In January and February and up until March, Haiti suffered a tsunami of kidnapping. Nobody in Port au Prince felt safe, and nobody was exempt as a target by the kidnappers. Kidnapping in Haiti is part of a worldwide and age old disgrace, the abomination of taking another human being into bondage. A good friend of mine, a Haitian veterinary doctor was kidnapped and a ransom of 300,000 US Dollars was asked. While negotiations brought the ransom down, it showed me that physically released was not a happy ending, but rather the beginning of a long and terrible internal bondage.
Corona virus, a kidnapper of another name. There are currently 25 confirmed cases of the corona virus in Haiti. So far none in the Grand’Anse Department where Jeremie is located. But we suspect that it’s a tiny fraction as there’s hardly been any testing. Haiti’s healthcare system is in no position to deal with COVID-19. The only hope is prevention. But social distancing is a tough sell in Haiti, where millions must venture out to public markets each day to buy food.
As schools are now closed, teachers and other school personal are not getting paid. While the Ministry of Education is saying it will have some money for laid off teachers, the private schools will not get anything and they make up the majority of all schools.
As of now there is no word from the Ministry of Education on the future of this school year.
On March 19 the first case of corona virus was announced in Haiti, and food prices began skyrocketing immediately. A can of rice, the size of a can of green beans, cost 100 gourdes in December of 2019, and costs about 600 gourdes right now. The Haitian diaspora has seen their economic situation greatly impacted by the corona virus prevention measure in the US, and remittances have begun to slow and will even slow further.
Churches are also closed, and no funerals are permitted. 1,000 to 2,000 coffins are being manufactured, made out of cardboard in anticipation of lives lost.
Medical professionals have mentioned shortages of all equipment. When it comes to corona virus response, Haiti with a population of 11 million people, has about 39 physicians available for the management of infected patients. Haiti currently has 124 ICU beds with the capacity to ventilate 62 patients.
In the Jeremie area there is hardly any testing material available. A doctor friend of mine who sits on the task force let me know that he tested one person. The test had to be brought to Port au Prince for analysis and then it took 10 days to get the results. But with all public bus transportation closed down that will no longer be an avenue to send out tests.
The Haitian government has closed the border with the Dominican Republic and basically has stopped all flights going in and out of Haiti. The Haitian government has also asked that everybody wear a mask and put a task force in place to monitor the situation. But it is woefully aware that whatever happens it will not have the capacity to fight the virus. Therefore prevention is important. Many people are observing hand washing, but water is becoming a scarce commodity.
But there is also a lot of fear in the population, and desperate people act desperately. In one community the state tried to establish a temporary hospital for coronavirus patients, and the population destroyed it. People who are rumored to have the virus, true or not true, are in fear of their lives, because attacks with machetes have been perpetrated.
The epidemic in Haiti is projected to explode in Mid-May and early June. Still time for prayer.
And all is not lost. We are currently working on some creative ways to use WhatsApp, Facebook and internet to establish regular communications with the people that we serve, especially with our scholarship students, so that they can continue to learn. We have scheduled weekly phone calls to check and see how everybody is doing. Construction is still going on with three houses, and we will be able to fulfill our goal of 5 new houses for this year. We also want to assure that our microcredit businesses are able to continue to have inventory, so monetary donations are always welcome.
In the community of Fondwa we have established a group of sewers who are sewing mask to be distributed in the community. We also just purchased 50 buckets with spouts to be distributed in the community of Jean Bellune, and in collaboration with Trees That Feed Foundation we will distribute 3000 konparets monthly to orphanages and very poor people to supplement their nutritional needs.
Our quarterly newsletter should be available shortly. You will see that for the first 3 months of this year we were busy and have accomplished a lot. We will continue our work and wish all of you peace and health in these strange times.