Friday, December 30, 2011

Haiti--The Aftershocks of History

(Photo by John Carroll)

Last month this little man was my patient in a pathetic cholera tent in Robillard, Haiti.

Like most elderly Haitians when I asked him his age he could not give a definite answer. He did say that he was born during the United States Occupation of Haiti. So that means he was born somewhere between 1915--1934. So he is between 77 and 96 years old. My guess is that he is 93 years old, give or take a couple of years.

He was never married and has no children. He lives in a little ti kay in Robillard and is assisted as necessary by an elderly niece.

He was a farmer most of his life. And he sold livestock and produce.

When he was admitted to the tent, he was quite ill--dehydrated with vomiting and diarrhea. He was very weak and spent most of his day on the wooden cot with his niece attending to him. He would look around, but that is about all he did.

So we tanked him up with IV fluids and held our breath. Cholera is hard on old people.

As they days went by, he became stronger and began to stand at his cot side. And even though he was very hard of hearing, he wanted to be heard. So he would give little speeches in the tent to the amusement of the other cholera patients and families.

One day I asked him what he thought of the Americans occupying his country many decades ago. He said it was good because "if it weren't for Americans, we (Haitians) would not have clothes on our backs".

His philosophy is somewhat different than the article below which describes Haiti's painful history.

(We discharged this man from the tent after his vomiting and diarrhea stopped and he was eating and drinking. He left the tent with his little tree-branch-cane, happily talking, with his niece at his side.)


Haiti--The Aftershocks of History
by Adam Hochschild

As a French possession, it was once the most lucrative colony on earth, producing nearly one-third of the world’s sugar and more than half its coffee. All, of course, with the labor of slaves. And slavery in the Caribbean was particularly harsh: tropical diseases were rife, there was no winter respite from 12-hour workdays under the broiling sun, and the planters preferred to replenish their labor force by working their slaves to death over a decade or two and then buying new ones.

In 1791, what today is Haiti became the scene of the largest slave revolt in history. Over the next 13 years, the rebels fought off three successive attempts to re-enslave them. The first was by local planters and French soldiers, aided by arms from the United States, whose president and secretary of state, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, were both slave owners horrified by the uprising. The second was by the British, at war with France and eager for fertile sugar land and slaves to work it. And finally, after he took power, Napoleon tried to recapture the territory as a French colony and restore slavery.

Ill-armed, barefoot and hungry, the rebels fought against huge odds: Britain dispatched an armada of 218 ships to the Caribbean, and its troops battled for five years before withdrawing; Napoleon sent the largest force that had ever set sail from France, losing more than 50,000 soldiers and 18 generals to combat and disease.

The former slaves lost even more lives defeating these invasions, and no country came to their aid. This blood-soaked period also included a horrific civil war, periods of near famine, and the massacre or flight into exile of most educated people and skilled workers of any color. By the time Haiti declared independence in 1804, many of its fields, towns and sugar mills were in ruins and its population shrunken by more than half. The Haitian Revolution, as it is known today, was a great inspiration to slaves still in bondage throughout the Americas, but it was devastating to the country itself.

For a gripping narrative of that period, there are few better places to turn than “Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution,” by Laurent Dubois, a Duke University scholar of the French Caribbean. Now Dubois has brought Haiti’s story up to the present in an equally well-written new book, “Haiti: The Aftershocks of History,” which is enriched by his careful attention to what Haitian intellectuals have had to say about their country over the last two centuries.

The history is a tale of much misery, shot through with flashes of hope and bravery. Both the United States and the colonial powers in Europe were profoundly threatened by the specter of slaves who had successfully battled for their freedom; the United States didn’t even recognize Haiti for over 50 years. Still worse, France in 1825 insisted that Haiti pay compensation for the plantations taken from French owners. In case the Haitians did not agree, French warships lay offshore. The sum the French demanded was so big that a dozen years later, paying off this exorbitant ransom, and paying the interest on loans taken out for that purpose, was consuming 30 percent of Haiti’s national budget. The ruinous cycle of debt continued into the next century.

Seldom, however, can outsiders be blamed for all a country’s troubles. More disastrous than foreign interference was that Haiti’s birth was such a violent one. Democracy is a fragile, slow-growing plant to begin with, and the early Haitians had experienced none of it, not as subjects of the African kingdoms where many of them were born, not as slaves and not as soldiers under draconian military discipline for over a decade of desperate war. In Haiti’s succession of constitutions over its first hundred years, the president sometimes held his post for life, and it’s no surprise that one leader began calling himself king and another emperor. Furthermore, the revolution itself had seemed to show that any change in government could take place only through military force. As Dubois sums it up: “The only way for an outsider to take power — one that would be used again and again over the course of the 19th century — was to raise an army and march on the capital.”

Brute force still ruled in the next century, climaxing in the three-decade reign of the Duvaliers, father and son. Their militia, the dreaded Tontons Macoute, spread terror on a scale exceeding anything before, murdering as many as 60,000 people. François (Papa Doc) Duvalier banned any civic organization that could threaten his control, even the Boy Scouts.

The family’s close ties with the United States were immortalized by a famous photograph of Papa Doc and the presidential envoy Nelson Rockefeller waving from the balcony of Haiti’s National Palace. During the cold war, a strongman like Duvalier, no matter how brutal, could usually count on American support as long as he was vocally anti-Communist. Father and son understood this well and shrewdly used that knowledge to retain power, as did petty tyrants across Latin America, Africa and Asia.

Deep American meddling in Haiti did not end with the cold war. Dubois, however, devotes only a few pages to the quarter-century since Jean-Claude (Baby Doc) Duvalier was overthrown, and doesn’t really tell us what he thinks about the controversial progressive Jean-Bertrand Aristide and the degree to which the United States played a role in his ouster as Haiti’s president in 2004. In an otherwise authoritative history, this is a disappointing omission.

Part of this book does feel chillingly up to date, however: its account of the United States Marine occupation of Haiti for some two decades starting in 1915. The occupation was accompanied by high-flown declarations of benevolence, but the real motive was to solidify American control of the economy and to replace a constitution that prevented foreigners from owning land. The Marines’ near-total ignorance of local languages and culture sounds all too much like more recent expeditions. American officials declared, accurately enough, that the Haitian government was in bad shape and needed reform.

But as the troops on the ground discovered, like their counterparts in Iraq and Afghanistan, no one likes to be reformed at the point of a foreigner’s gun. “We were not welcome,” wrote one private Dubois quotes. “We could feel it as distinctly as we could smell the rot along the gutters.” The Americans soon found themselves fighting off waves of rebellion against their rule. United States troops burned entire villages accused of sheltering insurgents and ruthlessly executed captured rebels or — does this sound familiar? — men who might have been rebels; often there was no way to distinguish them from local farmers.

When they finally pulled out, the Marines did leave some roads, clinics and schools behind them. But the occupation’s death toll, humiliation and theft of resources, Dubois makes clear, loom far larger in Haitian memory. Even with the best of intentions, which the Marines certainly didn’t have in 1915, nation-building is no easy job. Administered less arrogantly and in cooperation with Haitians themselves, aid from abroad can sometimes help, as with the work of the estimable, Creole-speaking Dr. Paul Farmer and his Partners in Health program, which brings health care to the poorest rural areas and helps train Haitian medical workers. But the real freeing of Haiti from the burdens of its past — a task now made immeasurably greater by the catastrophic earthquake of 2010 — can be done only by Haitians themselves.

(Photo by John Carroll)

Adam Hochschild is the author of seven books, most recently “To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918.”

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Rural Haiti and Road to Recovery

(Photo by John Carroll)

A Quake-Scarred Nation Tries a Rural Road to Recovery
(Please note the comment appended to this article that I reproduce from the Corbett mail list.--RA)

(This article was posted by Roger Annis of CHAN.)

