Death of President Moise
Early on the morning of July 7, 2021, someone assassinated Haitian President Jovenel Moise in his home. The entire Caribbean nation is in shock as it now does not have a leader during its most trying times. With the death of President Moise, the political and economic unrest in the country may only grow.

Who was Jovenel Moise?

President Jovenel Moise was a Haitian politician who rose to power in the country in the 2016 election. Moise’s win underwent debate because of his early actions both inside and outside of the political sphere; most of the controversy started after he won the presidency with less than 18% of the popular vote. However, he took office in early 2017 despite the allegations against him.

During his reign as the 58th president of Haiti, Moise ruled the nation as a “cold-blooded dictator” according to The New York Post. After Haiti’s parliament disbanded, Moise continued to rule without holding elections for the country after his term ended in February 2021. While Moise tried to increase his power, human rights violations ran rampant across the island. Some thought that Moise’s administration and street gangs carried out many of these violations. These attacks on Haitian citizens left hundreds dead and thousands displaced. Some also accused Moise of arresting his political opponents for attempting to start a coup. Moise also had seven different prime ministers during his career, announcing the rise of the last one the day before his assassination. The Haitian ambassador to the U.S., Bocchit Edmond, stated that Moise’s rule was “among the worst in recent memory.”

The Death of Jovenel Moise

After many years of political unrest, gunmen attacked the president one early July morning in 2021. CNN stated that the assassination was a “highly coordinated attack by a highly trained and heavily armed group.” The Haitian government is seeking the shooters while the entire country has entered “a state of siege” which prohibits travel in or out of Haiti and installs martial law.

Reportedly, the assassins were members of a local gang who the current political and economic climate of Haiti angered. Reports have stated that the police are looking for someone who has “high-caliber” weapons and who speaks both Spanish and English. The assassins have claimed to be members of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, but this has not yet received confirmation.

Looking Ahead

The death of President Moise has left Haiti in greater turmoil than ever before. With no clear replacement in sight, the already fragile nation is on the brink of collapse. The nation has seen an immense rise in kidnappings and murders associated with gang violence. Approximately 60% of Haitians live in poverty without access to welfare. Over 4 million Haitians do not have ready access to food and thousands of children are experiencing malnutrition. The country has also faced many disease outbreaks including COVID-19 and cholera which have further dampened the situation. Recent natural disasters left the island in disparity and with a wide economic gap between the poorest and richest in the nation. With the head-of-state dead, conditions could worsen as the country recovers from closed borders and lower tourism rates.

However, human rights conditions could improve after Moise’s passing. Expectations have determined that anti-government protests could decrease as the nation recovers from the assassination. According to Human Rights Watch, under Moise’s rule, political killings and torture happened often. The criminal justice system has also been under scrutiny due to false incarcerations, sexual assault and poor prisoner hygiene. With the death of President Moise, these conditions in the country will hopefully improve once Haiti garners new leadership.

While it is unsure how Haiti will find a new president, new Prime Minister Ariel Henry is the assumed leader of the island nation at this time. Henry will hopefully have a positive impact on the nation during this trying time because of his past with the cholera epidemic and fight against the country’s poverty epidemic. Although his political future remains uncertain amidst recent allegations, Henry’s presence could help aid conditions for Haitian citizens.

Solutions

Currently, there are many charities and organizations working to help Haiti. Habitat for Humanity, a housing organization that helps those without shelter, has operated in Haiti for many over 27 years, mostly working in hurricane disaster relief. Habitat for Humanity in Haiti has rehomed many and countless others have received aid via food drops. Just in 2021, Habitat for Humanity has sworn to help rebuild a majority of the 12,000 houses which an earthquake destroyed. It is also operating search and rescue teams in the area.

KORE, a charity focused on Haitian aid, is working to improve the agricultural system of the nation to build a better economy. KORE first emerged in 1988 and works directly with farmers to improve livestock quality and production. It also helps the malnourished population of Haiti directly.

The work of KORE and Habitat for Humanity has been extremely beneficial to Haiti. Hopefully, through their continued aid, conditions in the country will improve through these trying times.

Laken Kincaid
Photo: Unsplash

Poverty and Gang Violence in Haiti TodayIn the months leading up to the July 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moise, Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, plunged into chaos. Gang violence in Haiti gained ground in a climate of economic and political dissatisfaction. In the aftermath of both the shocking presidential assassination and the devastating earthquake of August 2021, Haiti’s gangs continue to seek ways to procure power. Human rights group Fondasyon Je Klere reports that more than 150 gangs currently exist in Haiti. Such a large number of gangs in a relatively small country begs the question: why are there so many gangs in Haiti?

The Short Answer: Poverty

The simple answer to this question is poverty. Poverty and gang violence in Haiti interconnect. There is mass discontent with the Haitian government and economy for failing to provide adequately for the Haitian people in the form of food and work. Food insecurity, job insecurity and unemployment ravage the country, which the natural disasters Haiti periodically experiences exacerbate. Thus, Haitian people, particularly young men, find what the government cannot provide for them in gangs.

Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. About 60% of Haiti’s 11 million people earning less than $2 a day and about 2.5 million Haitians earning less than $1.25 a day. According to the World Bank, the top 20% of the population holds more than 64% of the country’s income. This concentration of income is not well received among gangs that belong to poorer segments of Haitian society.

