L’union fait la Force

Unity is Power: A Haiti for Haitians by Haitians 

Haiti is the poorest nation in the western hemisphere. Sound familiar? This phrase summarizes the world’s view of Haiti since the end of the Duvalier era, an end that has since been marked by a myriad of political and national transitions. Recently the International Crisis Group (ICG) published its final paper examining the current political climate in Haiti. They made a series of recommendations for a Haiti, most of which centered on ways of improving national dialogue and cooperation.

This blog will focus its attention on the recommendations made by the ICG for a national pact. It is within these recommendations that the lack of unity and conversation within Haitian politics is brought to the forefront of ICG’s analysis. The Haitian brand of politics, as defined by ICG, is characterized by the exclusion of Haitian citizens in the political dialogue.  In addition, although the ICG report acknowledges the increasing tension between opposing Haitian political parties, the focalization of this blog will be upon ICG’s recommendations for the structures needed to promote a Haitian involvement in the recommended national consensus. Analysis puts an open national dialogue, something that was missing in the previous regimes, as the solution that would allow Haiti to make strides in reconstruction and economic improvement.

Before exploring the specifics of this national consensus, as detailed by ICG, it is important to understand how Haiti has arrived at its current political challenges. This will promote an understanding for what needs to be overcome to allow for development and progress. Proposals for the involvement of Haitians in a national dialogue have to be promoted by current President Michel Martelly, and all herein future leaders of Haiti.

Haiti’s current brand of Politics

At the head of Haitian politics is current president Michel Martelly. Martelly came to power in May of 2011 with a popularly praised set of initiatives known as the 5 E’s. This is as five point plan with the following focuses:

  1. Employment
  2. État de droit (rule of law)
  3. Education
  4. Environment
  5. Energy

Despite Martelly’s initial popularity because of the 5 E’s, his presidency has been defined by confrontations with Parliament and other sectors that have blocked any sort of widespread consensus. This infighting has severely delayed the implementation of the 5 E’s, which has caused segments  of the Haitian population to lose confidence in Martelly. To make matters worse, severe drought and two disastrous tropical storms have increased food prices and decimated Haiti’s agricultural sector. All in all, it is safe to say that the socio-political climate is significantly strained.

Against this backdrop, the Crisis Group explores a series of suggestions to facilitate the national dialogue believed to be the key to progression.

The current Haitian brand of politics excludes the majority of citizens, leaving a communication gap between the greater public and the elite. Furthermore, national dialogue is inhibited by the institutional instability that followed former president Aristide’s dismantling of institutions. These difficulties are also marked by five national transitions happening simultaneously in Haiti after the end of the Duvalier dictatorship.  These include:

  1. A movement from a non-democratic culture to a democratic society, with erratic armed violence.
  2. This violent democratic society reconciling and re-instating peace, while the government suffers from ineffectual leadership.
  3. The dwindled state developing into a modern nation state that is plagued with chronic and pervasive poverty.
  4. A movement from chronic poverty to a thriving and equitable economy, interrupted by the devastating 2010 earthquake.
  5. Recovery and rebuilding from the 2010 earthquake.

Though the challenges of promoting a national dialogue have plagued Haiti for some time, there has been a recent development in the urgency towards change. There is now a genuine demand from international donors for a push past this stalemate. They are tired of the political instability. Therefore with international pressure the need for a national pact is more immediate than ever to move Haiti into the modern world. Without this national consensus, Martelly faces a failed presidency and Haiti risks international abandonment.

Defining a Haitian national pact

ICG puts a dialogue led by Haitians for Haiti as its first recommendation for Haiti. An inclusive national dialogue would in their opinion be needed to manage reconstruction and development, as well as setting mutually agreed upon long and short term goals. This involves bringing key actors into conversation on the selection of a constitutional council as well as resolving institutional credibility questions about appointments and fair elections. Members of this dialogue must be the very Haitian citizens and members of government ruling Haiti, of which has not always been the case. This national consensus requires the unity of communities, religious leaders, professionals, as well as political leaders.  This would usher an end to the public disenfranchisement felt by Haitian citizens and their government. Haiti must demonstrate a willingness to participate in an inclusive initial dialogue marked by shared priorities and a push to extract commitments from political and civil society.

A voice should be given to all, but a commitment to compromise is also key. Every member of this open dialogue should hold a personal responsibility to move beyond the bitter partisanship and historic disenfranchisement, coming together on national challenges to move Haiti forward in all sectors of society.

Furthermore a mechanism must be created that stimulates greater citizen participation in national decision-making, one that would include all members of Haitian society in a national and progressive dialogue. The business community alongside the religious, professional and political leadership must identify a trusted national institution or set up the public structure that will serve as a bridge to this national accord.

An example of a mechanism, independent of ICG’s suggestions, that could serve as a bridge to a national discussion and accord; is International Action’s new Chlorine Development System (CDS). The CDS is a self-sustaining, Haitian run program that will create a national chlorine distribution network. In doing so, different communities and neighborhood leaders will be united and have the opportunity to discuss local and national issues.  If done correctly, the CDS representative will have some influence in political discussion.

