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Haiti: Missing healthcare on the frontline of HIV

Long before 9/11 and the subsequent incarceration of hundreds of so called “terror suspects” in Guantanamo Bay, thousands of Haitian refugees fleeing the military junta in the early 1990s, were detained on the US base. Many of those were detained because they were suspected of being HIV Positive [+].

The marking of Haitians as carriers of AIDS goes back to the early 1980s when the Center for Disease Control [CDC], identified four high-risk groups, known pejoratively as the 4-H club — “homosexuals, haemophiliacs, heroin users and Haitians”.  This was the first time a disease was tied to a nationality but not the first time black bodies have been tied to racist notions of deviance and contagion and of being a threat to whiteness.  [1]

The first documented case of HIV in Haiti was from the Clinique Bon Sauveur in the Central Plateau in 1986. Within two years the clinic had introduced a programme of free testing, counselling, condoms, HIV education and prevention.  By the early 1990s 25% of admissions were related to HIV and by 1995 this had risen to 40%. Two other medical centres have been at the forefront of HIV/AIDs and TB in Haiti; the GHESKIO Centre in Port-au-Prince, a global pioneer in HIV/AIDS research and treatment, and Partners in Health, which has run an extensive preventative and treatment programme for the past 25 years.  Both must take considerable credit for the massive decrease in the HIV+ rate from 9.4% in 1993 to 1.8% in 2011, an estimated 51% of whom are women and 12% children.  Even with the disruption to treatment caused by the January 2010 earthquake the infection rate continued to decrease.

The underlying and most significant contributory factor to both the spread and death from HIV/AIDS and TB in Haiti is not lack of awareness or failure to follow medication regimes as policy officials tend to argue, but life-shortening conditions, that is the material conditions and structural violence under which people become infected.  Paul Farmer writing on Haiti describes structural violence as
……..one way of describing social arrangements that put individuals and populations in harm’s way… The arrangements are structural because they are embedded in the political and economic organization of our social world; they are violent because they cause injury to people … neither culture nor pure individual will is at fault; rather, historically given (and often economically driven) processes and forces conspire to constrain individual agency. Structural violence is visited upon all those whose social status denies them access to the fruits of scientific and social progress.[2]

After talking to dozens of patients, nurses, doctors and health officials over the past six months, I am very much aware of the violence of poverty which impacts on people in multiple ways.   Rosi-Ann, Gustave and Emile and their families are just three of millions.

I met activist and youth worker Maxo Gaspard on 31st May during a protest march against the lack of support for cholera victims and the UN’s refusal to admit responsibility.  Maxo is a former restavec and now runs ARDTA,* an organisation working with restavecs, street children and teenage sex workers. Many young girls are trafficked to the Dominican Republic and part of his work is to try to educate families in rural areas on the dangers of giving their children away, and to find homes for the girls.
One of the girls, Rosi-Ann, is 15 years old and lives in the Nazon district of Port-au-Prince [PAP]. Rosi-Ann is a child.  She is beautiful, shy and at first she feels too full of shame to speak.  We spend hours talking; the conversation is slow at first but eventually it breaks free and is interspersed with smiles and laughter as her confidence grows.

Rosi-Ann was a restavec child originally from a poor family near Les Cayes in the south of the country. When she was four her “godmother” brought her to PAP where she suffered 10 years of physical and sexual abuse. About a year ago, Rosi-Ann met another young girl who was already working the streets after her father had died and her mother threw her out. She told Rosi-Ann she should leave her godmother and join her on the streets. Now she lives in a “Chambre Garson” [room or house of men] with a 19-year-old man. She uses the room to work and gives the man some of her earnings. Rosi-Ann says she always wants to use a condom but sometimes the men are violent and beat and / or rape her. She is not HIV+ but is aware of her extreme vulnerability and the repeated vaginal infections, which are often left to fester before being treated, are a warning of what could happen.

The hope is that Maxo can first find a family to care for her and then take her back to her village to search for her family. She knows she has two older sisters but does not know if her mother is still alive as she hasn’t seen her for 10 years. Maxo had a similar experience: he was rescued by someone who came to visit the woman he was working for and ended his misery. Now he wants to do the same for Rosi-Ann. But there are thousands of young girls on the streets of Haiti’s cities and with no support from the government or NGOS, people like Maxo and his colleague Kethia, become despondent.

It’s like looking at a 10ft wall and wondering how to climb to the other side. After so many jumps no one can blame you for giving up.

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Gustav Renaud was born in Port de Paix in the north, not too far from Cap Haitian. He is 30 years old and came to PAP six months ago after falling ill. He lives with his mother, sister, brother-in-law and their three children in Camp Acra at Delmas 33. His mother, Gustave Taliette, was the first to move to PAP two years ago to look for work and was followed a few months later by her son-in-law, Jonas, and then his family; altogether they are seven. The family was given the tent by someone who moved out from the camp. This was better for them as there is no rent to pay. Since arriving Jonas has only managed to find a few weeks’ work here and there and much of the burden for feeding the family has fallen on Mdm Taliette, who occasionally finds work washing clothes in the city.

Like the dust in the camp, hunger is ever present in their lives. There is nothing to do except to sit and sit some more as the day passes into night. The day I first met Gustave he was sitting in front of his tent with his mother and some neighbours. On the ground in front of Gustave’s tent are a few very old dusty shoes and bags laid out for sale on a piece of equally old plastic. They reminded me of a piece of still-life art moulded into the ground.

We were meeting to talk about his TB. However, during the nearly two hours we sat outside his tent, he hardly coughed, although he was visibly very ill. His hair was thinned out, and he was covered in dried sores. He complained of feeling dizzy with headaches, diarrhoea, vomiting and pains in his legs. Gustav said he left his wife and two children in Port-de-Paix because she threw him out when he became sick. I found myself wondering if he was really HIV+ and possibly the TB story was a cover. Since arriving he had been to two hospitals, Petit St Luke in Tabarre and Kings Hospital in Delmas33, but he said he did not know what was wrong with him. Although the consultations were free, patients have to pay for the test results and since he had no money he could not get the results. I asked him why he thought he had TB? “Because I am coughing and I am tired, also my chest hurts.” He had been given some medication but he didn’t know what it was and anyway it was finished and this was months ago. It was difficult to really assess what was happening. I explained to him that in Haiti everyone who has TB is also tested for HIV and asked if he had had either test. He said no, he did not think so.

As we sat and talked neighbours passed by along the narrow path between the tents. Some kept walking, others stopped to listen until asked to please move on. At one point, Mdm Taliette got up and began walking away. A while later I noticed her return with a bucket of water. She then sat down on a bench in front of the adjoining tent and proceeded to undress to her underpants and bathe herself. I watched briefly as she stared straight ahead and despite the circumstances of bathing in the public glare, there remained a dignity and a defiance in her actions. I looked at the others; no one was watching. There is no privacy in the camp. No privacy to speak, not even for a 50-year-old woman to bathe. She must do so in front of her grown son, her son-in-law, neighbours and strangers like me.

Later, Mdm Tailette returned from bathing with a smile and a photo of Gustave taken about a year ago. In the photo he is a tall, 6ft. 5in heavy-set young man, far removed from the wafer-thin, balding, aged person sitting next to me.

I was concerned that Gustave might be HIV+. I asked Gustave, his mother and brother-in-law what they were going to do as clearly he needed to see a doctor quickly. They said they wanted to go to a doctor but they had no money so they had no choice but to sit and wait. No need to wait, I thought, there is Dr Coffee!

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A few weeks earlier I had gone to meet Dr Megan Coffee, an American infectious disease specialist and a truly amazing woman. She had come to Haiti a few months after the earthquake and stayed. Dr Coffee runs a TB clinic in the grounds of the Hopital l’Universite d’Etat d’Haïti [General Hospital] in downtown PAP. Her clinic consists of three permanent tents laid out on concrete under the glaring 95° degree heat. The first tent is for in-patients, who are extremely sick and near dying of TB and/or HIV+. The middle tent, which is the smallest, is a meagre office consisting of a desk with an assortment of drugs, papers, masks etc; a second desk with more assorted bits and medical files; a camp bed behind a curtain and a wardrobe. There was also a group of four Haitian nurses who are paid by the General Hospital to assist in her clinic.  She volunteers alongside the infectious disease nurse and they survive on donations, as does the clinic. Food for patients is donated by various charities. The third tent, which is really just a piece of tarpaulin giving shade, is for outpatients and family.

This is the only dedicated TB clinic in PAP. On the day of my first visit I arrived around 11am.  There were six people crowded into the small office tent and the one fan blowing hot air did little to relieve the heat. Dr Coffee hadn’t yet arrived so I took the opportunity to speak to the other volunteer, the infectious disease nurse who had been here for a few months. As we spoke she continued to work, emptying the contents of various capsules into a mortar and mixing away. I was fascinated and wondered if this was what chemists do behind pharmacy doors or was this part of the make-shift world of healthcare in Haiti? The nurse explained she was mixing the cocktail of drugs into individual dose bags to make it easier for the patients to take. The bags were for newly discharged out-patients to take home.

Soon Dr Coffee arrived in her usual outfit of long-sleeved t-shirt, overshirt and broad-rimmed hat to protect her from the glaring sun. Patients immediately surrounded her as she spoke in an impressive accented but fluent Kreyol. Eventually with a few minutes to spare she turned her attention to me and I rushed through my interview, not wanting to take time away from very sick people.

The clinic started with just three patients and now treats 800 annually. At present she has 70 bed-patients, four of whom were near death. I asked Dr Coffee what were her biggest challenges?

“Ensuring the patients take their medication. The patients have their own challenges such as food and surviving so I have to stress the pill is their life… missing it will lead to death.”