Poverty and Gang Violence

One particularly notable Haitian gang is G9, a federation of local gangs formed by Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier. G9 discourages gangs from fighting one another and instead focuses their efforts on targeting the ruling class. Cherizier’s G9 has given Haitian youth the opportunity to satisfy their need for resources, protection and higher status – all things that the Haitian government and economy fail to provide for the youth. While gangs like G9 are a result of poverty, they also force families deeper into poverty. They ignite house fires in opposition neighborhoods and kidnap for ransom. The U.N. Integrated Office in Haiti reports an increase in the number of reported kidnappings from 78 in 2019 to 234 in 2020. There has also been a 20% increase in killings during that same time.

As areas that the August 2021 earthquake affected struggle to recover, gangs continue to push the country further into the depths of poverty by siphoning off critical aid. Gangs block roads, hijack trucks and steal supplies that are to go to those in dire need. While relief efforts have adapted by delivering aid via aerial vehicles instead, this method of delivery slows down the process of response and recovery in post-earthquake Haiti. Thus, poverty and gang violence in Haiti interact in a cyclical motion where poverty begets gang violence and gang violence begets further poverty.

Education

Some of the underlying issues of poverty include a lack of education and a weak domestic economy. The Haitian government and international community may not be able to completely disarm armed groups. But through education they can disincentivize at-risk sections of the population from joining armed groups. More than 50% of Haitians lack access to quality education. The average Haitian age 25 and older has not received formal education for more than five years, and 39% of the adult population is illiterate. Sending young people to school lets them rely on education as the new tool for survival rather than guns.

USAID

USAID has been directly supporting 430 schools to improve literacy among students from grades one to four. It also created and distributed almost 500,000 books and workbooks, and approximately 24,000 teacher guides. Over the past 11 years, the agency has also provided for more than 60,000 students and 2,000 teachers with reading curricula that meet international standards for literacy and trained teachers on how to implement them.

Young adults also need an alternative source of revenue so that the prospect of joining a gang loses its luster. Approximately 40% of Haitians are unemployed and the economy is heavily reliant on foreign aid and remittances from abroad. USAID has been working to provide vocational training and practical skills training for business management. The agency provided $7.6 million to 47 small- and medium-sized enterprises allowing them to expand operations and hire more workers. As more jobs become available, more young men may join the workforce and avoid gang activity. This may shrink the power vacuum in Haitian society and decrease the number and/or strength of gangs like Cherizier’s G9.

– Savannah Algu
Photo: Flickr

Renewable Energy in HaitiRecognized as one of the most impoverished nations in the world, Haiti has experienced a lot of turmoil over the last several decades. The challenges that political and natural disasters have brought have affected hundreds of thousands of people who now live in poverty and without access to electricity. Today, Haiti’s government is exploring new alternatives so that more people have the means to power their homes. Renewable energy in Haiti hopes to decrease poverty and increase access to electricity.

The Present Situation

As it currently stands, only about 45% of Haiti’s residents have access to electricity. Right now, 80% of the electricity in Haiti comes from imported fossil fuels and those who live in rural areas find themselves relying on dirty energy solutions like wood and charcoal. These resources can potentially lead to environmental issues such as deforestation and carbon emission while also negatively impacting the health of Haiti’s inhabitants. For these reasons, Haiti’s government is committed to investing in new means of energy that are both clean and cost-efficient.

Hydroelectricity

Although imported fossil fuels are Haiti’s primary source of electricity, there are several other options available that hold significant potential to transform Haiti if the country was well-optimized for these alternative sources. These resources are not only safe but are also renewable, meaning that they are unlikely to deplete or ever run out.

One alternative that Haiti is trying to integrate into its systems is hydroelectricity, which is power that water generates. Of all the renewable options available, hydropower has contributed the most to Haiti’s energy supply. It has improved conditions for those who live near areas where water flows, such as Haiti’s Artibonite River, where the Péligre Dam is based. Despite its prevalence in many communities, hydropower is still underutilized and it takes a lot of time and effort to incorporate such systems countrywide. With that said, the developments that Haiti’s government has made are promising and speak volumes about the future of Haiti. The Péligre Dam, which used to run at less than 60% capacity, is now generating 54 megawatts of power after more than a decade and will continue to provide sustainable energy for the next 40 years.

Solar Power

Solar power is another form of renewable energy in Haiti, which has a lot of potential due to the country’s warm and tropical location. In rural areas that do not receive electricity, such as Haiti’s South department, people depend on the energy that generators produce. Generators run on diesel, kerosene and other dirty solutions. These expensive generators, however, are not fully effective and only provide enough power to fulfill basic needs. The installation of mini-grids and solar panels in these areas could alleviate such problems and provide enough electricity for homes and businesses to receive power every day. Schools, hospitals and agricultural institutions are among those that can benefit from solar energy. Today, Haiti’s rural southwest has implemented grid systems to provide electricity for 8,000 people across 1,600 households.

