• Chicago NPR Talks Cholera and Women’s Rights in Haiti

    IJDH Staff Attorney Beatrice Lindstrom and KOFAVIV Associate Director Malya Villard-Appolon speak about cholera accountability and gender-based violence in an hour-long NPR show about Haiti. Joining them are Dr. Ludovic Comeau of GRAHN-World, and Dr. Evan Lyon of Partners in Health. Bringing perspectives from the legal, medical and economic development fields, they answered questions like: What might happen now that Ban Ki-moon said the UN bears a moral responsibility to eliminate cholera, and What impact are grassroots organizations having on rapes in Haiti?Listen Here »

  • A Call for a General Election on Sun, Nov 29, 2015

    In no case may the House of Deputies or the Senate be dissolved or adjourned, nor shall the terms of their members be extended.

    On Sunday, January 11, 2015 the term of 10 Senators will come to an end and according to the article 111-8, their term cannot be extended. Therefore, on Monday, January 12, 2015, the Haitian Senate will not have a quorum to conduct any session and ipso facto, we will be observing the caducity of the Haitian Parliament.

    It is unlikely that the electoral law will be voted in the Senate this year and on the second Monday of January 2015, the Haitian Senate will be dysfunctional.

    In any negotiation, it cannot be my way or no way, take the highway! Once we are in a negotiation, we have to give and take and meet each other half way. And this will help us answering this question: what is politic? Politic is the science of compromise.

    Clearly, Haiti is heading to a general election on Sunday, Nov 29, 2015! Our advice to anyone in the field: do not try to influence the outcome of the election; it will back fire and this time, whoever responsible will be charged. This nonsense needs to stop. Also, to the sectors that will be sending a new member to the NEW CEP; please, do not send novice, send knowledgeable people. If you cannot find 9 people who have electoral experience, use the Haitian Diaspora as a resource. It is not acceptable to send someone who never voted before in the CEP, it is not acceptable to send someone who never worked or volunteered his/her time in the electoral process. In this crucial election, there is no room for amateur,
    professional and experts only.

    ARTICLE 289:

    Awaiting the establishment of the Permanent Electoral Council provided for in this Constitution, the National Council of Government shall set up a Provisional Electoral Council of nine (9) members, charged with drawing up and enforcing the Electoral Law to govern the next elections, who shall be designated as follows:

    1. One for the Executive Branch, who is not an official;

    2. One for the Episcopal Conference;
    3. One for the Advisory Council;
    4. One for the Supreme Court;
    5. One for agencies defending human rights, who may not be a candidate in the elections;
    6. One for the Council of the University;
    7. One for the Journalists Association;
    8. One for the Protestant religions;
    9. One for the National Council of Cooperatives.

  • Poverty, “Orphans,” and Parents

    Susan P. Whit | December 6, 2012.

    Yesterday’s New York Times features an article, “Trying to Close Orphanages Where Many Aren’t Orphans at All,” about the plight of impoverished children in Haiti and the government’s intention to reduce the use of orphanages. To most Americans, the term “orphan” means a child with no parents, however that’s not the way the term is used in the world of international relief. A child who has lost one parent is considered, in aid lingo, an “orphan.” And as the Times article points out, in severely impoverished nations like Haiti, where 80% of the population lives below the poverty line (60% in abject poverty), orphans are created when parents despair of being able to feed and educate their children.

    The high incidence of rape, lack of birth control, and the lack of economic opportunity means that many Haitian children are born to single mothers and cared for by their extended families. However, the 2012 earthquake killed or injured parents, separated them from their children, and demolished their homes. It also destroyed whatever systems adults had for keeping the pieces of their lives together. Cassandra, a four-year-old living with her mother in my neighborhood tent city, roused the neighbors with her crying one morning. She had awakened to find her mother gone, abandoning her to the care of passers by. The authorities were called but the mother was never found; relatives took the child in. After the earthquake gangs of street children roamed through Jacmel, clinging together in the absence of other caretakers. I saw them sleeping en masse under trees at the side of the road.

    There’s money to be made from orphans. They are frequently exploited because they attract aid money, donations from kind-hearted foreigners, and the contributions of desperate parents. I’ve seen orphanages that were hell-holes: semi-naked children crammed into airless sheds, underfed, diseased and living without sanitation. Their parents – single mothers or fathers widowed when their wives died in childbirth or of disease – lived in displaced persons camps and worked in the city. They were simply unable to care for their offspring. Paid pittances themselves, they gave tiny sums to these “orphanages” to take their children in. I met a few mothers stopping by occasionally to see their toddlers. But even better equipped orphanages practiced another kind of heartlessness: children imprisoned in sterile cribs, neglected by the staff with the tills.

    By contrast, Tiny Hands and Feet is a beautifully orphanage run by American missionaries in Jacmel. One of their workers found what appeared to be a dead baby on the doorstep. Wrapped in a rag was a starving, ashen newborn. Inquiries in the neighborhood revealed that a young woman was left destitute with a newborn infant when her husband died suddenly of cholera. She drifted from the house of one friend after another, sleeping on the floor until she wore out her welcome. Starving and thirsty herself, she had no milk for the child and knew it would soon die. The orphanage seemed the only way to save it: in fact, it saved them both. The staff at Tiny Hands and Feet invited her to stay, nurse her infant, and earn her keep caring for other babies. I saw her sitting in a rocking chair on the porch, nourished, nursing, and grateful for help.