TB patients burn excessive calories and they need a great deal of food but at the same time they don’t feel the need to eat. Even when they are eating they are still thin. This is additionally problematic when people are hungry and those coming to Dr Coffee’s free clinic are the very poor. One positive system she has managed to create is a “buddy” system where cured patients give back by returning to support sick patients. This could be by helping to exercise patients, helping to feed them or just keeping up their spirits.

Another problem is due to the poor material conditions under which patients live; they wait until they are really ill before attending the clinic, thereby reducing their chances of full recovery.
The majority of sick people I have met over the past six months have been ill for weeks or months before they went to a clinic and often pregnant women will only attend the hospital after they have gone into labour. Even when hospitals are free people are still reluctant to go for fear of being presented with a bill they cannot pay.

I told Gustave and his family about Dr Coffee. I explained she was a TB specialist and all the treatment would be 100% free. All they had to do was to get to the hospital by 10am and she would see them. I explained that he would have a TB and HIV test and then wait and see what happens. Everyone was happy with the suggestion and we said our goodbyes. The next day I learned that Gustave and Jonas had gone to the clinic but were unable to register. I frantically tweeted direct messages to Dr Coffee who responded saying they must return immediately.

This time I decided to go with them. We all met at the hospital and Gustave registered, saw Dr Coffee and had his tests.  It took a few more visits but finally he received the news that he was HIV+ but did not have TB. Now he has transferred from Dr Coffee’s clinic to the Hopital l’Universite d’Etat d’Haïti as an HIV+ patient. At one point he was going to the hospital a couple of times a week. Attending the hospital has been extremely difficult for Gustave. He is weak from the illness which is exacerbated by food insecurity and poor diet. It takes two buses to get to the hospital which costs 100 gds which is 100 less to spend on food for the family. The choice often becomes either the hospital or food to eat. One day he was so weak he collapsed on the street and Jonas had to carry him by motorcycle taxi. At this point it was hard to persuade Gustave to return to the hospital as he said he no longer cared if he died.

If Gustave was HIV+ then it was very possible his wife was also positive and possibly their three-year-old son. When I asked him whether he had told his wife, he replied she was positive and she had been taking medication even before their son was born, who is also positive.  However, he continued to insist that he did not know he, too, was HIV+.  His wife remains in Port-de-Paix so there is no way for me to follow up on her and the baby’s present health status.

Emile Charles is 16 years old and is HIV+. His whole family have died of AIDS-related illnesses. First his younger sister, then his mother and finally his father. I had seen Emile many times during my visits to the workshop at Delmas 33. He was one of the many young boys and girls who made the shoes and jewellery for the camp shop. I was told he might be HIV + and may also have TB as he was coughing a great deal. He is a thin, intense young man with a soft, gentle, inquisitive face. He doesn’t smile often but when he does, it’s like a burst of light.

Emile’s family were from Hinche in central Haiti. He is not sure but thinks he was six when his father died and he came to live with his uncle in PAP. His uncle did not allow him to play with his own children and Emile had his own food utensils. In 2008 or 2009 he became very ill and was taken to hospital where he ended up spending a year. As a minor, Emile’s uncle would have been told his status and it would be up to him to inform the child. He did not do this. After he was released from hospital he was given a patient card, medication and an appointment. But his uncle never took him back and soon after that Emile was adopted by a neighbour, Jean-Louis [Elie] Joseph who is now one of the main organisers of the Chanjem Leson movement at Camp Acra.

Elie had complained to the uncle about his treatment of Emile and in the end the uncle told him to take the boy but he did not tell Elie about Emile’s medical history. Soon after Emile moved in with Elie and his wife Esther, the earthquake happened and they all moved to Camp Acra.   Emile was constantly sick and at one point was very ill with what Elie believed was shingles. It seems that everyone involved suspected Emile was HIV+ but no one made a decision to take him for a test, the main concern being cost.
At the time I formally met Emile he had again become ill with fever and night coughs. It was at this point that the uncle, who also lives in the camp, finally told Elie that Emile’s family had all died of AIDS-related illnesses and Emile told us he had spent a year in GHESKIO hospital so it made sense for him to return there and continue his treatment. However the hospital had no record of him ever being a patient.

To understand some of the confusion — how was a six or eight-year-old child supposed to know which hospital he had attended, how long he had stayed or what medication he was given? The uncle, possibly not wanting people to know about his nephew’s status, was not forthcoming with information. Despite the decrease in HIV/AIDS and increase in awareness and prevention, there remains a high level of stigma around the illness. Eventually Emile’s guardians found out he had been in a hospital run by nuns in Delmas 18 but the uncle could not remember the name.

By this time four weeks had passed and Emile’s health was deteriorating rapidly. Soon after I received a text message from my interpreter, Serge Supre, saying he was going to Delmas 18 to try to find out the name of the hospital and to collect Emile’s records so they could treat him again or refer him to the Hopital l’Universite d’Etat d’Haïti. The hospital turned out to be run by the Sisters of Mercy of Mother Teresa fame. But it was not a good ending.

The overall context in which Gustave and Emile are trying to live with their illnesses is compounded by the general insecurity and fear in the camp itself. In April someone claiming to be the owner of the land threatened to burn down the camp unless everyone left. The following day a fire broke out in one section which everyone took as a warning. Camp residents reported the fire and threats to the police who said there was nothing they could [would] do. They then decided to protest against the threats and lack of police action during which two men were arrested and one died in custody. Chanjem Leson activists worked with the family of the deceased and reported the police in question to the Inspector General of Police. Since then they have faced daily phone threats from unknown men, including repeated night visits to their tents.

The whole camp is nervous and fearful of being evicted at any moment. Emile’s adoptive parents, Elie Joseph and Esther Pierre have gone into hiding and he is being cared for by Esther’s cousin Serge Supre. Serge is unemployed except for the little he earns from interpreting, and worries about how he will pay for his 18-year-old daughter to finish high school. Regular evictions have begun to take place around the city and each night people go to sleep wondering if this will be their last. This has also meant disruptions to the small craft and art workshop and the school.

Gustave has started ARVs and although the family is happy with his treatment they want more than anything to return to Port-de-Paix – “if we have to be hungry better to be hungry at home than in PAP!”
For the first few weeks Gustave responded positively to the medication and even planned to find work and try to visit his wife and children. However over the past two weeks he has deteriorated, becoming aggressive, removing his clothes and disappearing for days and worst of all, he has stopped taking his medication. The stress of caring for him has taken its toll on his family especially his mother for whom this is one burden too many.

For the past month, Rosi-Ann has stopped working and is being treated for a vaginal infection whilst staying with her youth worker Kethia. The plan is for her to travel to Les Cayes with Kethia and Maxo to begin the search for her family but going home brings with it another set of problems. Recently Maxo returned two teenager sex-workers to their families in Jeremie but their families are extremely poor. Millions of Haitians, especially in rural areas, are without food and adequate shelter and the chances of the young girls staying is in the balance – will they stay and remain hungry or try to return to the city forced again to sell their precious bodies? Altogether there are nine girls waiting to return to their families.

Statistics tell us the numbers of people living with HIV and dying of AIDS / TB in Haiti has decreased dramatically over the past 10 years due to a policy directed at prevention based on education and increased access to treatment. But there are other realities excluded from official reports and statistics. Rosi-Anne, Gustav and Emile, and millions like them, are forced to struggle to receive the most basic healthcare. Emile has spent two months trying to get treatment and he’s still waiting. It is hard to say no one cares and even though I have followed him through the repeated hurdles and I know we, his family and his friends care, but without money and without agency people like Emile and his family are regularly treated with disdain. You attend the hospital and people don’t even look you in the face, preferring to watch TV or chat with their colleagues. People treated as “expendable non-persons”!
And Emile is doing badly. The hospital run by the Sisters of Mercy is now in Carrefour but they refused to see Emile because “his uncle gave trouble”. Serge tried to appeal to their “mercy” but in vain…

“They said they will do something for the poor but they cannot help Emile because his uncle brought trouble. I would like to know who are the poor – are we not poor, is Emile not poor and sick and a child? Something must be done for him. He cries at night and I don’t know what to do. On Monday I will return to GHESKIO and hope they will help. If not we have to go back to Dr Coffee.”

Emile didn’t get to GHESKIO. Through a “friend of a friend” he is now waiting for an appointment at Dikini hospital in Kafou where they receive HIV+ patients. I hope he finally gets the treatment he needs.

UPDATE: After visits to numerous hospitals and clinics in PAP, with the help of Dr Coffee, Emile finally started on ARVs at the end of September 2013. He is still very ill but we are hopeful he will be included in a special programme for orphaned children to receive food, school fees and text books.

1] A. Naomi Paik “Carceral Quarantine at Guantanamo: Legacies of US Imprisonment of Haitian Refugees, 1991-1994”  published in Radical History Review Issue 15 /Winter 2013].
2] Castro, Arachu and Paul Farmer, “Infectious Disease in Haiti” EMBO Reports 2003.
[3] ARDTA – Asosyasyon Respekte Dwa Timoun – Ans Wouj [Association for the Respect for the Rights of Children]
* I have changed the names of Emile and Rosi-Ann because they are minors.

 

This article was supported in part by the International Reporting Project.

BAYAKOU: – Why I’m talking shit & cholera on World Water Day*

We are born, we eat, we shit. And so it continues till at the end we  pass on. We talk about birth, about maternal health, choices we have or don’t have on birthing methods, on reproductive rights.  We most definitely talk a great deal about food which if you stand on most streets and look around, seems to be in abundance even though in Haiti and other parts of the global south, millions,  are food insecure, an easy to manage way of saying at risk of  death from hunger.

The Silence

But when it comes to shit, there is silence.  Where does it go, how is it removed, what happens to it.  In this instance I am talking about Haitian shit but shit is shit as they say. The only difference from country to country is what happens to it after we have, at least metaphorically, flushed the toilet.  I don’t know where Haiti falls in the hierarchy of shit management, say compared to my own country Nigeria which I don’t think  is that great.  I suspect that most of the global south remains challenged by  sanitation as well as food and water.