Project Phoenix

While hydropower and solar power are at the focus of Haiti’s developments, other solutions are also available and can address additional issues the country faces. One example of this is waste-powered energy, which appeared as the subject of an initiative titled Project Phoenix. This proposal, which called for the collection of 1,600 tons of garbage every day, anticipated the generation of at least 30 megawatts of electricity per hour. The United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) published a final review of the project in 2014, highlighting the strategic recommendations and steps necessary to proceed as planned. Introducing a waste-to-energy method in Haiti would benefit cities such as Port-au-Prince, where garbage is overabundant and illegal dumping is a serious problem.

Wind Energy

Wind energy is another option Haiti has considered, though it is not as viable since it depends on seasonal variability and location. Additionally, Haiti does not have any wind farms, which makes this alternative appear less effective. However, Haiti does have measurement systems to record data on the capabilities of wind power. Estimates suggest that wind power can deliver electricity at 30-50% of the cost of solar energy in windier areas. Though there are no plans to build wind farms in Haiti, the construction of a power plant did begin in 2017. Not only will the plant optimize wind but it will also be the first to utilize a mixture of wind, solar and diesel energy. The power plant will be able to produce up to 160 kilowatts of electricity.

How Renewable Energy Reduces Poverty

While these renewable energy sources are capable of substituting imported fossil fuels, they also play a significant role in alleviating poverty. Hundreds of thousands of Haitians rely on generators, which are expensive and can only provide electricity for a limited time. By implementing renewable energy substitutes, impoverished Haitians can save money that would otherwise go toward paying for diesel-powered electricity, enabling them to afford other basic essentials such as food, water and shelter.

About 10Power

Over and above the fundamental benefits of renewable energy, the renewable energy sector has the potential to create job opportunities for Haitians. With the demand for low-cost electricity being so high in Haiti, businesses are starting to emerge and are combating the frequent problems residents endure. One company, known as 10Power, is a solar startup partnering with locals to install and provide financing for solar energy projects in Haiti’s rural areas. It was responsible for installing solar arrays at two of Haiti’s water purification centers, which provide water to local communities and support more than 600 microbusinesses. Women lead many of these microbusinesses.

The company also worked on the array installation at Haiti’s UNICEF headquarters, which was the largest solar installation on any UNICEF base in the world. The startup 10Power has grown dramatically since its founding in 2016 and is now working with a sales pipeline of projects worth more than $100 million. Today, it is collaborating with the Solar Electric Light Fund and Haiti Tec to provide field experience for student technicians and create jobs for many of Haiti’s men as women. Implementing renewable energy methods in Haiti is significant because doing so will positively impact the nation’s economy.

Haiti continues to explore various renewable energy options available in the hopes of making a positive difference in many of its cities and regions. If Haiti optimizes these alternatives correctly, the government will bring power not just to people’s homes but to their lives as well.

– Eshaan Gandhi
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Ryan Reynolds and Blake LivelyHaiti’s present reflects its past as a French colony, when the country faced intensive slavery, natural resource exploitation and a costly independence process, among other abuses and challenges. As of 2019, almost 60% of Haiti’s population lives in poverty, experiencing problems such as a lack of access to clean water, electricity and sanitation. Moreover, the Associated Press affirms that the country has not fully recovered from the 2010 earthquake or the 2016 hurricane. The assassination of Haiti’s president Jovenel Moïse on July 7 intensified the nation’s instability at the political level. 

The 7.2 magnitude earthquake that happened on August 14, 2021, exacerbated an already difficult situation. Now, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere is even more endangered. Fortunately, the event had an effect on some celebrities including Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds, who went out of their way to help Haiti after the most recent earthquake. Although the country needs much more help to be lifted out of poverty, donations from celebrities and the general population can make a positive and meaningful impact.

The Earthquake Horror

Geological studies show that Haiti is prone to earthquakes because it sits near a boundary between two tectonic plates. Furthermore, the makeshift material used to construct most of the country’s buildings has proved to be susceptible to the violent shaking of the ground. In 2010, for example, around 100,000 buildings collapsed because of a 7.0 magnitude earthquake. The most recent event on August 14 destroyed more than 50,000 homes, killed at least 2,207 and injured more than 12,200 people. USA Today stated that “more than 3,000 humanitarian nongovernmental organizations operate in Haiti” amid an atmosphere of both sadness and hope. The country stands to benefit from different kinds of aid, including food and personal hygiene supplies. 

A Notable Donation to Haiti

Some celebrities have been pitching in and doing their part to improve Haiti’s situation. A few days after the earthquake, Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds donated a total of $40,000 to 4 humanitarian organizations assisting the population in the country. Hope for Haiti received a fourth of the amount and thanked the couple on social media. On Instagram, Hope for Haiti posted, “Our entire organization would like to thank @vancityreynolds and @blakelively for their generous donation to our #HaitiEarthquake Response & Recovery efforts.”

The organization also said, “This donation will help empower our team to continue to respond in the hardest-hit areas of southern Haiti in the days and weeks to come.” According to People, the organization stated that the money will be used to build clinics and pay for food delivery costs from World Central Kitchen. The other three organizations that received the donations are Ayiti Demen (Fokal Haiti Relief Fund), Airlink Haiti Relief and Haiti Air Ambulance Service.

