World Hope International
World Hope International (WHI) is a Christian charity organization working to alleviate poverty by protecting communities. The organization began in 1996 in Virginia and has the core values of opportunity, hope and dignity. By 2019, WHI’s projects spanned 21 countries, awarded 1,835 child sponsorships and provided safe drinking water to 11,841 people.

World Hope International began focusing on COVID-19 related projects in February 2020 through the rehabilitation of wells in Liberia and the Enable the Children program in Sierra Leone. The Enable the Children (ETC) program gives therapy to children with disabilities and provides food for their families. On October 16, 2020, The Borgen Project spoke with Heather Hill, the Director of Communications and Marketing at WHI, about child sponsorships and aspects of the organization’s COVID-19 response.

Child Sponsorship Program

WHI funds an education-based child sponsorship program where people donate $35 a month to help the education of one child in need. During COVID-19, Hill noticed that the child sponsorship levels decreased. He told The Borgen Project that “We launched this campaign and we really talked about sponsorships.” As a result, the last months of 2020 picked up 200 new sponsorships. On top of this campaign, Hill explained how WHI’s partner, Wesleyan Church, launched “the initiative to try and get 1,000 children sponsored in the next few months with us.”

WHI’s COVID-19 Response in Haiti

World Hope International supports the La Gonave Wesleyan Hospital in Haiti. With the help of the Wesleyan church and private donors, the hospital received nearly $4 million worth of basic medical supplies in 2019. Founded over 50 years ago, the hospital still helps approximately 120,000 people in or near La Gonave. WHI’s current project asks for donations equating to $30,000 to transport approximately $2 million worth of medical materials to the location.

Another WHI project in La Gonave is the LB-20,000 water container that underwent installation in February 2019. This container produces approximately 20,000 gallons of clean water every day through solar-powered water farming techniques. The program was a collaboration between WHI, the GivePower Foundation and the West Indies Self Help (WISH) Organization to create clean water for the island. This collaboration continues to provide a clean water source for the entire island.

Other WHI Projects

WHI also helped create a new platform called the Get Support helpline. This platform allows communities to submit requests for various forms of relief during the quarantine period. It launched in late March 2020 and helps organizations connect with communities to better provide them with COVID-19 relief. This program allows people from quarantined communities to request relief packages, such as food or childcare. Volunteer organizations then respond to these requests.

One of WHI’s most important COVID-19 related projects focuses directly on rehabilitating the wells in Liberia. Pandemic restrictions placed numerous cross-country border and curfew challenges on drilling wells in the country. But, the team overcame these challenges by rehabilitating 15 wells instead of drilling new wells. After completing this goal marker by June 2020, WHI promptly set another 15-well marker to provide clean water for Liberians. These citizens would otherwise have to walk tens or hundreds of miles to find clean water.

Despite the COVID-19 disaster, World Hope International has not forgotten about its other ongoing projects. For example, the Strengthening Families and Communities program considers new ways to give Albanian children a place to pursue their interest in education while complying with pandemic restrictions.

True to its Goals

World Hope International is incorporating a variety of global projects to help communities survive the impact of COVID-19. Across the world, WHI’s projects have supported hospitals, rehabilitated wells and prepared a COVID-19 response. WHI’s projects have stayed true to their goals from the past to the present.

– Evan Winslow
Photo: Flickr

5 Things to Know about Feed the Children and Their Work in Haiti
For the last 40 years, Feed the Children has been working toward a hunger-free world by providing resources to those who lack basic necessities. In 2020, Feed the Children has created a substantial impact worldwide and reached countless children and families in need. Most notably, Feed the Children is making a difference in Haiti.

Feed the Children’s Goals

Feed the Children works in Guatemala, Honduras, Haiti, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Philippines, Uganda, Kenya, Malawi and Tanzania to reduce hunger and bolster education. The specific approach in each country varies slightly based on the overwhelming needs of the area. However, the dedication to alleviating food insecurity and teaching self-reliance remains a priority in every community. These impoverished areas desperately need assistance to help build better communities for their children. Feed the Children hopes that its efforts will yield the following four results:

  • Properly nourish children by age 5.
  • Provide all children with clean water, proper sanitation and hygiene resources.
  • Enable all children to receive a high-quality education.
  • Cultivate financially stable families that contribute to their communities.

