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10/9/07

Haiti Report for September 10, 2007

 

   

The Haiti Report is a summary compilation of events as described in Haiti and international media prepared by Konbit Pou Ayiti/KONPAY. It does not reflect the opinions of any individual or organization. This service is intended to create a better understanding of the situation in Haiti by presenting the reader with reports that provide a variety of perspectives on the situation. To make a donation to support this service: Konbit Pou Ayiti, 7 Wall Street, Gloucester, MA, 01930 or visit our website: http://www.konpay.org 

IN THIS REPORT:
- Wyclef Jean’s Yele Haiti is Two Years Old
- Navy Ship Comfort Visits Haiti as Part of Effort to Counter Chavez
- New Literacy Campaign Announced
- Nine Latin Americans with Peacekeepers in Haiti Support One-Year Extension of Mission
- Dominican Republic Denies People of Haitian Descent Birth Certificates
- Dr. Paul Farmer Commentary in Forbes

Wyclef Jean’s Yele Haiti is Two Years Old:
It has been more than two years since Wyclef Jean started his foundation to help those living in his native Haiti, and he says he’s seeing the results of his humanitarian efforts on the ground. ”I’m seeing major progress with the kids because the revolution starts with the mind, the real revolution, and this is really the turning point for a lot of kids, like they really feel like there is hope,” he said in an interview Sunday. ”Before me, they feel like when people left Haiti they just left, you know, and they would come back once in a while. But really with this, they feel like there’s hope for the future.” The Grammy winner founded Yele Haiti in January 2005, which promotes music, sports and media as a way to bring jobs and development to the troubled country. Jean recently held a free concert for more than 50,000 people on the beach in the seaside town of Jacmel, the first such show in Haiti since 1997. ”Through the music we’re actually able to educate,” he said. “When you’re in a population where it’s very poor but the country is very rich, we find through music and through sports we’re able to change a lot of things.” In January 2006, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt joined Jean on a trip to Haiti to bring attention to the plight of the children there, and visited a school supported by Jean’s foundation. Jean was appointed last January as a roving ambassador for Haiti by President Rene Preval. ”The president appointed me that because he’s seen the work that I was doing for the past year, so being a roving ambassador is just a continuation of what I’ve been doing, which is promoting my country in a positive light.”  (Canadian Press, 9/10)

Navy Ship Comfort Visits Haiti as Part of Effort to Counter Chavez:
A huge U.S. Navy hospital ship brought state-of-the-art medical care to the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country this week during a regional goodwill mission aimed at countering leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s influence. The USNS Comfort, a 900-foot-long floating hospital built for wounded American soldiers, carries more than 600 medical volunteers who have provided free vaccinations, eye exams, dental treatment and surgical procedures to more than 85,000 patients in a dozen countries during their tour of Latin America and the Caribbean. The volunteers also train local doctors, build clinics and treat sick animals, trying to generate goodwill in a region the Bush administration has been accused of slighting as it focuses on U.S.-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and terror concerns at home. ”We are here to try and make a difference, not just in the short term but in the long term as well. It’s a win-win for all involved,” Capt. Bob Kapcio, the Comfort’s commanding officer, said during the ship’s arrival ceremony in Haiti. Some critics question the long-term impact of the Comfort’s four-month voyage. The American ship only stays in port for a few days in each country and at the moment has no firm plans to return to the region.

At Port-au-Prince’s seaport, dozens of patients strapped on life vests and boarded ferries to reach the Comfort, a converted oil supertanker whose gleaming surgical center, dental ward and pediatrics unit provide a level of medical care beyond most Haitians’ wildest dreams. Haiti is so poor that public hospitals are strewn with patients on floors for lack of beds. Private hospitals turn away even gunshot victims who cannot afford to pay. ”If I went to a hospital in Haiti, this would have cost a lot of money so this really is a miracle for me,” said Gertrude Fortune, 49, laying on a hospital bed before undergoing hernia surgery. The Comfort’s mission has been earning rave reviews, from impoverished villagers to heads of state.

