PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — The country of Haiti comprises the western half of the island of Hispaniola; the eastern half is the Dominican Republic. Once a nation rich from its sugar plantations and exports, Haiti has since suffered from weak or corrupt leadership, environmental issues like deforestation and natural disasters. These factors make the nation more susceptible to the ravages of the current COVID-19 pandemic. There are organizations stepping in with either funding, supplies and education as part of Haiti’s Covid-19 relief response.
The Situation in Haiti
Today, “Haiti is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere.” Around 2.5 million people live in extreme poverty on less than $1.12 each day. The Haitian government’s Ministry of Health has made efforts to halt the spread of COVID-19 by stopping public gatherings and flights in and out of the country. However, the reality is that most Haitians don’t have access to running water much less soap. In fact, only 55% of people in the capital have access to the public water supply. Many are living packed in slums which makes the situation more complicated.
Due to a debilitated healthcare system, Haitians often die of treatable conditions like diarrhea and respiratory diseases. A 2015 study showed that 17% of deaths in children age five or younger were from respiratory disease, 13% were due to diarrheal diseases. These diseases also leave them highly vulnerable to the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The lack of protective gear and supplies that have plagued first world countries is even more acute in Haiti.
Haiti’s Covid-19 Relief Response
Unlike the United States and other developed countries, Haiti is without the financial resources to meet the challenges of COVID-19. The World Bank Group understands this and has approved a $20 million fund for Haiti to combat the effects of COVID-19. This money specifically targets stopping the spread of COVID-19 through “detection, infection control in health facilities, and access to [the]best care possible.” In addition, the International Finance Group is providing $8 billion to protect private-sector businesses in Haiti.
Care 2 Communities (C2C) is a non-profit organization that has worked in Haiti for many years, helping more than 100,000 people. Currently, it is working to reduce the spread of COVID-19. C2C is gathering much-needed supplies, increasing testing, running clinics and providing educational outreach to the people of Haiti. The organization is also raising donations to help with the COVID-19 effort.
The Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation (BTCF) is another non-profit organization providing supplies and education to Haiti during the COVID-19 outbreak. BTCF has been helping Haitians since 1999. Now, it is donating masks and gowns to Haitian hospitals. It has also provided education on virus prevention techniques such as good hygiene and maintaining water sanitation.
COVID-19 in Haiti
The efforts of the Haitian government and non-profit organizations are potentially making a difference. As of September 7, the country of a little more than 11.4 million people had 8,362 infections and 214 deaths. No one knows what the future holds when it comes to this global pandemic, but if Haiti’s Covid-19 relief response turns out to be successful in one of the poorest countries in the world, they can serve as a model for managing COVID-19 in other impoverished nations.
– Joseph Maria