The Power Couple’s Philanthropy Example

Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds have a history of philanthropy that can inspire other celebrities and the public. In 2020, the couple donated $1 million to two food banks in the U.S. and in Canada as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact. The couple donated another $1 million to the same two organizations at the beginning of 2021. The couple also pitches in to help non-emergency causes; for example, Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds gave “$250,000 USD to help launch a Canadian mentorship program for Indigenous post-secondary student” this year.

The couple’s most recent move was to help Haiti after the earthquake’s devastation. Considering their philanthropic history, it will not be the last time they give back to those who need it. Events similar to the earthquake in Haiti expose the nation’s vulnerable system and the suffering of a population that calls for broader, global help. Although it is only part of the poverty-reduction equation, the money donated by celebrities inspires the public’s action, draws attention to the cause and equips humanitarian organizations to better provide local services.

– Iasmine Oliveira

Photo: Flickr

Assistance to Haiti
On August 14, 2021, a powerful earthquake hit the Caribbean country of Haiti more than 11 years after the last devastating earthquake struck on January 12, 2010. Like its predecessor, the recent quake has brought about widespread destruction and loss in Haiti. Multiple organizations have stepped in to provide assistance to Haiti during this time of need.

Comparisons to the 2010 Earthquake

The 2010 earthquake that struck Haiti measured 7.0 on the Richter Scale, followed by multiple aftershocks. Recorded history indicates that the 18th century was the last time the country experienced such a powerful tremor. The quake exposed the weaknesses of Haitian building infrastructure due to the country’s “lack of building codes.” Haiti’s electrical power system was similarly unreliable. Estimates indicate that the 2010 catastrophe affected some 3 million people.

2021 Haiti Earthquake Facts

Measuring at 7.2 on the Richter Scale, the recent earthquake has led to the deaths of more than 2,200 Haitians. Around 12,200 people have experienced injury and hundreds of citizens are missing. Infrastructure wise, the earthquake destroyed and damaged about 132,000 homes, 20 schools and 25 medical centers. Of all the Haitian cities, the earthquake hit Jeremic and Le Cayes the hardest. According to seismologists, the earthquake epicenter was located some 78 miles west of Port-au-Prince. Experts also believe that the quake occurred along the same fault line as the region’s 2010 earthquake.

Assistance to Haiti

To date, search and rescue teams are working to locate and recover missing Haitians. Humanitarian organizations have also engaged themselves in relief efforts. One such organization, World Vision, has distributed emergency hygiene kits and food supplies to 6,000 Haitians. Across a five-year span following the 2010 catastrophe, World Vision made measurable impacts, providing millions of affected people with food supplies and hundreds of thousands with shelter, among other efforts.

Additionally, the organization built new schools and established feeding programs for the many displaced, hungry children. The severity of the recent earthquake necessitates similar aid. As such, World Vision’s next target is to provide medicine, shelters, food, water purifiers, agricultural support, child protection efforts and other forms of assistance to an additional 240,000 people.

How to Help

To ensure comprehensive aid, humanitarian groups welcome assistance to Haiti from third parties in the private sector. Organizations also encourage interested individuals and institutions to donate to their disaster relief funds. Another option for ensuring that Haiti receives aid involves sponsoring a child through these same organizations. Besides providing essential services for the child, the sponsorship also provides access to education and healthcare.

Humanitarian groups are coordinating relief efforts with partners to better assist those in need, especially in areas where essential goods and services such as food, water and electricity are in high demand. Many consider Haiti to be one of the most impoverished countries globally. The combined efforts of concerned individuals and humanitarian organizations can help promote the country’s long-term recovery from the cumulative effects of natural disasters, economic problems, the COVID-19 pandemic and widespread social unrest.

– Jared Faircloth
Photo: Flickr

Haiti-United States RelationshipIn 1804, Haiti gained its independence from France, yet it took until 1862 for the U.S. to recognize Haiti as a nation. In the 20th century, U.S. military forces began a 19-year military intervention in Haiti that lasted until 1934. Despite being the “second-oldest republic in the Western Hemisphere after the United States,” Haiti has struggled to maintain a consistent and reliable democracy, according to the Office of the Historian. The Haiti-United States relationship has significantly strengthened over time, with the United States as a regular donor to Haiti. In an already unstable nation, the recent assassination of Haitian President Moïse in July 2021 has led to further instability in the nation, prompting urgent humanitarian assistance.

Contemporary Haiti-US Economic Relations

Following the 2010 earthquake that paralyzed Haiti, the United States provided more than $5 billion worth of aid aimed at supporting “longer-term recover, reconstruction and development programs,” according to the U.S. State Department. In the aftermath of the earthquake, U.S. economic efforts have allowed for:

  • The creation of close to 14,000 job opportunities in the apparel industry for local Haitians.
  • About 70,000 farmers were able to improve their crop yields with the introduction of “improved seeds, fertilizer, irrigation and other technologies.”
  • A stronger police force that has expanded to more than 15,300 members.
  • Progress in “child nutrition and mortality, improved access to maternal healthcare and the containment of the spread of HIV/AIDS.”
  • Greater access to basic healthcare services in more than 160 health centers across Haiti.

