U.S. support is vital to build stable Haiti
I am a student in Environmental Economics, Marine Affairs, minoring in Sustainability at the University of Rhode Island, currently interning with The Borgen Project as an advocate to reduce poverty in the world. I write to draw attention to the extreme poverty in Haiti, and the need to help Haitians improve their livelihood so they can live in dignity, have safe drinking water, enough food on their tables, send their children to school, and get decent jobs. It is a well-known fact that helping poor countries build a resilient economy is beneficial to our own U.S. economy as it creates new trades, jobs, and economic ties and partnerships.
In August 2019, I volunteered with Be-Like-Brit, an organization dedicated to building houses for families in need in Haiti and traveled with a team from URI to work for a week in Grand Goâve to help build a house, mortar and hammer in hand. I witnessed the poverty, the lack of infrastructure, the poor health conditions, and the need for education. I was able to communicate at a personal level with the children because they learn French and I am a native French speaker. These children deserve to grow up sheltered, healthy, educated and prepared for a decent job. Right now, 60% of the population of Haiti (11.4 million) lives with less than $2 per day.
Haiti ranks 168 of 189 countries in terms of poverty, it is the poorest country in the Americas, and its debt is so high that investments to protect against natural disasters cannot be undertaken. Natural disasters strike the country frequently (Hurricane Matthew was a category 4 in fall 2016, and the 2010 earthquake was a magnitude 7.2). And 39.3% of the population is illiterate. The frequency of natural disasters, combined with political instability (recently, the assassination of President Jovenel Moise), a lack of protection of investments, and a high level of corruption, make Haiti among the worst to do business with. There was a sharp increase in severe malnutrition in young children since the pandemic started (86,000 compared to 41,000 last year). Haiti is running out of Ready-To-Use Therapeutic Food, which could cause the deaths of hundreds of thousands of children under 5 if no funds are provided.
I urge support for "The Haiti Development, Accountability, and Institutional Transparency Initiative Act (H.R. 2471)." The Act proposes actions to “support post-earthquake and post-hurricane recovery and development in Haiti” by collaborating with the Haitian government on recovery planning, “assessing the impact of the U.S. and the international community efforts in Haiti over the past 10 years,” “supporting disaster resilience and reconstruction efforts," and, most importantly, “addressing the underlying causes of poverty and inequality, including by providing health resources, access to clean water, food, and shelter.”
It is crucial that this act does not fall into oblivion and that the Committee on Foreign Relations implements a strong and sustainable policy to eradicate poverty.
I urge readers to call Senator Chris Murphy and urge him to act on this bill, because he is a member of the Committee on Foreign Relations. In a few years, when Haiti has significantly reduced its poverty level, invested in education and developed its infrastructure, the U.S. (and other countries too) will be able to do business and exchange goods with the country.
With U.S. efforts supporting sustainable development (job creation), Haiti could soon achieve its goal of self-reliance.
Anabel Makover is a Borgen Project Ambassador and a student at the University of Rhode Island.