• Marie-Rose Romain Murphy

    Thank you for this article Jim as its begins to highlight the systematic discounting of Haitians as well as the consistent marginalization of Haitian communities and their leaders from Haiti’s development process.
    My organization ESPWA (which means hope in Haitian Creole) has been setting up a community foundation for Haiti for the past few years. We’re a Haitian-led network and a nonprofit organization which is registered in the US and Haiti. Our network is local, regional, national and international. The Haiti Community Foundation just got set up as a national network of regional funds with a central fund. Our pilot region is the Grand’Anse where we led a regional planning process over the past few years which involved 600 regional leaders. It is also the part of Haiti that has been the hardest hit by Hurricane Matthew.

    Haitian leaders and communities are deeply concerned about the repeat of post-earthquake mistakes whereas:
    • A minute 0.6% of the billions of public and private funds went directly to Haitian businesses and Haitian organizations
    • Aid providers marginalized Haitian leaders and Haitian communities
    • Capacity building was an afterthought and not a priority
    • Aid efforts crushed the local economy as it flooded Haiti’s markets with donated goods which stifled local merchants, drove the costs of living and inflation up, and resulted in increased poverty in the country, especially in rural areas

    Positive Interventions and Changes

    There is positive news on the local context.
    • A little reported fact is that Haitians groups and individuals are contributing to the relief efforts (as they had done after the earthquake). For example, at Ile A Vache, EDEM, Sow A Seed and other groups are working together to provide assistance to community residents.
    • Community residents are helping each other. Many are contributing food, water, clothes and medicines to the affected south.
    • At the government level, various ministries have created coordination units and are conducting joint assessment with local groups to develop better data and encourage more targeted and effective assistance programs. Members of HCF’s Network like Caroline Hudicourt and Dr, Mireille Tribie are involved in these conversations and contributing to these planning efforts.

    The Challenges That We face

    The Centralization of Aid

    Aid providers are concentrating in Jeremie, the capital of the Grand’Anse. It is safer for them (as many have to face security issues and attacks of convoys), and this is what they know. At this stage, it is critical to decentralize aid because of the looming health and community development issues that aid centralization creates. Residents of other communities are converging to Jeremie to find aid even as the city is already in shambles and overpopulated. The systematic outcome in situations like these is that many people who engage in these migration patterns tend to remain (becoming statistics of poverty and dependency).
    The other side of the equation is health. UNICEF, which is leading the WASH cluster established just this week, reported that cholera increased from 24 cases per month in Jeremie, to a frequency of 66 cases per day in city! For accuracy purposes, we must stress that one of the root causes of this exponential was the Hurricane’s flooding of latrines.

    International NGO’s Lack of Community Connections

    Aid providers are mostly International agencies which lack information and community connections. Communities are not engaged in the planning process and their needs are not prioritized.

    The Looming Danger of Local Economic Decline and of The Development of a Culture of Dependency

    Aid providers tend to bring goods as opposed to buying them from local businesses. They also tend to bring their own workers as opposed to hiring local individuals. The impact greatly undermines the economy, creates joblessness and increases the local population’s dependency on aid, charity and services. It is essential that sooner than later aid interventions focus on helping local residents get back on their feet and to become active contributors to the economy.

    The bottom line is that Aid agencies need to start connecting with local groups and the local government and think/act beyond “business as usual” (short-term projects, we are the experts, we know better, we’ll take care of everything mentality). We realize that it will take them beyond their comfort zone. But it is at this point imperative that they do for the sake of Haiti.