As “Haiti’s largest trading partner,” the U.S. is involved in Haitian sectors such as “banks, airlines, oil and agribusiness companies” as well as “U.S.-owned assembly plants,” according to the U.S. State Department. Tourism, medical supplies and equipment, modernization of Haitian infrastructure and clothing production are areas of opportunity for U.S. businesses.

Despite the successes of the Haiti-United States relationship, the World Bank estimates that, in 2020, almost 60% of the Haitian population lived in poverty. These statistics make Haiti the most impoverished nation in the Latin America and Caribbean region.

Political Unrest in Haiti

A shift from communism to democracy in Haiti has the ability to strengthen the Haiti-United States relationship and provide economic stability. Political and civil unrest has been ongoing since July 2018 and “violent protests” in the nation exacerbate Haiti’s plethora of issues. Among other issues, a growing unemployment rate, inflation rising to 20% and the Haitian currency depreciating by 30%, contribute to an ailing nation. Furthermore, the nation experiences regular fuel shortages and businesses struggle to keep their doors open. Due to the high poverty rate, about 33% of the population faces “crisis- or emergency-level food insecurity.”

While Haiti showed signs of promise when it held a democratic presidential election in 2017,  its “local and parliamentary elections” that were scheduled for October 2019 did not occur. Because democracy in Haiti is not consistent, this leads to nationwide instability and unrest.

The Assassination of President Jovenel Moïse

On July 7, 2021, Haitian President Jovenel Moïse and his wife, Martine, were attacked in their residence in the country’s capital, Port-au-Prince. The president was killed in the attack and his wife was severely injured but did not suffer any fatal wounds.

Moïse’s presidency, which began in February 2017 after winning an annulled 2015 election and a second election in 2016, “was marked by controversy.” His appointment sparked protests throughout the country, with citizens citing “economic underperformance and corruption” as the reason. Since the beginning of 2020, Moïse ruled by decree and allegedly attempted to grant himself and close confidants “immunity from prosecution” on several occasions. In 2020, human rights abuses connected to gang violence caused two members of Moïse’s government to be sanctioned by the U.S. government.

US Solidarity and Support

U.S. President Joe Biden has spoken on the future of the Haiti-United States relationship following Moïse’s assassination. Recently, Biden released a statement of mourning over Moïse’s assassination and uncertainty about the future of Haiti. “We condemn this heinous act and I am sending my sincere wishes for First Lady Moïse’s recovery. The United States offers condolences to the people of Haiti and we stand ready to assist as we continue to work for a safe and secure Haiti,” says Biden.

The instability in the aftermath of Moïse’s assassination leaves the future of the Haiti-United States relationship in question. However, by committing to democracy, the Haitian government can work toward a stronger economic partnership between the two nations.

International Aid to Haiti

UNICEF is working to provide aid to more than 1.5 million Haitian people experiencing “constrained access to clean water, health and nutrition, disrupted education and protection services” amid the political instability and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In July 2021, UNICEF reported that “Haiti is the only country in the Western Hemisphere where not a single dose of the COVID-19 vaccine has been received.”

To address this, “UNICEF will support the distribution, transportation and storage of COVID-19 vaccines” to improve the vaccine rollout. Starting three years ago, UNICEF has provided 920 solar-operated fridges in Haiti, “to strengthen the cold chain, mainly in remote areas where electricity is unreliable.” Today, 96% of Haiti’s health centers possess solar fridges for medicinal cold storage.

By mitigating Haiti’s domestic hardships, there is greater hope for a stronger Haiti-United States relationship in the future. The efforts of global humanitarian organizations provide a glimmer of hope in a tumultuous political landscape.

– Jessica Umbro
Photo: Flickr

Haiti's most important SDGsThe 2020 Human Development Index ranked Haiti 170th out of 189 countries. Between the devastating earthquake in 2010, Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and the current COVID-19 pandemic, Haiti struggles to make lasting improvements. To combat its history of extreme poverty, Haiti adopted the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030. This article will break down everything you need to know about poverty in Haiti through the lens of some of Haiti’s most important SDGs.

SDG 1: No Poverty

Haiti is the most impoverished nation in the Western Hemisphere.

  • The Issue: As much as 60% of the population (equating to more than six million people) lives below the poverty line in Haiti. Even more concerning, nearly 2.5 million of Haitians live below the extreme poverty line of $1.23 per day.
  • The Progress: Haiti has taken small steps toward poverty reduction. The number of citizens living in extreme poverty in Haiti decreased by 7% between 2000 and 2012. However, natural disasters and other crises continue to undermine this progress.

SDG 2: Zero Hunger

Haiti suffers from one of the highest levels of food insecurity in the world.

  • The Issue: At least 44% of Haitians (more than four million people) need immediate food assistance, 1.2 million suffer from extreme hunger and 22% of children live with chronic malnutrition, making this one of Haiti’s most important SDGs.
  • The Progress: The World Food Programme (WFP) works to “build sustainable systems to address the root causes of food insecurity and promote resiliency.” In the last academic year, the WFP’s school feeding program provided daily hot meals for about 300,000 children at 1,000 different public schools. In 2016, Haiti signed its first national school feeding policy, requiring schools to make nutritious foods available for their students.