When President Bush announced the Comfort’s mission in March he promised more U.S. help for health and education in a region oil-rich Venezuela has been showering with aid. Chavez’s government has pledged more than $8.8 billion to the region this year, although it isn’t known how much has actually been delivered. By comparison, $3 billion in American grants and loans reached the region in 2005, according to the most recent figures available. Washington is Haiti’s single largest donor, giving more than $850 million between 1995 and 2003, according to the State Department’s Web site. The U.S. has donated more than $390 million to help Haiti rebuild since a 2004 uprising ousted then President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. But Chavez also has become a huge donor for Haiti, promising $221 million in aid projects so far this year.  (AP, 9/7)

New Literacy Campaign Announced:
The Haitian Government initiated today – the International Day Against Illiteracy – a massive campaign against illiteracy, according to a statement issued by Carol Joseph, the cabinet secretary in charge of literacy. The campaign’s kickoff will take place today at the Champs de Mars, the main park in Port-au-Prince. The campaign will target 3 million illiterates over a period of 3 years. It will cost $186 million and will be pattered after the Cuban method “Yo si puedo” or “Wi mwen kapab” (”Yes I can”) in Creole. Cuban will give Haiti 10,000 tv sets, 10,000 videos and 3 million books to help it implement the program, which will be carried out in Creole, the language spoken by all Haitians. 75,000 literacy centers will open throughout the country and will host 40 students daily. The campaign will create 100,000 jobs. During the last 60 years several literacy drives were carried out in the country. They did not, however, succeed in reducing the illiteracy rate significantly. (Alterpresse, translated by Max Blanchet, 9/8)

Nine Latin Americans with Peacekeepers in Haiti Support One-Year Extension of Mission:
Nine Latin American nations with U.N. peacekeepers deployed in Haiti voiced support for extending the mission for another year but declined to say when they would remove their troops. The U.N. Security Council is expected to renew the mandate of the 8,800-strong, Brazilian-led force on Oct. 14. On Tuesday, defense ministers from Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guatemala, Peru, Uruguay and Paraguay traveled to Haiti to show their support for Haitian President Rene Preval, who last year authorized the U.N. force to take a firmer hand against street gangs blamed for violence. Chilean Defense Minister Jose Goni said the countries agreed to support a 12-month extension of the U.N. mission, which arrived in 2004 to restore order after a violent uprising. ”Our work (in the U.N. mission) has helped achieve a notable level of public security and that allows to begin thinking about ways to expand our work,” Goni told reporters. The officials did not address how long their troops would remain in Haiti. U.N. officials have said peacekeepers should stay at least until the end of Preval’s term in 2011. It was the first time Latin American countries have gathered in Haiti to discuss the future of the peacekeeping force, which consists mostly of South and Central American soldiers and police. The force’s current mandate covers mainly Haiti’s security needs, but Preval’s government has been pressuring the world body to funnel more resources into development projects for schools, hospitals, roads and sanitation. (AP, 9/4)

Dominican Republic Denies People of Haitian Descent Birth Certificates:
Authorities in the Dominican Republic are denying growing numbers of people of Haitian descent identity documents on the argument that their parents are illegal immigrants. The founder and director of the Movement of Dominican-Haitian Women (MUDHA), Sonia Pierre, complained that the civil registrar’s office continues to demand that Dominican citizens of Haitian descent present their parents’ documents as a requisite for obtaining copies of their birth certificates. The Haitian-Dominican activist who defends the rights of immigrants said the officials are fully aware that the applicants were registered at birth by their parents on forms handed out by the authorities to Haitian “braceros” or sugar cane cutters. Copies of birth certificates are necessary to register in school, obtain an identity card, take out a passport, and acquire a voter registration card. Under the constitution, anyone born in the Dominican Republic has a right to citizenship, with the exception of the children of diplomats or children born to parents in transit.

