Mission: Haiti 2009
In the News
Dominican, Haiti officials ease truckers’ standoff at border (Dominican Today, May 26): The Dominican and Haitian governments may soon announce a solution to the weeks-long standoff between truckers from both countries, after their unions agreed to negotiations over their respective demands in a meeting held in the border town of Jimaní.
Dominican ambassador in Haiti Rubén Silié, who takes part in the talks, said a definitive solution was expected after a meeting at noon today. “I’m optimistic, I believe we’re close to an agreement. In the meetingboth unions, the Haitian government and the Dominican government will participate.”
Silié, in a telephone interview for newspaper Diario Libre from Port-au-Prince, said the situation of trade has been the topic of most concern since the vendors and the people who live off the interchange of merchandise are the most affected by the standoff.
“That’s one of the motivations to advance on a solution as soon as possible. The situation of the truck drivers not only affects retailers, but the families who live off it."
The standoff closed the Haitian-Dominican border on Sunday, May 24, when Climbing For Christ’s emergency mission team was in Gentilhomme, Haiti. By the time the team returned to Jimani on Tuesday, May 26, the border had reopened and a solution was imminent. [CLICK HERE to read Dispatches from that mission trip.]
Clinton named U.N. envoy to Haiti (May 19): Former U.S. President Clinton has been tapped as a United Nations special envoy to Haiti. The two-term president has traveled to Haiti on several occasions, most recently in March with his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon. At the time, the Clintons voiced optimism at Haiti's potential because of political stability and economic growth after decades of chaos. The Caribbean country is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.
U.S. Ambassador Susan E. Rice, in a press release, said about the appointment:
“We welcome the United Nations Secretary-General’s appointment of President Bill Clinton as UN Envoy to Haiti. President Clinton will bring unparalleled expertise and enthusiasm to this new role, and I look forward to working with him.
“The United States is firmly committed to a future of peace and prosperity for the people of Haiti. We will continue to work closely with the Haitian government to improve social and economic conditions on the ground during this crucial transition period.
“I traveled to Haiti in March with the UN Security Council. We visited the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) and saw first-hand the great strides that have been made towards long term stability and security. However, much of Haiti’s progress still remains fragile, especially after the terrible challenges of the past year – from severe hurricanes to the global food crisis. The U.S. strongly supports MINUSTAH’s continuing security role.
“Haiti is a reminder to the world that security and development should not be viewed as separate issues. Indeed, MINUSTAH’s mission remains critical — not just to recovery and reconstruction in Haiti — but to the stability of the entire region.”
'God will not abandon her' (excerpt from a story by CNN, May 11): Roudeline Lamy was 23 when she was shot in the stomach. The impact of the bullet sent the small baby she was holding tumbling to the ground.
Roudeline still suffers from stomach pains and her daughter, now three years old, is paralyzed from the waist down.
The mother and child sleep on the concrete floor of a shack that floods every time it rains. Since Roudeline's husband was killed by the gangs, she has had to rely on the charity of friends and her faith that God will not abandon her.
With very few State services, God is all the poor in Haiti's sprawling seaside slum of Cité Soleil can believe in.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been in Haiti since 1994 and in Cité Soleil since 2003. Rob Drouen, head of the ICRC delegation, explains, “Haiti is a fragile state where armed gangs can be used to stir up trouble for political reasons and abject poverty fuels discontent.”
A few years ago, Cité Soleil was one of the most dangerous and destitute places on earth — a shanty town torn apart by a vicious gang war for control of the area. United Nations troops have stabilized the security situation in Haiti, the western world's poorest country, and many gang members are either dead or behind bars. Nevertheless, violence still surrounds the 300,000 residents of Cité Soleil, fueled by hunger and the frustration of trying to survive on less than a dollar a day.
Fear of swine flu hits Haiti: Haitian officials turned back a Mexican ship laden with food aid, a move that President Felipe Calderon decried Wednesday, May 6 as nonsensical.
“Where the people are truly dying, not from the virus, the people are dying of hunger, we have sent aid systematically to Haiti,” Calderon was quoted by the media. “Well, it turns out that they rejected a Mexican ship that was carrying corn, wheat, beans, medication. I believe it is nothing more than the fruit of disinformation or of ignorance.”
What Calderon does not understand is that Haiti would be devastated by H1N1. With poor medical care, malnourishment, and all the other ills of Haiti, exposure to swine flu could kill fantastic numbers of the population. The decision to turn back the ship was a wise one.
US $1.1M to bolster Haiti-Dominican border (April 19): More than US $1.1 million will be used to improve agricultural training, marketing and planting more profitable crops along the impoverished Haiti-Dominican Republic border, the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF) announced.
“This project will improve the lives of thousands of small-plot and substance farmers,” says John Sanbrailo, Executive Director of PADF. “This new funding builds on PADF's successful record of being a catalyst for sustainable economic development along the border.”
With funding from the U.S. Mission to the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), PADF will teach farmers how to manage and sell more profitable crops, create business plans, apply for government loans and credits and reach more consumers.