SDG 3: Good Health and Well-being

The life expectancy in Haiti is staggering low and far behind the rest of the world at only 63 years old.

  • The Issue: For every 100,000 live births, nearly 500 mothers die during childbirth. For every 1,000 live births, 62.8 children are expected to die before reaching the age of 5. In 2016, about 150,000 Haitians were living with HIV.
  • The Progress: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) opened an office in Haiti in 2002. The CDC’s impact in Haiti increased HIV testing to 98% for all pregnant women who visited health facilities. Haiti now boasts one of the highest tuberculosis treatment success rates in Latin America and the Caribbean at 82%. Additionally, the Haiti Animal Surveillance Program decreased the likelihood of dying from rabies by 60%.

SDG 4: Quality Education

The average Haitian 25 years or older has completed less than five years of school.

  • The Issue: Illiteracy plagues nearly 40% of the adult population. Approximately 75% of teachers do not have any training or credentials. Most Haitian children spend less than four years in school and 35% of them never learn to read.
  • The Progress: Between 1993 and 2011, the net enrollment rate rose from 47% to 88%. The United States Agency for International Development has spearheaded several academic initiatives to combat poverty in Haiti with the goal of providing internationally-approved reading curricula to 28,000 children and 900 teachers.

SDG 5: Gender Equality

Women face inequality every day in social, political and economic spheres.

  • The Issue: Gender-based violence (GBV) rates are extremely high in Haiti. At least one in three women between the ages of 15 and 49 has experienced physical and/or sexual violence. Rape only recently became a punishable offense in 2005, however, spousal rape is still not recognized as a crime.
  • The Progress: USAID seeks to increase female empowerment through economic opportunities. Some 53% of the 27,000 jobs created through USAID programs benefited women. Women also receive about 43% of Homeownership and Mortgage Expansion Program housing loans. In 2019, USAID announced its Building Enduring Systems To End Trafficking in Persons project, which intends to create a GBV-free Haitian society.

SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation

Poor water and sanitation are the root causes of neglected tropical disease outbreaks.

  • The Issue: Only 65% of Haiti’s population can access clean water. Furthermore, only 35% of the population has access to basic sanitation.
  • The Progress: Sanitation improvements have eliminated cholera in Haiti, with no new cases since February 2019. By 2022, USAID plans to provide basic sanitation to 75,000 Haitians and clean water access to 250,000 people.

SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities

Poverty in Haiti is not evenly distributed. Haiti suffers some of the greatest wealth disparities in Latin America.

  • The Issue: Between 2000 and 2012, extreme poverty in Haiti decreased from 31% to 24% in cities and urban areas, however, there was no change in rural areas. More than 64% of the total wealth is held by the wealthiest 20% of the population, while the most impoverished 20% struggle to hold 1%.
  • The Progress: Major challenges still remain for Haiti. However, the wealth gap is slowly closing. Haiti’s Gini coefficient (a standard measure of economic inequality) decreased by almost 20 points between 2015 and 2017.

SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities

Haiti ranks fourth among the countries most affected by extreme weather events.

  • The Issue: In the last 20 years, Haiti lost 17.5% of its GDP annually due to natural disasters, making sustainable cities and communities one of Haiti’s most important SDGs.
  • The Progress: The recurring natural disasters in Haiti further exacerbate the economic and political struggles and disparities. To create a more resilient nation, Haiti adopted the National Risk and Disaster Management Plan 2019-2030. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the start of several projects.

Looking Ahead

Haiti has undoubtedly experienced more success in some areas than others. The nation must overcome major challenges to meet Haiti’s most important SDGs by 2030. Although the country still has a long way to go, Haiti is making significant progress for a nation plagued by natural disasters, uncertainty and instability.

– Ella LeRoy
Photo: Flickr

clean cooking initiativesFor most people, their day starts with tea or coffee followed by a light breakfast, available with minimum effort. For those less fortunate, this simple morning routine requires hours of backbreaking labor. Solid cooking fuels like wood and coal are necessities in much of the world, but in addition to contributing to climate change, they perpetuate poverty. This is partly because those who depend on this type of energy risk health problems from Household Air Pollution (HAP) and partly because solid cooking fuels can be labor-intensive to acquire and use. Over the past two decades, an overwhelming body of research has cited clean cooking as a primary target for policy reform. It furthers all eight of the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals and five of its Sustainability Development Goals. Several exemplary clean cooking initiatives are making a difference today.

More Access to Energy, Less Poverty

Several studies attempt to quantify the damage caused by solid fuel. Lost productivity resulting from resource collection prevents an estimated 2.6 billion people from escaping poverty, disproportionately affecting women. Children’s school attendance also decreases when they must spend large amounts of time gathering fuel, hampering their education. People’s health also suffers from solid fuel. Indoor pollution from dirty energy — six times deadlier than outdoor — creates an estimated $10.6 billion in healthcare costs yearly in rural China alone. Not to mention, HAP reduces lifespans in affected populations by 20 years. It causes between 1.6 and four million premature deaths annually, second only to unsafe water in deaths caused. “Dirty” cooking fuels also produce an estimated 2% of carbon emissions, roughly equivalent to the pollution from all global air travel.