Alongside this recommendation for a national consensus and dialogue, a responsibility from foreign investors and countries is also necessary. These international parties must allow and commit to a Haitian-led national dialogue, and refrain from influencing Haitians and their government based on personal economic benefits or agendas. Similar parties have been significantly responsible for the severe impairment of the domestic rice production. Haiti was self-sufficient in its rice production and remains a country that sees roughly 70% of its population employed in agriculture, yet it has become the fifth largest importer of American rice in the world, importing over 80%. A further $234 million in estimated agricultural losses following rain and flooding in last year’s Hurricane Sandy add to the misery. The country is already strained and cannot afford negative influences from the international community.

The ICG report concludes that Haiti must come to a national consensus for reconstruction and progress. Haitians should dominate this dialogue. Conclusively, emphasis on the need for a Haitian led consensus will allow Haiti to begin to break with the political instability and struggles of its past, while securing that Haiti is pushed forwards towards a modern, democratic, and distinctly Haitian Haiti.

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2011-2012 Albendazol Distribution Reports

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The International Action team is currently working on releasing a report on its 2011-2012 Albendalzol distribution efforts. Here’s a quick glance of our numbers!

Thanks to our 2011 partnership, a total of 66 schools received aid in all regions of Haiti. Totaling 200,000 pills for 2011.

2012’s cooperation with 13 different local committees and organizations led to the distribution of 413,400 pills.

Bringing our total sum for 2011-2012 at just over half a million! Our deworming campaign’s final number stands at 613,400 pills which were successfully administered and distributed to both children and adults throughout Haiti.

International Action would like to thank all of its partner organizations and community organizers for making our Albendazol distribution a success!

Stay tuned for our full report on our site: http://www.haitiwater.org

Haiti’s Future Looks Bright Three Years After the Earthquake

As some of you may know, in 2010 Haiti was struck by a magnitude 7.0 earthquake. Last Saturday January 12th, 2013 marked the third year anniversary since Haiti was victim to a catastrophic earthquake. We ask that you please take a moment and remember the people who lost their lives and those that were affected by the tragic event.  We have worked hard to make sure that Haitians have clean water, and now, since the earthquake, 900,000 Haitians have access to clean water because of our efforts.

The earthquake killed over 200,000 people, injured over 300,000, and it displaced over 1 million people.  Asides from human loss, the earthquake also damaged thousands of houses, schools, hospitals, and many other public infrastructure. All of these people are still recovering from the devastating effects caused by the earthquake. Many of the Haitians affected  were left without clean water as their personal or community water stations were destroyed.

International Action has been providing clean water to Haiti since 2005. However, our efforts increased significantly since the earthquake destroyed many clean water infrastructures. Our Clean Water Campaign has been very successful and popular in the Haitian community. This program has helped over 900,000 Haitians gain access to clean, safe water through community-led and-based chlorination projects. We have installed and maintained roughly 140 chlorinators throughout Haiti. Neighborhoods consider the chlorinator a blessing. It does such an effective job providing clean water that people take pride of having one in their community.

As a result, we have started a new project, the Chlorine Bank Network, to make our chlorinators sustainable.  The Chlorine Bank Network will provide a community based chlorine distribution network. The idea to build a chlorine distribution system came from the community. They just need some help to get started and organized. With the Chlorine Bank Network we are beginning a project leading towards community empowerment and sustainability.

We are hoping that in the future Haiti will have a sustainable source of clean water, possibly provided by the Chlorine Bank Network.

Remarkable things are going to happen in the Artibonite Valley with the help of many good Haitians, the right leader, and a few chlorinators

arbonite Last month, Father Dessalines of the St. Claire parish in Dessalines, Haiti approached International Action seeking our help. There are 150,000 people in four villages in the Artibonite Valley that need clean water. We have met with Father Dessalines and we will begin installing chlorinators in early 2013.

In partnership with St. Ann Catholic parish, Father Dessalines and the members of St. Ann’s started a school feeding program and currently feed 720 children daily.  Together they also teach basic hygiene and water sanitation to adults and children to prevent the spread of disease like typhoid and cholera. But, the need for clean water was still great, especially after the cholera outbreak in 2010.

Father Dessalines first responded to the cholera outbreak by working with Food for the Poor to install a large solar powered water treatment system in the town of Dessalines.  The small villages of Fabias, Poste Pierrot, Oge, Haute Feuille, and Hatte Chevreau still lacked access to clean water.  Most Haitians in these villages rely on community wells, rivers, or canal waters for their main source of water, which are often contaminated.

In spring 2012, The Sunrise Rotary Club of Hagerstown approached St. Ann about raising funds to provide water treatment systems for up to 5 villages.  Father Dessalines and several members of St. Ann’s parish were very excited.

The church members and Father Dessalines knew they needed a water purification system that was simple, affordable, and easy to maintain. They contacted many groups that had very effective water treatment systems, but they were too expensive. During their search, Father Dessalines came across our chlorinators in the coastal town of St. Marc.  He was very impressed by what he saw.

The first thing Father Dessalines told us when we met him was, “The people there are very happy with your chlorine system.”

