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Helping Haiti: A Global Imperative- PART ONE

Education 24 Aug, 2023 Follow News

Dr Livingston Smith

By Livingston Smith, PhD

Professor, Department of the Social Sciences

University College of the Cayman Islands

If one is searching for an example of a failed state within CARICOM- one does not have to look far. Haiti satisfies all the requirements. Haiti has lost its ability to govern with the palpable breakdown in law enforcement, political power, and civil society. Taken over by criminal gangs, the citizens are left unprotected while crime, and corruption have taken over in this near Hobbesian state of lawlessness.  Since the start of this year, the U.N. estimates that at least 2,439 people have been killed and some 200,000 internally displaced.

The situation is so dire both Toussaint Louverture, former Governor General of Saint Dominque, the most prominent leader of the Haitian Revolution of 1791- 1804 and Jean-Jacques Dessalines, fist ruler of independent Haiti, must be turning in their graves with a desire for resurrection. The recent report by the US State Department on Human Rights notes the extraconstitutional context of Haiti’s government- that is, elections due in 2019 have not been held even though the terms of the majority of the parliamentary members expired in June 2020 and so Parliament, unable to reach a quorum, is non-functional. In notes credible reports of unlawful or arbitrary killings, serious problems with the independence of the judiciary, grave government corruption, among a litany of other flaws in the government and society generally.

The most recent Human Rights Watch report on Haiti says that the ‘security and humanitarian crisis has left all government branches inoperative, compounding overwhelming impunity of human rights abuses.’ It notes the lack of access to fuel and the severe impact of this on businesses, schools, and hospitals.

With a GNI per capita of $1, 420, Haiti is the poorest country in Latin America and the Caribbean and among the poorest countries in the world. It comes out at 163 out of 191 countries on the UN’s Human Development Index with some 80% of its eleven and half million population living below the poverty line making out on $2 a day. More than half the population work in ¬agriculture, mainly small-scale subsistence farming.  With an unemployment rate of close to 15%, it has one of the highest inequality gaps in the region.  In its March 2023 assessment, the World Bank notes that over ‘one-fifth of children are at risk of cognitive and physical limitations, and only 78% of 15-year-olds will survive to age 60. There are 80 deaths for every 1,000 live births, and the survival rate of newborns is the lowest in the western hemisphere.  Foreign aid ¬accounts for 30%-40% of the government’s budget.

Human Rights Watch notes that ‘more than 42% of its population needs humanitarian assistance and that up to 40% of the country experiences acute food security.’ ‘More than half of Haitians are chronically food insecure, and 22 percent of children are chronically malnourished’, the report notes. It says that the justice system barely functions and that gang violence, especially in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area, has escalated with reports that gangs have links with politicians and police officers. Sexual violence is common with gangs using this as a form of turf control. With this ‘wave of brutality’, the report says, some ‘96,000 people in the metropolitan area of Port-au-Prince’ have been displaced since October 2022.

Regarding education, ‘nearly half of Haitians aged 15 and older are illiterate’ the report notes and that the quality of education is generally poor. The situation is compounded by the fact that countries such as the USA, Dominican Republic, Chile and Brazil, send thousands of Haitians back to Haiti.

On Transparency International’s index, Haiti ranks 171 among the 180 countries.

Plenty of Blame to go Around.

There is plenty of blame to go around in explaining the failure of the Haitian state and in landing Haiti, a country with such a great and proud history, once the symbol of black liberation, in this unenviable position- of stark poverty and a nearly non-existent state. In subsequent articles, we will examine these and the planned collaborative efforts of the United Nations to lend support.

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