Clean Energy and Poverty Reduction

A widely cited 2004 paper argued that clean cooking protocols had high potential for poverty reduction and encouraged the creation of federal and intergovernmental agencies to manage a 10- to 15-year plan to implement them. Nonetheless, 15 years later, a Draft Energy Policy commissioned by the Indian government concluded that “clean cooking fuel has been the biggest casualty of lack of coordination between different energy Ministries.

“Not only India but also the international community has failed to leverage a low-cost opportunity with enormous benefits. The global cost of clean fuels for those lacking them totals only $50 billion per year or roughly 0.2% of a developed nation’s GDP. Diverse clean cooking initiatives at all levels are not only essential to poverty reduction, they are achievable.

Clean Cooking in Haiti

World Central Kitchen (WCK) originated during relief efforts following the devastating 2010 Haiti earthquake and continues providing meals to vulnerable populations. Most recently, Founder and Chef José Andrés closed several restaurants to feed low-income people during the pandemic. But WCK has evolved beyond catastrophe response to become a global leader in culinary activism, including clean cooking.

Following the initial work in Haiti, the organization created the #HaitiBreathes campaign to improve school lunch programs. Observing that “children who eat during the day do better in school,” the campaign has helped 140 schools convert their kitchens to use liquid propane, benefitting 65,000 students and school cooks. Preventing child labor associated with solid fuels is fundamental to poverty reduction. The campaign’s culinary education component and infrastructure upgrades also offer long-term socioeconomic and health benefits by improving sanitation and food safety.

Clean Cooking in Kenya

An estimated 15,700 premature deaths per year in Kenya are attributable to HAP. These deaths are preventable as 75% of households know of clean cooking subsidies and programs, yet 70% remain unable to buy a clean cookstove because of the high prices. Of those who make the relatively expensive upgrade, 60% say the fuel cost for their preferred cookstove is too high, and they are forced to endure the enormous health and productivity effects of purportedly “cheaper” alternatives.

In conjunction with the Clean Cookstove Association of Kenya, native chef and Clean Cooking Alliance Ambassador Susan Kamau educates underserved communities on solid fuel issues. The #CookCleanForKenya program transitions individuals to sustainable fuels; its Facebook page details success stories and explains the nefarious consequences of open fire cooking. By marketing innovative products like the Cookswell Energy Efficient Charcoal Oven, the initiative connects consumers to various clean cooking options. Local figures like Kamau understand local impediments better than a foreign NGO does, making partnerships like this one especially effective.

Clean Cooking in Cambodia

Twenty percent of Cambodians live in poverty, and for them, alternatives to solid fuel are unattainable. People rely mainly on wood for fuel, causing a decline in forest cover from 73% in 1965 to 59% in 2006. Low-cost and temporary clean cooking options are the best way to create meaningful change. One study found that simply introducing flues, though it did not decrease carbon emissions, caused a 75% reduction in negative HAP health outcomes.

The Neang Kongrey Cookstove Initiative produces high-efficiency stoves that cost only $1.50 and reduce fuel consumption by 60%. This female-staffed company enables clean cooking at a grassroots level while also promoting sustainable economic growth. It makes up a mere 5% of the national cookstove market, but the project represents a 700,000-ton decrease in harvested wood and a 500,000-ton decrease in carbon emissions yearly. Although financed through international agencies, this dynamic business creates local change.

Clean cooking initiatives like those led by the WCK in Haiti, the Clean Cookstove Association of Kenya and the Neang Kongrey Cookstove Initiative in Cambodia are vital to creating clean energy, aiding low-income families and making progress in alleviating global poverty. With continued efforts from nonprofits and individuals alike, the international community takes one step toward reducing global poverty through clean cooking initiatives.

– Kit Krajeski
Photo: Flickr

impact of covid-19 on poverty in haitiIn 1804, Haiti officially declared its independence from France following the Haitian Rebellion. Similar to the United States, the legacy of colonization and slavery continues to affect the country. Haiti is one of the countries in the Western Hemisphere with the highest poverty rates, ranking 168 out of 187 on the 2014 Human Development Index. Although the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Haiti has taken a backseat to the current political unrest, it has set the island’s economic development back years. However, foreign aid from both the United States and other countries has been helping get Haiti back on its feet.

Residual Struggles from the Earthquake

In 2010, Haiti experienced a massive earthquake that left many without homes or income. The earthquake cost many lives and also hit farmers hard. Massive aftershocks that still exacerbate the island’s financial woes arrived after the earthquake. In order to move forward, Haiti relied on donations and volunteer work from other countries. However, a large portion of the billions donated disappeared due to corruption, and as the world’s attention shifted elsewhere, people once again forgot Haiti.

COVID-19’s Economic Impact on Haiti

Following the setbacks of the massive 2010 earthquake, the island began to make slow strides toward improvement. Between 2000 and 2012, extreme poverty declined from 31% to 24%. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Haiti is once again seeing increasing rates of extreme poverty. The country has also begun to see a high number of COVID-19 cases that are “threatening to overwhelm Haiti’s fragile health care system.”

Though reported COVID-19 cases in Haiti are increasing, the overall number remains comparatively low. The recent increase was due largely to increased access to COVID-19 testing. However, as cases begin to spike, Haiti lacks the financial ability to buy COVID-19 vaccines, instead relying on donations from other countries and the World Bank.