Successfully Reached over 1.6 Million People

The organization displays its impressive impact in its 2019 Annual Report and shares its Strategic Plan for 2019-2023. While the organization works both in the United States and internationally, its combined impact accounts for 6.3 million people worldwide. In its 10 countries of focus, it has reached 1.6 million people and distributed over 9.4 million pounds of food and essential items; the value of these items total over $31 million. The organization gave school supplies and books to 17,821 international students. Moreover, 228,450 school children now benefit from regular, nutritious meals at school. In its Strategic Plan for 2019-2023, Feed the Children plans on implementing many new initiatives to create an even larger impact in the future. Here are some of its most prominent strategic visions:

  • Expanding its emphasis on child-focused programming to 10% of total resources.
  • Reducing chronic and acute undernutrition in impoverished communities to only 12%.
  • Increasing the percentage of food donations by 8%.
  • Gaining 36% more corporate partners to contribute toward product and service donations, financial gifts and promoting shared values.
  • Increasing overall revenue by 21%.

Intervention in Haitian Natural Disasters

Haiti is both the most impoverished and least developed country in the western hemisphere. The country’s literacy rate is only 61%, which is significantly below the 90% literacy rates among most Latin American and Caribbean countries. Its education expenditures account for only 2.4% of the GDP; these numbers make it apparent that the Haitian commitment to education is staggeringly low. The economy struggles from political instability, natural disasters, disease and mismanagement of humanitarian relief. Frequent hurricanes contribute to the high rates of damage and death seen in Haiti. In 2017, Haiti only collected 10% of its GDP for tourism. This is significantly low compared to its past percentages and the Caribbean states’ average of 15%. These startling statistics caught the attention of Feed the Children and inspired them to extend aid to this struggling nation.

Community Development Programs and Peer-to-Peer Care Groups

The Child-Focused Community Development (CFCD) programs have been making a difference in Haiti through their implementation into 12 different communities. This program teaches children and their families how to prevent malnutrition and reduce poverty through food and nutrition, health and water, education and lifestyle. This training is extremely pertinent to the members of these Haitian communities, as many children suffer from malnutrition. At least 17% of babies are born with low birth weights and 22% of children have stunted growth. Feed the Children hopes that this community development program will save many children from the harmful effects of malnutrition. Through an emphasis on low-cost sanitation initiatives that possess high impact results, families can learn how to address health issues more quickly and prevent disastrous health outcomes.

Additionally, Feed the Children has incorporated peer-to-peer Care Groups in Haitian communities. These groups meet to help educate mothers of young children about nutrition and health. With the ultimate goal of raising healthy children, the peer-to-peer Care Groups teach mothers how to utilize nutritious foods and how to prevent water-borne illnesses through safe cooking.

Positive Results

Not only has Feed the Children been able to give its 12 targeted Haitian communities more food and basic resources, but it also equipped them with the tools they need to build more self-sustaining societies. From the peer-to-peer Care Groups alone, over 1,600 women received training as caregivers who are equipped with extended knowledge on nutrition and safe health practices for their children. Feed the Children also incentivized families to keep their children in school by offering a hot meal three times per week at school. For many families, this school food serves as the only guaranteed meal a child would consume in a day. Therefore, providing these meals for school children both helps keep them from malnourishment and encourages consistent school attendance.

Feed the Children is a great example of an organization that has been making a difference in Haiti and yielding substantial results in the fight against global poverty. With various initiatives spanning 10 nations, countless numbers of vulnerable children and families are learning about how to implement healthy food, water and hygiene habits into their daily lives. Food insecurity and lack of education are huge contributors to poverty; Feed the Children recognizes this and strategically approaches malnutrition and education in a way that cultivates improvements in the lives of the poor.

– Hope Shourd
Photo: Flickr

Accessible education in HaitiToday, about 10% of the Haitian population struggles with one or more disabilities. This prevents them from receiving a proper education. Out of the 120,000 children in Haiti, only 3% of Haitian children have access to basic education. This is compounded by the fact that people are still struggling to rebuild their lives after Hurricane Matthew demolished most of Haiti’s infrastructure. There is hope, however, as USAID continues to offer support through developmental research. USAID also provides support for new programs dedicated to providing accessible education to Haiti.

Struggles in Haiti

Haitian people continue to suffer from the impacts of the many natural disasters that hit the nation. The country is in a constant state of development due to the frequency of natural disasters. Its location in the Caribbean makes Haiti a hotspot for flooding, earthquakes and hurricanes. Accessibility to education is seemingly unattainable for the Haitian population. This is due to the lack of funding to rebuild schools that lay in ruins. Furthermore, natural disasters increase the risk of cognitive and behavioral disabilities in those who survive, due to the trauma.

Children are the most at risk of developing disabilities due to the physically and mentally destructive effects of countless hurricanes. Between 1998 and 2018 Haiti experienced 10 hurricanes and other tropical storms. The countless calamities and damage often result in mental disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). People with disabilities struggle to receive accessible education in Haiti as well as societal acceptance within their own communities. Additionally, studies show that for every 10,000 employees, four people have disabilities.

