long-term assistance for Haiti. That was better than nothing, but it’s only a third of what Haiti needs to rebuild.
- Meanwhile, over 30,000 undocumented Haitians face deportation orders from the US. If carried out, these orders would return Haitians to a country struggling to rebuild and not able to provide the critical social safety nets needed for people to survive. Their return would also diminish remittances, which mean the difference between life and death for Haitians.
- There is high maternal and infant mortality, as well as unwelcome high rankings on most other indicators of poverty.
Despite these problems, organizations such as La Fondation Connaissance et Liberté (FOKAL) have made major strides toward sustainable development. External aid now can make the difference between compounding the suffering and building an independent, prosperous, and democratic nation.
What can be done?
- The World Bank and International Monetary Fund should include Haiti in their Highly Indebted Poor Country initiative, a program to lower debt to manageable levels. Better yet, cancel Haiti’s crippling external debts until the economy can be self-sufficient.
- US and other international aid to Haiti should be doubled immediately. Foreign aid should be structured as grants, not as loans, which may offer short-term help, but long-term shackles.
- International aid should be focused on development, not military and police support. Haiti has enough guns already. Aid programs should work with NGO’s as well as government agencies.
- Stop the deportations. Haitians should be granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and the Department of Homeland Security should conduct a thorough review of US policy towards Haiti. Individuals should call the DHS at 202-282-8495 [if unable to get through, call the White House Comment line at 202-456-1111] and urge these actions.
- The US should extend the Haitian Hemispheric Opportunity through Partnership Encouragement Act (HOPE), which allows Haitian textile manufacturers to export duty-free to the United States. This could generate much-needed jobs in Haiti’s labor-intensive garment industry. The average Haitian garment worker earns $4 a day, while 77 percent of Haitians live on less than $2 a day. As Rep. Charles Rangel, said of the US textile industry concerns, “God should be so good to the people in Haiti that their exports should be a threat to the United States of America. That’s not going to happen.”
- All Americans need to learn more about our neighbor in need. Explore the resources provided by organizations such as the Latin American Network Information Center (LANIC) – Haiti, the Haiti Information Project, the Haiti Action Committee, and Oxfam, as well as the many books about Haiti, especially those that consider its history.
UNICEF (2009). The state of the world’s children: Maternal and newborn health.