Haiti struggles with many issues: gang violence, poverty, lack of education and poor health care. All of these issues intertwine to ultimately create a knot of seemingly irreversible damage for Haitian youth. However, Together for Haiti is working to improve Haitian children’s quality of life through four key pillars.
Haitian Gang Violence
The capital of the island, Port-au-Prince, suffers from gang violence at the cost of its children. Most recently, since April 24, 2022, violence from warring gangs has led to the displacement of close to 17,000 people and the deaths of 188 people at minimum, as of June 3, 2022. Displaced Haitians have sought refuge in schools converted into shelters while others fled to the north of the city, causing massive travel problems. In May 2022 alone, Port-au-Prince noted 200 random-based kidnappings.
The prevalence of gangs and the violence that follows is often a product of areas suffering from poverty — Haiti is one of the most impoverished countries in the world, with a GDP per capita of $2,925 in 2020. Furthermore, Haiti ranks 170 out of 189 countries on the 2020 United Nations Human Development Index. Haiti’s Human Capital Index indicates that “a child born today in Haiti will grow up to be only 45[%]as productive as they could be if he or she had enjoyed full access to quality education and health care.”
In these circumstances, gang life can become a way to survive and make money when there are limited opportunities to forge another way of life and secure a brighter future. Gang membership provides protection in the dangerous environments that Haitian children are forced to grow up in, and soon enough, gangsterism becomes a generational occupation. In Haiti, particularly, gangs hold significant power. With no real army or strong police force, there is little hope of stopping large gangs who are better equipped than the small government forces trying to protect the 11 million people who live on the island.
Mortality and Health of Children
Widespread gang violence leads to the deaths of countless civilians, including children. But, Haiti also has infantile, child and maternal mortality rates higher than anywhere else in the Western Hemisphere. In fact, these rates are more comparable to Afghanistan and many African nations.
Like so many other places suffering from poverty, this is due to a lack of funding for the health care sector. In 2020, Haiti’s under-5 mortality rate stood at 60.5% deaths per 1,000 live births. In numbers, this equates to 16,214 deaths for children under 5.
Poverty raises the likelihood of premature death for Haitian children as impoverished households tend to lack the resources or access to services necessary for the proper health and well-being of a young child. Families dealing with poverty often experience malnutrition and several illnesses that can turn fatal as many impoverished families cannot afford the costs of health care and medicine.
Poverty in Haiti does not just affect its citizens, but also the medical facilities. Underfunding means the health care system lacks “adequate staffing, supplies and infrastructure” necessary to aid the nation’s people.
Together for Haiti Assists
Together for Haiti works toward providing resources to impoverished Haitian families so that they may secure a brighter future. The organization’s leader, Jean Alix Paul, has established four schools, two children’s homes and one human trafficking shelter, among many other initiatives. The organization focuses on spiritual development, educational development, economic development and physical development to create a better quality of life for impoverished Haitians, especially the nation’s most vulnerable children.
Through its focus on education, Together for Haiti provides schooling to about 2,000 children with four schools situated in four disadvantaged Haitian communities. Together for Haiti also provides teacher training, university bursaries and vocational training. The organization aims to strengthen Haiti’s economy by offering micro-loans, helping people create businesses and providing training on improved farming practices.
The efforts of Together for Haiti, and other organizations with similar goals, are improving Haitian children’s quality of life, giving them hope for a brighter tomorrow.
– Kelsey Jensen