Recent Feature Articles

 By Johnny Harris & Tian Wang, Vox Borders, Oct. 17, 2017

The island of Hispaniola is home to two very different countries: Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Infant mortality rates in Haiti are 2.5 times higher, and Haitians are almost 10 times poorer per capita than Dominicans.

I visited the island to investigate how these differences play out in the lives of its residents. As I traveled through Haiti and the Dominican Republic, I saw the stark disparities that are deeply rooted in history, all the way back to their colonial origins. The stage was set hundreds of years ago, but the story continues today.

Watch the video documentary

 

Posted Oct. 17, 2017

By Al Jazeera, Oct. 6, 2017

The United Nations peacekeeping mission in Haiti lowered its blue flag on Thursday, 13 years after it began.

While the mission has been credited with helping bring stability to the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, it has also been mired in controversy.

The mission is blamed for bringing cholera to the country, and at least 134 of its peacekeepers have been involved in sexual abuse scandals. 

As the last of the thousands of peacekeepers who were in the country leave, Al Jazeera answers some of the key questions about why the blue helmets were there and what they are leaving behind.  

 

What will be their legacy?


The presence of UN troops in Haiti has been a point of controversy on the island since the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) mission first began in 2004. 

UN officials have praised the mission for helping to re-establish law-and-order in the country marred by political unrest and bolster Haiti's democratic institutions. MINUSTAH has also helped recruit and train a new civilian police force, something that was virtually nonexistent before their arrival. 

However, critics argue the mission's forces have done more harm than good, pointing to the peacekeepers' involvement in the country's 2010 cholera outbreak and sex abuse scandals as evidence.

 

Cholera outbreak

The source of the waterborne disease, which killed more than 9,000 people, was traced to a UN base.

Al Jazeera's Fault Lines investigated the outbreak in 2010. The film - Haiti in a Time of Cholera - helped further expose the source of the disease on the island, and put additional pressure on the UN to investigate the allegations, and eventually admit its role in the outbreak.

In August 2016, the…

By Rocco Pallin, foodtank, October, 2017

Hurricane Irma brought severe damage to the Caribbean in early September, destroying buildings, homes, roads, and threatening livelihoods before moving north towards the Florida Keys. The Category 5 storm left 17,000 struggling for adequate shelter and 70 to 90 percent of infrastructure destroyed on some islands. The storm also contaminated drinking water sources and destroyed food infrastructures and agricultural production.

Particularly affected were eastern Caribbean islands—Anguilla, Barbuda, British Virgin Islands, Cuba, St. Martin, St. Barts, and the Turks and Caicos Islands. Regions previously affected by recent climate crises, like Hurricane Matthew in 2016, might be facing even longer roads to recovery.                                                                                                               

The Food Security Cluster (FSC)—a collaborative group for strategic food humanitarian response including international NGOs, United Nations organizations, Governments, and the Red Cross and Red Crescent—is continually assessing the Irma response and recovery priorities. Water and sanitation kits as well as canned food and seeds and agricultural goods were among FCS’s key priorities early in the response. FSC has since estimated in its Regional Response Plan that among all sectors food security require the third largest amount of funding to December: nearly US$2.4 million.

According to FSC and the Caribbean Disaster Emergency…

By teleSUR, Oct. 5, 2017

Haiti's Coalition of Democratic Organizations is calling for six more days of protests against the 2017-2018 in the capital Port-au-Prince and several other cities across the country.

“This criminal budget aims to impoverish the people and spare the middle class,” said Attorney Andre Michel, the head of the coalition.

The coalition is made up of opposition lawmakers from the leftist political party Fanmi Lavalas, led by the nation's former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, along with other parties and social organizations.

As well as demanding the withdrawal of the new budget bill — which came into force on Sunday — the group is also calling for the dismissal of President Jovenel Moise.

In addtion, the coalition wants the release of 20 of its members, arrested and detained since the beginning of the protests against the bill.

The budget, introduced by Moise and Prime Minister Jack Guy Lafontant, was passed by the country's Congress earlier in September.