USAID’s PEER Program

USAID is working to bring more awareness to this issue in order to help provide more inclusive, quality education for children with disabilities. With the creation of Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research (PEER) in 2011, USAID has been able to offer more support for approaching the issue. About $50 million has already gone toward the funding of more than 250 projects in more than 50 countries to re-evaluate the exclusivities of social ecosystems globally.

The PEER program partnered with the Initiative Group for the Study of Cognition, Language, Learning and Disorders (GIECLAT) to conduct a large-scale survey of the needs of students with disabilities in southern Haiti, areas gravely impacted by Hurricane Matthew. This effort also included the support of Haiti’s Ministry of Education through the Commission for School Adaptation and Social Support (CASAS), an organization led by disabled youth and other integral bodies.

The study indicates that learning disabilities and social and emotional difficulties are prevalent in schools. In several public schools surveyed, more than 50% of the learners displayed a form of a disability yet many of the educators reported no students with disabilities. Despite these findings on disabilities, few teachers received training on inclusive education and support services were lacking. The locally-led research project helped alter perceptions and spark change.

The Impact

USAID provided assistance to improve teacher-student dynamics. For the first time, Southern Haiti now has comprehensive information on learners with disabilities and their needs. Using this data, programs are underway to provide extensive training for inclusive education to teachers and principals.

Haiti’s Ministry of Education is also excited about the project. The research team published a book of the findings and recommendations for inclusive educational reforms. The PEER program is also helping to train professors and university students in inclusive education. Now, schools are adopting more inclusive pedagogies in order to provide accessible education.

Today, USAID has reformed almost 20 primary schools in Haiti to accommodate those with various learning disabilities. USAID provided disability awareness training to more than 660 teachers and principals. More than 62,000 community members also participated in disability awareness initiatives. As a result of these efforts, Haiti is beginning to see a brighter future of accessible education for all.

Caroline Kratz
Photo: Flickr

Elderly Poverty in HaitiIn 2020, the average life expectancy worldwide was 72 years; in Haiti, it was 64 years. The majority of the 500,000 Haitians over age 60 are economically dependent and nearly 80% of the population is forced to survive on less than $2 a day. Haiti is the most impoverished country in the Western Hemisphere and the older generation is not immune to this crisis. Elderly poverty in Haiti is an imperative issue in need of increased advocacy and aid.

Natural Disaster Created Major Need

The devastating earthquake of 2010 demolished Port-au-Prince, which led to about 250,000 deaths and more than 1.5 million displacements. In the aftermath of the disaster, many elderly Haitians went without shelter, proper clothing and sanitation. Age is the main factor contributing to the immense vulnerability of this population after a disaster. Often, the young and healthy receive vital aid during catastrophes rather than the elderly. As a result, the lack of food and water has hit Haitian elders exceptionally hard.

Water can come with a hefty price tag that some cannot afford. Unfortunately, Haitians living in poverty often walk for miles to streams or ponds to obtain water. If that fails, people sometimes resort to “garbage-filled rivers” to supply their households with water for daily use. This can be an impossible task for an elderly Haitian struggling with mobility. The task of accessing clean water is even more of a challenge for those living in Haiti’s countryside. A majority of Haitians live in rural areas and almost 70% are deemed “chronically poor” in comparison to only about 20% living in urban areas.

Elderly Poverty in Haiti During COVID-19

In the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to remember all groups need assistance. Different segments of society often receive help unequally. Those left behind in terms of aid tend to be the impoverished elderly, many of whom do not have the resources to help protect themselves. An October 2020 assessment found that 98% of older adult Haitians did not know the location of the nearest COVID-19 testing site or treatment facility. Soap and basic sanitary needs are now luxuries. Additionally, almost 90% reported having less than two days’ worth of food at home. Further, nearly half say the consequences of COVID-19 are impacting their mental health and worry plagues them most, if not all of the time. The pandemic has worsened the situation of elderly poverty in Haiti amid recovery from the 2010 earthquake.

Aid for the Elderly

Nonprofits and NGOs are stepping up to aid the elderly in Haiti. One nonprofit committed to solving this need is Mission-Haiti, founded in 2005. Within its first year, the organization was able to build the Mission-Haiti Orphanage. The organization then furthered its efforts by opening the SAM Home for the Elderly, a Haitian-led elderly care program. The SAM Home for the Elderly provides elders in need with a safe place to live, access to medical care and three meals a day. Mission-Haiti also began an Advocates for Elders program, which allows anyone to sponsor an elderly Haitian in need for $35 a month.

Increased housing is one of many solutions to ending elderly poverty in Haiti. The World Bank’s projects in Haiti provide an array of other types of aid, including sanitation and water. One of the World Bank’s water projects has seen major success. In its efforts to build, extend and improve drinking water supply systems, more than 70,000 Haitians in rural areas now have better access to clean drinking water.

