HAITI – Poverty and the risks of Pandemic

At the time of writing, Haiti’s Health Ministry reported 3,941 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 64 deaths. However international agencies and some human rights activists fear the number is far higher, due to a lack of testing.

It has been impossible for many people to follow the measures, particularly in the densely populated slums of the capital, where the highest number of cases have been reported.

There is a strong aversion to needles in the mistaken belief that they help to spread the virus.  Although, despite limitations, Haitians in general are some of the most vigilant when it comes to hygiene.

There are also fears that the spread of coronavirus in Haiti could result in widespread famine; it was thought that close to four million Haitians were already facing hunger before the Covid-19 crisis, and water supplies are also low.

Social unrest, kidnappings, increased theft levels and gang violence exacerbate the situation.  Prisons in Haiti are overflowing with poor people, notoriously inhumane and deadly grounds for infectious outbreaks.

Further worries concern the inadequacies of the health system.  A 2019 study reported that for a population of more than 11 million, Haiti only has an estimated 124 Intensive care unit (ICU) beds and 64 ventilators.

The government’s inconsistent response to the pandemic has also raised questions. The country was put on lockdown in March, then businesses were ordered to resume production to boost the economy, then new measures were brought in – prohibiting any public gathering of more than five people and imposing an 8pm to 5am curfew.

Haiti’s government has faced political unrest and protests for more than a year over allegations of corruption and complaints about soaring inflation.

The country, the poorest in the Western hemisphere, has barely recovered from a string of difficulties: the 2010 earthquake which killed over 230,000, human rights abuses, political wrangling and misuse of funds.

The shutdown prompted a collapse of what had been a growing tourist industry; and even the ‘missionary-sending’ industry, as more missionaries & aid agencies staff are now leaving, undermining precarious social, economic, medical & logistic support. The previous 2 years had already pre-empted a mass Exodus.

Up to 70% of Haiti’s people are Catholics, but their Catholicism is often mingled with voodoo, which has its roots in West African animism. Evangelicals in various forms have grown in numbers, through evangelism, love in action, and by openly standing against voodoo.

  • Pray for the government to rule wisely and sensibly.
  • Pray for the health workers even as they are stretched for resources.
  • Pray that international agencies would help and not hinder the effort to rebuild the nation.
  • There are pockets of Christians and others standing their ground and supporting where they can at great personal risk to themselves. They need prayer support.
  • Pray for the Church to be a powerful witness to the nation.