We know that in certain situations shit can kill and the poorer you are the more likely you could die of a shit related illness CHOLERA is a prime example, so shit is a poverty issue and a class issue.  We know there are issues of privacy, access to ‘toilets’ especially at night and sexual violence in unlit densely populated urban areas, so shit is also a gender issue. We know that some people risk physical violence or are refused entry into toilets such as a proposed ban in Arizona where transgender people would not have the rights to choose the toilet of their choice so shit is also a transgender issue. With shit playing such a prominent part in our lives, why is what happens to it so mysterious?

In 2009  DINEPA [1] was created to take control of the management of water and sanitation in Haiti.  Prior to that, the management of water  was minimal with little regulation.  Various initiatives had been created in the past such as  CAMEP, set up by Francois Duvalier in the 1960s and much later the neighbourhood water committees created during President Jean-Bertrand’s first presidency.  Sanitation management though was close to zero.  The earthquake changed everything though not for everyone!  There are still only 6 people to service the sanitation needs of 10 million people. Seriously how is that possible?

2010 Earthquake

The earthquake changed everything because at that point water and sanitation became a crisis issue which was again taken to another level with the October 2010 outbreak of cholera.  The cholera outbreak  has now been proved to be a direct result of  cholera infected shit from a UN camp being introduced into the Artibonite River which is a source of water for thousands who live in the area.  8,000 people have died from Cholera – a shit and water related bacterial infection. Thousands of children were made orphans during the earthquake and more thousands have been orphaned through cholera.  Families left destitute as the main breadwinner has died from cholera.  Shit kills!

Since the 2010 earthquake the role of DINEPA has become more crucial as it forms a major part in the management of the prevention of cholera and other illness.  This is done through its camp monitoring work consisting of : Data collection – information gathering of water, sanitation and hygiene; municipal coordination mechanism which analyses data – water supplies, number of working toilets, desludging [nice word for shit removal].  All of these are crucial in a country with a cholera epidemic that could get out of control at any given moment particularly as the rains begin next month.  The danger was put to me by Oliver Schulz of MSF

 “My personal fear is that things will get worse before they get better.  The structures are weaker today than in 2011/2012.   Every year the structures deteriorate.  There is no plan for cholera and without a WHO supported comprehensive national health care plan with clear directives, clear action plans and milestones then it will not get better. Also many of the big agencies have left and there are too many unknown NGOs, charities and faith groups”

Crisis of Cholera

At this moment, cholera is a crisis.  Access to clean water is a crisis and sanitation levels are a crisis.  The refusal to see these as crisis is a major contribution to the crisis itself.  Despite these crises the United Nations which has refused to receive the claims of Haitian cholera victims for compensation claiming immunity  under the UN’s 1946 Convention is suggesting that 99% of the cholera elimination programme  be funded by the private sector.  Read Haitians will have to pay and pay hard for clean water and sanitation. As one official said to me, private companies are always ready to cut corners for profit so you cannot trust them.    The Haitian government and its partners in exploitation – The Clintons, USAID, Canada, France, Corporations,  have two solutions for Haiti and neither have the interest of the popular masses who make up 80% of the population.  The first is charity which is invariably unsustainable and merely papering the gaps.  The second is to privatize Haiti so even the supply of water becomes an opportunity to profit from earthquakes and disease.

Removing the shit

To return to the shit situation, there are two ways of desludging, mechanical and manual.  The former uses a truck with a pump which extracts the shit from the septic tank which if you can afford it, is made of blocks and cement.  This is the system I grew up with in Nigeria and remains the way it is done.  The shit is then removed  but no one ever  talks about where the shit goes.   In Haiti the mechanized method is also used in the camps. In Port-au-Prince [PAP] the pumped  shit is taken to one of two newly built treatment plants.  The plants provide 500 cubic meters for 500,000 people which means the two plants are only meeting treatment needs of 1/3rd of PAP’s population.   Although the camps have the benefit of a mechanized system the rest of the city does not.  And here lies one of the problems. The post earthquake crisis has meant the focus for water provision and sanitation [as well as rape and other forms of sexual violence] has been concentrated on the camps leaving millions living in poor neighbourhood with minimal or no support.

However the majority of desludging is done manually in the depth of the night by BAYAKOU  - men who literally stand in the pits and remove the shit.   Unfortunately rather than get respect for doing the worst job imaginable,  Bayakou’s are stigmatized which might be why they work at night.  Once exposed, they are often victims of violence so very often they live secret double  lives.  Bayakou’s  do not live long.  Imagine you are in the pit and cut yourself, the wound soon becomes infected plus your liver is compromised after regularly drowning yourself in alcohol to remove the smell and taste.  BAYAKOU are unregulated and no one asks where the shit goes.   The government has been trying to formalize manual desludging and provide the men with proper protective clothing and regulate the disposal and to some extent this has been started in the Cap.  But when there is so much anti-shit bias where no one wants to discuss any aspect of shit management, it is a slow process.

SHIT is the dark side of life, and until it is cool to brag about how my shit is removed and treated or recycled and used for compost or we begin to look at shit as a health issue, change will be slow.  Along with access to clean affordable drinking water, management of shit are central to healthcare and the prevention of cholera.

The Last Word – The UN is responsible for Cholera

The NGOs and International aid agencies came and now most of them have left.  Many of those that remain are scaling down their services of water, sanitation, healthcare provision.   DINEPA itself is now sure how long it will be fully funded and inevitably something or someone will loose and it wont be the UN or the private sector.  To quote Oliver Schulz again there is simply no plan.

In the hope of obtaining justice and reparations for the thousands of cholera victims, the Bureau des Avo­cats Inter­na­tionaux [BAI] and Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti [IJDH] filed a groundbreaking suit against the UN on behalf of 5,000 cholera victims.  In addition to insisting on accountability the suit  demands that the UN

  • Install a national water and sanitation system that will control the epidemic;
  • Compensate for individual victims of cholera for their losses; and
  • Issue a public apology from the United Nations for its wrongful acts.
After the demands were dismissed by the UN Haitian Civil Society will proceed with their campaign to for the UN to meet their demands.   In a joint action CSOs, released the following press statement on Cholera in Haiti in which they  demanded the UN pay reparations for the 8,000 dead; demanded the UN / MINUSTAH admits to its responsibility in introducing Cholera;  develop a sustainable programme with consultation from the population for elimination of cholera; Present an apology to the Haitian people worthy of  the greatness and pride of the First Independent Black Republic in the free world

Par devant cette situation inacceptable, nous, AUMOHD, Erzili DLO, BAI, Batay Ouvriye, SOFEJH, CCDH, FEHATRAP et des d’Organisations de la Société Civile, des Organisations populaires, des Organisations des victimes comptons lancer un appel à la mobilisation générale et de faite lançons un appel patriotique, humanitaire et de dignité au nom du PEUPLE Haïtien à l’ensemble de la population mondiale pour :

1.- Forcer aux autorités Onusiennes/MINUSTAH de RECONNAITRE leur faute relative au cholera en Haïti.

2.- Réparer dignement les 8.000 victimes et autres

3.- Eradiquer de manière réaliste avec la participation citoyenne l’épidémie du cholera en Haïti

4.- Présenter au Peuple Haïtien des excuses dignes de sa grandeur et de sa fierté de la Première République Nègre libre et Indépendante du monde.

There will be a protest march to  the UN / MINUSTAH headquarters at 10am – starting at ‘Carrefour l’Aéroport to the l’Aéroport route and UN HQ.

 

 

[1] National Directorate for Water Supply and Sanitation in the Ministry of Public Works

*The blog post is based on a series of conversations over the past two months with MSF staff, human rights lawyer, water and sanitation official, camp and neighbourhood residents.  The conversations are ongoing.

This article was supported in part by the International Reporting Project.

Haiti – Feminist Series 4, In conversation with Flaurantin Marie Enise

Looking up into Jalouzi

Jalouzi is a hillside neighborhood of about 200,000 people overlooking lower Petion-Ville.  It is accessible from two roads, one at the top and one below.  The view from the top is stunning. From here you can see  Port-au-Prince looking east to the sea and north to the mountains.  The only way to travel is by foot through a series of alley ways and narrow paths of gravel, stones or the occasional step, and for those like myself who are challenged by gravel and stones on sloppy paths, difficult to negotiate. Flaurantin lives midway where in addition to her home she has a small meeting room and clinic for dispensing over the counter medication.  She also runs a small kiosk on the lower Jalouzi road.  The following are excerpts from conversations over the past 6 weeks between myself and Flaurantin and which are published with her permission.   Originally from Jacmel she began her community work in 1990.

I started working in the community in 1990  working with women.  We had a small school and mobile clinic where we would offer support and medicines to families.  Sadly I had to leave to come to Port-au-Prince 15 years ago with my husband and children.  I would love to return to Jacmel and even now there are women waiting for me to return but unfortunately my house was destroyed so it is not possible.  The community of Jalouzi is extremely poor with some of the most vulnerable women and children.  In 1999 I  decided to start the organization Le Phare [meaning Light] so I could participate in my community by  providing support and education to women and children and yes everybody who needs my help.  [FME]

Flaurantin Marie Enise

Le Phare is now part of the SOPUDEP community and the micro-credit project, Fanm SOPUDEP en Aksyon [FASA].   FASA began in March 2010 after the earthquake.  Rea Dol of SOPUDEP had been using donations to buy and distribute food and supplies to women however she saw that this was just not sustainable.  The next money she received she called a meeting with a group of women and explained they had a choice. Buy food with the money or try something more long term and sustainable such as a micro-finance scheme.  Everyone agreed on the latter and FASA cooperative was born.  Le Phare then became part of the  SOPUDEP  and FASA family.  Flaurantin is the Jalouzi sector coordinator which has  75 active members.  It is also in Jalouzi that  FASA recently opened a store for the programme.  They buy food in bulk and each week the women collect supplies to sell in the market.  Recently police have been driving street traders off the streets of Petion-Ville where all of the Jalouzi women sell their market.

