After decades of social-economic instability and misfortune, the situation in Haiti further deteriorated in 2019 with street protests and soaring levels of violence. In a report released by the Ministry of National Education and Vocational Training for the period of June 2020- November 2020, it was estimated that at least 3 million children across the country did not have access to school in the first quarter of 2019-2020 school year.
On December 16, 2019, just a few months before the nation went into lockdown due to the COVID-19 Pandemic on March 19, U.S. Ambassador Michele J. Sison declared a disaster for Haiti due to a complex emergency. There has been an increase in kidnappings and political protests; an increase in COVID-19 cases in December; lastly the late-December fuel shortage and acute food insecurity among vulnerable households countrywide. Out of the 11.4 million estimated population in Haiti, 6.3 million people are projected to be affected by the complex emergency in Haiti.
To mark International Women’s Day (March 8), women from Haiti organized rallies in several departments to protest the shocking spike in gender-based violence, and demand fair, free elections, and an end to corruption. ActionAid research showed that Covid-19 unleashed a spike in violence against women globally, while at the same time vital women’s health and protection services are facing funding cuts and closures. School closures during lockdown saw increases in early pregnancy and sexual and gender-based violence against girls. At one school in Beaumont, 40 girls, ages 14 and 17, got pregnant during closures.
As COVID-19 continued to disrupt the lives and livelihoods of families around the world, many Haitian parents faced more than the consequences of economic downturn but also the long-term risks of school closure caused by the pandemic and political unrest. Since the first cases were confirmed, a state of emergency was declared in Haiti on March 20. Schools and many non-essential industries were shut down to limit the transmission of the virus. Without the steady income, many parents can’t afford tuition or even the daily meals that they originally relied on the school canteen programs for. 4 Some educators even predicted that around 20% of Haitian schools will be unable to reopen in the fall due to financial issues.
From an Education Survey conducted nationwide in 2020, with 3,506 participants:
-> 87% know children who don’t go to school.
-> When asked for the factors that they think are preventing the children from going to school, 83% responded money, followed by 6% who responded for insecurity. 48% of participants named pregnancy as the biggest driver for children to drop out of school.
-> 45% of the participants responded that the biggest risk for children outside the school system was joining the gangs, which coincides with the current epidemic of street violence and gang wars suffered by the country.
Due to the eruptions of gang wars in some urban areas of the capital, Port-au-Prince, UNICEF reported over 15,000 women and children were forced to flee their homes in late June to early July. 8 Explosions of violence were also reported to force closure of health care facilities and prevented ambulances from reaching COVID-19 patients with oxygen and emergency treatment. In addition to combating the COVID-19 related stigma and misinformation, gang violence in and around Port-au-Prince also complicated the distribution of vaccines across the country, more complicated.
Ministry of National Education and Vocational Training. (2020). Program proposal submitted to the Global Partnership for Education for funding in the amount of US $ 10 million. Retrieved August 20, 2021, from https://drive.google.com/file/d/1L9cEQ_ffG0ieR0S3QL2lm9U36ufddA-u/view
USAID. (2021). Haiti – Complex Emergency. Retrieved August 20, 2021, from https://www.usaid.gov/sites/default/files/documents/01.19.2021_-_USAID_Haiti_Complex_Emergency_Fact_Sheet_1.pdf
ActionAid. (2021). Women protest rising violence and political corruption in Haiti. Retrieved August 20. 2021, from https://actionaid.org/news/2021/women-protest-rising-violence-and-political-corruption-haiti
Global Center for the Development of the Whole Child. (2020). Faces of COVID-19: Haitian Parents and the Impact of the Coronavirus. Retrieved August 20, 2021, from https://iei.nd.edu/initiatives/global-center-for-the-development-of-the-whole-child/news/faces-of-covid-19-haitian
The Japan Times. (2021). Political crisis adds to heavy burden on Haiti’s youth. Retrieved August 20, 2021, from https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2021/02/21/world/social-issues-world/haiti-youth-crisis/
U-Report. (2020). Education Survey – International Education Day. Retrieved August 23, 2021, from https://haiti.ureport.in/opinion/3920/
The Washington Post. (2021). Twin epidemics in Haiti, violence and coronavirus, usher in ‘critical phase’ in wake of assassination. Retrieved August 23, 2021, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2021/07/08/haiti-health-crisis/
United Nations – UN News. (2021). A third of Haiti’s children in urgent need of emergency aid: UNICEF. Retrieved August 23, 2021, from https://news.un.org/en/story/2021/07/1095592
Médecins Sans Frontières. (2021). Four questions on the tumultuous situation in Haiti. Retrieved August 23, 2021, from https://www.msf.org/maintaining-healthcare-amid-extreme-uncertainty-haiti
Written by Jennifer ShuPing Chen