    But not many parents are so lucky. Child slavery – legal in Haiti – is another option for the severely impoverished. They indenture their children as servants to wealthier households in the hope that they will be fed. Those children rarely receive an education but neither do they starve. They get enough food to be productive until they reach their teens, at which time they are released, illiterate, to fend for themselves.

    Knowing how poverty destroys families and results in the abuse of children, our Haitian partners were determined to find ways to help parents keep their children. That is why we have a feeding program and provide emergency food kits during food crises. If parents know their children will be fed, they allow them to participate in our educational programs. And if their children bring food for whole family, their position in that family becomes more secure. The temptation to remove kids from school to make them work is less acute. Eventually even illiterate parents come to understand that the more education their children have, the better their chances for survival. Every year of school improves people’s opportunities to support themselves. Haitian parents want their children to have better futures just like we do. HEI can only make small inroads into the heartbreaking conditions in Haiti but every child fed, schooled, and secure for another year is a source of hope. Thanks to our donors and our Haitian partners, 120 children in Jacmel are better off.



  • Killers of Harvard Worker in Haiti may be Targeting Americans

    By Oliver Ortega | Globe Correspondent | August 02, 2014.

    A Harvard University health worker slain in Haiti last week shortly after landing at the capital city’s airport may have been the latest victim in a string of violent robberies targeting American travelers, authorities said.

    Haitian leaders announced Friday that a coterie of police and government agencies, under the direction of the island nation’s prime minister, would work to tighten security at Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince. It is a move, said Marjorie A. Brunache, Haiti’s general consul in Boston, that appears to have been spurred by the killing of Myriam Saint Germain, the 40-year-old Everett mother gunned down as she traveled from the airport to her coastal hometown.

    A family spokesman said Saint Germain was stuck in traffic July 25 on her way to Les Cayes, her hometown in the south of Haiti, when men in a neighboring car asked her and a relative who was driving to hand over their money and valuables. After they complied, Saint Germain was shot in the chest, said the Rev. Guival Mercedat, the family spokesman, who said the account of the robbery and killing was provided by the uninjured relative.

    Saint Germain’s body arrived in Boston on Friday, Mercedat said. A funeral is expected to be held Aug. 9 at Jubilee Christian Church in Mattapan.

    In an advisory issued in June, the US Embassy in Port-au-Prince warned that travelers had reported being followed from the airport and robbed by armed bandits on motorcycles. In December, there were at least six cases of US citizens being robbed shortly after leaving the airport, a surge attributed to holiday travel, according to the embassy.

    Warnings about travel to the Caribbean nation are likely to resonate with particular intensity in Greater Boston, which has the nation’s third-largest Haitian population.

    On Friday, Saint Germain’s sister, Michaelle Saint Germain, recalled plans she and her sister had made to visit family in Haiti for Christmas. They harbored dreams, she said, of retiring in their native country. Saint Germain returned home each year, her sister said, bringing gifts and money for family and friends, and donations for the poor. “She was passionate about this,” the sister said.

    Saint Germain emigrated from Haiti with her family when she was 16. She attended Fisher College for a few semesters but didn’t graduate. Instead, she studied to become a health aide at a technical school.

    It was an occupation she held for the past 15 years, with the last five spent at Harvard, recording patients’ vital statistics and leading them to doctors, her sister said.

    She had two sons, Elijah, 7, and Max, 11. In her free time, she volunteered at her church, Jubilee Christian, working mostly with children.

    Saint Germain also took technology classes at the Harvard Bridge education and training program. Tamara Suttle, the program coordinator, said Saint Germain was a beloved member of the Harvard community.

    Though she maintained ties to Haiti, Saint Germain also loved her adopted country, Mercedat said. She made sure to vote in local elections and to participate in community organizations, he said.

    Family and relatives said they were surprised Saint Germain fell victim to armed robbery in Haiti. Michaelle Saint Germain said that neither she nor her sister had ever been attacked during their previous visits there. Jean Jacques, Saint Germain’s friend of 15 years, said his yearly trips were also uneventful.

    Mercedat, a Christian minister in Everett who went to high school with Saint Germain, said security in Haiti had improved in recent years. But when violent crime happens, the minister said, the Haitian government tries to avoid publicizing it.

    “It used to be worse, but from what I understand, it seems like the government is pushing to have people go back,” he said. “But when things happen, they try not to publish it.”

    But Brunache, the general consul, said people sometimes wrongly perceive that Haiti is crime-ridden. The government has made strides in making the country safer, particularly for visitors of Haitian origin, she said.

    “We need the diaspora,” she said. “They have family here and resources that are good to have.”

    Oliver Ortega can be reached at oliver.ortega@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @ByOliverOrtega.