More than 20 of our members were affected by these raids. They lost all their market, everything.   If they cannot sell on the streets in Petion-Ville what are they supposed to do?   Now each day the women go on the streets to try and sell but it is hard as they have to hide all the time from the police. It is too much stress but there is no other way to feed themselves.

As well as the micro-credit programme we now have cooking and sewing classes for young women and we hope this will help the women find ways to generate income once they have completed their training. [FME]

Women of FACE

Jalouzi was miraculously not affected by the January 2010 earthquake but nonetheless the residents like in other PAP neighbourhoods, face major challenges such as lack of access to healthcare, food insecurity, unemployment, lack of water and gender based violence.  Although there are some 100 matwons [midwives] in the neighborhood, community leaders like Flaurantin find themselves attending to various health crisis, intervening and supporting victims of domestic and sexual violence and generally helping those living in extreme poverty.

I delivered a baby at the weekend and the mother did not even have anything to cover where she was sleeping, it was terrible.     The women prefer to deliver their babies at home  but there are often problems such as breech birth and  pre-eclampsia is a very big for the women as they cannot attend pre natal clinics so those with high blood pressure end up very ill.  They are the ones who need emergency treatment but the nearest emergency  [free] hospital is the MSF in Delmas 33 which is far from here. There are a lot of women with HIV and recently gonorrhea has become a problem, which if the woman is pregnant can also be passed to the child. [FME]

Whilst many of victims of gender based violence including rape,  in the the post earthquake camps, have benefited from interventions by local and international NGOs, neighbourhoods such as Cite Soleil and Jalouzi seem to be off the NGO radar and as Flaurantin remarked “The NGOs dont come here. We see them driving up and down in their cars but they never stop”.

We try to give the support for women who have been raped or beaten by their husbands but it is not easy as we do not have any resources only ourselves.   There is a lot of domestic violence but rape is not too much. The most difficult thing is getting women to make police reports even where children are the victims and this has happened in our community even recently.    We try to educate and it is important to give support and to participate [in the community] to know what is happening. That is all we can do keep talking about the problem.  Another problem more often than rape is forced sex in marriage and the women end up getting pregnant over and over which, with the poverty leads to women always being sick.   We do advise the women on birth control and there is ‘depo provera’ and one injection lasts for three months.  We also have female condoms but these are more expensive than male condoms. One of the forgotten groups of women is the elderly. Of course many are cared for by their families but many either have no family or their families are too poor to care for them.  These are probably the most vulnerable with street children –  many also live on the streets.  It is important that we include them in our work.   [FME]

The levels of poverty in neighbourhoods like Jalouzi are massive.  The people who live here  the cost and consequences of global capitalism and as Mahmood Mamdani states the actions of brutal regimes all over the global south break the backs of the poor in the interest of their imperial masters and capital.  And it is poor  women who are criminalized, disenfranchised further pushed to the margins of margins having to deal with multiple acts of violences.

Jalouzi sits next to the elite neighbourhood of Petion-Ville but the distance in the reality of lives is a thousand miles.  Whilst we celebrate Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day in all manner of ways,  its worth considering the question:  what we mean by  sisterhood, whether global or local.. what does it really mean?  In Haiti the media have gone, many of  the NGOs and UN agencies are gone and those remaining are scaling down.  For them the crisis is over, earthquakes and cholera, stories from yesterday.  Voices like Flaurantin’s, which speak to the many violences of poverty but also to the frontline work of women activists and their  commitment to movement building,  don’t get heard.

A last word from Flaurantin

The levels of poverty are so great [that] sometimes we cannot see our way out, we just survive.   But what is good about our organizing is though there is much misery, there is solidarity amongst us. [FME]

 

This article was supported in part by the International Reporting Project.

Cholera and Healthcare in Haiti

It is impossible to talk about health care in Haiti without mentioning the 2010 earthquake and the subsequent cholera epidemic which so far has affected 630,000 people and taken the lives of 7,500.  It would be easy to believe that cholera was a direct result of the devastation of the earthquake and the heavy rains of June, July and August.  In fact the media spent much of 2010 speculating on the possibility of a medical epidemic.  2 million people were forced into overcrowded internally displaced camps [IDPs] where living conditions were  appalling. People were traumatized and fearful of further earthquakes and even to mourn the dead was hard as the struggle to live became harder as months passed.

Pediatric Clinic Cite Soleil

Many women and girls in the tent camps especially, were raped and lived with the fear of physical and sexual violence; food and clean water were scarce; latrines dangerously inadequate; and sewers overflowed. So why were so many health care providers and humanitarian aid agencies caught off guard when in October, the first cases of cholera began to appear and not in the IDP as might have been expected? The answer to this question and others, such as why did it spread so rapidly,  who was responsible and what has been the response all serve as an excellent lens from which to examine healthcare and the socioeconomic realities of the UN/US occupation of Haiti.

Cholera is an acute dehydrating bacterial infection spread through contaminated water and food.  The source of the contamination is human feces and the illness is exacerbated by poor sanitation, limited clean water, heavy rains and associated poor hygiene such as failure to wash hands after going to the toilet.   Symptoms can be mild or severe with leg cramps, white watery dirreahea and profuse vomiting. They can appear within hours or over a period of days.  However once severe symptoms appear, those most vulnerable such as children, the elderly, pregnant women and those already malnourished and or suffering from chronic illness, rapid dehydration can lead to death in just a few hours.  Treatment for most people is a surprisingly simple:  oral rehydration treatment [ORT] and in severe cases, an intravenous rehydration with antibiotics.

I visited Haiti in November 2010 and by then cholera was already embedded in Haitian lives.  Banners and posters announcing the dangers and prevention of cholera hung from streets and decorated what walls were left standing.  Radio and TV jingles blared out similar messages whilst schools, camp committees and women’s organisations reinforced all these messages whilst trying their best to create hygienic environments and most important provide clean water.   SOPUDEP school did not escape cholera as many parents and students were taken ill.  Their priority was to provide clean water through a mix of water treatment tablets and clorox as well as to reinforce basic hygiene regimes – with 700 children it was not an easy task and there were constant school closures as children or their parents were taken ill.  Nonetheless they were able to avoid a local epidemic.

In the early hours of one morning, a diabetic friend was rushed to the Médecins Sans Frontières [MSF] hospital in  Martissant 26 which at the time was one of their cholera treatment centers [CTCs].  I arrived in the evening just as dusk was falling to visit my friend.  As I waited outside, I watched as cholera patients came and were directed to the side entrance.  Some walked, some were carried, frantic parents with a baby wrapped in a bundle but visible enough to know she or he would die very soon;  an elderly woman in a wheelbarrow, shrunken and surely at the point of death.  In  Martissant 26 Cholera was everywhere.  It was unavoidable as vendors and customers vied with mountains of rotting refuse and pools of stagnant water lying amidst rubble and buildings destroyed by the earthquake.

Prior to October 2010  there had been no cases of cholera in Haiti for nearly a century.  The first hospitalizied case was on the 17th October in Mirebalais, in the region of Haiti’s longest river, the Artibonite. By October 22nd cholera was confirmed and the outbreak in the costal areas of St Marc was established.    The disease was able to spread rapidly due to initial misdiagnosis, lack of Oral Rehydration Treatment [ORT]  and an already overstretched medical infrastructure. Cholera was not the epidemic in waiting. The first responders to both the earthquake and the cholera outbreak, were the largely ignored by western media,  Cuban brigade, who had been in Haiti since 1998, along with the well established MSF also in Haiti for many years.   At the start of 2013 these are the only two sizable medical teams left from those first 12 to 18 months.  From an initial 72 CTCs in 2010/11, MSF which now accepts all cholera referrals as well as walk in patients,  has just four CTCs,  in Leogane [40 beds] Delmas 33 [80 beds],  Carrefour  [275 beds] and Cite Soleil/Drouillard [100 beds].

In order to place Haiti’s health challenges in a global south context I asked  Oliver Schulz,  the head of the MSF mission in Haiti  how the country compares to African countries. He gave the example of the eastern Congo, where in general, there is a structure and willingness by the Ministry of Health to get involved. So within six months of starting a MSF cholera project  the ministry is ready to take over.  However in Haiti, because the disease is new and because there is neither the capacity nor the necessary health infrastructure, the government has been unable to take over.   However as Oliver Schulz, program director for MSF, pointed out, the situation in Haiti is far more complex than simply pointing a finger at the government as they simply do not have the resources.   In particular, Schulz was critical of the WHO and UN whose role should be to support the government in developing a comprehensive health care infrastructure yet despite years of talking little has actually happened.

even with cholera some of the things we discussed two years ago are still being discussed. I do not know how much they are involved in activities like plans etc but it seems to me that by now we should have a national health plan and it seems to me normally the WHO supports the government in making such plans as thats what they do in other countries.”

The problem with healthcare in Haiti is there is no system, no structures, no plan – at least not one that has been implemented. What healthcare facilities exist are wholly inadequate – insufficient medical staff, support staff, equipment and treatment, and left to medical NGOs such as MSF, the Cuban Brigade and a few faith based and charity clinics.  For example there is one MSF hospital in  Carrefour with 275 beds serving about 400,000 people.  In Cite Soleil the figures are similar. In addition to MSF hospital there is public hospital, St Catherine’s  which like most government hospitals is staffed by excellent Haitian doctors but is  rundown and under equipped.