PAPAYE, Haiti — For months after the earthquake that struck the capital, Manel Laurore pulled shattered bodies from his neighbors’ homes, hunkered in fetid refugee camps and scrounged for food and water. Today, his main worries are when his bean, corn and plantain crops will come in.
“I will never go back to Port-au-Prince,” said Mr. Laurore, 32, a former shopkeeper who was sifting soil to plant a tomato garden, referring to the capital. “It left a strong pain inside. Here the work is hard, but you live in total peace.”
His work, on a 15-acre cooperative farm in Papaye, represents a small but promising success for an ambitious program being promoted by aid workers, government officials and international donors: saving the country by developing the countryside.
When the earthquake leveled Port-au-Prince on Jan. 12, 2010, planners and visionaries here and abroad looked past the rubble and saw an opportunity to fix the structural problems that have kept Haiti stuck in poverty and instability. An idea that won early support was to shrink the overcrowded, underemployed, violence-ridden capital and revive the desiccated, disused farmland that had long been unable to feed the country.
“Decentralization is a critical cornerstone supporting my vision for a new Haiti,” President Michel Martelly told potential investors last month. “We want to strengthen and empower our rural communities and create new ones.” But the vision has run up against Haitian reality: myriad economic and infrastructure deficiencies, the lack of credible opportunity in rural areas and the fading of international interest and funds.
Reviving rural Haiti would wean the country off an overreliance on imported food while creating jobs in the countryside, helping to discourage mass migration to urban sinkholes like Port-au-Prince. Before the quake, nearly a quarter of the population lived in the capital, where two-thirds of the labor force had no formal jobs and overcrowding was considered a major contributor to the quake’s estimated death toll of 300,000.
Tens of thousands of people fled Port-au-Prince for rural areas immediately after the quake, but most have since returned, American and Haitian government officials said, finding little opportunity and food to be scarce. “We need to reverse the trend of people in rural areas moving to the city,” said Ari Toubo Ibrahim, the Haiti representative for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. The organization says it believes that, with enough training and support, about a tenth of the 600,000 people still in earthquake camps could ultimately move to the countryside.
New factories are also part of the plan. A South Korean-run industrial park in the north, partly financed by the United States, is expected to open next year, providing at least 20,000 jobs. But experts say agriculture is the nation’s biggest need.
Farming has declined to 25 percent of the economy today from 40 percent a decade ago, making Haiti more dependent on imported food. Today, the government says, 52 percent of the food Haitians eat comes from abroad, compared with 20 percent a few decades ago. The decline in farming dates primarily to the mid-1980s, when the government encouraged urbanization, and it worsened under a trade embargo during political turmoil in the 1990s. When trade restrictions loosened, the market was flooded with cheap, foreign staples like American rice, Dominican poultry and milk, in powdered form, from as far away as Europe.
A series of storms in 2008 further wiped out farms, and riots over the soaring cost of food, owing to fluctuations in the world market, led lawmakers to oust the prime minister.
Recently, though, there have been signs of a potential turnaround. This month, the World Bank approved $50 million for agriculture projects. “When agriculture grows, gross domestic product grows,” said Diego Arias, an agriculture economist who analyzes Haiti at the World Bank.
Signature Haitian products like mangoes, coffee and cocoa are getting a burst of overseas attention, and BioTek, a Florida company, is awaiting approval from the new government on a long-awaited public-private plan to revive Haiti’s last remaining sugar mill, in Léogâne, one of the areas hit hardest by the quake.
Haitian specialty coffee is in demand in restaurants in New York, Miami and other American cities, and the Inter-American Development Bank, Nestlé and Colombia’s National Federation of Coffee Growers have announced a $3 million effort to help 10,000 coffee farmers replant trees on denuded hills and increase production for both home consumption and export.
The American grocery chain Whole Foods has been selling a variety of mango indigenous to Haiti, and Lèt Agogo, a Haitian organization whose Haitian Creole name means Milk Aplenty, has stepped up a program to give cows and training to farmers and to process the milk into a sweetened drink that Haitian schoolchildren commonly consume.
Taiwanese agronomists have expanded a program to help rice farmers increase their yields, though imported rice, much of it from the United States, is still far cheaper in markets than Haitian-grown rice.
But the challenges are staggering, and most concern money. Irrigation is lacking, and poorly constructed ports and roads disrupt the delivery of produce to domestic and international markets. Government efforts ground to a virtual halt for months last year after a political crisis swirled around a botched election.
Foreign aid has slowed to a trickle. Only 43 percent of the $4.59 billion promised has been received and disbursed, according to the United Nations. The Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, the body created to coordinate and prioritize aid, closed in October when its mandate expired, with little sign that it will be renewed. The panel, led by former President Bill Clinton, was set up to provide some assurance to international donors, wary of channeling aid to a historically corrupt Haitian government, that their money would be well spent. Its departure raises questions about whether the remaining pledges will ever be fulfilled.
Haiti’s five-year agriculture plan developed after the quake has received only about half of its nearly $800 million budget. Haitian officials say the government actually needs $1 billion to $2 billion to carry out the plan. The new agriculture minister, Hébert Docteur, said he hoped to carry out the program with whatever resources he had to help struggling farmers. “Too often they are trying with hand tools to get something from the land, but it is not nearly enough,” he said.
The United States has opened several training centers that aim to instruct hundreds of farmers in rudimentary practices often taken for granted in other countries.
Wansy Jean Poix, 36, a sorghum and corn farmer in La Tramblay, near Port-au-Prince, said he was accustomed to planting by simply tossing seeds on a large patch of ground. Now he plants in rows, to maximize the use of the land. “We increased production so there is more for ourselves and to sell on market,” he said.
The experimental farm in Papaye, three hours from the capital, at once demonstrates the promise and the pitfalls that face the effort to expand farming beyond the hardiest takers. The village was created last summer by Mouvman Peyizan Papay, one of the country’s largest peasant organizations, working with the Presbyterian and Unitarian Universalist Churches in the United States and other organizations. Together, they plan to build four more such farms in the central region.
The 10 families here grow their own food and have begun planting crops like corn and plantains to sell. Though the houses lack electricity, they are roomier than those many of them left in Port-au-Prince. But the project has relied on substantial help to get off the ground. The total cost for the five villages will be $1.6 million, almost all of it from churches and nongovernmental organizations.
The United Nations is studying the project, but it is unclear how well it could be duplicated. Similar villages have been proposed elsewhere, but beyond the money, city dwellers have to believe that it is worth the effort to move their families to spend hours in the hot sun, hoeing and planting. “If they have water, technical assistance and credit they can survive,” said Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, executive director of Mouvman Peyizan Papay.
Emmanuel Jean Pierre, 30, already has found that subsistence farming is not enough for him and has set up a small side business charging cellphones in the village using a solar battery he acquired in Port-au-Prince. He complains of the back-breaking work and misses the energy of the city, the parties, the friends. But with work scarce there and his small grocery business destroyed in the quake, for now, he said, he will stick it out here.
“If I saw a big change in economic opportunity in Port-au-Prince I would probably go back,” he said. “But I would rather stay here all my life.”

(Photo above by John Carroll)
Comment from the Corbett mail list, Dec 29:I thought this was a very good article. But I would like to know why reporters and also the State Dept. keep on saying that there is a shortage of food!! What they really mean is that there is a shortage of MONEY TO BUY THE FOOD. But that is not the same as a shortage of food. Everywhere you go, marchands are on the street selling fruit and vegetables.

It gives a very bad idea of how Haiti is. I'm particularly incensed when I read the State Dept. saying there's a serious shortage of food and water!!! Who writes this stuff? They've obviously not been in Haiti!! We're never going to get visitors coming in if they think they're going to starve!!

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Haitian Woman---Central Pillar of Haitian Society

Photo by John Carroll
December, 2011

Haitian Peasant Women as 'Poto Mitan'--Central Pillar: An Interview With Idèrle Brénus Gerbier

Interview by Alexis Erkert, Other Worlds, Dec 20, 2011

Idèrle Brénus Gerbier has worked with many peasant organizations in support of women rights’ and food sovereignty. She is a member of the Haitian National Network for Food Security and Sovereignty (RENHASSA), campaign coordinator for Food Sovereignty in Haiti, advisor of the National Confederation of Peasant Women (KONAFAP), and organizer for the Haitian Social Forum for Food Sovereignty.

In Haiti, peasant women play a special role in the home and in agriculture. We consider peasant women as the poto mitan, central pillar, of economic activities.

