You may have seen some articles, or at least Facebook updates, on the situation in Haiti. Thank you to everyone who is paying attention to what’s been happening and to those checking in on the Second Mile Haiti team. Here is a brief update on the civil unrest that has the country on lockdown and how we’re coping at Second Mile Haiti.
Protesters have been demonstrating against government corruption, gas shortages, a devaluating national currency, and a spike in prices for basic goods like rice. For the past ten days, these protests have blocked many major roads, most businesses have been closed, and most citizens who are not protesting have sheltered in place. At this point, there is little electricity, gas is hard to come by, many people are running out of drinking water and food, and people cannot afford to eat.
Jacqueline Charles, one of the leading journalists on Haiti, wrote that the situation is affecting many hospitals, and that women with complicated pregnancies are especially vulnerable at this time. Government hospitals have gone on strike for lack of pay, and many international aid agencies have evacuated. Among many very serious issues facing Haitian people in this moment, pregnant women and sick children are particularly vulnerable because there are more barriers to accessing care than usual.
The U.S. State Department issued a Level 4 “do not travel to Haiti” advisory for U.S. citizens. The Canadian Embassy evacuated over 100 Canadian citizens via helicopter. We certainly agree that it is better to err on the side of caution and to ensure safety. Here in Northern Haiti, we are taking the precautions that we feel are necessary while remaining on the ground.
Second Mile Haiti is not struggling in the same ways as other organizations when it comes to electricity since both of our properties are 100% solar. This has allowed us to keep the centers open. However, our employees have had difficulty coming and going both because of road blocks caused by protestors and because transportation options are limited due to extreme gas prices.
Last week, we strategically picked up our program managers, psychologists, and nurses so that we could keep programs running. But on Tuesday of this week, in light of all the blockades and increasing uncertainty about whether protests would become more heated, we made the decision to send all the nutrition center beneficiaries in the residential program home with provisions to be able to continue their care from afar.
The Strong Start Maternity Center has seen a record number of prenatal visits these past ten days, which just shows the extent to which expecting mothers will sacrifice to ensure their pregnancies are on track. Some women have had to arrive on motorcycles through roadblocks, while others have walked. In a situation where so many hospitals and clinics are closed or inaccessible, we are thankful that we are able to continue providing care at the Maternity Center.
Saturday was a “rest day,” which meant that the protests slowed down to allow for people to get supplies like food and water. The Second Mile Haiti team sprung to action early this morning to purchase food, medicine, formula, and even some construction materials. Protests are expected to pick up again tomorrow and last through the week.
Our founder Jenn Schenk said, “We are preparing for how we can conserve our resources but also be a shelter for our community members, beneficiaries, and employees (should the power and food situation continue to decline). I am feeling very blessed by our position in the community and the resources we have at our disposal both through connections here and because of our amazing community of supporters.”
For those who have been asking how they can support Second Mile Haiti at this time, we don’t need emergency materials or funding (and hopefully things will not escalate to that level), but we have been asking people to sign up as monthly donors to support the costs of running the Strong Start Maternity Center. Monthly donations help us to remain a constant presence and care provider in Northern Haiti, in times of peace as well as times of struggle.
We will do our best to keep everyone updated as we continue to provide care for women and children in Northern Haiti.