Country Highlight: Haiti
Part IV of a series on TPS
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The lives of 50,000 Haitians rest in the hands of the Acting Secretary of Homeland Security, Elaine Duke. Duke is responsible for granting the renewal of TPS for Haiti in January 2018. Her predecessor, John Kelly, clearly warned Haitians here under TPS to prepare to return home next year due to what he describes as the improving conditions in Haiti since the major earthquake in 2010.
We are here to ask, in light of subsequent natural disasters, a weak economy, and political instability, have the living conditions in Haiti actually improved enough to support the return of 50,000 citizens?.
Due to Haiti’s location in the Caribbean, it is extremely susceptible to natural disasters, which have repeatedly devastated the island, making for difficult living conditions. The World Bank estimates that 90% of the population is vulnerable to the effects of natural disasters.
Here is a brief chronology of natural disasters in Haiti, as reported in the New York Times:
May 2004: Heavy rain and excessive flooding displaced tens of thousands around the country and washed away villages.
September 2004: Hurricane Jeanne killed 3,000 and leveled the city of Gonaïves.
August & September 2008: Tropical storms Fay, Gustav, Hanna, and Ike killed 800, and destroyed 60% of the country’s harvest.
January 2010: Two earthquakes (magnitude 7 and magnitude 6) killed 300,000, destroyed most of Port-au-Prince, and devastated the whole country.
October 2016: Hurricane Matthew killed 1,000, and left over 35,000 homeless.
Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world, which makes it increasingly difficult to rebuild after such repeated natural disasters. Roughly 80% of the population is living under the poverty line, and participate in the informal economy where they sell crops and livestock. These agricultural resources have been devastated almost routinely, due to natural disasters, resulting in huge economic losses for peasant farmers and forcing the country to become more reliant on imported food.
In addition to the natural and environmental challenges, the current political upheaval has not helped the grave economic situation. Jovenel Moïse faces weekly protest in Port-au-Prince and throughout the country in response to his proposed budget, which increases taxes and fees. The government has banned the protests led by civilians and has employed violence and intimidation in the hopes of crushing the demonstrations. Police were seen in Port-au-Prince firing tear gas, water cannons, and bullets into crowds of peaceful protesters. Armed civilians have taken to the streets to intimidate protesters in Pétion-Ville, just outside the capital. These protests have been occurring since mid-September, and show no signs of slowing down.
Highlight: Central America (Nicaragua, Honduras & El Salvador) – coming November 17th