When neoliberal structural adjustment programs are imposed on the Haitian government, like they have been for 20 years, they affect our peasant women. They require that the state implement fundamentally anti-peasant programs that threaten to destroy the whole peasant sector. They mean the Haitian government doesn’t adequately fund our agriculture and has left the small farmers unable to compete [with cheaper imported goods] in the local market. Many farmers are forced to abandon agriculture to go work in factories or other activities, in the cities or in the Dominican Republic. And when a man leaves the rural community, the whole responsibility falls on the back of his wife.

The Haitian society is essentially macho, and the Haitian politicians and international interests oppress Haiti’s own children. Farmers become victims again and again and women are always held back. But these women continue to support their country.

Our goal is to achieve respect for the rights of Haitian women. Despite their position as poto mitan, as the main carriers of the national economy, rural Haitian women always suffer in our society. Most of these women have no direct access to agricultural lands and income is strictly controlled by men, despite their role in agriculture.

Many rural residents are forced to give away the children they love because they don’t have the financial capacity to keep their children at home and send them to school. The majority of these children become the slaves of women living in Port-au-Prince and in other cities. If women farmers could earn income from their hard work, they’d be able to keep their children at home.

The majority of the women working in the informal economy in the city come from the countryside. Many rural residents lost their lives because they were at the heart of the earthquake looking for employment in Port-au-Prince, working for pennies at a factory or selling bottled water in the streets. The earthquake increased the responsibilities that were already too heavy for these poor women.

I’ll repeat over and over that these women who lost their lives, their children, their husbands, and other loved ones in Port-au-Prince, lost them mainly because of lack of infrastructure resulting from the neoliberal policies in the country. But they’ll never be discouraged. They’ll always be involved in all kinds of constructive activities and keep supporting their country. After the earthquake, they went to Port-au-Prince searching for their children and ended up offering help to others who were in need. In the cities and in the countryside, these women work without rest.

We need to advance the struggle of women by redefining the concept of feminism in Haiti. To do this we have to reshuffle the cards and reduce the differences between our urban and peasant women. Right now there are two kinds of women: women with a capital W and women with a small w. Even within the women’s struggle, there are a lot of contemptible practices that have yet to be overcome. Most of the urban well-off women look down upon the poor countryside women, calling them tèt mare, wrapped head, because of the kerchiefs rural women often wear on their heads. The rich and educated town women forget that the poor peasant women make up the core of the rural communities that constitute the greatest part of the country. It’s not fair that a small minority have the privilege of monopolizing almost all of the society’s resources and wealth.

Peasant women are always present in all activities to win human rights, respect for life, and food sovereignty. October 15 was declared “Day of the Haitian Peasant Woman,” but unfortunately this day has never been commemorated. We have to recognize and appreciate women farmers for their significant socio-economic worth. We have to give them the compensation they deserve and support their efforts. We need to increase their visibility in efforts to build food sovereignty in the country. Rural women and those struggling with them, here in Haiti or overseas, need to shore up their strength. We must advocate for the rights of women.

Many thanks to Joseph Pierre for translating.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Father Andre in Robillard

Robillard Cholera Treatment Unit
December, 2011
Photo by John Carroll

Father Andre from Robillard sent me an e mail last night.

See this post from Crof's blog.

Father describes a situation in his village which is probably going on in many places...too many cholera patients in "underserved" areas.

I will post his e mail to a couple of websites that address Haiti's cholera epidemic and see if there is an answer.

There are so many people of good will with public health backgrounds trying to slow the morbidity and mortality from cholera in Haiti. There has to be an answer.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Haitian Kids in the Dominican Republic for Heart Surgery (Updated November 29, 2011)

This is Charles.

And this is Naika.

I examined both of them at Hopital Lumiere in Bon Fin, Haiti in 2010.

Both are having surgery this week in Santiago, Dominican Republic.

Thank you, Chadasha.

(Photos provided by Chadasha.)

Update November 16, 2011:

Last night Naika was operated for her patent ductus arteriosus. She did not need to go on bypass. The operative procedure was done through an intercostal incision and her ductus was successfully tied off. She is doing well.

Update November 29, 2011:

Charles did well also. Thank you everyone.


Monday, November 14, 2011

No Haitian Army, Please

Photo by John Carroll

Posted on Mon, Nov. 14, 2011
No new army for Haiti

The Miami Herald Editorial

The list of urgent needs in Haiti is extensive, from housing to a thorough clean-up of its streets and refugee camps to better sanitation and medical treatment. Not on this list: a new army.
Yet even so, President Michel Martelly has told supporters he is going to announce some kind of “public security force” later this week, thus fulfilling a promise to some of his most ardent backers in the campaign that brought him to the presidency earlier this year. If Mr. Martelly had bothered to consult the Haitian people, it’s doubtful they would have endorsed this wrong-headed action.

Mr. Martelly reportedly justifies his actions by summoning the brave role played by the indigenous fighting force that led the successful war of independence from France. The historical reference may be good politics in the narrowest sense. Haiti’s people are justly proud of becoming the first black republic to declare independence back in 1804 under the heroic banner of Toussaint L’Ouverture.

But playing the patriot card in order to reward former army members in his retinue and bringing back the very institution that trampled on the human and political rights of Haitians before and after the coup that brought down the dreaded Duvalier regime is an insult to the people of that nation. They’ve had enough of military strongmen and their abuses over the last few decades to justify their fears for a better future if Mr. Martelly goes through with this plan.

This is both dangerous and reckless, particularly in light of the desperate situation that faces most of Haiti’s people every day. Squalid camps dotting the capital and its environs still house more than 500,000. Conditions are miserable and most people have become disconsolate because they see no progress. Electricity remains a sometime thing, cholera still rages throughout the country and the educational system is rudimentary, at best.

Knowing that the international community, without whose support Haiti would collapse entirely, is opposed to his action, Mr. Martelly says he will raise about $95 million to support the army from donors other than Haiti’s institutional supporters. Even if he succeeds, which is doubtful, his priorities are completely misplaced.

How about an army of street-sweepers to remove the remaining debris and give the capital and other earthquake-ravaged cities a cleaner look and, not incidentally, improve santitation? As a writer on the facing page recently suggested, a brigade of construction workers would do far more good than bringing back the army that was disbanded by former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide 16 years ago.

Someday, the international security force guarding Haiti will be disbanded and leave the country, but there is no need for an army to replace it. The U.N.’s MINUSTAH peacekeeping mission has worked with international donors and others to build up the police force. That is where Mr. Martelly should focus his efforts if security is his genuine concern.

By and large, the international community has been reluctant to play the heavy in obliging the Haitian government to do its will. The cooperative approach remains the best way. But given that external aid remains a vital lifeline for Haiti, its friends must exert leverage on Mr. Martelly to persuade him to put his energies elsewhere.

This may cause hard feelings between donors and Haiti’s proud president, but the desperate needs of the Haitian people should be placed above any individual’s political interests.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Father Andre Pleading for an "Abandoned Population"

Photo by John Carroll

Here are two more posts tonight (November 10, 2011) from Father Andre Sylvestre who is pastor of a Catholic church in Robillard, Haiti.

Post Number One:

Hi, all!

I had short meeting with my medical staff this morning. They shared their concerns with me. They reported that they realized that several of the family members of the cholera inpatients of the CTC of Robillard have TB symptoms. My staff is worried for themselves and for all the people who are in CTC of Robillard.

The situation of Robilllard is definitely becoming chaotic. I called someone from the Mininstry of Health in Cap Haitian to talk about the new development in the CTC of Robillard. I do not know yet what they are going to do and the situation is urgent. We
cannot expose an entire population to some TB people.

Please be the voices of the people of Robillard. Please share this email with those who can help. I am tired to have to share all the bad news with you, but I have no choice. The population of Robillard is like an abandoned population.


Post Number 2:

Hi, all!

There is one year since the cholera disease was brought to Haiti in Haiti. I had a stressful experience about its consequence in Robillard last Sunday.