The house of representatives only modified one of the controversial articles, Article 17, which implemented higher taxes on Haitian citizens living abroad.

The bill comes as the nation recovers from Hurricane Irma which hit on September 7, killing one person and leaving 17 injured.

The storm also left 3,445 people homeless.

According to the 2017 Climate Change Vulnerability Index, Haiti is the third-most vulnerable country in the world.

Despite the devastating effects of Hurricane Matthew last year, the government only allocated about 0.5 percent of this year’s budget to the Ministry of the Environment — despite promising to support local communities and sustainable agriculture.

 …

By Mark Schuller, Common Dreams, Oct. 03, 2017

Today, President Trump visited Puerto Rico. Tomorrow, it will be two weeks since Category 4 Hurricane Maria. It will also be a year since Category 4 Hurricane Matthew tore through the western peninsulas of Haiti.

The situation in Puerto Rico remains quite urgent. Damage is still being assessed but there is no water, electricity is offline for at least a month, and hospitals are low on fuel (or already out) for their emergency generators.

Despite the urgency, President Trump stuck by his wealthy friends making money controlling shipping instead of sending emergency aid. Only last Thursday, facing increasing pressure from within his own party, did Trump temporarily suspend the Jones Act allowing for life-saving assistance to arrive. This didn’t stop him from starting a Twitter war in between rounds of golf with Puerto Rican elected officials that earned him the scorn of many.

Beyond Trump’s single-minded focus on the profit motive and apparent disdain for anyone like San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, what could explain this? …

By Al Jazeera, Sept. 18, 2017

Much of Haiti has come to a halt because of a transportation strike over new taxes proposed by the government.

Most Haitians do not have private cars, and they get around on motorcycle taxis or the often elaborately painted vans and trucks known as "tap taps". But none were available on Monday as drivers took part in a strike over driver's licenses, fuel and property, among other things.

"We don't want this budget [new taxes] to pass," one protester in the capital Port-au-Prince told The Associated Press. "We don't want it."

Another protester, Eddy Edouard, said he supported the strike "100 percent because the situation is tough for us".

Most shops were closed, as were schools because students could not get to class. Government offices were technically open, but most employees could not get to work.

President Jovenel Moise was out of the country to attend the UN General Assembly but has said the money will go back to the public in the form of services and new infrastructure.

 

'Revolution has just started'

Last week, protesters brought parts of Port-au-Prince to a standstill to protest the government's budget plans. The demonstrations, at times, turned violent. 

"These little thieves in parliament voted for this budget to help the government exploit the people," protester Marco Paul Delva, who stood by a barricade of flaming tires near the legislature, told AFP news agency. 

Traffic in the centre of Port-au-Prince and on key routes around the city grounded to a halt after protesters threw stones and tires across roads.

Although demonstrators…

By Kim Ives, Haiti Liberté, Sept. 20, 2017

Hurricane Irma may have skirted it (causing major damage nonetheless), but it’s only a matter of time before another“natural” disaster devastates Haiti, which sits between two major earthquake faults and in the middle of the bowling alley down which the ever-warming Atlantic Ocean hurls its strengthening storms at North America’s East Coast.

Already Haiti has more non-governmental organizations (NGOs) than any other country on earth, but when the next disaster hits, they will again multiply like rabbits.

Dr. Timothy Schwartz has worked for many NGOs in Haiti over the past 27 years, and his new book – “The Great Haiti Humanitarian Aid Swindle” – begins with the most well-known recent disaster: the Jan. 12, 2010 7.0 magnitude earthquake, which struck just west of the capital, Port-au-Prince. This event provides the principal tableau for his merciless evisceration of “the world’s most respected humanitarian organizations,” assisted by “journalists from the world’s most esteemed news agencies,” which he argues “deceive and manipulate people overseas regarding what is really happening in Haiti,” the book’s jacket explains.

