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Haiti’s newsreel by Dela Harlley

Public health officials are alarmed at the increasing rate of infection in the country in recent days, putting into question the measures the government has taken in the fight against the corona virus. The Secretary of State for Communication, Eddy Jackson Alexis warned that people must take the preventive measures seriously if the country wants to avoid the virus taking a hold, adding more suffering to a people already clobbered with multiple other calamities. According to health officials, there is a 20% increase in the rate of infection, with 10 new cases record this past couple of days, bringing the total number of recorded cases to 57, including 3 deaths. Nine (9) of the 10 cases reported were identified in the west, an important area heavily affected by the virus, but also an area with 40% of the electorate. Four (4) cases were found in Gressier, a quiet neighborhood south of Carrefour. The 4 cases here were suspected to have contracted the virus in the community. The most affected area is Delmas, situated between Port-au-Prince and Petion ville, which recorded 14 cases of the corona virus.

 

The story of the virus continues to confound health experts and politicians alike. President Jovenel Moïse made his famous declaration on March 19, 2020 to fight the corona virus pandemic, with an executive order listing measures to be taken to contain and fight the virus across the country. But a month into the decree, there has been no concrete steps visible on the ground to suggest that the government is fulfilling its promise. When the first cases were reported in the country, the government announced the purchase of medical equipment valued at US$1million from the Chinese firm, Bowang Co. Ltd/China Xu Xiao. The equipment that were needed for the hospitals and health centers to provide care for the patients was the initial part of a general US$27million procurement which the Prime Minister said will include urgently needed equipment and was expected to start arriving in the country on April 10, 2020. But as at this writing, not a single ton of the 493 tons of medical equipment has yet arrived. According to the Prime Minister the initial purchase included 2.5million medical gloves, 300,000 sterilized gowns, 10 automatic biochemistry analyzers, 100 respirators and accessories, 1,500 hospital beds, 500 infusion pumps, 200,000 KN-95 face masks, 1.5million disposable surgical masks, 250,000 PPEs (glasses, visors and shoes). But to date, medical facilities have yet to receive any of these equipment that are crucial for the treatment of patients with the virus, and if the numbers are not yet astronomical, it is not because the government has been pro-active in putting measures in place.

 

Furthermore, the preventive measures announced by the government, such as confinement, social distancing, night curfew, restricted use of markets and public transports have not be satisfactorily respected, as many people were still found out and about and those who stayed home did so out of fear of the virus and not the government directives. The government itself does not seem to have its own directives under control because when the President announced on April 13, 2020 that Prime Minister Joseph Jouthe would distribute masks across the country the following day, that did not happen. Two days later, at a press conference, the Prime Minister asked for people to be patient with the mask distribution as he revealed that there was no adequate supply to meet the population’s need and that the current stock was only enough for first responders, health care workers, and small business owners in the markets.

 

In other news, workers in the industrial parks, such as SONAPI, resumed work this Monday, following an executive order that allow certain businesses to reopen in stages, despite the risks involved and against the wishes of the labor unions. The unions have not been consulted or their grievances taken into consideration before this decision was taken, and taken by surprise in this fashion, the unions have called for an immediate meeting with management. Industrial Park employers do not have policies in place for social distancing measures announced by the government, workers took to the streets to find their way to work, despite the union’s demand that the government provide transportation to workers so as to limit the possibility of contamination. There were no social distancing measures put in place, with the exception of water for workers to wash their hands, the workplace has remains the same with workers working close to each other, as has always been the case prior to Covid-19. According to the union leader, Dominique Saint-Éloi, there must have been some arrangement between the government and the business owners because no preventative measures have been put in place and the working conditions are not appropriate in the face of this deadly pandemic. There are no available health kits, hazard pay is not being provided nor has there been dialogue with the union, as was agreed upon, prior to reopening the industrial park. The workers work without protective gowns, no helmets nor uniform. This government-business alliance with dishonest leaders has tried the same coup in February when they want to forge ahead with the Carnival, and now this, it seems they want to expose as much people to the virus in order to line their pockets with funds to help provide for those who are sick with the virus.

 

Talking about misappropriation of funds, the December 4 collective has warned against the fraudulent, unjustified and abusive use of funds and donations destined for the treatment of the COvid-19 pandemic in Haiti. The group calls for an immediate creation of a support mechanism to aid oversight entities to make sure funds are used appropriately. Given the ineffective nature of the oversight entities, there is a likelihood that this will open the way for waste and dilapidation of funds as has been the case in the past 10 years. The organization noted that there has been a huge sum of money already allocated to fight the pandemic; the US$18million from the government, then the US$111,6m from the IMF and US$13.2million from USAID. The organization propose a 9 member committee to oversee the funds, including two members from the government, one from the accountants’ organization, l’Ordre des comptables professionnels et agrées d’Haïti (OCPAH) , a senator, a member of the CSCCA court, one clergy and a member of the bankers’ association.

 

Finally, the US has been deporting Haitians during this pandemic and there’s the fear that they are not only deporting immigrants but also the COvid-19 because according to the government, three of the deportees who have been in the country and quarantined for two weeks have tested positive for the corona virus. There are further talks that 129 Haitians to be deported in the next few days. While some oppose sending people back home without determining their status, and only send those who tested negative. Such deportations are considered immoral, and places both Haitians and Americans in danger of the pandemic.

Dela Harlley

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