In mid-October of this year, Ms Michelle Pierre-Louis - former Haitian Prime Minister and Director of FOKAL, a Haitian human rights organisation - visited the UK hosted by Progressio. With the eyes of the international community slowly moving away from Haiti and concentrating on new man-made or natural disasters in other parts of the world, it is our responsibility to keep the plight of Haiti firmly grounded in the agenda of the policy makers, donors and other key players to ensure that the country is not forgotten.
Ms Pierre-Louis gave a series of talks and interviews throughout the UK about the current situation in Haiti. She also had the opportunity to meet with some policy makers at a “round table” meeting. The main purpose of this meeting was to facilitate a space for discussions on how best to support Haiti and their civil society in their reconstruction efforts including new players like the private sector. The “round table” was chaired by Lord Leslie Griffiths, a Methodist minister with a long track record of experience in Haiti. The meeting was attended by FCO and DFID representatives; architects involved in the reconstruction process; a discussant from Oxford University; the Dominican Republic embassy, as well as some of the UK-NGOs working in Haiti. The European Commission in Brussels kindly provided a brief update document that contributed to the discussions. The outcome was very positive ending with a commitment to continue working together to ensure that Haiti does not fall off the UK agenda.
Imagine for one moment the total population of Derby - 230,000 people - being wiped out in one day. This is the estimated human loss left by the earthquake according to World Bank figures. This natural disaster has been followed by others. The hurricane season - that started in June and ends in November - has arrived with an array of tropical storms and flash floods, affecting the whole country especially those who are still living in camps. Haiti’s environmental degradation and massive deforestation has exacerbated the impact of the rainy season, and will inflict additional damage to buildings and infrastructure.
Now, to make matters worse, fears of cholera have arrived, which will have a devastating impact in the mal-nourished population. According to OCHA reports, the number of deaths in Haiti’s cholera outbreak has risen to 259 dead and the number of confirmed cases to 3,342 in the Artibonite and Central departments. OCHA also reports that although the origin of the outbreak is in the departments of Artibonite and Centre, suspected cases of cholera have been reported in the North and West departments.
It is sad to see that, 10 months on, Haiti continues to face threats that could further devastate its long suffering population. The complexity and scale of the Haitian reconstruction process cannot be understated. Improving aid coordination is key, not only to avoid duplication and waste, but also for Haiti to build a united vision to progress the development agenda in the country.
In spite of all this adversity, however, Haitian people remain hopeful for a better life and for a Haitian State that really responds to their needs. Michelle’s message was one of hope and courage in the face of adversity. She said, “the continuous expressions of solidarity by the British people through donations, volunteering, and activism has been very touching in spite of the current financial crisis. Haitian people need that solidarity rather than just a mere handout”.
In the face of this message, the international community must not turn a blind eye to Haiti’s plight. From natural disasters to man-made governance problems, Haitian people believe that change is possible. We need to make sure that Haiti is not forgotten.
Photo: Waiting at the border in Jimaní (©Bernardo López Guevara)
Lizzette Robleto Gonzalez is Progressio's Latin America and Carribbean Policy Officer.