On hearing about the quake, Schwartz, a New Englander with a Haitian wife and kids, immediately drove from the Dominican Republic with two friends to try to help. “Like so many foreigners who have lived and worked in Haiti, I am haunted by a sense of frustration and failure,” he writes. “An anthropologist and sometimes aid worker, I had spent much of the preceding 20 years watching the country sink ever deeper into misery and despair while I had done nothing tangible to help slow down the process.”

Such raw honesty and…

By Michelle Zilio, The Globe & Mail, Sept. 14, 2017

More than 12,000 asylum seekers have crossed into Canada at a single unofficial crossing point along the Quebec-United States border this year, surpassing the province's expectations for all of 2017.

The numbers come as a new survey shows that Canadians are equally divided over whether the country should welcome asylum seekers from the United States or close its borders to them. A Nanos poll found that more than one-third of Canadians – 37 per cent – say Canada should welcome asylum seekers from the United States, while the same percentage of respondents think Canada should close its borders; 26 per cent were unsure.

"There's very few times that Canadians are so evenly divided on an issue," pollster Nik Nanos said.

"This is a recipe for a continued and prolonged debate about what to do when people show up at the Canadian border and ask for asylum."

The influx in unauthorized crossings at unmonitored parts of the border began last winter in Manitoba and Quebec, when hundreds of asylum seekers braved bitterly cold temperatures to seek refuge. By July, 7,500 had entered this way across Canada; 6,500 of those crossed in Quebec. That number for the province nearly doubled to 12,000 over the past month, surpassing the total number of asylum seekers Quebec Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil was expecting for the whole year. August figures for other parts of Canada were not available as of Thursday.

Most of those coming to Quebec have crossed at Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, which is along the border with New York State, according to Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale's office. Another 1,100 people crossed outside of Quebec by July.

Between 80 per cent and 85 per cent of…

By Jake Johnston, Center for Economic & Policy Research (CEPR), Sept. 12, 2017

At least one person died, one remains missing, and more than a dozen were injured by the passage of Hurricane Irma off the northern coast of Haiti last week. As of September 11, nearly 6,500 Haitians remain in emergency shelters, according to the United Nations. Preliminary figures suggest that flooding impacted 22 communes, completely destroying 466 houses and badly damaging more than 2,000 more. As veteran AFP correspondent Amelie Baron noted on Twitter, “These are the damages of a hurricane passing hundreds of kilometers away from [the] Haitian coast.”

Compared to some other Caribbean nations, the damage to Haiti’s infrastructure pales. But as Jacqueline Charles reported for the Miami Herald, looks can be deceiving:

Though Haiti was spared a direct hit from Irma and the fallout is nowhere near the magnitude of Matthew’s 546 dead and $2.8 billion in washed-out roads, collapsed bridges and destroyed crops, the frustration and fears for some in its path are no less.

“We didn’t have people who died, but homes and farms were destroyed,” Esperance said. “Just because you don’t see a lot of damages, it doesn’t mean that we haven’t been left deeper in misery.”

Charles reported that “entire banana fields lay in ruin” across Haiti’s northern coast. “It took…

By Amy Goodman, Democracy Now, Sept. 11, 2017

Host Amy Goodman discusses the effects of hurricane Irma on Haiti with Kim Ives, an editor and journalist for Haïti Liberté.

The death toll from Hurricane Irma has reached at least 27 in the Caribbean. The numbers are expected to rise as rescuers reach the hardest-hit areas. Irma destroyed major parts of several Caribbean islands, including Barbuda and Saint Martin. Cuba also suffered major flooding in Havana and other cities, but there were no reported deaths.

The entrepreneur Richard Branson has called for a "Disaster Recovery Marshall Plan" for the Caribbean. Cuba has already sent more than 750 health workers to Antigua, Barbuda, Saint Kitts, Nevis, Saint Lucia, the Bahamas, Dominica and Haiti. While Haiti avoided a direct hit from Irma, the hurricane still caused substantial damage in a country still recovering from the 2010 earthquake and Hurricane Matthew last year. Hurricane Irma displaced more than 100,000 Haitians and destroyed crops in the north of the country. 

Watch the interview

 

Posted Sept. 11, 2017