During the week of February 14th, AVSI’s long-time Country Representative from Haiti, Fiammetta Cappellini, was in Washington, DC and New York City for a series of meetings and events.
An intense week of discussion, meetings with donor agencies, lots of hard questions and even more painful answers culminated in a panel discussion held in the forum of The New York Encounter on Saturday, February 19. At that event, titled “Haiti’s Open Wounds: Is there Hope?“, Fiammetta and journalist Joe Parkin Daniels from The Guardian dove into the questions which have been burning for so many throughout the terribly painful year of 2021, which for Haiti was a living hell: how could things have possibly gotten so bad in Haiti? Is there any viable political solution on the horizon? Has the international community (and the US in particular) created more harm than good, including through its efforts to “build back better” and support the Haitian people, crisis after crisis? Is there any reason to be hopeful that things will improve?
The conversation covered a lot of ground including a brief history of Haiti, political setbacks, and the gang violence which holds siege over large parts of the country and is crippling essential infrastructure and roadways. The conclusion we arrived at is that the country is in dire shape and lives are being lost, unnecessarily, every day. The Haitian people are traumatized. But there is reason to hope, if only for the mere fact that human life continues, mothers continue to look at their children with hope for their future, and thousands of people struggle each day to find food, work, and a decent shelter.
Life goes on. When you take the time to look carefully enough, and to peer behind the headlines and meet ordinary Haitians as journalist Joe Daniels told us, you will find people who are still ready to work hard for the future of Haiti, to hustle to get a business off the ground, and to protect and share Haiti’s rich cultural heritage. Of course, many people are desperate to leave, and this position is understandable. Yet, if we forget those who are fighting against all odds, if we turn a blind eye and consider the country to be a lost cause, imagine all that humanity will lose.
AVSI Haiti Country Representative Fiammetta Cappellini discusses with Joe Parkin Daniels, Journalist from The Guardian, moderated by Jackie Aldrette, AVSI-USA Managing Director and AVSI Deputy Secretary General at New York Encounter February 19th 2022.
International donors are paying attention to Haiti, but there is widespread concern that it is not enough given the gravity of the situation. On February 15, a donor conference was convened by the government of Prime Minister Ariel Henry with UN support, at which Henry asked for $2 billion for reconstruction and recovery. Reportedly, donors pledged $600 million, including $50 million from USAID. UN Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammed pleaded: “We are aware that aid budgets are under pressure across the globe. We also know there is donor fatigue. And we have heard, loud and clear, concerns about the results of aid in Haiti. But this is not the time to give up.”
This plea was made before the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the ensuing humanitarian crisis now unfolding. A few voices have begun to speak up, urging continued attention to the other crisis situations occurring globally today, among which is Haiti.
AVSI’s staff in Haiti is committed to the long-game, not giving up hope or the work it takes to be there with and for the communities of Haiti. This cannot be done alone and so AVSI worldwide calls everyone to action to understand the clear and urgent steps needed for Haiti.