Poverty in Haiti: Is there a Solution?

Abstract

Haiti is a Latin American country that is often ignored. People do not hear much about it, except if a natural disaster such as the earthquake in 2010 happens. It was once the richest colony of the Caribbean and nowadays is known as the poorest country of the Western Hemisphere. Haiti has been facing a cycle of poverty since it became independent. Haiti’s location and deforestation have contributed to make the situation worse. More than half of the population lives in poverty. Especially those who live in rural areas and women are in greater disadvantage. A large portion of the population do not have access to their basic needs such as shelter, food, potable water and health care. Maintaining a stable government, investing in human capital, implementing new farming techniques and investing in infrastructure can help to improve Haiti’s economy and people’s well-being. Although, they would be long term solutions, they could be sustainable which is something they have been failing to do. Haiti is a country in the Caribbean that covers 27,560 square kilometers of land and 190 square kilometers of water. It shares border only with one country, which is the Dominican Republic (World Atlas). Haiti was once the richest colony of the Caribbean due to its abundanceof sugar, coffee, indigo and cotton. Due to its rich soil, they mostly lived out of agricultural practices. Because of Haiti’s richness, it used to be called “The Pearl of the Caribbean” (Calixte-Hallworth, 2018). Haiti was a colony under France control where the production was done mostly by slaves. Inspired by the French Revolution’s “Declaration of the Rights of Man,” many revolutionary movements began in Haiti. On January 1, 1804, Dessalines, a former slave and general of the troops declared the Haiti as a free and independent nation. However, being independent did not bring happiness, but debt and a rapid decline in Haiti’s economy. Since then,Haiti has been struggling and has not yet manage to get out of the vicious cycle of poverty.

Due to the exploitation of the land, Haiti has suffered from deforestation. This, added to their geographical location has place them in a vulnerable spot for natural disasters which only contributes to increase poverty within the nation. Although, a large part of the population suffers and lives in poverty, people who live in rural areas and women are the ones who suffer the most. Haiti lacks a good education system which results in low skill workers and a low quality of life. In fact, “Less than half of the population is literate.” This makes sense when only about “one child in five of secondary school age actually attends secondary school” (World Bank). Because they do not have people with the best skills, they do not have the best infrastructure and public transportation system. As a result, it is hard for people who live in rural areas to go to a clinic in case of an emergency. According to the World Bank, “About 80 percent of the rural Haitian population lives in poverty.” Being that health care is also expensive, most people cannot afford it. Also, there are not many programs that support women during their pregnancies. An indicator of this is “the fact that 76% of births occur at home, which, because of the level of poverty, usually means unsanitary conditions. Coincidentally, the maternal mortality rate is 1,122/100,000live births (1995), 100 times that of North America, and the infant mortality rate is 77.26/1,000 live births (2010)” (Poverty and Health in Haiti). These statistics show that poverty leads to multidimensional problems. It is not only about money, but about people’s health and well-being.

Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human rights states that, “everyone has the rightto a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family…motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care.” Through the research one can notice that Haiti does not meet these standards. Approximately “6.3 billion out of 10 million Haitians are still unable to meet their basic food needs and another 2.5 million even worse off because they living below the extreme poverty line” (Charles, 2014). This shows that more than half of the Haitian population has no access to the food necessary for a healthy and stable nutrition. Thisis even worse when “59.2 of rural lack access to water and sanitation.” This is creating a multidimensional poverty for Haitians. People in rural areas do not have enough food, potable water and sanitation which leads to poor health conditions and the spread of epidemic diseases such as, cholera. According to the MedlinePlus, “cholera is an infectious and often fatal bacterialdisease of the small intestine, typically contracted from infected water or food supplies that causes severe vomiting and diarrhea.” Water is one of the most vital things in life in order to survive.

