As there is very little coverage of it in the U.S. media (unless you specifically look for it), I want to share with you a little bit about the current situation in Haiti. This past year has seen increasing and widespread political unrest and insecurity as people’s anger and frustration have been expressed about spiraling inflation, food and fuel shortages, lack of clean water, and perceptions of government and corporate corruption. Some of the protests are the airing of legitimate grievances, and of course there are players that are also taking advantage of this situation to advance their own political or economic interests.
In any case, opposition demonstrators have been demanding that the president step down, and the government has largely been unable to even nominally function, as the president’s choices for prime minister have been rejected and key ministries have remain closed. For much of the past year, the U.S. State Department has maintained a Level 4 travel advisory—do not travel—for Haiti. This is its highest warning level, and has reversed the positive uptick in tourism that Haitians were beginning to see over the prior couple of years.
Much more disconcerting than a drop in tourism, the UN and the World Food Program are warning that without resolution, the situation is headed toward a “full-blown humanitarian crisis,” as aid is not able to reach vulnerable areas. We have already seen increases in severe malnutrition, particularly among children, in the areas in which we work, so this devolving situation is that much more worrisome. High inflation hurts those with the least food security first; those who were just able to eke by before are being pushed over the edge now. According to the UN, the insecurity is keeping 2 million children from attending schools this fall, and it is further compromising the functioning of hospitals and other care services.
I don’t know where this is all going, or how or when it will be “resolved.” In the face of such things, it is often difficult, and maybe not even realistic, to be optimistic about the future. But we can choose to maintain a posture of hope. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, the chief rabbi in the U.K., teaches, “Optimism and hope are not the same. Optimism is the belief that the world is changing for the better; hope is the belief that, together, we can make the world better.” To work from a posture of hope is not Pollyannaish. The hopeful posture is to understand the situation well—to know the odds—and to still continue to support our staff, friends, and partners in Haiti who work tirelessly through both the good times and bad to effect positive change for their own communities.
Having worked together in this “konbit” for close to 20 years now, we have been through many hard times together in the past, and they have always ultimately resulted in a deepening of our commitment, relationships, and understanding. And while we have experienced short-term setbacks at such times, the overall arc has been positive, and we are hopeful that will be true again. Thank you for supporting and accompanying us all on this journey.
Please feel free to contact us with any questions or thoughts… they are always welcome.
Nate Nickerson, Executive Director