The Charity Mission runs a small hospice for HIV/AIDs patients and a few other small clinics serve at least 250,000 people.   Finally there is the Centre de Nutrition et Sante Rosalie Rendu which has a pediatric clinic and sees up to 300 under 5s a day, many mothers traveling across the city to reach the clinic.   The round trip from for example, Delmas to Cite Soleil can take up to 4 hours and three tap taps at a cost of about $2 – a long and costly journey.  But the Haitian and American doctor are excellent and the clinic includes a nutrition center for malnourished children who attend everyday for six months or until their weight and overall condition has improved.

The public hospitals including the country’s main teaching hospital and clinical and trauma referral center, L’Hôpital Université d’Etat d’Haïti (Haitian State University Hospital or HUEH), are in terrible condition and have effectively been abandoned by all those involved in running the country – the government, the UN, the USAID and other country donors, and the NGOs.  HUEH was partially damaged in the earthquake -  150 nursing students were killed and two thirds of the buildings destroyed.    Even before the earthquake, it wasn’t in great shape and the rebuilding  of HUEH was supposed to be a priority as shown in this  2010 proposal by Partners In Health [PIH].

Significant, strategic, and ongoing improvements to the comprehensive infrastructure, staffing, training, operations, and clinical practice of this central public health facility are investments in the future of all public health throughout Haiti. ………..More immediately, HUEH is in a state of emergency. If conditions at the hospital are not improved in a matter of months, it will become the site of a second round of catastrophic deaths due to disease outbreak or total health system collapse. There has been a vision articulated by the Haitian leadership of the hospital, but they cannot implement it alone. Please join the effort to build Haiti back better by first investing in the health of Haiti’s people

One medical improvement to HUEH and which is exemplary of how things happen in Haiti, is the TB clinic set up in 2010 by an American volunteer, Dr Coffee and a group of Haitian nurses.  The clinic initially operated under tents is now housed in a building and has cared for over 1000 patients TB since 2010.

Since 2004, when the Medical School of UNIFA (the University of the Aristide Foundation] was forcibly closed,  HUEH has been the sole medical training center in Haiti.  UNIFA was founded by President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 1996 in order to ‘amply the voices of Haitian people’ by creating an inclusive educational space from adult literacy to training doctors and nurses.   In August 2011 the much needed medical school reopened with 63 men and 63 women.  In the politics of US imperialism in Haiti, the contribution of UNIFA and the Cuban brigade doctors,  to the health infrastructure have been ignored by western media. I doubt this is by accident given the election of puppet and Duvalierst, Michel Martelly, and the resurgent post earthquake neo-liberal agenda driven by the US, it’s allies and NGOs.

Although the rebuilding of the HUEH and other public health clinics have not taken place the new Paul Farmer led, PIH, state of the art, University Hospital of Mirebalais [HUM] has now opened.    I asked a number of  NGO personnel, doctors and Haitian activists why the HUEH has been abandoned yet the PIH NGO hospital has flourished.  The response was always the same – “we ask the same question”.  No one would question the importance of HUM to Haiti’s health infrastructure.  It is the largest post-earthquake project in the country and has taken three years to build.  HUM has 300 beds, plus primary and secondary health care for up to 500 people a day. As a teaching hospital HUM along with UNIFA will provide doctors and nurses for Haiti.  However questions remain as to the location and who will have access to the hospital.

There is no doubt that both the earthquake and cholera epidemic played a leading role in the funding and realization of the PIH project.  One of the uses of founder, Paul Farmer is that he is able to raise funds especially since he became a spokesperson for ‘the machine that drives Haiti”.   When questioned by journalist Ansel Herz about the stalling of a wage increase from $3 to $5, Farmer, the new voice of the occupiers, also stalled as he seemed to have forgotten his own treatise on ‘pathologies of power’.

The inadequate provision of healthcare for the poor in Haiti and elsewhere, as Farmer himself has written over and over, is due in large part to structural violence and a pathology of greed which has left over 2 million people food insecure, forces women into relationships which are detrimental and often abusive; results in people dying needlessly of cholera or because they couldn’t  access simple surgery as was the case for Elie Joseph.

In February 2012, Elie Joseph was diagnosed with a heart murmur which is a common congenital heart defect called ventricular septal defect [VSD] where the blood flows the wrong way, putting stress on the heart and lungs which can lead to infections. The charity Haitian Hearts, which sends children suffering from heart related illnesses to the Dominican Republic or the US, arranged for Elie to travel to the Dominican Republic for the 15 minute procedure which would fix his heart.  Elie received his travel documents but not his mother so he was unable to undertake the operation which would have taken some 4 hours plus the follow up treatment.  In December 2012 Elie Joseph died from pneumonia in the tent at Aviation camp where his parents are forced to continue to live three years after the quake.  VSD is not an illness to die of and Elie is one child out of thousands who have died needlessly as a result of structural violence.

The violence of poverty is multifaceted so that even when healthcare is accessible there are still other obstacles to overcome.  Gladis* lives with her three children aged 6 months, 4 and 9 years in a camp in Delmas 33.    She is fortunate because the camp is not too far from both the MSF cholera treatment center in Delmas 33  and the La Paz clinic run by Cuban doctors.    Gladis came to Acra camp a few days after the earthquake with her two children.   Her home in Tabarre was destroyed in front of her eyes and she wandered the streets for three days disorientated , traumatized, sleeping and walking with the children till eventually she came to Acra.  At that time there were no tents and people were sleeping in the open or under whatever makeshift covering they could find.  It was about three months before the people at Acra were able to secure tents by searching out various NGOs themselves.

It was a dangerous time for women in particular as sexual violence was rampant,  the only food and water was being handed out by NGOS and you had to queue for hours.   Three years later, Gladis is hardly coping with her life and its possible that only the support of her neighbours and the camp committee which has kept her going.   In October 2011 when she was about 6 months pregnant, Gladis caught cholera.   It started in the morning and within a few hours she was unable to walk.  Her neighbours gave her water with the RHT salts but these did not help.   She had two problems – she would have to leave her children with neighbors and luckily hers were trustworthy. Secondly she had to get to the MSF treatment center.  She was in no condition to travel by Tap Tap or motorbike and besides she did not have the money. The only way was by car. Again Gladis was lucky as one of the camp leaders saw she was ill and suspected cholera. He had an old truck that just about ran and its with this that Gladis, near death, was taken to the hospital where she spent 15 days.

“I didnt know what was happening until after some days.  I saw they had put me in the last room where many people were dying and I thought I would die too.  So many people died, I don’t know how many but every day they were dying……When I started to get better, I was able to eat.  They gave us food sometimes three times a day.“

Although Gladis was released after 15 days she was still ill suffering from headaches and with a fever. But for the MSF her cholera had been treated and they needed the beds as new patients were arriving all the time.   Gladis survived but she remains unwell, fearful and hardly able to breast feed her baby. Again this is one story.  Although I have heard many complaints from women on the public hospital and clinics, I have only ever heard good things about both the Cuban doctors, MSF the pediatricians at Sante Rosalie Lendu.

The cholera epidemic is not over by far and once the rains start the numbers are expected to rise again.   The estimates for 2013 are are 118,000 cases.  To put these numbers in a global context,  there were 160,000 cases in the whole of Africa in 2010, thats nearly 1 billion people compared to the 10 million population in Haiti.  I asked Oliver Schulz of MSF his thoughts on the year ahead.

 “My personal fear is that things will get worse before they get better.  The structures are weaker today than in 2011/2012.   Every year the structures deteriorate.  There is no plan for cholera and without a WHO supported comprehensive national health care plan with clear directives, clear action plans and milestones then it will not get better. Also many of the big agencies have left and there are too many unknown NGOs, charities and faith groups”

Within weeks suggestions began to appear that the origins of cholera lay with the UN and specifically a Nepalese contingent based near the  Artibonite river and spread through the base toilets.  Initially the UN denied being responsible however there has been  mounting evidence of  the UN being the source.  By October 2012, two years after the outbreak,  the evidence against the UN was irrefutable

“We can now say,” Dr Lantagne said, “that the most likely source of the introduction of cholera into Haiti was someone infected with the Nepal strain of cholera and associated with the United Nations Mirabalais camp.”

In the hope of obtaining justice and reparations for the thousands of cholera victims, the Bureau des Avo­cats Inter­na­tionaux [BAI] and Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti [IJDH] filed a groundbreaking suit against the UN on behalf of 5,000 cholera victims.  In addition to insisting on accountability the suit  demands that the UN

  •  Install a national water and sanitation system that will control the epidemic;
  • Compensate for individual victims of cholera for their losses; and
  • Issue a public apology from the United Nations for its wrongful acts.

The UN role in  introducing cholera is one more abuse in a long list of  violent acts  against the Haitian people with no accountability.  From sexual abuse, rape, cholera to the  killing of innocent civilians.  UN appointed special Envoy of Occupation,  Paul Farmer suggested as early as December 2010,  a vaccination programme as part of a 5 point intervention to halt the epidemic. However Haitians had little reason to trust a UN led initiative even if it was supported by a world renowned physician.   Three years later the only evidence of improvement in the healthcare is the teaching hospital at Mirebalais.  More than anything Haiti needs clean water, not just for cholera but for a range of illnesses and because everyone has a right to clean water.  Provision of clean water however does not make money for pharmaceutical companies – being well does not make money for pharmaceutical companies. But a cholera vaccine every three years is highly profitable disaster capitalism at work.    Rashid Haider explains the case against vaccination..

The vaccines Shanchol and Dukoral contain large amounts of killed cholera bacteria, the latter having an additional component known as the recombinant B subunit of cholera toxin (rCTB). Both vaccines are two-dose oral vaccines that are taken with an interval of two weeks, and are meant to cause development of protection against cholera one week after the second dose.

Harmon’s assumption that these vaccines are 60 to 90 percent protective for a period of two to three years does not concur with facts. The Shanchol that is intended for field testing soon in Haiti had offered a poor protection of 45 percent during the first year of surveillance in a large-scale field trial in India in 2006. Dismal results were obtained in a large-scale field trial in Peru in 1994 when the two-dose vaccine Dukoral was tested.

