Haiti: A Crisis Seemingly Without End
An NPH staff person shares a firsthand account of life in Haiti today. As civil unrest and protests escalate, poverty deepens. NPH Haiti, however, strives to support the nation’s most vulnerable citizens.
October 23, 2019 - Haiti
First, a brief history lesson. Haiti is located in the Greater Antilles, occupying one-third of the western area of the island of Hispaniola which it shares with the Dominican Republic. Port-au-Prince is its capital and Massif de La Selle is its highest mountain, about 2,680 meters above sea level.
After the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte’s army during the Battle of Vertières in 1803, the Republic of Haiti was born. It became the world’s first black republic in 1804. It was also the only independent French-speaking country in the Caribbean territory. From about 1950 to 1970 Haiti was a popular Caribbean destination. Its modern-day history of political unrest can be traced back to the fall of the Duvaliers (François Duvalier, known as "Papa Doc," and his son Jean-Claude Duvalier, known as "Baby Doc"). In the period following, Haiti, once known as "the Pearl of the Antilles,” hoped for a democratic renaissance.
At that time, Haiti had a productive economy, buoyed by its diverse culture and natural beauty. In more stable times, it has a robust agricultural base. More than half of the world's vetiver oil (an essential oil used in high-end perfumes) comes from Haiti. Bananas, cocoa, and mangoes are the most exported crops. Haiti has also looked to expand into higher-end manufacturing, producing Android-based tablets, electrical current sensors, and transformers.
Since the time of the Duvaliers, Haiti has changed a great deal on political, economic, and social fronts. There has been little peace in our society, with government, socio-economic, and political figures doing little to improve the lives of Haitian people. Today the inflation rate has risen by 18%. A large majority of the population lives in extreme poverty, while the middle class grows smaller and smaller.
Today’s protesters are young people—10, 18, 20, 30 years old—the majority of whom should be in school preparing for their futures. But today they are the ones who hunger for change, who want a better way of life. They and others are besieged by limited access to quality education, potable water, electricity, and other necessities, as well as the nagging threat of natural disasters like the horrendous 2010 earthquake.
Since early February, the country has seen large crowds of protesters that grow bigger by the day. Roadblocks are frequent and unpredictable. Shops are closed. Schools are shut down and the hospitals do their best to stretch staff and dwindling supplies from one emergency to another.
Every Haitian is hidden away in their home. The hunger and misery that affect us all only grows in the face of constant turbulence in the streets. The gasoline shortage has paralyzed a wide swath of activities for weeks throughout the country.
NPH is not excluded from the effects of this current crisis. Our work often puts us on the front line serving the poorest and most vulnerable populations in the country. IN spite of these challenges, we continue as best we can serving those in need.
The protesters demand that President Jovenel Moïse leave office. The deaths of more than 20 people has been attributed to the recent violence, but there are other victims. Those who cannot travel on roads choked with burning tire blockades and menacing protesters do not receive important medical care—mothers giving birth, heart patients, special needs therapy patients.
For St. Damien Pediatric Hospital, our doctors, nurses, and other critical staff struggle to travel to work each day. Employees who make the journey risk their lives to help save the lives of others. The escalating violence is impacting NPH Haiti's ability to access needed day-to-day living essentials. No citizen of Haiti has been spared. We all suffer individually and as a nation.
Every Friday, Haitian artists take to the streets to demand change because what we are living now is too much to bear. Today’s younger generations feel stranded by those in power. My nation longs for a taste of peace, joy in the streets in place of unrest, but we do not have much hope of experiencing either. I pray change will come to Haiti soon and that peace will follow.
Please support NPH Haiti by contacting your local fundraising office. Visit the link to see how you can help.