COVID-19’s Political Impact on Haiti

As Haiti continues to battle COVID-19, it is also in the midst of political unrest that the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse caused. For many, COVID-19’s impact on poverty in Haiti is a low priority because of more pressing issues such as kidnappings, political turmoil and natural disasters.

Public Awareness and Health Needs

Following the assassination of President Jovenel Moise, the country is on the verge of a public health emergency. The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Haiti has lost its place as a top priority due to the country’s current political turmoil. The fear of war, famine, corruption and outside interference has left the country at a standstill. However, in July 2021, U.S. President Joe Biden donated 500,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine to Haiti. According to Dr. Jacqueline Gautier, a member of the national technical advisory group on COVID-19 vaccination, “Because COVID-19 did not impact us badly, people don’t think it is worth it actually.” This came after fears of vaccine side effects from AstraZeneca spread throughout the island.

Haiti’s economic advancement and wellbeing rely on the generosity of other countries. According to some scholars, France should be a key player in aid to the country since it has exploited Haiti the most.

Another pressing issue is the lack of vaccine promotion in the country. The disconnect between the public and health officials has contributed to the lack of awareness and understanding of the virus and the vaccine. As the Haitian government continues to try and prevent the country from dropping further into unrest, it will be extremely important for the government to educate its citizens on how important COVID-19 awareness is.

Under the leadership of former Haitian president Jovenel Moise, government reform and reshaping government affairs played a key role in combatting the COVID-19 crisis. Unfortunately, President Moise’s death has placed Haiti’s progression to a halt. It is now up to the international community to unite and extend care to Haiti. With vaccine donations coming in from major powers such as the United States and China, Haiti still has a chance to see its vaccination rate improve while also getting the COVID-19 crisis under control.

Jordyn Gilliard
Photo: Unsplash

Urbanization and Economic Growth
Even though historians often believe that urbanization and economic growth have a close connection, many people in developing countries are moving into crowded cities while still living in poverty. Stronger infrastructure in such cities could help decrease poverty rates.

Cities Grow But Retain High Poverty Rates

Over the last few decades, the populations of many developing countries have shifted from overwhelmingly rural to increasingly urban. For example, the population of Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), has grown from 450,000 in 1940 to around 12 million in 2018. Similarly, Lagos, the capital of Nigeria, grew from 200,000 to nearly 20 million in just two generations. According to Forbes economist Daniel Runde, around 96% of all urbanization will occur in the developing world by the year 2030.

However, rapid urbanization in developing countries has not seemed to promote economic growth. According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), sub-Saharan Africa currently suffers from negative per-capita income growth. As of 2014, approximately 55% of the sub-Saharan African urban population lived in slums, which the CSIS defines as informally constructed residences disconnected from city infrastructure and ill-prepared to face natural disasters.

Urbanization Used to Be a Sign of Wealth

Until recently, urbanization and economic growth have had a strong correlation. As the Roman Empire expanded in power and influence, its capital expanded in population accordingly. More recently, New York City welcomed its millionth resident in 1875, shortly after the industrial revolution had brought massive productivity to the surrounding farmland. In these cases, people moved to the city because they no longer needed to rely on subsistence farming to put food on the table. Those who stayed on the farms could transport their surplus crops to the cities, and those who moved to the cities used their newfound wealth to contribute to public utilities such as roads, sewage and fire departments.

Nowadays, due to the global economy and relative ease of long-distance transportation, people in developing countries do not necessarily see subsistence farming as the default. As a result, many are moving to these emerging megacities without the wealth to immediately benefit their communities. Cities such as Kinshasa in the DRC and Port-au-Prince in Haiti are now struggling with increased disease and crime, and many governments are not financially or logistically prepared to provide resources for all their residents. In these cases, the connection between urbanization and economic growth appears to have reversed.

Infrastructure Increases Urban Quality of Life

Even though many growing cities in the developing world are not attaining immediate prosperity, the mere presence of so many people in a concentrated area could soon result in economic growth and increased quality of life. Historically populous cities may have initially grown due to a baseline of wealth from nearby farmland, but the influx of people caused massive improvement in infrastructure, employment and professional cooperation. Presumably, the same could happen in the developing cities of the present.

The key factors holding back cities such as Kinshasa and Port-au-Prince from development are negative externalities such as disease, crime and famine, which typically result from poor infrastructure and government corruption. Notably, neither of those cities has a functional sewer system, and both have seen massive cholera outbreaks as a result.

Due to high poverty levels in both cities since their initial growth, public infrastructure may be more difficult to develop than it was in New York or London. However, even those cities’ development experienced stunting at times due to unsanitary conditions. For example, in London in 1854, 125 people died of cholera after drinking from a single contaminated well. Due to adequate public funding and stable institutions, the British government was able to mitigate this problem and make London a safer and more prosperous city.

Perhaps with some help and reform, the same could happen in Kinshasa, Port-au-Prince, Lagos and the rest. Investment in infrastructure projects in these cities could help create economic opportunities for their development and make urbanization and economic growth synonymous once again.

Sawyer Lachance
Photo: Flickr