The alternative argument for a national water and sanitation system is a far more sustainable and realistic solution to ending the epidemic and preventing new outbreaks.  It is long term, benefits everyone and responds to a range of preventable illness and improves the overall quality of lives.

UPDATE

A March 2013 report by MSF speaks to the deplorable condition of cholera patients in Haiti.

 

“Some of the staff at the cholera treatment centers have not been paid for several months,” said Dr. Mamady Traoré, MSF deputy medical coordinator, who participated in the Artibonite assessment in late December 2012. “Infrastructure and equipment are worn out because they haven’t been maintained and there are frequent shortages of medical supplies. As a result, hygiene precautions that are essential to limiting the spread of the disease are no longer enforced. Sometimes patients are left without treatment or must pay to obtain it. That is intolerable.”

Adoption, Sexual Abuse and Aid

I read a recent post on Women In and Beyond the Global on the forced powerlessness of pregnant women which refers to a study on

two  sets of interrelated events: [1] the effort to pass laws that give a fetus the constitutional right of a person, thus far passed in 38 states; and [2] the increased number of arrests and incarceration of pregnant women.

The study looks at the arrest and incarceration of pregnant women on which the basis of arrest was to protect the fetus.   It’s not clear what happens once the babies are born – how long do they get to stay with their mothers, what happens afterwards, are they given up for adoption, taken into foster care? Or a mix of all of these?   Being pregnant then becomes part of the regime of punishment both for the mother and child!  This is incarceration and the concept of punishment at its lowest and most obsene. It does nothing but satisfy the need for that ‘pound of flesh’.    One example of the punishment of women and young girls dates to the 1940s  when  white teenage girls being used to fuel the adoption business and Black teenage mothers were punished by denying them public assistance.

“Beginning in the late 1940s, community and government authorities together developed a raft of strategies some quite coercive, to press white unwed mothers to relinquish their babies to deserving couples” (70). Those teenagers were presented as “mentally disturbed” because they failed to have a husband to protect them, “a proof of neurosis,” making them potential bad mothers. The same authorities singled out and removed unwed Black teenage mothers from any public assistance, intensifying their already precarious situation.

Reading this report, I was reminded of the raid on Haitian children in the immediate aftermath of the 2010 earthquake.  No one knows the number of  children, who were taken to the US and Europe for adoption.  In the initial period many adoptions took place without proper  background checks into prospective parents or  confirmations on the real status of the children.  There were thousands of orphans already living in orphanages at the time of the earthquake and in the first few months  5,000 of these children, were fast tracked to adoption in the US. Yet 6 months after the earthquake, families were still being reunited.

Under a sparingly used immigration program, called humanitarian parole, adoptions were expedited regardless of whether children were in peril, and without the screening required to make sure they had not been improperly separated from their relatives or placed in homes that could not adequately care for them.

Some Haitian orphanages were nearly emptied, even though they had not been affected by the quake or licensed to handle adoptions. Children were released without legal documents showing they were orphans and without regard for evidence suggesting fraud. In at least one case, two siblings were evacuated even though American authorities had determined through DNA tests that the man who had given them to an orphanage was not a relative.

Often the media would report from Haiti, Ethiopia, and Guatemala about stories  of mothers and fathers giving away their children for a ‘better life in the US’.   Stories like this one from Haiti where parents decided to give up their youngest also raise questions on whether ‘orphans’ are really orphans and how much coercion takes place.   People have to do what they need to do to survive and the morality in question here is the violence of poverty which forces them to make hurtful choices.  For example in this report from Ethiopia the father believes the ‘adoption’ is temporary and that his child will return. A  recent study  found that 4 out of 5 children in orphanges actually had one living parent but this is not surprising as running an orphanage or adoption agency whether in Haiti or in the west, is a lucrative business and in many cases they are nothing more than legal trafficking agencies buying and selling children.  Right now there are  over 2 million food insecure people in Haiti.  I agree with my host, community organizer and educator, Rea Dol who believes these figures are under estimated.    Families in crisis need support to keep their children but instead of struggling with the people, saviors  assault their dignity’.  Save the Children has much to say on this and it would be interesting to know what kind of support THEY are providing in Haiti or do they just write good reports?  Rea Dol who runs SOPUDEP, a free school for 700 children and located directly opposite Save the Children can tell you a great deal about the ‘real work of that NGO

As far as organizations that could have helped SOPUDEP, there is Save the Children who sponsored a lot of organizations. They’re located right next door to us and they never helped us at all. They had a cash for work program for rubble removal, but I had to pay out of pocket to arrange rubble removal. When they finally came six months after the quake, they asked how they could help us and said they could fix the roof and clean out the toilets. But we didn’t see these as problems. We had more urgent needs related to our classrooms, but that assistance wasn’t there.

The school had reopened in April under tarps surrounded by rubble  and collapsed walls.  They needed urgent supplies for the children but like hundreds of thousands of other Haitians the republic of NGOs was nowhere to be seen and even when they are they come with bags with their logos, some water treatment tablets, tarps, a few pencils and expect Haitians to sign so they can write fancy reports on how they helped this organisation and that camp – like missionaries and colonials handing out trinkets to the natives!  Arriving at SOPUDEP four months later after the school had broken up for holidays was an assault!

There were genuine adoptions both prior and post the earthquake  and the Haitian government is revising the laws.  However  laws on adoption don’t protect children in orphanages.   A number of orphanages in Haiti have been found guilty of sexually abusing the children under their care [see here and here and here and here] but these stories are just the tip of the iceberg.  There is no monitoring or  control over faith based organizations  and charities who can enter the country and establish themselves at will. In a matter of days they can set up an orphanage, a church, a mission, an NGO  - whatever they want whether in the town or in the rural areas.   There have also been repeated abuses by the UN occupying force in Haiti, MINUSTAH and in some instances officers have been removed but as far as I am aware none have been punished.  According to Save the Children  sexual abuse by aid workers is significant and underreported.  These actions are not taking place in secret – people know whats going on as many of the assaults take place with groups of abusers.  Its not one aid worker or one solider its a couple of aid workers or a couple of soldiers.

Our research suggests that significant levels of abuse of  boys and girls continue in emergencies, with much of it going unreported.The victims include orphans, children separated from their parents and families, and children in families dependent on humanitarian assistance.

Its also happening to children walking on the street, going to school, running errands, vendors and so on.  The report suggests that to limit the underreporting,  parents and children need to speak out .  But as  families are afraid to break the silence  due to stigma, fear of loosing aid/food, powerlessness, there needs to be another way  of monitoring those who work at ground level.   Haitian children are  especially vulnerable to sexual abuse as the country is awash with NGOs, missionaries, faith compounds and assorted people.    Women’s organisations such as those run by the SOPUDEP, Fanm Voudou Pou Ayiti and Kofaviv  work with women victims of sexual violence but much of their work is in the camps and with limited resources  it is impossible to undertake the necessary investigative work into what is happening in orphanages and within the aid sector.   Why are aid agencies not responding to sexual abuse by their staff?   Whether Sudan, Congo or Haiti – these are all highly militarized states and in the case of Haiti, under occupation and the NGOs and aid workers are part of the militarized structure and the violence it reaps.

 

The Week on Sunday (weekly)

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Haiti: From AIDS to Aid, an [Un]Humanitarian Story

The third anniversary on January 12, 2013 of the earthquake in Haiti was marked yet again by a flood of new reports, opinions, facts and figures: a repetition of the past two years in terms of the lack of progress in reconstruction, the use and abuse of Haitian people by NGOs, failure to provide housing and other basic amenities for the hundreds of thousands who remain in the camp and the exploitation of workers in the new “open for business Haiti” proclaimed by President Martelly.  To try to understand the logic of the present Western [imperial] relationship with Haiti it is necessary to go back to 1804 and the founding of the Republic. Readers might well say that was 208 years ago and surely irrelevant now but a close examination will show a surprising consistency in the subjugation and exploitation of Haitian people underpinned by blatant and paternalistic racism and overall fear of the power of the black masses.

The story begins in 1825 with France’s demand for an indemnity payment of 150 million gold francs as recompense for the loss of  its plantation economy, including slaves, in  exchange for diplomatic recognition and thereby the ability to trade .  The debt, which was not fully repaid until 1947, cost Haiti as much as 80% of its national revenue.  Debt continued to pile up as a result of borrowing to pay back the French debt, and new debts were incurred during the US occupation from 1915 to 1934, a  period which consolidated the USA’s imperial domination of the country. A new constitution  abolished a law prohibiting foreign land ownership and thereby allowed US companies to purchase huge tracts of land, displacing an estimated 50,000 peasants. [1] In addition a  $40 million loan was provided along with the takeover of the national bank and treasury. The cycle of new debt for old has continued to the post-earthquake period. In 1934 the USA ended its occupation but not before it had created two militarized forces, the National Guard and the gendarmerie which would be used to keep the population under tight control by successive dictatorships until the brief presidency of Jean-Bertrand Aristide. [2] Further loans of $250 million were provided to the Duvalier regime, and $158 million to the US-backed government of Henry Namphy, both by the World Bank. The Inter-American Development [IDB] bank also lent $110 million to the Haitian government prior to Aristide’s presidency yet only agreed to lend his government a mere $12 million. [3] This clear distinction between democratically elected leaders and US-backed unelected leaders has persisted: in 2003 the IDB agreed a loan of $200 million, the majority of which was only disbursed after the kidnapping of President Aristide on February 29, 2004.  Aristide puts it like this: “The reason is very clear: when it’s people who are serious, who will spend money for the country, these foreign banks hold on to the money. when it’s thieves who will misuse the money, with their acolytes, no problem.” [4]

Haiti was not the only Caribbean island subjected to US intervention and imperial power. Nearby Cuba was briefly under direct US control and Cuban independence was only granted on condition that the USA retained rights to operate a military base at Guantanamo Bay. In fact, since the end of the Spanish-American war in 1898 US policies towards Cuba and Haiti have been intertwined in a mix of human subjugation, material exploitation and vagrant disregard for international law.  [5]  Much of this has been couched in the language of humanitarian intervention,  similarly to the post-earthquake period.  Who can forget the audacious US invasion of Grenada in October 1983 which was preceded by various attempts at economic strangulation? Again, the justification was a “rescue” mission as well as a pre-emptive strike lest Americans be taken hostage even though there was no evidence to suggest this might happen. [6] The three Caribbean nations which have either attempted to set up or have successfully established autonomous governments for and by the people have been victims of US terror.  A. Naomi  Paik also makes the point that the “simultaneous renewal of the Guantanamo lease and the end of the Haitian occupation [in 1934] are not isolated events.”  On the one hand the USA required a permanent naval base in the eastern Caribbean and on the other an assembly line of cheap resistance-free labor and for this a pact was made with Jean Claude Duvalier and subsequently his son “Baby Doc.”  The result of the violent regime of Duvalier was thousands of refugees fleeing to the USA.   Paik explains the logic behind the USAs hostility towards Haitian refugees which was a double-edged sword, i.e. thousands of black bodies on the shores of the USA and the fact of its own “friendly” self-interested relationship with a brutal dictatorship. The USA attempted to shy away from this fact by claiming the refugees were “economic’ rather than political – in reality a meaningless distinction.