I had to celebrate two masses last Sunday. I was on my way to celebrate the first one when one of our nurses said to me that there was no enough IV fluid for the day. It was 7: 50 when she told me that. She even said that there was enough for half day. Imagine that there were 22 patients at the CTC. I know that all those cholera inpatients would die without IV fluid. I called someone from Cap Health and someone from Ministry of Health in Cap Haitien. Fortunately, they both were ready to help us get some IV. Thanks to a parishioner who is a driver, we were able to pick IV and other supplies from Cap Haitien and save the life of 22 people. We were fortunate that the driver showed up at mass that Sunday, because most of the people cannot drive (they do not have a car).

The municipality of Plaine du Nord and Grison-Garde, La Bruyere and La Souffriere (the areas of the municipality of Acul du Nord) continue to send cholera patients to the CTC of Robillard. I do not see anything done yet to improve the situation of Robillard that is becoming chaotic. I do not want to have to experience such a stressful experience like the one of last Sunday. Cholera is an issue of public health. I do not understand the reason why the cholera patients of the CTC of Robillard are treated the way they are treated. Who has the financial means to help the cholera patients in Haiti? Can you help me know who received financial assistance to help them? Forgive my complaints, because I am tired to have to carry the burden of the cholera patients while the are people who have the responsibility to do that. I have to reapeat that the situation of Robilard is urgent. Those who have to improve that situation, what are they waiting for? Are they waiting for an human disaster to move quickly? I would appreciate that all of those who receive the current email become the voices of the people of Robillard. Thank you in advance for your cooperation.

Father Andre Sylvestre
Pastor the Parish of Robillard

Damages Sought for Haitian Cholera Victims

Posted on Wed, Nov. 09, 2011
Damages sought from the UN for Haitian cholera victims


More than 5,000 victims of Haiti’s deadly cholera outbreak or relatives of those who died have submitted claims to the United Nations for hundreds of millions of dollars in damages related to the introduction of the disease into Haiti a year ago.
A study published in a journal of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control last summer “strongly suggests’’ that a U.N. peacekeeping mission brought the cholera strain to Haiti, but the U.N. has never admitted its peacekeepers were responsible for the ongoing epidemic. To date, it has killed more than 6,600 Haitians and sickened in excess of 475,000 people.

Attorneys delivered the petitions for damages Thursday to both the United Nations and the U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti, which is known as MINUSTAH.

“I cannot comment more on the petition as, of course, the mission must study it in detail,’’ Kieran Dwyer, a spokesman for the U.N. Department of Peacekeeping Operations, said Tuesday.

Ira Kurzban, a Miami lawyer who is working on the case, said attorneys are seeking damages of $50,000 per victim and $100,000 for each family of a Haitian who died from cholera — a water-borne disease.

When peacekeepers enter a country they sign a special-forces agreement that grants immunity for most contingencies, Kurzban said. But he added: “It doesn’t grant immunity for introduction of a disease into a country.’’

In addition to damages, lawyers for the victims want a public apology from the United Nations and a nationwide response that includes medical treatment for current and future victims and a program to provide clean water and sanitation.

“Ultimately, the sewage at the peacekeepers’ camp overflowed into a tributary of the major river in Haiti and that is why the cholera spread so quickly,’’ Kurzban said.

The study by an independent team of epidemiologists and physicians that was published in the CDC journal found an exact correlation in time and place between the arrival of a battalion of peacekeepers from Nepal in the remote Artibonite region of Haiti last October and the first cases of cholera along the Meille River a few days later. The same cholera strain was present in the peacekeepers’ South Asian homeland.

“The Secretary General has taken this matter very seriously,” said Dwyer. An independent scientific panel appointed in January by the United Nations, he said, reported in May “that it was not possible to be conclusive about how cholera was introduced into Haiti. We do not know that it was U.N. peacekeepers who brought cholera to Haiti.’’

Kurzban said the U.N. entities are liable because they failed to adequately screen and rescreen peacekeepers coming from a country experiencing a cholera outbreak, dumped waste into a tributary of Haiti’s most important river and failed to respond adequately to the outbreak.

Also working on the case are the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti and the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, a group of human rights lawyers in Haiti.

“This is an opportunity for the United Nations to demonstrate that its stated ideals of eliminating disease and encouraging respect for rights are not just empty promises,” said Mario Joseph, managing attorney for the bureau.

Kurzban said the lawyers hope to negotiate with the U.N. entities to reach a satisfactory solution.

Special correspondent Stewart Stogel at the United Nations contributed to this report

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Questions in Haitian Cholera Campaign

See this article regarding the fight against cholera in Haiti.

There are pro-cholera vaccine people and anti-cholera vaccine people. And they both have their reasons.

I don't think it is an either/or proposition. Vaccines should be given and water sanitation should be improved to prevent cholera in Haiti. That only makes sense.

According to this article it would cost 40 million dollars to vaccinate everyone in Haiti against cholera. That seems like a good deal. We need to remember that the UN costs 60 million dollars per MONTH to keep them in Haiti. Which do you think is more important?

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Cuban Doctors Fight Haitian Cholera

Photo by John Carroll
Cholera Treatment Unit

Great article in the Times.

Our Neighbor is Sick

See my post in the Peoria Journal Star.

Mobility in Society

Time magazine (November 14, 2011) has a good article on social mobility in society. They site education, technology, health care, and the market as some of the factors playing important roles.

Time concludes:

"A large body of academic research shows that inequality and lack of social mobility hurt not just those at the bottom, they hurt everyone. Unequal societies have lower levels of trust, higher levels of anxiety and more illness. They have arguably less stable economies: International Monetary Fund research shows that countries like the U.S. and the U.K. are more prone to boom-and-bust cycles. And they are ultimately at risk for social instability."

Saturday, November 05, 2011


A decade ago I started thinking that OSF in Peoria had lost its way.

I thought that money had become more important to the hospital than patients.

I was afraid that they would let my Haitian patients die, and they have. And I thought that the ambulance monopoly in Peoria served the high end CEO's, not the people of central Illinois.

Leslie Moore of Metamora, Illinois wrote this in the Forum of the Peoria Journal Star on November 5, 2011:

"Early criticism of the corporate business structure have been offered by prominent persons this way: Peorian Robert Ingersoll said, "Every man is dishonest who lives upon the labor of others, no matter if he occupies a throne." "

Today's New York Times columnist David Krugman writes on the difference between those who have and those who don't in our society. Krugman feels that this difference is very dangerous to our society.

Please see the following few paragraphs from Krugman:

The budget office report tells us that essentially all of the upward redistribution of income away from the bottom 80 percent has gone to the highest-income 1 percent of Americans. That is, the protesters who portray themselves as representing the interests of the 99 percent have it basically right, and the pundits solemnly assuring them that it’s really about education, not the gains of a small elite, have it completely wrong.

If anything, the protesters are setting the cutoff too low. The recent budget office report doesn’t look inside the top 1 percent, but an earlier report, which only went up to 2005, found that almost two-thirds of the rising share of the top percentile in income actually went to the top 0.1 percent — the richest thousandth of Americans, who saw their real incomes rise more than 400 percent over the period from 1979 to 2005.

Who’s in that top 0.1 percent? Are they heroic entrepreneurs creating jobs? No, for the most part, they’re corporate executives. Recent research shows that around 60 percent of the top 0.1 percent either are executives in nonfinancial companies or make their money in finance, i.e., Wall Street broadly defined. Add in lawyers and people in real estate, and we’re talking about more than 70 percent of the lucky one-thousandth.

But why does this growing concentration of income and wealth in a few hands matter? Part of the answer is that rising inequality has meant a nation in which most families don’t share fully in economic growth. Another part of the answer is that once you realize just how much richer the rich have become, the argument that higher taxes on high incomes should be part of any long-run budget deal becomes a lot more compelling.

The larger answer, however, is that extreme concentration of income is incompatible with real democracy. Can anyone seriously deny that our political system is being warped by the influence of big money, and that the warping is getting worse as the wealth of a few grows ever larger?

Some pundits are still trying to dismiss concerns about rising inequality as somehow foolish. But the truth is that the whole nature of our society is at stake.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Two More Haitian Hearts Patients to the Dominican Republic

Last year, while working at Hopital Lumiere in Bon Fin, I examined a number of patients with heart problems.