Pierre herself is all too familiar with the problem. In March, officials at the registrar’s office attempted to revoke her Dominican birth certificate based on questions about the legal status of her parents and the validity of their identification documents. After her case made international headlines, the investigation into the legality of her documents was called off. Dominican authorities have recurred more and more frequently to this practice “since the announcement that my documents were going to be annulled,” Pierre told IPS. The activist, who received the annual award of the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Centre for Human Rights last year, has drawn up a list of over 200 cases of Haitian-Dominicans who have been denied birth certificates. She plans to present the list to the registrar’s office to get the authorities to correct the situation, and will continue to press the case if she fails in her endeavor.  (IPS, 8/28)

Dr. Paul Farmer Commentary in Forbes
I was lucky enough to make my first trip to Haiti almost 25 years ago. Haiti has been the best teacher I’ve ever had (and that’s saying a lot).

Working there taught me several things: that all enduring, good work is done by teams (no doctor can be effective alone); that public health and public infrastructure is always important (even the biggest and most beautiful mission hospital cannot serve the people of an entire region, much less a nation); that community-based care, relying on village health workers is the secret to success for programs for chronic diseases, including AIDS and tuberculosis; that some services should not be sold, even for the tiniest price, because there will always be some who cannot pay these “users’ fees,” as they’re called, and the ones who cannot pay are precisely the people we came to serve in the first place. These are also the people who are, often enough, hungry. There’s only one treatment, we learned, for that affliction: food.

With these hard, if obvious, lessons came great success for small projects, but also a haunting doubt: Could quality (and comprehensive and complex) health services ever be “scaled up” in some of the poorest countries in the world? The very countries needing such scale up most?

Over the past decade, our work in Haiti expanded rapidly whenever we followed these principles: Over the past two years what was in 1985 a tiny clinic served, through the public sector and with the help of an army of community health workers, millions of Haitians. But still we had not scaled up in the conventional sense—nationwide.

We still work throughout central Haiti but have also worked in seven other countries, pursuing, along with thousands of others, two goals in tension: high-quality health care for the patient in front of us, but thinking, whenever possible, of the tens of millions more who need the same services.

The tension is still there, and scale up remains an elusive goal when comprehensive care is the deliverable. It’s one thing to have a national vaccination campaign—easily enough done—but quite another to rebuild public infrastructure, offer care for maladies ranging from AIDS to obstructed labor (which requires, of course, a Cesarean section, which in turn requires electricity and an operating room and someone who can perform the procedure), and to recruit and train that army of community health workers. It’s hard, but not impossible. The potential health workers are there wherever there is rural unemployment; but they have to be paid if they’re to dedicate most of their time to this important, lifesaving work.

In 2005, together with the Clinton Foundation and the Government of Rwanda, we were invited to two rural health districts counting close to half a million people. There were no doctors in these districts. “Can you scale up a Haiti-style project there?” they asked. We thought we could, and two years later I think we have.

Then came the tension, this time followed by hope and excitement: Could it be that in this small, mountainous nation of over 8 million people we could scale up a rural health model for all Rwandans, over 80% of whom live in rural regions? Why believe it possible there more than elsewhere? What was in Rwanda that had been missing or in short supply in the other countries in which we’d worked?

First, there was good governance, security and a great deal of what’s termed ”political will”: that is, the *government* wanted these services to be available to all Rwandans. Second, although Rwanda is terribly poor, and recovering from a genocide, its economy was growing, not shrinking. Third, although our hosts, partners and funders had ostensibly invited us to rural Rwanda to do an “AIDS project,” everyone knew that we were in fact there to do a comprehensive rural health model, and it was working. Fourth, there are many NGO partners with significant resources which, were they to contribute to this effort in rural regions, could help achieve these goals within the public sector.

After working all of my life in global health, I’ve been lucky to work on small projects that have grown; to have worked on specific efforts (such as the treatment of multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis in Peru) that have been scaled up nationally, in the public sector, by Peruvians.

But here in Rwanda, I’m wondering: Is this the country where a truly comprehensive health model can reach, in a reasonable amount of time, all of the rural poor of this country? If we can raise the money, which we must, I’m betting on Rwanda.

*Dr. Paul Farmer, the Presley Professor of Medical Anthropology in the Department of Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, is the founder of Partners In Health.*
*—Interviewed by Sonia Narang * (Forbes, 9/4)

  
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