As Haiti is bracing for covi 19 with few resources, we have fear on one hand and skepticism on the other hand. Jovenel Moise, Haiti’ s president, started well by locking down schools, businesses and factories early on March 13 when the first case of the pandemic disease was discovered. Although porous, especially the land passages, our borders were monitored and the main airports were closed to international traffic. These early efforts managed to hold the amount of cases down while next door, the Dominican Republic saw a large amount of people affected. This is probably because Haiti has had very few tourists and the disease did not enter through foreigners. Since then, the Haitian government has been at a loss in terms of a clear strategy. First, the Health minister belittled her post by posing with an underling from UNICEF to receive buckets that could have been purchased with one day of the per diem for the national palace. Second, the first lady delayed distribution of buckets with faucets and chlorine until her picture and an election style message were printed on said buckets. People have been advised to stay home, but until recently they had to line up at close quarters to get a national id card which will be used for any distribution in the future. Until recently people were shopping in marketplaces with no distancing, and no easing of hands.
In terms of the Health sector, very little has been done in terms of public health, despite a lot of propaganda. First, the Health Minister said she was making 200 beds available for covi 19 patients, but the main hospital in Port-au-Prince, the University Hospital has not been rebuilt since the earthquake of 2010, the money to rebuild it stolen with the Petro Caribe funds, over 4 billion dollars, so people did not believe her. A private hospital in Mirebalais run by the ONG Partners in Health is the main covi 19 treating center. In Port-au-Prince, the Bernard Mews Hospital has a few respirators, but is not really equipped in terms of PPEs and other protective gears. It is the main trauma center for the whole metropolitan region, receiving gun shot wounds, accident victims and all others, so it has a lot on its plate.
In terms of sanitation, this is where the situation is worse. As the mayor of Belladere, a town near the Dominican border, said : “we have been told to wash our hands, but we do not have any water.” There is very little running water everywhere in the country. Most of the rivers are polluted, recently the Gray River became red when a plant dumped a red substance “accidently” in the river upstream. People have to scramble to get water to bathe and clean dishes. Electricity is a luxury, and when it’s running it is only for three hours max. The university has asked teachers to run classes using Google classroom, but with no electricity how can you operate a laptop. To top it off internet is not only expensive, it is unreliable. When this all ends the Haitian economy will not be able to feed the population and provide jobs, and the present administration cannot provide solutions because they have lost the trust of society, and of most people at home and in the diaspora.
In the street many people express skepticism when you ask about covi 19. Some say it’s a conspiracy by the government to get money. Others say only Whites and Chinese are affected, and Haitians they say are immune. Some people in the shanty towns have been living in a disease filled environment all their lives, surviving in such squalor that they do not see the covi 19 as a threat. Death has visited them and their loved ones often already, so they look at the pandemic with passive resignation, some calling on Jesus for salvation. Through all this, only administration from municipalities have tried to react by cleaning the environment and trying to regulate public transportation and marketplaces. Petion-Ville, Tabarre and Cap Haitien are at the forefront of this effort, while the central government is on Showtime. While in the USA people are hoping that the government is going to provide some relief, in Haiti there is little hope, and as usual it is everyone for themselves.