” This distinction, no matter how specious, nevertheless legally justified US nonrecognition of Haitian refugees, a nonrecognition that essentially made the Haitian refugee into a political impossibility. The United States could not sustain its relationship with the regimes that fostered political and economic violence and simultaneously acknowledge the fact that thousands of Haitians feared for their lives in their own country. Its action in dealing with Haitians in Haiti and in its own territory, and in the waters between the two countries, were rooted in a logic of self-interested violence that disregarded Haitian lives.” [7]

1992 — Haitian refugees wait in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba while being processed to return to Haiti. — Image by © Bill Gentile/CORBIS

The specific policy towards Haitian refugees was known as the Haitian Program and entailed “multiple state agencies collaborating” to deport Haitians already in Florida and discourage others from leaving Haiti. In her essay,  Paik cites a number of legal petitions by the Haitian Refugee Center in Miami which expose blatant disregard for international and humanitarian laws and the biased decisions by US courts. Haitian refugees were singularly excluded , being described as a threat to the community’s [USA] well-being. Eventually, during Reagan’s presidency, the Haiti Program was extended to include “interdiction” of refugees by the US coastal guard in international waters, which is illegal, and later detention without due process at Fort Allen in Puerto Rico. The justification for the illegal interception of Haitian boats in international waters was configured as a humanitarian intervention that would save Haitian lives.

“Interdiction exemplifies how human rights advanced US nationalist and imperialist interests. A Janus faced policy, it utterly denied Haitians the possibility of finding refugee from violence while simultaneously casting its mission as humanitarian investment in saving Haitians from the dangers of open waters.” [8]

Though the USA made it plain its 1915 invasion was to protect its financial interests, such as the Haitian American Sugar Company, HASCO, [9] subsequent interference, occupation and policies towards Haitian refugees have been presented under the guise of “humanitarian” intervention. Saving Haitians from the open seas, from disease [HIV/AIDS] and from themselves has hidden the truth behind,  on the one hand, the fear of thousands of Haitians “invading” US shores and, on the other, the opportunity for a cheap labor force just a few hundred miles away. It was only during the democratically elected presidency of Bertrand Aristide that the number of Haitian refugees significantly decreased, only to rise again after the September 1991 coup which forced him into exile in the USA. It was at this time that thousands fleeing Haiti were sent to Guantanamo Bay and again Haitian boats were intercepted in international waters and forced to return. Those who refused were hosed down and forced off the boats. [10]

Working in parallel with the Haitian Program, the USA was also busy supporting the military junta of coup-maker General Cedras and inventing and facilitating ways to suppress Lavalas, the party of Aristide, and prevent his return. The suppression was brutal from the start.

“…to steady their nerves, ordinary soldiers received up to $5000 a piece. As crowds gathered in defense of the government [Aristide] the army opened fire, and kept firing…..’the soldiers shot everything in sight . They ran out of ammunition so fast that it seems the US had to re-supply them with night-time helicopter flights from Guantanamo. At least 300 people were killed in the first night of the coup, probably many more.” [11]

The strategic importance of Guantanamo is displayed both as a detention center and as a launching pad to terrorize Haiti and no doubt any other Caribbean nation that dared to create an autonomous government. But it was with the detention of HIV+ and suspected HIV+ Haitians that the Haitian Program really came into its own. As Paik points out, the detention of HIV-positive Haitians by the USA  at Guantanamo is not just part of the historical “[neo] imperialism in Haiti” but also a continuation of a racist discourse which sees migrants and in particular migrant black bodies as “carriers of contagion.” [12] The marking of Haitians as carriers of AIDS goes back to the early 1980s when the “Center for Disease Control [CDC], identified four high-risk groups, known pejoratively as the 4-H club – “homosexuals, hemophiliacs, heroin users and Haitians” – the first time a disease was tied to a nationality but not the first time black bodies have been tied to racist notions of deviance and contagion [13] and of being a threat to whiteness.

The justification for imprisonment of HIV-positive Haitians was humanitarian – to provide them with “shelter, food and medical care.”  In reality they were being detained in dehumanizing conditions such as inadequate water,  maggot-ridden food and forced to take  blood tests.  Those diagnosed as HIV Positive were isolated and often men and women were misdiagnosed.   Women were forced to have birth control injections and in some instances their children were sent to the US whilst they remained in the camp.  Other illness reported identified were, trauma and many detainees were found to have head injuries from beatings.  One US official on hearing complaints about the appalling conditions responded that they were going to die anyway.

The immediate reaction of the USA following the 2010 earthquake and the subsequent “restoration policies” need to be seen in the above historical context of exploitation, subjugation and US domestic immigration policy. The decision to prioritize security over real humanitarian need saw the deployment of troops throughout Port-au-Prince in the immediate days after the earthquake; the consolidation of NGO rule [they provide 80% of basic public services] [14]; the consolidation of the Free Trade Zone and  the creation in January 2011 of a mega assembly line in Caracol [PIRN].   The deal was signed by the “Haitian government,” the US Secretary of State [on behalf of US taxpayers], Korean textile manufacturer, Sae-A Trading, and the IDB. With the sweep of a pen, 300 locally owned plots of land were converted into an industrial park. A report by Haiti Grassroots Watch provides some of the reasons behind PIRN which also affects US workers.

“Ultimately, in the case of the PIRN at least, US taxpayers are making it easier and cheaper for foreign and local clothing and textile companies firms to set up (sweat-)shops in Haiti, lay off better paid workers in the US and other countries, and increase their profits. If Levis and the GAP can get their clothes stitched in a place that pays US$5.00 a day rather than US$9.00 an hour (approximately the lowest wage paid in US-based clothing factories), with new infrastructure, electricity, UN peacekeepers to provide security, and tax-free revenues and other benefits, why not?”

What’s in it for the main investor , Sae-A Trading?  Massive profits from the HELP Act which allows textiles to enter the USA from Haiti, tax-free, and a USA-Korea Free Trade Agreement giving new meaning to the manufacturing methods of JIT [just in time].  The location of the industrial zone at Caracol also has serious environmental impacts, as explained in a report by Alter Presse. Apart from the loss of farming livelihood to some 1000 farmers who now constitute cheap production labor, archeological sites will be destroyed, “water appropriated polluted and made more expensive,”, and destruction of farmland means the workers will be forced to ” buy subsidized US food.
Most recently there have been a number of  mining contracts issued to multinational mining corporations [These have just been rejected by the Senate who have asked that the companies 'cease exploitation'.

"We can't sit and just say everything must stop. We must take a resolution to tell the Executive this is the position of the Senate of the Republic, the Haitian Parliament on this issue. Everything must be done within regulations. We can not resolve a wrong with a wrong but in the meantime..."

We would like to know the value of the mines in Haiti, we must get this, because we must know what we have - because it's everyday that they are telling us that this country is a poor country, their presence here is humanitarian but there is nothing being done and then, all this time, we are full of resources. And the people who are principally concerned don't have any information on this.

In “Haiti’s Gold Rush” [Guernica Magazine]Jacob Kushner writes that “mineral explorers have long suspected Haiti could be sitting on a large gold deposits.”  A number of Haitians interviewed, however, say the local people in the northern mountains and elsewhere have always known there was gold in the ground and US and Canadian mining exploration companies have been testing the region on and off since the 1970s.   Permits have been given to two Canadian companies, Majescor (to explore 450 sq kilometers), and Eurasian (1,770 sq kilometers).   Two US companies are also involved: VCS Mining have rights over 700 sq kilometers and Newmont Ventures have the largest share.  As of December last year mining permits were given to Majescor and VCS Mining.  The deal for the mining corporations is the gift from Haiti to multinational capital…

Since 2009, Haiti’s government ministers have been considering a new convention. This would allow Eurasian, Newmont’s business partner, to explore an additional 1300 square kilometers of land in Haiti’s north. But according to Dieuseul Anglade, Haiti’s mining chief of two decades, unlike previous agreements, this one doesn’t include a limit–standard among mining contracts worldwide–on how much of a mine’s revenue the company can write off as costs. Without any cap, a mining company can claim that a mine has an unusually low profit margin, allowing it to pay fewer taxes to the Haitian state; Anglade opposed these terms, and was fired in May.”