In response to COVID-19, the World Bank collaborated with UNICEF and OREPA to set up more than 2,100 hand-washing stations. The organization has also helped to build 50 sanitation blocks in various public schools and markets, helping 26,000 people gain access to sanitation facilities. In the first three months of the pandemic, health care facilities received protective equipment, including 3.5 million masks. Additionally, around 750 oxygen concentrators were installed to aid in treatments for COVID-19 patients. The World Bank has also established awareness campaigns on the importance of good hygiene practices and regular hand-washing to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Looking to the Future

The extensive list of adversities that elderly Haitians face will continue to require resilience. However, ongoing activism can eradicate elderly poverty in Haiti. But, in order to achieve this, efforts must be inclusive of all. Increased efforts to end elderly poverty in Haiti will allow the country’s life expectancy to continue its upward trend.

Sarah Ottosen
Photo: Flickr

Child poverty in Haiti
Haiti, a small country that borders the Dominican Republic on the Hispaniola island, suffers greatly from poverty. Natural disasters, systemic inequality and diminishing economic opportunities create a dire state of extreme poverty. Specifically, child poverty in Haiti is the major poverty crisis.

More than half of Haiti’s 11.2 million population live on less than $3 a day, and malnutrition affects 65,000 children under 5 years old. Many children under 14 — more than a third of Haiti’s population — do not have ready access to health care, clean water, food security or the right to fair and decent work. The question stands: What does child poverty in Haiti look like today, and what obstacles persist in ending it?

It is easy to forget that statistics reflect the experience of real, living people. Please keep this in mind. Considering this, here are five facts about child poverty in Haiti.

The Statistical Perspective

  1.  Malnutrition: Caloric and nutritive malnutrition affect nearly a third of children in Haiti. Out of every five children, one child is malnourished and one out of 10 is acutely malnourished. Before the age of five, one child out of 14 will die. Those who live deal with the effects of inadequate food supplies. Poor access to vital nutrients means that children are subject to poor health, growth and development.
  2. Education: Despite Haiti’s free publication education, only half of the elementary-aged children are enrolled in school. Millions of disadvantaged parents have very few with little resources to secure education for their children. This is a result of Haiti privatizing 92% of schools.
  3.  Labor and Human Trafficking: Nearly half a million children are orphans in Haiti. A significant proportion of these “lost” children experience exploitation for labor in dangerous conditions. “Host households” take in children whose families cannot provide for them. Many of these children — known colloquially as “restaveks” — end up as victims of human trafficking.
  4.  Health Care: Adequate health care is hard to come by in Haiti. Child immunization has stagnated at 41%. The proportion of children who die before their first birthday has risen by 2% in the last year – from 57% to 59%. HIV, tuberculosis and a variety of other chronic, crippling diseases ail an estimated 20,000 children in Haiti, and treatment is increasingly difficult to obtain.

COVID-19

Haiti is particularly prone to natural disasters, in large part due to its geographical situation in Bermuda. A magnitude 7.0 earthquake ravaged the island of Hispaniola in 2010. A slew of tropical storms, hurricanes and additional earthquakes further compromised Haiti. Nearly 10 years later, Haiti still struggles with recovering from its 2010 earthquake and hurricane Matthew alongside dealing with recent social unrest and COVID-19.

Humanitarian aid efforts are nearing an all-time high for the country, but the efficacy of these programs and endeavors has been questioned. The threats of COVID-19 are not the only ones Haiti must face. The future is increasingly uncertain for millions of Haitians and their children, due to equipment shortages, lack of qualified health care professionals and a worsening economic climate.

Solutions

UNICEF has been implementing relief efforts to provide aid in the aftermath of earthquakes. Additionally, it has helped improve sanitation, nutrition and health care for children. However, if one would like to aid Haiti themselves, for free, they can create momentum on social media to raise awareness about the dire situation in Haiti. A number of ways exist to combat child poverty in Haiti; it just takes action.

Henry Comes-Pritchett
Photo: Flickr

Valliwide Organic Farms, Using Fresh Fruit to Fight PovertyValliwide Organic Farms is a California-based company focused on organic farming and produce. While it sells succulent mandarines, plums, nectarines and oranges, its vision is one of a bigger, more helpful mission: fighting extreme poverty. By partnering with When I Grow Up, a charity focused on addressing childhood poverty, Valliwide Organic Farms uses the profits of fresh fruit to fight poverty.

The Valliwide Organic Farms

Tod and Traci Parkinson have owned Valliwide since 1992, first as a produce marketing company. In 2010, they purchased their own organic farm as agricultural demand shifted in that direction. However, before their venture into organic farming and produce, the couple felt the pull to help others. They invested in a charity called When I Grow Up, and in 2010 when they bought their farm, the couple dedicated large portions of their profits to the charity. Valliwide was committed to using fresh fruit to fight poverty.

