Dr. Tram Jones, friend of Light from Light, shares an update on the current contentious state of affairs in Haiti and what is behind this political unrest.
As some of you may have read, Haiti has been rocked by manifestations, protests and a political stalemate over the last year.
A brief primer is necessary:
Haiti’s government (along with many other countries) in 2005 formed an agreement with Venezuela to buy inexpensive oil and use the savings to invest in social projects. Following Venezuela’s collapse, Haiti has been unable to buy gas at the same reduced price. In July 2018, the government attempted to raise the price that individual Haitians paid at the pump, which led to massive protests and a reversal by the government. To compound matters, over the last two years, a report has surfaced which reveals that the savings, originally planned for use in social projects, were largely embezzled. The scandal has reached the President’s office, as his former company was one of the recipients of government contracts with allegations of wrong-doing. For the past year, demonstrations have been occurring off and on, with protesters demanding his resignation.
As a result of the current situation, the country is in a state of periodic shutdown. Roadblocks are preventing healthcare workers and teachers from getting to their place of work. Transportation of potable water and sewage (a major concern in one of the world’s largest cities without a sewer system) are leading to serious health concerns in the capital, Port-au-Prince.
This has particularly affected the work of our partner, Lespwa Timoun. Croix-des-Bouquets, where Lespwa Timoun is situated, has not been immune to the protests. Doctors and nurses have been unable to reach the clinic and even when they can, it is often unsafe for patients to travel long distances to come in for care. In the mountainous regions where Lespwa Timoun works, it has been impossible for workers to continue nutrition programs and mobile clinics.
Adversity is not new to our partners on the ground. Carmel Valdema, founder of Lespwa Timoun, has built a life by overcoming obstacles in the name of the poor of Haiti. When she was a young nurse, she had built a thriving clinic on the Haitian island of La Gonâve. Children were being saved and lives changed. Inexplicably, her husband, a priest, was transferred to a new church in the semi-urban town of Croix-des-Bouquets. All of her work was reset to zero. With resolution, she started again. A new nutrition program started and the church was growing. Life had begun anew—and then the 2010 earthquake changed her new community forever. Picking up the pieces of the city that had become her new home, she resolved to continue her work. In 2013, in partnership with Light from Light, she raised funds to build the current Lespwa Timoun clinic. Today, thousands of patients are treated each month despite moments of adversity like the one Haiti is experiencing currently.
Carmel’s resolve is a reflection of the Haitian resolve. Our partners at Lespwa Timoun have been through difficult times, yet they have always persisted. At Light from Light, we believe in our partners and we believe in the Haitian people. Join us in praying for peace, for resolution, and for strength to persist.
Dr. Tram Jones