Since they do not have access to clean water, they are forced to drink contaminated water which can lead to their deaths. When they get sick is hard for them to seek medical care due to several factors such as distance to clinics, cost, transportation and others. Often, hospitals are not ready to assist this kind of outbreaks. All those problems intertwined and make the situation for people in rural areas harder to overcome. They do not have the adequate type of life that they deserve. Another universal right that has failed to be accomplished in Haiti is Article 21.2 which states that “everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.” In the case of Haiti, this is not achieved due to the lack of good infrastructure. As it was mentioned before, people in rural areas have a hard time when trying to have access to public services such as healthcare. The problem is that most of the institutions are built in cities because urban areas dedicate their land to farming. Since this is the case, the land that suffers more from deforestationis the one in rural areas. When natural disasters come, people in rural areas are most affected by it because it is easier for their houses to be flooded and washed away than it is in the big cities.

Poverty in Hait Haiti’s location in the Caribbean makes it vulnerable to natural disasters. Haiti “has been hit by ten hurricanes and other tropical storms, causing widespread loss of life and flooding with every landfall” (uFondwa, 2018) since 1998. However, Haiti is not only exposed to hurricanes and storms, but to earthquakes as well. In 2010, Haiti was hit by the most devastating earthquakein its history. It destroyed “essential services and vital infrastructure” (uFonwa, 2018). This means that if it was hard for people in rural areas to have access to the city public services, it would now be worse, given than even infrastructure in the city was depleted. Since communication systems and roads were damaged, it was difficult for Haiti to receive foreign help. Nevertheless, Haiti was already devastated and still recovering from several hurricanes and tropical storms that hit the country only two years before the earthquake. During the months of August and September, Tropical Storm Frey, Hurricane Gustav, Hanna and Ike slammed Haiti causing heavy rains and flooding. In the end, “approximately 800 people were killed, with an estimated $8 billion in property damage, not to mention the extensive damage to crops throughout the country” (uFondwa, 2018). In order to rebuild everything that was destroyed, theyneeded a lot of money which the government could not provide.

They lost hospitals, schools, roads, and other important infrastructure that would not be easy to recover. Building a simple house takes months or even years. In a country facing poverty, it would be hard to reconstruct everything. Although it would create jobs, most of the them would go to people living in cities, or foreigners who had the experience necessary. As it was mentioned before, Haiti’s population is mostly low skilled. People who live in rural areas, were unlikely to get a job in construction since most of them dedicate their lives to farming. Since a great amount of their crops was destroyed, this event meant more hunger for them. Although, “things are improving in Haiti’s cities, particularly in the Port-au-Prince (Haiti’s capital) metropolitan area, the situation is darker for Haiti’s countryside” (The World Bank, 2014). This shows the inequality that exist among different parts of Haiti. The problem is bigger when two-thirds of the population lives in rural areas. This means that only a small part of the population is benefiting from the job creation afterthe earthquake while the majority is still leaving in bad conditions. There is a problem that needs to be fix and pay attention to when the majority of people are suffering. When hiring people, employers would not go to further areas to look for people. They will try to find skilled workers locally, leaving a huge part of the population out of the plane.

This contributes to poverty gettinghigher in certain part of Haiti, thus reducing people’s opportunity to have a healthy and stable standard of life. The first thing to be done in Haiti is to rebuild trust in the government. It has faced so much instability over decades than people are more faithful in NGOs (Non-Government Organizations) than in the government. Haiti had no presidential representation from 2015 until 2017. The actual elected president, Jovenel Moise is under investigation for money laundering (Thaft-Morales, 2017). When a government is corrupt people stops believing that the situation is going to change. Even if they receive a lot of foreign help, if the money is being mismanaged, nothing is going to happen because nothing is being done for the benefit of people. This is when NGOs come in and try to help. This non-profit organizations are not long-term reliable because they function due to donations. However, to change an entire economic system through donations is very difficult. They need more support than that, which is a strong government that works for the people and with the people. This is a very drastic change that would need to be done. In order to change the government, everyone would have to come together and get rid of all the corrupt leaders and start a new political party.