To provide futures for the next generation, Valliwide Organic Farms’ partnership with When I Grow Up seeks to create opportunities for those in disadvantaged communities. The founders’ motivation to grow matches their motivation to give back.

When I Grow Up’s Partnerships

When I Grow Up began in 2006 when, after a visit to a slum in Nairobi, Kenya, a group of U.S. citizens decided they needed to do something to help the thousands of children struggling with disease and a lack of resources. The newly-formed charitable group partnered with local Indigenous leaders who knew how to best manage and allocate the help provided. As its name suggests, this charity focuses on providing children with the means to create a brighter future.

The charity’s work in Nairobi has been in coordination with the Faruha Community Foundation (FCP), an organization working to provide an education to local children in situations of deprivation, many of whom are HIV positive. Its start as a tutoring support group has blossomed into a primary school of 500 children and, more recently, a high school of 150 students. Additionally, FCP provides health care, residential living assistance and microloans for those without resources. With funding from When I Grow Up, the FCP accommodates and supports many impoverished students while giving them the tools to create a successful future.

Other locations of need include Zone 18 in Guatemala, where crime and violence are widespread. When I Grow Up partners with Esperanza Para Guatemala, a local group working to provide sustenance and emotional support for local children and their families. The groups stock the local library with books and computers to learn essential vocational skills such as carpentry, baking, cosmetology and computers. More than 9,000 plates of food go toward feeding children and families monthly.

Feeding Children in Haiti

Furthermore, When I Grow Up’s recent work in Haiti is of paramount importance for Valliwide’s owners as Tod is the region’s field leader. Partnering with Lucson Dervilus, a native Haitian, Valliwide and When I Grow Up sought to provide support for the struggling, isolated communities of Palma and Jacob after the devastating earthquake of 2010. In October of that year, the groups created a feeding program for a local school intended to help local children escape poverty situations in the region.

In July 2012, the groups began building a new school to accommodate more children. Alongside the school, local families would receive grants to start trading to earn sufficient income to provide for their children. Over a couple of years, more than 250 students attended the school, with more teachers and staff to support their education. Additionally, the school received cattle and goats to begin an agricultural program to supplement the school’s income.

The work that When I Grow Up has accomplished is awe-inspiring. Moreover, Valliwide Organic Farms’ dedication and commitment allow the fresh fruit farm to help others on a global scale. While Valliwide has a U.S. base in California, its vision is to help children worldwide.

The Parkinsons use their fresh fruit products to do veritable good for the world. The juicy flavors of their mandarins, plums, nectarines and oranges pale in comparison to their ardent and steadfast dedication to providing for the next generation. By using fresh fruit to fight poverty, Valliwide Organic Farms is picking the commendable route to profitability and genuinely taking the fight against extreme poverty into its own hands.

Eliza Cochran
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in Haiti
Light from Light is an organization built on three decades worth of friendship between Americans and Haitians. By empowering Haitians and community leaders to lead poverty-reducing efforts, the community has rallied around the central mission of the organization. Light from Light works through the Lespwa Timoun Clinic, which trains physicians and provides access to education-related services and healthcare in Haiti to surrounding communities.

Hannah Jones has worked in Haiti since December 2019, working in the clinic with Light from Light. Since her own arrival and the onset of COVID-19, Hannah has been part of the first wave of pandemic responses in Haiti. Jones’ reflection on Light from Light and the current goals is indicative of her resilience and passion for her work. The pandemic has undoubtedly shaped her job as it has exacerbated the current healthcare problems that have come from the food insecure environment. With malnutrition on the rise, Hannah Jones told The Borgen Project about Light from Light’s work with Haitian children and the topic of healthcare.

Children and Malnutrition

With the realities of food insecurity and poverty in Haiti, the major crisis affecting children is malnutrition. Based on the 2019 impact report, Light from Light has provided life-sustaining care to 1,293 infants and children. Unfortunately, the headway is seeing a setback with food prices being “nearly doubled” because of economic disruption. The clinic has experienced a sharp rise in cases of acute malnutrition. Hannah accounted that the number of malnutrition hospitalizations the clinic has outsourced, from pre-pandemic to present, went from an average of four cases per month to 18 cases in September 2020. Although complications have arisen from COVID-19, the organization is continuing its nutrition programs to offset the number of malnutrition cases.