One of the heart patients was three year old Charles. He had a loud systolic murmur over his upper left sternal border and he was anemic.

I sent Charles and his mother to Port-au-Prince with a check from Haitian Hearts to obtain a formal echocardiogram.

Charles echo showed that he has severe pulmonary stenosis with a gradient across the valve of 80 mm Hg. This was putting to much pressure on the right side of his heart. This valve could be opened in the cath lab with a balloon or, if necessary, by an open surgical procedure to expand the valve area.

The second patient was seven year old Naika. She weighed 33 pounds.

Naika had a loud "wash machine" type murmur all over her chest. Her chest x-ray revealed a large heart due to too much blood circulating through a large congenital heart defect called "patent ductus arteriosus".

Haitian Hearts sent Naika to the capital too and her echocardiogram confirmed this diagnosis. Her lesion could possibly be closed in the cath lab as well, or she could have an open procedure without needing bypass. But she definitely needed a procedure because she is in volume overloaded heart failure.

So now what was I supposed to do?

Both of these kids are good surgical candidates and both deserve surgery. But they live deep in rural Haiti, have no money, and OSF administration in Peoria definitely will not accept these kids from Haitian Hearts. Charles and Naika are not covered by OSF's Catholic Mission Philosophy which states that OSF will turn no one away regardless of race, religion, or ability to pay. (Haitian Hearts would pay $10,000 for each child.)

So I wrote their names down on my Haitian Hearts "master list", brought their echocardiograms and chest x-rays back to Peoria with me, and kept my eyes and ears open for any medical centers that would accept these kids.

Amazingly, this spring, Chadasha Foundation contacted Haitian Hearts and asked if we had any Haitian kids that needed heart surgery! We always have a "bunch" of babies, toddlers, kids, teenagers, and young adults who need surgery.

Well, Charles and Naika, are on their way this week to the Dominican Republic for heart surgery.

Many thanks to Angela, Chris, Clint, Judy, Gettie, and Miss Beth for helping make this happen.

Exterior Authority

"From the day when the first members of councils placed exterior authority higher than interior, that is to say, recognized the decisions of men united in councils as more important and more sacred than reason and conscience; on that day began lies that caused the loss of millions of human beings and which continue their unhappy work to the present day."

Leo Tolstoy

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Sobering Statistics

Photo by John Carroll

Haiti: A History of Poverty and Poor Health

Haiti has extremely poor health indices. The life expectancy at birth is 61 years (9), and the estimated IMR (Infant Mortality Rate) is 64 per 1,000 live births, the highest in the Western Hemisphere. An estimated 87 of every 1,000 children born die by the age of 5 years (9), and >25% of surviving children experience chronic undernutrition or stunted growth (10). Maternal mortality rate is 630 per 100,000 live births (10).

Haitians are at risk of spreading vaccine-preventable diseases, such as polio and measles, because childhood vaccination coverage is low (59%) for polio, measles-rubella, and diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccines (9). Prevalence of adult HIV infection (1.9%) and tuberculosis (312 cases per 100,000 population) in the Western Hemisphere is also highest in Haiti (11,12), and Hispaniola, which Haiti shares with the Dominican Republic, is the only Caribbean island where malaria remains endemic (13).

Only half of the Haitian population has access to health care because of poverty and a shortage of health care professionals (1 physician and 1.8 nurses per 10,000 population), and only one fourth of seriously ill persons are taken to a health facility (14). Before the earthquake hit Haiti in January 2010, only 63% of Haiti’s population had access to an improved drinking water source (e.g., water from a well or pipe), and only 17% had access to a latrine (15).

Emerging Infectious Diseases

Monday, October 24, 2011

Malaria Vaccine

Photo by John Carroll

October 23, 2011
New York Times

Two Cheers for the Malaria Vaccine

A vaccine to protect children against malaria has been shown moderately effective in a large clinical trial — an achievement that could save millions of lives. The vaccine, known as RTS,S and made by GlaxoSmithKline, is the first ever to be shown effective against a human disease caused by parasites. When tested in 6,000 infants ages 5 to 17 months in seven sub-Saharan nations, it reduced the risk of infection with severe malaria by 47 percent during the year after the shots, far less than the 90 percent efficacy rate typically sought for other vaccines. And there are other big hurdles still to surmount. There are hints that the protection may wane over time and results from administering a booster shot won’t be known until 2014. Side effects could pose a problem; seizures and fevers were higher among children given the vaccine.

If final results of this ongoing study, which involves more than 15,000 children in all, show that the vaccine is safe and effective, the goal is to deploy it in 2015.

Glaxo has pledged to sell the vaccine at its manufacturing cost plus 5 percent that will be spent on research on malaria and neglected diseases. The company has not set a price, and, once it does, international donors and African health systems will have to find the resources to buy and administer it at a time of global recession.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation deserves major credit. Glaxo spent $300 million over 25 years to develop the vaccine for military personnel and travelers but was unwilling to pay for pediatric trials for impoverished nations without a partner. The Gates Foundation donated $200 million to drive the research to completion, and Glaxo expects to add another $100 million of its own.

The fight against malaria has made gains thanks to effective drug treatments, insecticide-treated bed nets and programs to spray the interior walls of houses. With the vaccine, health experts are talking with renewed optimism about eradicating malaria entirely (some countries already have). But it will take vigilance and money to stay ahead of resistant mosquitoes and parasites.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Cholera Vaccinations to Start

Photo by John Carroll
Cholera Treatment Center

Haiti turns to vaccinations a year after cholera struck

Jacqueline Charles

In a dramatic policy shift, Haiti has agreed to support a massive vaccination program to slow a cholera outbreak that has claimed more than 6,000 lives and sickened almost a half-million people.

Beginning in January, Boston-based Partners in Health will provide two dosages of the oral vaccine Shanchol to 100,000 Haitians living in two vulnerable communities: a neighborhood in Port-au-Prince, where potable water and latrines are luxuries, and to an isolated rural village in the lower Artibonite Valley region. The disease outbreak was first detected in the region a year ago this moth.

“We need to bring every resource available to stop the epidemic,’’ said Dr. Paul Farmer, a Harvard University professor who co-founded Partners In Health and serves as deputy U.N. Special Envoy for Haiti.

On the eve of last year’s presidential election, former President René Préval declined to launch a similar vaccination program, fearing social unrest. Government health officials said the program was not adopted because there weren’t sufficent vaccines for everyone.

President Michel Martelly, who was elected in March, and Prime Minister Garry Conille have voiced support for the new vaccination campaign.

“President Martelly is definitely behind the vaccine and so encouraged his ministry of health,’’ said Dr. Louise Ivers, senior policy adviser for Partners In Health. She believes continued deaths and advocacy from health groups helped shape the new policy.

The group is launching the program with Haiti’s health ministry and the GHESKIO Center, a well-respected Haitian aid group known for its groundbreaking work with HIV/AIDS patients in Haiti.

Partners In Health, which spends about $500,000 a month to treat cholera patients, says Haiti’s epidemic is the world’s largest. The decision to vaccinate Haitians comes as the country struggles to bring cholera under control, access to portable water and latrines in the country’s post-earthquake camps sharply decline and as international aid dollars wither.

“There is a steady erosion of support of people coming and leaving,’’ said Farmer, who calls it the “Attention Deficit Disorder” of humanitarian work. “Wavering attention, short cycle of interest.”

Still, getting the international community to pay for the vaccine, which costs $185 per dose, remains a challenge. The United Nations has struggled to raise $300 million for cholera outreach in recent months. At the same time, those opposed to vaccinations, are concerned that it will detract from public campaigns for better sanitary measures in Haiti, and from the need to promote potable water and improved sanitary conditions in a country were many people lack both.

A recent a survey of 626 camps with 502,000 homeless quake victims by water and sanitation experts, showed that access to potable water had gone from 48 percent in March to 7 percent in August. Meanwhile, the percentage of camps with available hand washing stations went from, 20 percent to 12 percent during the same period.