However, this is really hard to approach because people cannot be certain that corruption is completely eliminated. Also, they would need a lot of support from other institutions such as the police or the army, in order to get rid of the government they have now. Although Haiti cannot change its location which plays a role in their development, the government could enforce laws that would prevent deforestation from getting worse. The government can implement programs that would increase the number of trees being planted and protect those who are already there. There should also be workshops that teach people better farming practices since most of the population relies on agriculture. This way they can prevent soil erosion which also increases the impact of hurricanes and storms in Haiti. Another solution would be to invest in human capital. Investment in Human Capital can “liberate individuals by improving their level of knowledge. It helps increase their productivity, enhance their individual income earning potential, as well as that of the national economy” (HPP). There should be more emphasis put in to rural areas, so that those living in extreme poverty can accumulate some wealth and move on. Many kids do not attend school.

As in the United States, education should be enforced at least until they turn eighteen years old. This way, Haiti would have more literate people with better skills, thus breaking vicious cycles of intergenerational poverty. Economist tend to believe that if your parents were poor and of low education level, you will most likely end up in the same economic class as them. For this reason, it is important to provide new generations with better opportunities, so that they can break those cycles and create a better life for themselves. Until they lack to invest in human capital, there would be no change in the health care system, food security, infrastructure and the economy in general. Money loses value when you give it to people who are just focusing on trying to survive. If they improve their human capital, they would have better trained people in different areas. Once they have educated people, areas such as healthcare can be improved and programs for women’s care during pregnancies can also be created. However, this would also have to go along with investments in technology in order to provide better services. The only problem is that they would perhaps have to borrow money from other countries or negotiate with other countries that are willing to invest in Haiti. Due to their economic situation, it could be hard for other nations to trust Haiti. Another thing that could help would be to enforce investment within the country. Instead of buying foreign products, they could buy products within the country for a lower price while things get better. This would improve farmer’s lives since they would have an income and it would provide more food supply to the population in general. When investors have high expectations in the return of profit they will continue to invest. If this is the case, then farmers, will continue to invest in order to produce more because they know that they will sell their crops and get profits out of it. Limited resources should also be used efficiently. They could have dams for irrigation. Since water is a scarce resource in Haiti and they do not have the best transportation system to rural areas, they could use damns to irrigate water many miles away for the purpose of farming. They could also create another pipeline that would only be for public consumption. This would also contribute to reduce flood hazard, thus protecting the land and the crops. Not to mention thatbuilding the dams would create job opportunities. As member of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, Brian Concannon, said, “Haiti geared its economy to paying back the French debt and missed out on industrialization, education, and development” (Labrador, 2018). It will not be easy to break a vicious cycle that has been lived in Haiti since its independence. A lot has to be done, but it cannot be accomplished while government instability is present. Although they receive a lot of financial help, things do not change because the money is not being invested the right way and in the right people.

References

Black Past.org. Haitian Revolution (1971-1804). Retrieved from https://blackpast.org/gah/haitian-revolution-1791-1804

Calixte-Hallworth, M. (Jan. 25, 2018). Haiti was Once the Richest Colony of the Caribbean. The Tennessee Tribune. Retrieved from http://tntribune.com/community/global/haiti-richest- colony-caribbean/Cholera. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/cholera.htmlCharity: water. Haiti. Retrieved from http://www.charitywater.org/our-projects/latinamerica/haitiHaitians Priorities Project. Human Capital. Retrieved from http://www.hpp4haiti.com/human- capital.htmlLabrador, R. (March 12, 2018). Haiti’s Troubled Path to Development. Council in Foreign Relations. Retrieved from https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/haitis-troubled-path- DevelopmentThaft-Morales, M. (December 1, 2017). Haiti’s Political and Economic Conditions: In Brief. Retrieved from https://fas.org/sgp/crs/row/R45034.pdfPoverty and Health in Haiti. Retrieved from https://www.mtholyoke.edu/~follo20e/classweb/css/3poverty.html The World Bank. Haiti: The Challenges of Poverty Reduction. Poverty Reduction and Equity. Retrieved from http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/TOPICS/EXTPOVERTY/EXTPA/0,,contentMDK:20207590~menuPK:435735~pagePK:148956~piPK:216618~theSitePK:430367,00.html

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