The one-year initiative allows PADF to work with 30 producer groups in seven communities on both sides of the border. In the Dominican Republic, PADF will work in Pedernales, Comendador and Dajabon. In the Haiti, PADF will focus on Anse a Pitres, Fonds Verrettes, Belladere and Ouanaminthe. [NOTE: Fond Verrettes is located near Soliette, the riverbed village from which Climbing For Christ mission teams begin their ascent to Gentilhomme in the surrounding mountains. Our teams frequently visit Fond Verrettes, where the nearest local public market is located.]
A tap-tap, carrying goods and people, stops in Fonds Verrettes in December 2007. (Photo by Gary Fallesen)
The 193-mile frontier between Haiti and the Dominican Republic faces a plethora of problems, including poverty, unemployment, lack of infrastructure and misunderstandings about the potential of bilateral development. Haiti is the poorest country in the hemisphere with approximately 80 percent of the population living in poverty.
PADF has been working on the border for five years. Its program, called “Fwontye Nou/Nuestra Frontera” in Creole and Spanish (“Our Border” in English), provides training, technical assistance and cross-border projects that have created economic solutions, bi-national cooperation, cross-border conflict mitigation, and a framework for communities on both sides of the border.
Ambassador Albert Ramdin, the Assistant Secretary General of the OAS and chair of the Haiti Support Group, called on other countries to dedicate more resources to this border region.
“I want to recognize the U.S. Mission to the OAS, as well as the IDB's Multilateral Investment Fund, for their leadership in supporting this important program which is providing cross-border models and methodologies that can be used and expanded by other donors,” says Ambassador Ramdin.
Secretary of State Clinton calls on donors to help Haiti (CNN): Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on the international community on April 14 to commit dollars and manpower to help Haiti recover from a year of hurricanes and food riots.
“It is our task to open the door of opportunity for Haitians and send a message of what could occur,” she told a group of more than 40 nations and international organizations gathered in New York City for a donor's conference for the Western Hemisphere's poorest nation.
Clinton spoke a day before leaving for Haiti, after which she will travel to the Dominican Republic and then join President Obama at the Summit of the Americans in Trinidad and Tobago.
She pledged $57 million in U.S. aid to boost Haitian security, build roads, create jobs, fight drug trafficking and help Haiti with food shortages and debt caused by the global economic crisis and several devastating hurricanes. The United States, she said, is already providing nearly $290 million in non-emergency aid to Haiti this year.
Warning that the tiny nation of 9 million people “is on the brink of either moving forward with the help of the collective community or falling back,” Clinton called international aid a global “test of resolve and commitment to Haiti.”
Haiti is one of the poorest nations in the world, with one of the biggest gaps between rich and poor, Clinton said. It has the highest unemployment rate in the Western Hemisphere, with 70 percent of the population without jobs. A million more youth will be coming into the work force over the next five years, which will trigger what economists call a “youth Tsunami.”
The country also has the highest rate of infant mortality and HIV/AIDS in the region.
But Clinton and UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, who traveled last month to Haiti with Clinton's husband, former President Bill Clinton, voiced optimism at Haiti's potential due to political stability and economic growth after decades of chaos.
“This is a breakout moment to help one of the poorest nations lift itself to a future of hope,” he said.
Calling the prospects for the tiny nation “better than almost any other emerging economy,” Ban predicted Haiti, which will qualify this year for debt relief from international financial institutions, “is poised to make more progress over the next two years than it has made in the past two decades.”
Haitian Prime Minister Michele Duvivier Pierre-Louis, credited with much of the country's political reforms, warned the country is at a “critical juncture.”
“Time is of extreme importance,” she told the audience. “If we cannot deliver today and we can't find the means to transform the vision of the future, we will be held collectively responsible for not hearing the millions of voices.”
Pierre-Louis detailed a program which the government hopes will to bring Haiti out of poverty and chaos and draw foreign investment, after years of political mismanagement, violence and chaos.
“The repercussions of these bad practices and policies will take years to be reversed but it is important that we start now and today,” she said. “We are treading on very fragile ground. If we take no action now the results will be catastrophic.”
Clinton gave a personal account of her “deep commitment” to Haiti, which she said she visited with her husband, former President Clinton, as a newlywed and again as first lady. She said she has a lot of Haitian art in her home and has several Haitian friends.
She also praised the hundreds of thousands of Haitian immigrants living in the United States, including in her home state of New York, where she served as a senator for eight years.
She called on donors to partner with the United States on various programs in an effort to “re-ignite (Haiti's) path to progress,” which is in danger of being stalled due to a combination of several hurricanes in recent years and the global economic recession.
She said the United States was creating a charitable organization so Haitian Americans and others could contribute toward Haiti's development.
“Now is the time to up our investment in Haiti, because Haiti has a real opportunity to make substantial progress,” she said.
She also called for investment in Haitian agriculture, clean energy and reforestation.
In an April 13 CNN story, “In Haiti, patients despair of adequate health care,” an aid worker with Medecins Sans Frontieres (also known as Doctors Without Borders) said: “Access to adequate health care is a basic human right and it is definitely not being met here in Haiti. The issue needs to be addressed very quickly. People are dying needlessly and will continue to unless this issue is addressed.”