Updates from Haiti - Summer 2021
by Harry G. Morse, MD, Diocesan World Missions Committee
Several of our fellow parishioners have expressed concern in recent weeks for the safety and security of our brothers and sisters in Haiti.
Political Crisis--As most of you know, Haiti has been embroiled in a political crisis for almost a year now brought on in large part by economic stresses of the pandemic and suspicion of financial malfeasance around a petroleum deal with Venezuela. Gang violence, kidnappings, and paralyzing street demonstrations became the norm. Divisions in the parliament led to its dissolution as the embattled president did what he could to govern an increasingly ungovernable country. Things came to a head in early July as Covid cases were surging (both Father Lafontant and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court died of Covid-19 the last week in June) when President Jovenel Moise was assassinated in his home on July 7. By the constitution, he should have been succeeded by the Chief Justice who has recently passed so a power struggle ensued between the current Prime Minister and his designated successor. A veneer of calm was restored when Dr. Ariel Henry was recognized as Prime Minister and de facto leader of the government. The first shipment of 500,000 Moderna mRNA vaccines arrived in late July donated by the U.S. through the WHO COVAX program. This will provide for the first vaccines available in-country and will allow for long-overdue vaccination of 250,000 front-line healthcare workers.
Earthquake and Tropical Storm—On the morning of August 14 a devastating 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck with an epicenter in the southwest peninsula wreaking havoc particularly in the urban centers of Jeremie and Les Cayes. The current estimate of over 2500 deaths, 13,000 serious injuries, and 130,000 homes damaged or destroyed. Adding insult to injury, three days after the earthquake Tropical Storm Grace pounded Haiti and the thousands of recently injured and homeless victims, compounding the suffering and making relief efforts more of a challenge.
In the midst of this maelstrom of environmental disaster, health, and civil unrest, our students, healthcare workers, and longtime coworkers living in Port au Prince and the Central Plateau have soldiered on. Fortunately, damage from the earthquake this time in the capital city and central plateau was minimal. I am proud to say that our Zanmi Lasante colleagues and coworkers at the Mirebalais teaching hospital have played a leadership role in relief efforts while keeping up as best they can with their already challenging daily clinical duties. I have heard from several of our students, all of whom so far have stayed safe and have kept up with their academics thanks to our scholarship support. Our dedicated Community Health Workers in Cange and the surrounding nine villages have continued to treat our hypertensive patients, monitoring their blood pressures and providing our prescribed medications. In June, a 12-month supply of HCTZ, amlodipine, and enalapril arrived safely in Cange from Amsterdam, funded by our diocese through our World Missions Committee. The water system in Cange has continued to provide high-quality potable water to the village and hospital thanks to the efforts of Clemson trained local Haitian technicians with regular consultation from the Clemson Engineers for Developing Countries (CEDC) advisors. Tilapia farming continues in Lake Peligre, agricultural training and support (including now chickens and goats!) continue through our vocational school (CFFL) in Corporant improving food security in the Central Plateau. Excellent coffee beans are being harvested from the hillsides near Bois Joli and Mont Michelle and are marketed “fair trade” by our friends at Singing Rooster. Summits Education, under the direction of Father Lafontant’s daughter Marie Flore with Dr. Earl Burch serving on their board, continues to operate 40 primary schools in rural villages (among them Bois Joli and Mont Michelle). This is in addition to providing administrative support to around 50 university students, many of whom are funded through our Holy Trinity Outreach Committee and several individual parishioners. Diocesan funding for the year has been sent via Partners in Health in Boston to Zanmi Lasante to optimize accountability.
To summarize, life in Haiti continues to be difficult, particularly this summer. Our 40-year partnership with our Haitian brothers and sisters continues to make a sustainable and palpable difference and their faith and resilience continue to be an inspiration. Thanks be to God for the opportunities we have had and continue to have to “Act in the World as the Body of Christ.”
Please continue to keep our beloved Haiti in your thought and prayers.
If you would like to make a donation to address immediate humanitarian needs, I would recommend visiting the PIH.org website and specify “Haiti Earthquake Relief.”
(AP Photo/Delot Jean)
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