Catherine Sarther, SSND, Brian Stevens and Kristi van de Wetering (Beyond Borders Staff)
May 26, 2020
As we celebrate the fifth anniversary of Laudato Si’ (LS) during the coronavirus pandemic, our partnership with Beyond Borders in Haiti helps us see the relationship between persons who are poor and planet-related concerns (LS 16). Although the global nature of this pandemic is obvious, countries like Haiti are expected to experience significant additional suffering due to challenging political, economic, and social conditions. Over the years, outside groups have made aid to Haiti dependent on fiscal policies that cut safety-net programs for the country’s poor, leading to widespread internal distrust of the national government, and ongoing political unrest only exacerbates lack of trust in the government. Taken together, these situations foment rumors and misinformation and lead to an underfunded, poorly equipped health-care system.
Current Situation on COVID-19 in Haiti
- Officially, confirmed COVID-19 cases in Haiti have exploded over the past 3 weeks, with numbers rising daily: 25 people have died, and 21 people have recovered. These are the official numbers, but we know that the level of infection and death is much, much higher.
- Hospitals that are able to treat patients have reached capacity, and the Haitian government’s plan to set up coronavirus treatment centers across the country is severely delayed.
- Acts of violence against women and girls are on the rise as the crisis exacerbates power imbalances and inequality.
- Food prices are on the rise, local currency continues to depreciate, and economic disruptions are pushing the most vulnerable deeper into poverty. (Almost 4 million Haitians were already facing hunger before the pandemic.)
Beyond Borders’ Work in Haiti and Values of Laudato Si’
At the same time, people living on the island of Lagonav—where AMSSND focuses its commitment—lack running water and rely on daily trips to collect water for cooking, cleaning, hygiene, and gardens. Climate change threatens their water sources and their crops, and residents face the possibility of food insecurity and hunger. The values influencing Beyond Borders’ work in Haiti echo those expressed in Laudato Si’: that preference be given to the needs of the poor (LS 52), and that “development…takes place within a cultural context and demands the constant and active involvement of local people from within their proper culture” (LS 144).
Currently, our AMSSND partner in Haiti, Beyond Borders, works with grassroots, religious, and civic leaders in Port-au-Prince and Jacmel and on Lagonav Island. So far, Beyond Borders’ COVID-19 Emergency Response includes projects in the following interrelated areas:
- Providing basic supplies for homes and hospitals
- Distributing 2,400 home hygiene kits (water containers and soap)
- Distributing 1,000 gallons of disinfectant for Lagonav’s main hospital and several smaller clinics
- Sewing and distributing 10,000 face masks using skilled members of our networks—including the Adult Survivors of Child Slavery Network
- Raising awareness about the virus and its effects on vulnerable populations (education)
- Sharing messages on radio and WhatsApp about the virus and the increased risk of violence against women and children in times of crisis, and supporting survivors who report cases of abuse to our networks
- Deploying 120 members from our networks—trained and equipped with megaphones—to share critical virus-prevention information in neighborhoods
- Leading efforts at the national and community level to protect vulnerable children from increased risk of trafficking and exploitation
- Contributing $5000 to the Matenwa Community Learning Center to print and distribute 2380 children’s creole language books explaining the coronavirus and prevention measures (along with explanation and other awareness-raising activities) to families with children in schools in communities with whom Beyond Borders works.
- Addressing food security
- Working with local partners to provide seeds and vegetable plants to the most vulnerable families on Lagonav Island so they can grow their own foo
- Installing rainwater catchment systems for 120 families on Lagonav (with key support from AMSSND), thereby expanding access to water for use in cooking, cleaning, growing food, and maintaining good hygiene
- Providing 200 vulnerable families on Lagonav with financial assistance to keep food on the table
Each of these projects represents a practical way SSND can walk with the people of Haiti and Beyond Borders to address complex issues of virus-prevention, water, violence to women, and food insecurity as we care for our common home.
What can we do?
Pray for the people of Haiti and other vulnerable countries:
O God of the poor, help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth, so precious in your eyes. Bring healing to our lives, that we may protect the world and not prey on it, that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction. (Excerpt from Pope Francis, Prayer for the Earth, Laudato Si’)
Petition the U.S. government to stop deporting migrants from Haiti and other vulnerable countries during the coronavirus outbreak here
Talk about the relationships you see among the issues of Water, Immigration, Trafficking, and Haiti.