In the areas near the Lespwa Timoun clinic, which one can translate to “Hope for Children,” one in five children experiences malnutrition. Light from Light follows programs and procedures to lessen the impact of malnutrition, including the use of ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF). By following weight and height data from week to week, physicians at the clinic can recommend full treatment plans that follow a child’s growth. The treatment comprises of weekly provisions of Plumpy’Nut, a type of RUTF that has high nutrient density. Children who overcome malnutrition have a better chance of becoming productive members of society.

Healthcare in Haiti

The Lespwa Timoun Clinic is an outpatient clinic with services ranging from general health screenings to prenatal programs to a diabetes club. In addition to the permanent clinic, rural communities receive access to mobile clinics. With 59% of Haitians living on less than $2 per day, taking a day off of work to seek medical care is a burden for those living on the margins. Clinical care is part of a larger goal of Light from Light to strengthen infrastructure in Haiti.

The COVID-19 response that the Lespwa Timoun Clinic facilitated has been an additional complication to healthcare in Haiti. One method of solving hygiene necessities is the Tippy Tap, an innovative no-touch hand washing machine that one can control with a foot lever. The Tippy Tap is a hallmark of Light from Light’s ability to overcome barriers and find solutions. The clinic also distributes personal protective equipment and has implemented support systems in the crisis. Despite numerous issues to tackle, the Lespwa Timoun Clinic has taken this in stride and prioritized the health of the community.

Hannah Jones provides insight into the evolving climate in Haiti and has a positive outlook on Light from Light’s future. The organization is continuing to pursue a more stable pathway for Haitians by implementing strong systems for education and healthcare in Haiti. Light from Light has formed remarkable strongholds through relationships. In time, the foundation has tremendous potential to implement tangible solutions to poverty in Haiti.

– Eva Pound
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

mental health in haitiLocated on the island of Hispaniola is the Caribbean nation of Haiti. The country gained independence in 1804, becoming the first country led by formerly enslaved peoples. A long history of political instability and corruption accompanied by catastrophic natural disasters has devastated Haiti’s population and economy. Additionally, a lack of infrastructure and access to basic resources ranks Haiti as one of the world’s least developed countries. This has created a crisis for mental health in Haiti, which has only worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Humanitarian Crisis in Haiti

Haiti is now home to over 11.4 million people, and nearly 60% of the population lives below the poverty line. Income inequality and unemployment rates are high, while the country does not meet its citizens’ basic needs. In fact, nearly 90% of people in rural areas lack access to electricity and plumbing.

Several natural disasters have also damaged Haiti in the past decade. The 7.0-magnitude earthquake of January 2010 devastated the nation’s capital city of Port-au-Prince. Indeed, the earthquake was one of the worst natural disasters to strike an urban area. An estimated 250,000 people died, while 300,000 people got injured and over 5 million became displaced. Six years later, Hurricane Matthew wiped out trade roads and coastal infrastructure. Conversely, lengthy periods of drought have paralyzed local agricultural markets. This has resulted in the inflation of even the most basic foods and necessities.

Though Haiti has focused on efforts to recover from natural disasters, longstanding economic and sociopolitical crises remain. One often overlooked problem lies in how these humanitarian crises affect mental health in Haiti.

Mental Health in Haiti: Existing Services

The ongoing humanitarian crises in Haiti create an extraordinary psychological toll on people. In particular, poverty and socioeconomic disadvantage increase the crisis of mental health in Haiti. Following the earthquake, 25% of the population reported experiencing PTSD. Additionally, 50% experienced a major depressive disorder. Disasters have also caused many Haitians to experience trauma and the loss of loved ones and livelihoods.

Despite these negative psychological outcomes, mental health in Haiti remains neglected. This is largely due to the majority of Haitians attributing mental health problems to supernatural forces. Specifically, many Haitians rely on inner religious and spiritual strength to overcome mental health issues. This culturally important Haitian belief, in tandem with the country’s inadequate mental healthcare services, leaves vast numbers of the population neglected.

Many people in Haiti simply go without mental healthcare. For a nation of around 11 million people, Haiti has a mere 23 psychiatrists and 124 psychologists. Haiti’s investment in healthcare services has even declined from 16.6% to 4.4% since 2017. Additionally, even if Haitians could find mental health services, they may not be able to afford or access them. Available services are often costly and inaccessible for those who do seek care.

The Implications of COVID-19

During the pandemic, Haiti has seen a rise in the cost of mental health services and medication. The country’s two running psychiatric hospitals have stopped accepting patients. Other hospitals, many now at full capacity due to the pandemic, have become testing facilities for COVID-19.

The pandemic has further exacerbated mental health in Haiti. General anxiety and concerns relating to the coronavirus and its effects have skyrocketed. Additionally, quarantine mandates have increased rates of domestic violence and abuse. Fatigued health professionals and medical staff also suffer from increased rates of depression. In short, medical professionals as well as the general population are experiencing the devastating mental impacts of COVID-19.