Conille, a medical doctor, said tackling cholera is among his top priorities. He wants to launch an army of young Haitians — one for every 200 households — to educate communities about prevention and treatment of waterborne disease.

“I see this, despite the fact that it has had a devastating effect, as an opportunity for us to quickly strengthen our system and address other big public health issues,’’ he said.

Meanwhile, those supporting the use of vaccines dismiss arguments that it will take away from public education campaigns promoting better hygiene among Haitians.

“I have access to potable water. That is not the case of the majority of the people who don’t have enough water to dink much less to wash their hands,’’ said Bill Pape, director of the GHESKIO Center.

Across from the clinic are two well known slum communities, the City of God and Eternal, constructed below sea level.

“If you start to dig for latrines you hit water,” Pape said.

Pape said the best solution to solving cholera in Haiti is improving water and sanitation in the country, which has some of the worst conditions in the world. But that cannot be done overnight, he said. The benefits of the chosen vaccine, which provides 70 percent effectiveness, last for about two years and the impact on the community is “enormous,” Pape said.

By vaccinating about 50 percent of a population, the immunity could spread to the entire community, experts say.

“I don’t see why you don’t provide it. It’s like going to war, using the artillery and not the aviation,’’ Pape said. “We need to give everything that is available. The disease is going to be here for a long time.’’

Still, introducing the disease has been controversial. Last year, as some pushed for vaccination, Haitian government health officials rejected the idea. They were concerned about social unrest because there were only 200,000 doses available.

Some officials also feared usage could divert attention from public prevention campaigns pushing potable water and sanitary measures. The Pan-American Health Organization was also reluctant to introduce a limited supply of vaccines early in the outbreak. The group “strongly recommended” after a meeting last December with cholera, immunization and disease control experts that a stockpile of vaccines should exists before vaccinations begin.

Jon Andrus, deputy director of PAHO, said the multiple doses that must be ingested could pose a problem.

“The more doses of vaccines makes it more difficult, particularly in Haiti,’’ Andrus said. “If there was to be developed a single-dose vaccine, particularly for children, that would be marvelous. Trying to get a second dose in a person in a refugee emergency, new settlements (and) migrating earthquake population is going to be tough.”

Dr. Arthur Fournier, co-founder of University of Miami’s Project Medishare, which operates three cholera treatment centers in Haiti’s central plateau, said the cholera epidemic has not received the attention it deserves.

“I am OK with doing a cholera vaccination program as long as we do all we can in terms of community education,’’ he said.

Read more:

Suppression of Democracy in Haiti

See this article.

Haiti's First Cholera Anniversary

Photo by John Carroll
Cholera Treatment Unit

In October 2010 cholera started started infecting and killing Haitians.

It has been one year now and conservative numbers say that cholera has infected 500,000 Haitians and killed 6,500 of them. This is more than any place in the world. Including India, Africa, Anywhere....

And these numbers are the "documented" cases. The sick little old man who couldn't make it across the swollen creek yesterday in Haiti's mountains is left out of these statistics.

Dirty water is to blame. And Haiti's water was deplorable long before the earthquake in 2010. It was deemed worst in the world in 2002....

That is one of the reasons I named this blog Dying in Haiti six years ago. Dirty water....

Below is an article by Trenton Daniel that summarizes the cholera situation in Haiti very well.

AP Interview: Expert says Haiti has worst cholera
Associated Press


PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- Haiti has the highest rate of cholera in the world a mere year after the disease first arrived in the Caribbean nation, a leading health expert said Tuesday.

Dr. Paul Farmer, one of the founders of the medical group Partners in Health and U.N. deputy special envoy to Haiti, said cholera has sickened more than 450,000 people in a nation of 10 million, or nearly 5 percent of the population, and killed more than 6,000.

Farmer told The Associated Press on the anniversary of cholera's arrival in Haiti that it's also on the verge of becoming the leading cause of death by infectious disease in the Caribbean nation.

"It's freakin' incredible," Farmer said by telephone. "In 365 days, you go from no cases to the largest number in the world."

That's significantly more than the 100,000 to 300,000 cases documented annually in Bangladesh, Farmer said. The Democratic Republic of Congo sees 13,000 to 30,000 cases a year.

He also said that cholera is likely to become endemic in Haiti, meaning it will become "native" to the country.

"It's going to be with us for a long time," he said.

Farmer attributes the spread of the disease to what he describes as Haiti's status as the "most water insecure" country in the world, which means many people have insufficient access to clean water.

Cholera is caused by a bacteria found in contaminated water or food. It spreads quickly in unhygienic environments and can quickly kill people through complete dehydration, but is easily treatable if caught in time.

Haiti has long suffered from improper sanitation because of its poverty but sanitation conditions in the capital and other urban areas became much worse after last year's earthquake forced thousands of people to set up makeshift shelters in public plazas, soccer fields and other open areas.

Evidence suggests that the disease inadvertently arrived in Haiti by U.N. peacekeeping troops from Nepal. Cholera then spread through Haiti's biggest river because a Haitian contractor failed to ensure proper sanitation at the U.N. base.

There were no documented cholera cases in Haiti prior to the start of the outbreak a year ago this month.

The epidemic threatens to worsen before it abates as the year's second rainy season causes the disease to spread.

The foreign aid group Doctors Without Borders said in a statement Tuesday that it continues to see "dangerous and unpredictable fluctuations" in the number of cholera cases.

For example, the group said it treated 281 patients for cholera in the Haitian capital in the last week of August. That number jumped to 840 per week a month later.

Aggravating the situation will be the withdrawal of humanitarian workers who leave because of a lack of funding, the United Nations' Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said Tuesday.

That means fewer drainage services and less maintenance on the latrines aid workers set up in the settlement camps.

Out of 12,000 latrines needed, only about a third were reported to be working in August, down from more than 5,800 the month before, OCHA said. Meanwhile, the number of nonfunctional latrines more than doubled, from about 1,300 in July to about 2,600 in August.

Also, more than 1,000 latrines have been abandoned, leading to outdoor defecation, which heightens the risk of contamination for people living in the camps.

The United Nations Office for Project Services and the government's water and sanitation agency halted the cleaning of latrines at the end of August because of lack of funding, OCHA said.

Despite the spread of cholera, Farmer said it was possible to wipe out the disease by improving Haiti's water system and sanitation. The use of education and oral vaccines is also important, he added.

"To eradicate cholera we're going to have to vaccinate huge numbers of people," Farmer said. "It's going to require a massive campaign like polio."

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Haiti Does Not Need An Army

The Washington Post

A new army is not what Haiti needs

By Editorial, Sunday, October 16, 6:29 PM

HAITI’S CATALOGUE of critical needs seems endless, all the more so since the crippling earthquake in January last year. But one item nowhere near the top of Haiti’s list of priorities, nor even remotely advisable, is reconstituting a national army. Unfortunately, President Michel Martelly wants to do just that.

Haiti’s army was disbanded in 1995 by President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and with good reason. Four years earlier, Mr. Aristide was just the latest of many Haitian leaders whose tenures were violently cut short by army officers or enlisted men; he abolished the army after being restored to power by the United States.

Whatever Mr. Aristide’s other merits or flaws, getting rid of the army counts as a signal achievement. For years, the army, in the absence of real external threats, had been primarily an instrument of repression and blood-curdling human rights abuses.

Mr. Martelly, a political novice who took office this year, has argued that a new Haitian army would bear no resemblance to the bad old one. He says a reconstituted force would be used mainly to respond to natural disasters and emergencies or to interdict contraband and drug transshipments.

It would be nice to believe that; it would also be naive. Mr. Martelly has extensive ties with right-wing groups, including allies of former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier, whose regime carried out atrocious abuses. With little support in parliament or from any organized political party, he finds himself perched perilously atop a political system that he has been unable to bend to his will. The temptation must be strong to follow the example of so many former Haitian leaders who found it convenient to fashion a band of loyalists into an armed force beholden to the president and hostile to his rivals — a far cry from what Haiti needs.

The start-up costs of establishing an army are estimated at $95 million — a huge sum in a country whose annual budget barely exceeds $1 billion. It’s not clear where the funds would come from; under no circumstances should the United States or other donor countries contribute.