Kushner also points to the poor environmental record of Newmont. For example, in 2010 a cyanide spill in Ghana killed fish and destroyed drinking water. There are also questions around the number of possible employees and the conditions under which they would work.  Given the environmental and social devastation  of other resource-rich regions such as the Niger Delta, DRC and Ecuador,  and the weakness of the Haitian government, rule by NGOs and an overall carpetbagger mentality,  it is hard to imagine mining bodes well for local people.    An investigation by Haiti Grassroots Watch found that behind the mining contracts lay

“backroom deals, players with widely diverging objectives, legally questionable “memorandums”, and a playing field that is far from level.”

Guernica – Images from Flickr via waterdotorg

The hills in the Cap Haitian region are the hills of the revolution.  They are also the hills where the indigenous people of Haiti, the Taino,  were slaughtered by Christopher Columbus and other white settlers.  These are now the hills owned by foreign multinational mining corporations. President Martelly’s slogan “Haiti is open for business” should include the line  “going for a song.”  Humanitarian aid in Haiti has always been aid in the interest of the donor country, whether it be to keep out Haitians from US soil or to exploit their labor on Haitian soil and make even more money for companies in donor countries.  It has never been about the Haitian masses.

I have very briefly attempted to outline a few complex historical events in the hope that those interested will seek out further reading such as the following sources used in compiling this piece:

Haiti’s New Dictatorship: The Coup, The Earthquake and the UN by Justin Podur 

Haiti – Haitii? Philosophical Reflections for Mental Decolonization by Jean-Bertrand Aristide

Paramilitarism and the Assault on Democracy in Haiti by Jeb Sprague

Damming the Flood: Haiti, Aristide and the Politics of Containment by Peter Hallward

Notes

  1. A. Naomi Paik  “Carceral Quarantine at Guantanamo: Legacies of US Imprisonment of Haitian Refugees, 1991-1994”  published in Radical History Review Issue 15 /Winter 2013].
  2. Justin Podur [2012] “Haiti’s New Dictatorship: The Coup, the Earthquake and the UN Occupation”, Pluto Press, 2012
  3. Jean-Bertrand Aristide [2011]“Haiti-Haitii! Philosophical Reflections for Mental Decolonization”, Paradigm
  4. Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Haiti-Haitii!
  5. A. Naomi Paik “Carceral Quarantine at Guantanamo”
  6. Terry Nardin and Kathleen D Pritchard “Ethics and Intervention: The United States in Grenada, 1983” [http://bit.ly/W7MrKo] 
  7. A. Naomi Paik “Carceral Quarantine at Guantanamo”
  8. A. Naomi Paik “Carceral Quarantine at Guantanamo”
  9. Justin Podur [2012] “Haiti’s New Dictatorship”
  10. A. Naomi Paik “Carceral Quarantine at Guantanamo”
  11. Peter Hallward “Damming the Flood: Aristide and the Politics of Containment”
  12. A. Naomi Paik “Carceral Quarantine at Guantanamo”
  13. A. Naomi Paik “Carceral Quarantine at Guantanamo”
  14. Justin Podur [2012] “Haiti’s New Dictatorship”

This post was also published on Pambazuka News – 25/01/2013

 

This article was supported in part by the International Reporting Project.

Haiti: Occasional Musings – 2

*Saturday

MC  said we would leave the house at 9am to go and meet some women in the camp at Delmas 33.   In January Port-au-Prince is dry and dusty reminding me of the January hamattan in Nigeria, by the time we reach the camp road we are covered in dust which mixed with sweat is like a paste.   The protest was already lining up with banners spread across the narrow street – on one side tents and tarps and the other a high wall.  MC introduced me to two of the women organisers from the camp committee – strong, forceful, fun women, we said our hellos laughed as you do when you meet strong beautiful women.   What I  love here is people take their activism seriously without chaining themselves to misery – there’s enough of that around without carrying it on your head all day long. So laugh dance and sing often – when the time is for speaking then you can speak with authority.     We  joined in at the end and it felt like carnival with the huge speakers on the truck and everyone running and dancing behind. The procession was supposed to circle the roads around the camp 7 times but one of the speakers broke so they had to stop after the first trip which lasted about 30 minutes most of which was up hill.   We all just about made it without collapsing and I realised that three days a week at the gym was no substutie for a fast walk up a hill.  While we were waiting for the trucks to start up Ginette explained

“We are tired after three years – we need houses”   “a few days ago the French Red Cross came to the camp to give us new tarps.  The brought 10 poles and a tarp and gave them out – there werent even enough for everyone. Then they left”

“They take pictures of the camp with the tarps and poles and put on the internet and its us on their publicity but we dont get anything”

I will say it here now, some of the worst NGO stories I have heard over the past three years are from the various Red Cross:  American, British and French.   In many camps people are being offered $400 and $500 to move when there is no where to go. So people move to another camp which then becomes even more crowded.  A small room in PAP costs about $500 a year to rent  but there is till food to buy,  transport and clothing and if you have children then school fees unless you can enroll at one of the few free schools in the city.   So the few hundred dollars doesnt last long but it’s hard to refuse even though you know it wont last.   $1 is now only 35 Gds – impossible to eat on less than $5 and thats still way below acceptable.

We couldnt talk too much as we were standing on the street  where there was a lot of noise but  we will meet again soon.

Sunday –  MC and I came down with a terrible allergy apparently to the dust. Everyone is suffering from sneezing, coughing with severe headaches.  I ended up having to stay in doors for two days.   MC bought me some antihistamine – 10 pills cost $25.  I bought myself a small bottle of cough medicine which only lasted 24 hours but cost $14. Crazy prices, the city is so expensive.    I suspect the NGO/AID/UN population are the primary cause of the rising cost of living amongst a host of other problems.  I worry that I didn’t renew my asthma prescriptions before I came.

Written retrospectively

 

 

OMs -1 [Occasional musings from Haiti] or Self-Archiving without the Vanity!

*I’m here in Haiti for the next few months primarmily as a 2013 IRP New Media Fellow but also to help with developing a couple of projects as well as some teaching.  It’s my 3rd time in Haiti since the 2010 earthquake.   A sister friend suggested I post daily musings or to be precise  ‘Daily musings from a ‘Pan-African Feminist in Haiti’  [from now on Occasional Musings / OMs] which is an honourable description.   Discussing the idea with another friend, I mentioned I was uncomfortable with ‘new media self-promotion’ – it makes me cringe.  He agreed entirely but explained how he was learning to separate ‘Self-Archiving”  from ‘plain vanity’ so I think I will go with that. It makes sense. But these musings might start in a flurry and taper off, even end who knows. I am not making a commitment, I have enough of those already.

As always when I am in Haiti I am staying with an amazing family, warm, beautiful people . We are many plus other guests come and go and I await for my good friend Mark, of Growing Haiti, to return.   The family reminded me last evening that I was the first foreign guest to stay in their house  [2007] and  the room I’m in this time is that same first room so it’s now my room.  How things have changed since then in so many ways but also somethings have remained the same.
Che’s comment on revolution and love are made real here because there is so much love amongst everyone, here at home in the every day things we do, at work and the various gatherings we all attend.  At the risk of sounding ridiculous this quote from Che is apt
“”At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love…. We must strive every day so that this love of living humanity will be transformed into actual deeds, into acts that serve as examples, as a moving force
To be welcomed and trusted in this community is an honour and out of respect for my friends I wont be writing about happenings which I consider to be of a personal and or sensitive nature. Also  where necessary  I will use inconsistent pseudonyms.
*This piece was written in retrospect.

The Week on Sunday (weekly)

  • Sometimes you can’t help but be sickened by the behavior of certain international organizations helping Haiti recover from the devastating January 2010 earthquake–hit, that is, by a wave of real physical nausea. The other day, I spent an afternoon in the displaced persons camp across from the ruins of St. Anne’s church in downtown Port-au-Prince. The place was awful, as awful as you can imagine squalid emergency living quarters might be–homes consisting of tent, tarp, tin, sheets, plywood, some cardboard–after three years of dust, dirt, sewage, torrential storms and, to top it off, Hurricane Sandy, which killed at least fifty-four people in Haiti.

    tags: haiti

  • What is the exact number of lodgings to be built? What is the total budget? When will the construction be completed? Under what conditions was the contract signed, and by whom? What firm is executing the project, and what firm is overseeing the project? Does the project fit with the government’s new housing policy? Who is or are the landowner(s) and how much money did he or they receive?

    Are the houses meant to be “public” housing for the victims of the January 2010 earthquake?

    tags: haiti grassroots Housing SweatShops

  • The current law for minimum wage in Haiti sweatshops is between 200 and 300 Gourdes (4.75 US to 7.12 US) per day. That paltry amount has not been met. Why? Segue to the under-reported and ignored 2011 scandal involving Obama administration pressure to keep the minimum wage even lower at 31 cents per hour so that jeans and t-shirts would stay cheap and the answer becomes clear.

    The Source Photo by Georgianne Nienaber
    A family in Haiti requires at least $12 a day to survive. Do the math. 300 farmers displaced by a Korean sweat shop, massive food insecurities, a hurricane shreds the curtain shielding the wizards of disaster capitalism, and no one notices.

    tags: Haitian+Women

  • Suggested readings on Haiti – though does not include “Haiti-Haitii: Philosophical Reflections for Mental Decolonization” by Jean Bertrand Aristide -

    tags: Haiti Aristide Books

  • By promoting gay rights as the endpoint of human rights, Israel obscures not only its obliteration of Palestine, but simultaneously silences queer voices who argue that their liberation is always already bound up with the liberation from any form of oppression. Palestinian and international (queer) activists argue that to achieve a radical equality queer politics has to be intrinsically anti-racist, anti-occupation, anti-sexist, and anti-classist.In this panel, different speakers will talk about pinkwashing, queer politics, and Palestinian liberation. In conjunction, they will share their views on the use of sexuality in a larger context of Islamophobia, imperialism, neoliberalism, globalization, and settler-colonialism.

    tags: PinkWashing QueerPolitics Queer_Activism Palestine Israel

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.