Moving Forward

Humanitarian crises and the coronavirus pandemic persist in the small island nation of Haiti. The aftermath of natural disasters, trauma and continuing political and economic instability lead to a crisis of mental health in Haiti. The country needs attention to the mental health needs of its citizens, in the midst of current and past crises.

Thankfully, nonprofit organizations like Partners in Health are striving to improve mental health in Haiti. Based out of Boston, Partners in Health is dedicated to establishing long-term relationships with organizations in the world’s poorest developing countries. Through its partnerships with local governments and other organizations in Haiti, Partners in Health has helped to innovate mental healthcare delivery models that integrate cultural beliefs about health and current biopsychosocial knowledge. Mobile health clinics also help ensure ensure that patients living in even the most remote regions of Haiti have access to necessary mental health services.

In the years to come, continued funding and support of programs like Partners in Health and its partnership organizations will be vital to improving the mental health and overall well-being of Haitians. Only then can the country truly overcome its current crises and past history.

Alana Castle
Photo: Flickr 

poverty relief in haitiPlagued by historical political oppression and a series of recent natural disasters, Haiti is among the poorest nations in the Western Hemisphere today. An estimated 8.5 million Haitians live below the poverty line, 2.5 million of whom survive on $1.12 a day. Thus, it is not surprising to see an influx of immigrants from the country. According to the activist organization RAICES, Haitian immigrants make up nearly half of families detained in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities. Immigration policy must consider the origin countries of migrant families and why they chose to migrate in the first place. Though the U.S. has prioritized harsh security measures at the border, investing poverty relief in Haiti may improve the situation.

Haiti’s History of Poverty

Haiti’s ongoing economic crisis stems from a long history of political unrest. From national corruption to human rights violations and the damaging effects of colonialism, Haiti’s economy has never fully recovered. After regaining independence from France, the small country owed 150 million francs to the European nation. Haiti finally finished paying off this debt in 1922.

A World Bank report estimated that 6.3 million Haitian citizens could not afford certain consumer goods in 2012, while another 2.5 million struggled just to buy food. Additionally, despite some poverty relief in Haiti, about half of the population cannot access public services. From 2001 to 2012, Haiti saw improvements in tap water, energy and sanitation accessibility, but coverage rates remain well below 50%. Furthermore, recent statistics from the World Bank claim that Haiti’s GDP per capita was only $756 in 2019. This poverty, along with a particular susceptibility to natural disasters, creates incentives for mass migration from Haiti.

The Price of Immigration Enforcement

When it comes to immigration enforcement, the U.S. spares no expense. The American Immigration Council found that, since 2003, the federal government has spent approximately $381 billion on immigration control. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and ICE  have grown, with nearly triple their original budgets today. In 2020, federal spending was $8.4 billion for ICE and $16.9 billion for CBP.

Despite the generous contributions to these enforcement agencies, immigration issues have not necessarily disappeared. Instead, this tough approach at the border has created a new set of problems. Claims of trafficking, abuse of power by enforcement officials and poor conditions in holding facilities have surrounded the departments. Specifically, RAICES found that Haitian and other Black immigrants face discrimination and mistreatment while under ICE custody.

With an estimated 40,000 Haitians making up a large portion of border detainees, some government officials are proposing investing in poverty relief in Haiti. Politicians, such as Rep. Frederica S. Wilson (D-FL), are fighting to restore stability in Haiti during the pandemic. Wilson and some of her colleagues believe that this will have a slowing effect on migration.

Poverty Relief in Haiti Shows Promise

The World Bank has demonstrated the benefits of investing in poverty relief in Haiti. From 2000 to 2012, extreme poverty decreased by 7.4% largely due to economic progress in Haiti’s big cities. Similarly, poverty rates in rural areas reached 74.9%, while the country’s capital, Port-au-Prince, only had a rate of 29.2%. By increasing and distributing aid, the rest of the country can achieve poverty reduction rates similar to those in urban regions.

The same report details how, with the help of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative, Haiti eliminated a large part of its public debt. This in turn increased the economy by 2.3% annually from 2005 to 2009. The financial help also “contributed to the generation of optimism in the country and among the country’s partners.”

Researchers urge U.S. policymakers to begin looking at remittances as having investment returns. For example, temporary work visas significantly bolster Haiti’s economy and raise the quality of life for Haitian households. This lessens the need for migration. If the U.S. changes its perspective on immigration, it could begin developing a mutually beneficial relationship with Haiti while decreasing emigration.

Lizt Garcia
Photo: Flickr

Restore Haiti
Restore Haiti aims to reduce global poverty through a child sponsorship program and relationship building in regions of Haiti. This nonprofit organization founded and formed through friendship continues to change communities through relationships.

