Haiti’s been in the news again this week, which is as usual not good.  As far as I can tell, Port-au-Prince is in dire straits as the center of a battle between the principal gang supporting acting President and Prime Minister Ariel Henry, G-9, which is also one of the gangs involved in the smuggling of weapons and counterfeit cash using (or rather misusing) the port franchise of the Episcopal Church through a former employee, with the principal funders thought to be behind the assassination of the former president, Moise, by Columbian soldiers, and Fantom 509, the gang comprised largely of current and former police officers. (509 is the international telephone country code for Haiti.)  One of their claims is that the police are deliberately under-equipped as a strategy to bring in foreign intervention, and their aim is to unseat Ariel Henry.  Their recent attacks upon him at the airport and at his residence signal that he is in a very precarious position, and his unpopularity is pretty universal.  (And lest you think that everything in Haiti is simple, with obvious bad guys and good guys, Henry was the consulting neurosurgeon for more than 20 years at St. Vincent’s School for Handicapped Children, until relatively recently the only school in Haiti for children with disabilities.)   Lesser gangs are involved in skirmishes around the edges of the two bigger ones, including Baz Gran Grif, claiming responsibility for the deaths of seven policemen and holding their bodies hostage.  This is the height of insult in Haiti, as respect for the dead is a strong cultural value.  As always, your prayers are bid for our friends and for the country.

However, there is also news of folks working hard and succeeding in making a positive difference, and I’ll send along three I’ve just received.  The first, courtesy of Jerry Harner, under my signature, tells about the relative peace in Cap Haitien in the far north of Haiti, and about the good cooperative work of Konbit Sante, coordinating the medical services there.


News from Cap-Haitien, Haiti

Dear Friends,

I write to you from Cap-Haitien, where I recently returned after a few months in the U.S. As the violence in Port-au-Prince continues to escalate, Cap has remained relatively peaceful following a couple months of protest last fall.

Businesses and government offices are open, the streets are bustling again with children walking to and from school in their colorful uniforms, motos buzzing through the streets, and merchants selling their wares on sidewalks and in markets.

Cap-Haitien is considered such a haven that it hosted the Port-au-Prince International Jazz Festival in mid-January and will be the site of Carnival – one of the largest Mardi Gras festivals in the Caribbean and North America – in February.

The mood is one of gratitude and caution. As one of my colleagues said recently, “We feel blessed and thankful but also frustrated because of the bad news in Port-au-Prince.

The “bad news in Port-au-Prince,” as described in the international press, impacts every corner of the country, including cap-Haitien. Because gangs have blocked the Port-au-Prince fuel terminal and the major roadways into and out of the capital, the cost of black market fuel, food, bottled water, medicines, and other provisions has more than doubled.

Health centers in Cap-Haitien are struggling to run their generators and buy medicines and supplies. The lack of access to clean water is fueling an increase in cholera cases, and food costs are leading to food insecurity and higher rates of malnutrition, especially among children. My colleague, Dr. Rony Saint Fleur, reports an increased number of malnourished patients in the pediatric service at L’Hôpital Universitaire Justinien compared to one year ago.

Konbit Sante is responding to many of these challenges. As we reported previously, we have been working with partners Care2Communities and Second Mile Haiti to purchase and import one million Aquatabs water purification tablets. The tablets will be airlifted from Europe – where they are available at a significantly reduced cost compared to the U.S. – to Haiti in two weeks. Once they arrive in Cap-Haitien, community health workers will distribute tablets to households in the area. The health workers have done this before, there is a process in place, and the distribution can begin expeditiously.

In addition to distributing Aquatabs for prevention, we are searching for the best option to quickly (and at a reasonable cost) procure catheters, fluids, and other drugs and supplies for Hôpital Convention Baptists d’Haiti, which re-opened its cholera treatment center last week. At the same time, we continue to help partner facilities maintain and expand their solar capacity to remain less dependent on fuel to run generators.

We work in a complex, rapidly changing environment. Despite the challenges, I am pleased to be back with my colleagues and friends and in the city that has been my home for over a year. I look forward to working with our U.S. and Haiti teams, our generous volunteers, and our board to find creative and effective strategies to strengthen the health system in Cap-Haitien.


Tezita Negussie
Interim Exeuctive Director