Haiti: a call to account

By February 20, 2019

Haiti (MNN) – The situation in Haiti is a perfect recipe for instability with a generous helping of ‘fed up’, stirred by a call for change.

Businesses and government offices carefully reopened across the country earlier this week, after protests turned deadly last week. Edouard Lassegue, Vice President of the Latin America and Caribbean Region of Compassion International explains, “There are a lot of people in the streets and they are demonstrating against the corruption that has been rampant in Haiti, and they are demanding account.”

Oil Behind the Fire

(Photo courtesy of Wikimedia/CC)

The corruption accusations stemmed from an oil program that Venezuela financed. Through it, Haiti receives oil at a discount. The extra funds saved were supposed to go to shore up infrastructure and address needs in healthcare and education, but the promises never seemed to materialize into those goods and services.

With the inflation rate at 15-percent and their local currency, the gourde, in a freefall against the U.S. dollar, frustration finally boiled over when prices doubled for food, gas, and other basic goods and it all came to a head on February 7.

Hundreds of thousands of Haitians demanded the resignation of President Jovenel Moise. He is refusing, and that has led to more seething discontent. In fact, both the US and Canadian governments warned people not to travel to Haiti due to crime and civil unrest.

The Canadian government issued a travel advisory to “avoid all travel to Haiti.”  The State Department also issued a Level 4 “Do not travel” travel advisory for Haiti, citing “crime and civil unrest” and “widespread, violent, and unpredictable demonstrations in Port-au-Prince and elsewhere in Haiti.” It also ordered all “non-emergency US personnel and their families” to leave Haiti, saying the country has “limited ability to provide emergency services to US citizens in Haiti.”

Checking In

With the situation remaining fluid, it’s been difficult for ministries to run operations ‘as normal’. Lassegue says, because schools and churches are closed, some of the day-to-day activities, especially in Port-au-Prince and the cities, have had to stop.

“About 30-percent of our projects and partners are impacted, but a good number of them, 60 to 70-percent, are not necessarily directly impacted at this point.” For the projects in the rural parts of the country, “Since we have also many projects and partners outside of the cities, those are not affected as much in activities and meetings and gatherings and training; teaching can go on.”

(L’Eglise Chretienne Des Rachetes D’Haiti, courtesy of Compassion International)

Compassion remains in communication with the office, pastors and project directors and continues to monitor the situation closely. So far, no Compassion staff or children in their program have been injured. In the meantime, for the families they work with, Compassion is advising them to lay low.

“That is the precautionary measure that has been taken at this time—for them not to venture out in the streets, not to expose themselves, during this time of demonstrations and violence. They stay home, and after the riots and violence, then they will resume their activities.”

Prayer, Prayer and More Prayer

When things calm down and life returns to a semblance of ‘normal’, Lassegue says they’ll be watching the kids closely and ready to offer counseling help.  “They see that violence and the demonstrations around them, it’s the psychological impact on those children and youth that often goes unnoticed if not attended to.  That’s where we want to also pay attention to those special needs of those children and youth.”

Lassegue asks you to join him in urgently praying for Compassion’s staff, partners and sponsored families in Haiti. “These would be our prayer requests at this point: protection and wisdom, and the proper relevant teaching for integrity and courage at this time for young people and for the children.”



Headline photo courtesy Compassion International.

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