How it Started

In 1997, Restore Haiti founder Philip Peters went on a mission trip to Jamaica. There he met Gerald Lafleur, a student on the island. They quickly became friends over the trip and the two stayed in touch through letters. In 2004, Peters took a team of 12 to visit Lafleur. There, Lafleur shared his vision to help his homeland of Haiti with Peters. The two wasted no time and a year later Peters took a team of six to visit a local community in Haiti. “After seeing the need, I knew that the little that I had and the resources that I had were something I could use, and a long-term commitment was birthed,” said Peters. With the help of mentors and the local church, Peters gathered clothes and shoes to donate to the community.

“I want[ed] to live life with them,” said Peters. “When I saw the look in their eyes, I knew a relationship was starting to develop and I wondered what could happen as those relationships went deeper and deeper.” Go deeper the organization did, as Peters and Theresa Swain, Restore Haiti’s Executive Director, partnered with others in the U.S. and Haiti to create a child sponsorship program.

Morne Oge

Restore Haiti serves in three main locations, Morne Oge, Matador and Carrefour. All three communities operate five days a week providing education and hot meals for students through the child sponsorship program. In the Morne Oge region, where the nonprofit originated, it partners with Restoration Ministries to provide food, education and medical care to those in the sponsorship program. In addition, this program equips over 700 elementary, secondary and university/trade school students with sponsorship for their education. A medical clinic within walking distance from the feeding program gives students access to health care. The Restore Center located a short distance away in downtown Jacmel houses a computer lab for both students and staff.

The Matador Region

The nonprofit’s work in the Matador region, located on the outskirts of Jacmel a few miles from Morne Oge, serves 240 children who attend elementary school. These students suffered malnutrition and the community had no funds to pay teachers. In 2016, Restore Haiti extended scholarship opportunities to students in this region to help cover tuition to keep the school open. The nonprofit also extends hot meals and medical care to students in this region.

Carrefour

Restore Haiti’s location in Carrefour near Port-Au-Prince provides education and food for the children in this region. Additionally, this region focuses on mentorships with students, life skills training and character building. “In Carrefour, they are receiving English lessons and art classes at this time,” Juli Wendt, the Director of International Service for Restore Haiti, told The Borgen Project. In an area where most youth join gangs or live troubled lives, providing food, education and life skills gives the necessary foundation for change in this community. According to the Overseas Security Advisory Counsel’s Haiti 2019 Crime & Safety Report, gang on gang violence has risen along with homicides, which totaled 757 in the Port-au-Prince region approximately four miles from Carrefour.

Reynold Yordy, President of Restore Haiti, reported that “[The people of Haiti] need a hand up, not necessarily a handout. That is what I am excited to see us do as an organization…having people mentor someone.” With a dedication to see relationships built and mentorship continue, Restore Haiti changes the community.

Restore Haiti’s Accomplishments

Restore Haiti has several accomplishments. Along with a child sponsorship program, the nonprofit focuses on disaster relief providing water and re-establishing agriculture for local farms. In addition, Restore Haiti provides supplies and tuition for 60 schools, drills wells for clean water and prepares students for universities and trade schools.

Restore Haiti employs over 50 Haitians who serve over 1,000 students in these three communities. Juli Wendt told The Borgen Project that “38 students have graduated with the majority being female, 30 girls and eight males. We motivated the girls more to succeed as they were the most vulnerable group and it clearly paid off.” An education impacts earnings, childbearing, population growth, health, nutrition, well-being and personal decision making for girls according to a Global Partnership Study.

This cultural shift also comes from the students giving back. For instance, Larry John, a graduate of the Restore Haiti program, got to attend school and university through the sponsorship program. “We children [had] a place every day to go to school, reduc[ing] the consequences we have here in Haiti,” he said. Reducing those consequences by providing students with education and food gives them an opportunity to live life. Now he works for Restore Haiti as a photographer in the program and lives the life he dreamed. “The program gave me a monthly salary which allowed me to get married,” he said. In addition to having a life of his own, he gets to give back hope to his community.

The Future for Restore Haiti

In an interview with The Borgen Project, Philip Peters said that “As Restore Haiti has been in existence for 15 years, we…started with wanting to see [kids] eat, have access to medical care and go to school. As those students have grown up, it is our desire to continue to offer [them] opportunities for life. That could be enrolling in university, pinpointing skills and having them get a job, get married and build a life of their own.” When asked how Restore Haiti can help graduates and the community going forward, Peters said that “With the program, we currently offer over 50 jobs, from medical staff, cooks, teachers and now creating photography, video and social media teams. We are committed to dream, find jobs, opportunities and team up with people to help us provide jobs as we see more and more [students] move into adulthood.”

– Danielle Beatty
Photo: Flickr