With the funds raised by the Rotary clubs we will be able to install the chlorinators needed to provide, the 150,000 Haitians in Fabias, Poste Pierrot, Oge, Haute Feuille, and Hatte Chevreau with permanent access to clean water.

Father Dessalines and childre of the Artibonite Valley

One Person Can Make an Impact! Eduardo’s Birthday Wish is Clean Water for Haiti

On November 21st Eduardo Couto, a student studying International Relations in London, is turning 27 years old. He is not asking for a party. He does not want or need presents. Instead, he wants his friends and family to help our group, International Action, provide clean water to the hundreds of thousands of Haitians in need.

International Action is a Washington D.C. and Haiti based non-profit organization, whose purpose since 2006 has been to improve the health of Haitians by preventing the spread of waterborne diseases in Haiti, such as cholera, typhoid and chronic diarrhea. We accomplish this by installing chlorinators on neighborhood water kiosks, which provide communities and schools with permanent access to clean, safe water.

Roughly 900,000 Haitians now have clean, safe drinking water because of our efforts.

Eduardo reached out to us because he knows that despite all of our success, there are still four million people in Haiti that do not have access to clean, safe water.

Our chlorinators effectively treat water, while remaining inexpensive and easy to use. They have the potential to provide millions of Haitians with clean water, permanently.

What Eduardo is doing is incredible. Please, do something amazing today, join Eduardo and International Action, and give the precious gift of clean water.

Here is the link for Eduardo’s fundraising campaign: http://www.globalgiving.org/dy/fundraiser/prevfund/gg.html?regid=7312.

Haiti Affected by Hurricane Sandy: Nine people have died and thousands are being evacuated.

Hurricane Sandy has swept through Cuba, Jamaica, and Haiti. Government officials in Haiti are still assessing the damages caused by Sandy. Hurricane Sandy comes on the heels of Tropical Storm Isaac, which killed 24 Haitians and forced many to abandon their homes temporarily.

It was reported that Sandy caused landslides, flooded hospitals and homes, and tore down a bridge and a cholera treatment center. Flooding has caused the evacuation of more than 1,000 people still living in post-earthquake settlements. Additionally, some roads have been blocked off leaving several communities isolated.

The extent of the damage does not appear to be as great as Tropical Storm Isaac. However, nine people have died, and there could be reports of more deaths over the next few days.

Non-profit Organizations Join Forces to Fight Malnutrition in Developing Countries

Children are our future. They will grow to be our future leaders and innovators. For these reasons, our children need to be healthy so they can have a chance at a bright future.

Unfortunately, thousands of children worldwide lack the necessary nutrients to grow and lead healthy lives. While children’s health is a worldwide concern, children in developing countries struggle significantly more than children in wealthier countries. According to the World Health Organization, 51 out of 1,000 children die before the age of five worldwide. But in Haiti (one of the poorest countries) 165 out of 1,000 children die before the age of five.  Preventable conditions such as malnutrition, respiratory infection, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, and diarrhea are responsible for more than half of under-five deaths. Many infants do not even stand a chance as they are born with vitamin deficiencies and birth defects because their mothers are malnourished during pregnancy.

Fortunately, there are people working non-stop to improve children’s health in Haiti.

Some of these people are part of Samaritan’s Purse and ACDI/VOCA, two international groups that work to improve the health and nutrition of children in Haiti. Samaritan’s Purse operates a free clinic in Cite Soleil and are opening a free antenatal clinic in Trouchouchou, Petit Goave. They see over 200 children each week at the Cite Soleil Clinic treating burns, illnesses, wounds, and malnutrition. Samaritan’s Purse also prevents the spread of intestinal worms by making albendazole available to all children in need. International Action’s role at these clinics is small but important. They provide much of the albendazole needed to help the children that come to these clinics.

Children need more than treatment of illnesses and ailments to lead healthy lives. They need to have enough food and the right nutrients to develop healthily.

ACDI/VOCA works with the Bureau de Nutrition et Development (BND) to coordinate a very effective mother and child focused nutrition program. The nutrition program is part of a larger food security program funded by USAID.

The ACDI/VOCA food security program has three focuses: (1) the promotion of sustainable livelihoods, (2) the improvement of the health and nutrition of women and children, and (3) the development of a disaster early warning system for food security.

To improve the health of children and mothers, ACDI/VOCA, through community health rally posts, is providing health and nutrition education, growth monitoring and promotion, training and supportive supervision to government health care providers and targeted food rations to pregnant and lactating women and children. Along with the aforementioned services, supplements are being provided to ensure children and mothers have the nutrients they need to be strong and healthy.  International Action has aided ACDI/VOCA in this effort by providing their Southeast health rally posts with vitamin A. Vitamin A helps strengthen immune systems and prevents blindness.

The program has helped thousands of children and women. A total of 12,589 children and 4,371 pregnant and lactating women now lead healthier lives because of the nutrition program.

Thanks to groups like Samaritan’s Purse, ACDI/VOCA, and International Action, children in Haiti can grow up healthier and more prepared for their future.