That money could be put to much better use: fighting a cholera epidemic that has killed or sickened hundreds of thousands; removing rubble that still clogs entire neighborhoods; resettling thousands who remain without permanent homes; and rebuilding government ministries in the capital, Port-au-Prince.

Haiti does have a crime problem; its 8,400-man police force is inadequate in a country of 9 million. It makes more sense for Mr. Martelly to beef up and professionalize the police than to revive an institution so closely identified with the violence, terror and repression that have plagued Haiti for years.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Haiti's Stalled Recovery

(Photo by John Carroll)

Editorial, Toronto Star, October 7, 2011

“As school goes, so goes the nation.”

That’s how Josué Mérilien, a Haitian teacher and union leader, sees it. And the schools aren’t going well. Teachers make as little as $100 a month, fees are high, and there’s a “terrible problem” of kids showing up faint with hunger.

“What we have is an absurd imitation of a school that isn’t conducive to thinking,” he recently told Le Nouvelliste newspaper.

It’s a depressing sign of the times nearly two years after the earthquake that shattered Haiti, leaving 220,000 of its 10 million people dead and cities in ruins. Today, 600,000 still live in sketchy, cholera-threatened camps, their lives on hold. Like Haiti’s promised rebirth.

After presiding over a half-year of political wrangling, Haitian President Michel Martelly finally obtained parliament’s approval this past week for a prime minister. Garry Conille will preside over a cabinet with the daunting task of rebuilding the country. “My greatest fear is that if we don’t buy time, this country will explode in a few weeks, a few months,” Conille told the Miami Herald. Sadly, others don’t seem to share that sense of urgency.

Although Canada is a key donor, pledging $1 billion in help, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird did not mention Haiti’s needs in his Sept. 26 speech to the United Nations General Assembly. That’s how little attention Haiti is getting these days. The world is distracted by the Arab Spring, famine in Africa and Europe’s economic woes.

Of the $5 billion promised for reconstruction, Haiti has seen just $2 billion so far. Of that, less than $300 million has gone through the Haitian government, sapping its credibility. And incredibly, United Nations relief chief Valerie Amos says Haiti has yet to see $160 million of the $380 million in urgent humanitarian relief that was promised. The camps are short on food, drinking water and toilets.

As Martelly pointed out in his own UN address, the world’s grand promises are fast becoming “dead letters.” That neglect, coupled with the regime’s precariousness, could prove explosive.

Martelly won power in a deeply flawed presidential election earlier this year. Chillingly, his supporters welcomed the return of past dictator Jean-Claude (Baby Doc) Duvalier with open arms. And Martelly has been criticized for wanting to build up the army (as the Duvalier family had) rather than the police.

None of this is reassuring. But Haitians have made their choices, and the world must honour its promises to help them rebuild. That means delivering the remaining $3 billion in help promised for this year, channelling more of it through Haiti’s government to strengthen its credibility and capacity, and keeping a sufficiently robust UN peacekeeping force in place until the growing police service can take over.

It also means making sure kids don’t faint from hunger in school.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Monday, October 03, 2011

An Old Story on Baby Doc

Photo by John Carroll

Monday, Feb. 10, 1986

Haiti Bad Times for Baby Doc
By John Moody.;Dean Brelis/Port-au-Prince and Bernard Diederich/Miami

Like a hurricane born in the Caribbean and gathering momentum as it pushes northward, word spread last week that Jean-Claude Duvalier, 34, Haiti's President-for-Life, had fled his country. The reports said that Duvalier, who is known as "Baby Doc," and members of his family had gone into exile rather than face vengeance at the hands of a burgeoning populist movement against him. On Friday, in response to growing unrest throughout Haiti, Duvalier imposed a state of siege. Hours later White House Spokesman Larry Speakes made the dramatic announcement to reporters traveling with President Reagan aboard Air Force One that the Haitian government had fallen and Duvalier had left Haiti.

Yet within hours, to the vast embarrassment of the Reagan Administration, the pudgy dictator appeared in the capital, Port-au-Prince, like a spirit conjured up by practitioners of voodoo, Haiti's folk religion. Baby Doc cruised through the streets in a BMW, surrounded by a bevy of armed outriders. In a radio broadcast to the country, he used an old Creole saying to brag, "I am here, strong and firm as a monkey's tail."

Haiti's crisis last week centered on a family that has used terror and corruption for 28 years to grow wealthy by imposing its will on the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. For the first time in Baby Doc's reign, spontaneous demonstrations throughout the country brought misery-ridden Haiti close to open revolt. Rioters controlled many parts of the countryside, and the government was firmly in control of only the capital.

The demonstrations against Jean-Claude Duvalier stood in stark contrast to the events of Jan. 22, 1971, when then President-for-Life Francois ("Papa Doc") Duvalier decreed that his 19-year-old son, quickly nicknamed Baby Doc, would succeed him. The elder Duvalier died three months later, leaving a legacy of brutality and fear on which he had built a dictatorship after his election in 1957.

At first it appeared that Jean-Claude might be a more enlightened despot. He promised an end to repression and an economic revolution. But he actually made few real improvements. True, political opponents were no longer executed as often as they had been under Papa Doc, but the son imitated the father in using the army and the secret police, the dreaded Tonton Macoute (a term for bogeyman in Haiti's Creole dialect) to brutalize the population.

The second-generation Duvalier flaunted an opulent life-style in the midst of incredible poverty. The President, who is fond of yachts and sports cars, did not forgo either pleasure when a critical shortage of foreign currency last year left the country almost without fuel. His most costly indulgence may have been his 1980 marriage to Michele Bennett, 34, a Haitian divorcee who once worked in New York City as a secretary. Their wedding was Haiti's social event of the decade. The price tag: $3 million. Fireworks alone cost $100,000.

Michele Duvalier at first endeared herself to the population by distributing clothes and food to the needy and opening several medical clinics, but her avarice quickly outpaced her husband's. Today she is one of the world's richest women. On shopping sprees to the U.S. and Europe, she has acquired an array of furs hardly appropriate to Haiti's steamy climate. Late last year, in the middle of an economic crisis, she flew to Paris to buy designer clothes, jewelry and works of art.

Government officials fear the First Lady because her power rivals, or perhaps exceeds, her husband's. While Jean-Claude sometimes dozes through Cabinet meetings, his wife scolds ministers. The birth of her son, Francois Nicolas, in 1983 provided an heir apparent to the Duvalier fiefdom.

At the same time that the Duvaliers have been salting away millions of dollars in foreign banks and squandering millions more, the vast majority of Haitians live in deep poverty. Eight out of ten people are illiterate. Most earn less than $150 a year, although the official per capita figure is about $280. The tropical farmland produces coffee and mangoes for export, but the country is plagued by widespread hunger. Its once thriving hardwood forests have been chopped down for fuel.

Given that yawning gap between haves and have-nots, political ferment was inevitable. The U.S., which provided $54 million in aid to Haiti in 1985, warned Duvalier that future payments would be jeopardized unless he improved the country's human rights record.

The regime's reply was a nationwide referendum last July 22. Truckloads of illiterate Haitians were driven from one polling place to another to vote oui a dozen times or more. The official results: 99.98% reaffirmed Baby Doc as President-for-Life.

Young opponents of the regime, outraged by the sham referendum, started organizing nonviolent protests that tapped a wellspring of discontent. When three students were killed on Nov. 28 during an antigovernment protest in Gonaives, demonstrations followed in a dozen cities and towns. Last month an army captain and two members of the Tonton Macoute were charged with the murders.

The government in recent months has tried to intimidate the Roman Catholic Church, which has become a center of dissent. Some 80% of Haitians are nominally Catholic, and the clergy has spoken out more since the 1983 visit of Pope John Paul II, who criticized the Duvalier regime and assured the downtrodden population "I am with you." One day after the July referendum, a 78-year-old Belgian-born priest was beaten to death by thugs. Three other priests, including the director of the Catholic-run radio station Radio Soleil, were expelled from the country in July.

Last week's unrest began in church. Sunday's evening Mass at the old Cathedral of Cap Haitien had just concluded when a lone voice in the congregation bellowed out, "Abas (Down with) Duvalier!" With startling vigor, the cry was taken up by other worshipers, and the chanting demand for Duvalier's ouster quickly became the catalyst for a short-lived demonstration on the steps of the church.

Within minutes, army troops from a nearby barracks descended on the crowd. The soldiers fired rifles into the air, rained down blows with hardwood clubs, and barged into the cathedral in search of the instigators. As word of the brutal military response spread, thousands of demonstrators roamed through the historic town. The following day the Tonton Macoute showed it had learned nothing from the November killing of the Gonaives students. At a demonstration by several thousand people outside the Cap Haitien Cathedral, militiamen fired wildly into the crowd, killing three people and wounding 30.

On Wednesday the Cap Haitien warehouse of CARE, the U.S.-based relief organization, was stormed and looted by slum dwellers. They trampled three people to death, then fought over canisters of cooking oil and 100-lb. sacks of grain.

Almost hour by hour, the swells of revolt kept growing. Nearly half the 60,000 inhabitants of Cap Haitien marched peacefully through the streets Wednesday afternoon, calling on the army to stage a coup d'etat and take power. There were also appeals for a general strike to begin Feb. 12. Such a sustained work stoppage would probably cripple the moribund Haitian economy, which gets much of its foreign currency from tourism.

By Thursday the chant "Down with Duvalier!" was echoing across the country. Said one resident of Cap Haitien: "No one is afraid anymore. Duvalier must go." In Gonaives, thousands of protesters blocked the streets with barricades and burning tires. When the local army headquarters was overrun by anti-Duvalier marchers, agents of the Tonton Macoute tried to open fire, but they were disarmed by an army tactical battalion. Terrified, the agents ripped off their trademark blue denim uniforms and tried to escape the mob's wrath. More crowds demanded that the military overthrow the dictatorship, and rumors started that Baby Doc, his wife and an entourage of 100 had already fled to France.

Even after Duvalier had declared a 30-day state of siege and the armed forces put on a heavy display of power, the riots continued. At an early Mass at the St. Jean Bosco church in a poor district of the capital, a soldier shot and wounded the priest for no apparent reason. An enraged congregation spilled into the street and set off more protests. In other parts of town, militiamen fired into the crowds, while rioters smashed car and store windows, looted shops, and constructed roadblocks from tires and burning garbage. By week's end an estimated 26 people had been killed. Although none of the 14,000 U.S. citizens in Haiti were reported injured, the State Department advised Americans not to travel there.

On Saturday, the capital was tense but calm. There were reports of demonstrations in Cap Haitien, the second largest city, and the Dominican Republic, which lies east of Haiti on the island of Hispaniola, was nervously monitoring the volatile situation. While Duvalier was still in Haiti, there were serious questions about whether the President-for-Life would be President for long.

The protests that lured thousands of Haitians into the streets last week to denounce the government probably represent a point of no return for the country. Even if Duvalier's reign has not yet ended and he somehow manages to cling to power for a while, his viselike grip on Haiti has been irrevocably shattered.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Roger Annis

Photo by John Carroll

Letter to the editor, Ottawa Citizen:
Foreign powers are the principal beneficiaries of impunity for human rights crimes in Haiti

Vancouver BC
October 2, 2011

To: Mr. Gerry Nott, Publisher and Editor in Chief, Ottawa Citizen
Mr. Peter Robb, Deputy Editor, News, Ottawa Citizen

Dear Mr. Nott, Mr. Robb,

The call by Amnesty International Canada's Alex Neve and co-author Andrew Thompson for prosecution of former Haitian tyrant Jean-Claude Duvalier in your edition of September 26 (reproduced below) is timely and welcome. We would like to add here a few critical thoughts and observations on the Canadian government’s role and responsibilities in Haiti that will help to set a fuller context.

Mr. Neve and Mr. Thompson write that Canada should press the current president Michel Martelly to "get down to the business of justice" by ending the standoff between himself and the country’s other elected institutions and proceeding with a prosecution of Mr. Duvalier. A little explanation is in order.

Martelly's constitutional role is to facilitate the formation of a government by nominating a prime minister. The nominee must be acceptable to Haiti's elected House of Representatives (Chambre des députés) and Senate, so a degree of tact and compromise on the part of the president is required. It is the successful nominee for prime minister who then forms a government.

The current standoff results from Martelly’s wish to have a fellow, right-wing ideologue accepted as prime minister. Thankfully, the House and Senate have refused to rubber stamp his first two nominations—businessman Daniel Gerard Rouzier and disgraced former chief cop of Haiti under the illegal coup d’etat regime of 2004-06, Bernard Gousse.[1]

Neve and Thompson write that Canada should pressure Martelly to get on with the nomination process. They are correct in so urging. But words of caution are called for.

Canada, the U.S. and Europe are part of the problem here because they bankrolled the exclusionary election process that brought Martelly to power six months ago. It is not surprising that Martelly would show no interest in the Duvalier prosecution because he is an associate of those with close ties to the former tyrant’s regime. He has surrounded himself with advisers who were ministers or other functionaries in and around the regime. Martelly was a vigorous supporter of the overthrow of elected government in 2004.[2]

What’s more, Canada has already refused an explicit call to assist the Haitian judicial system to prosecute Duvalier. It came in the form of a presentation to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development of the Canadian Parliament in early March 2011 by René Magloire, special advisor on legal issues to then-President René Préval.[3]

It now appears that the U.S., at least, is smarting under the international condemnation of the dysfunction of the Martelly presidency that is has so vigorously supported. Earlier this month, it stepped in to impose the nomination for prime minister of a Haitian-born but foreign-residing assistant to Bill Clinton named Garry Conille.[4] The House has accepted the new nominee in a unanimous vote; a vote in the Senate is still pending.

In arguing that Canada should step in and push Martelly in a certain political direction, Neve and Thompson pen an unfortunate and prejudicial choice of words. They write, “For too long, including during the terrifying Duvalier years, Haiti has suffered from a culture of impunity.”

Of which “Haiti” are they writing? Yes, the “Haiti” of the country’s economic elite has long enjoyed impunity in imposing extreme poverty and gross violations of human rights on their countrymen and countrywomen. Its ruthless rule has long enjoyed the backing or the acquiescence of the so-called democracies of the hemisphere and Europe.

The “Haiti” of the country’s poor majority, on the other hand, has always been deeply committed to democracy, the rule of law and accountability of political leaders. This Haiti rose up in 1986 in its millions to oust the Duvalier tyranny. Ever since, it has fought against great odds to move the country forward along a path of democracy, social justice and respect for human dignity.

Alas, that valiant struggle has been frustrated and betrayed every step of the way by the big countries that hypocritically claim to stand for human rights. In 2004, Canada, the U.S. and Europe joined in the overthrow of Haiti’s then elected and socially progressive government.

The overriding problem with human rights impunity in Haiti resides not within Haiti’s borders but within those countries that sponsor and organize coups, aid embargos and all kinds of other destructive intervention in Haiti’s internal affairs.

In Canada, members of Parliament and the Senate, all the major media outlets and an important part of the country’s international development community turn a blind eye to so much of what has gone wrong in Haiti. So who are the real perpetrators and beneficiaries of impunity in Haiti?

It is good that Amnesty International Canada is speaking out for democracy and human rights in Haiti. We hope to see more in the coming months. We urge it to direct more of its concerns towards ending the foreign intervention that is the fundamental reason for Haiti’s poverty and social underdevelopment. We urge it to join with us in seeing vocal and active advocates for social justice for Haiti among members of the Canadian Parliament and Senate.

Haiti is being run into the ground by an international intervention regime enjoying virtual impunity, for example in the case of the catastrophic introduction of cholera into the country by the Nepalese contingent of MINUSTAH. It now faces a new, grave threat in the form of a plan by Michel Martelly, apparently with the backing of the United States (and Canada?),[5] to revive a Haitian armed forces that was dissolved in 1995 by then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to the immense satisfaction of most Haitian people. The country needs all the genuine international assistance it can get.

Roger Annis
Canada Haiti Action Network
778 858 5179