Why Haiti?

Earthquake damage in Port au Prince

Earthquake damage in Port au Prince

The need in Haiti, just a short distance (710 miles) from the United States, is overwhelming, particularly in light of the massive magnitude 7.0 earthquake that struck in January 2010. Port au Prince, the capital of Haiti, suffered massive damage. Basic infrastructure such as water delivery, sanitation, housing, transportation, and food supply and delivery were inadequate before the earthquake and are even worse today. It is reported that as many as 250,000 people were killed although the number is difficult to determine as many people were buried in mass graves. As a result, many people have left Port au Prince and have relocated to the countryside.

In October 2010, a cholera epidemic emerged in Haiti.  Hospital Albert Schweitzer was at the forefront of identifying and setting protocols for treatment.  In the three months between October and December 2010, about 150,000 people throughout Haiti contracted cholera, and about 3,500 people died.  A study released in March 2011 predicts that the number of cholera cases will continue to be present in Haiti. But with the well established and circulated protocols for avoiding cholera and safe care of patients widely circulated by the Ministry of Health, the severity of the epidemic has diminished.  The onset of the rainy season in the spring of 2011, brought  a resurgence of cholera throughout Haiti.

Deschapelles is approximately 2-3 hours north of Port au Prince. There was not much damage in Deschapelles from the earthquake but it was inundated with people from Port au Prince putting increased pressure on limited resources. While the need in Haiti is great, the people have a spirit of fortitude, perseverance, and ingenuity. Following the devastating January 2010 earthquake, people are rebuilding shattered lives.

News reports focus on the negatives. There are many positives about Haiti and the Haitian people.

Market woman

Market woman

  • Haitian culture is unique. Their music and art are world renown.
  • They are creative and willing to work hard.
  • There are many efforts now going on in Haiti, collaborations between foreigners and Haitians which are enabling them to create a better Haiti.
  • There is a recently announced plan, with funds allocated, to restructure the educational system, providing opportunities for all Haitian children to attend school at no cost, teacher training, and support for existing successful private schools.
  • Haiti has fine graduate schools; especially in medicine and law.
  • Haiti has good vocational schools.
  • This is a time when a terrible natural disaster caused unimaginable damage to the overall systems of Haiti, but which has provided opportunities to make Haiti better than before. Now is the time!

Deschapelles market

Deschapelles market

Haiti lies just 710 miles from the United States. It shares the Island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic. Deschapelles is located in the Artibonite Valley near the town of Verettes. It is approximately 2-3 hours northwest of the capital city Port au Prince.

Why HAS, Deschapelles and its environs?

1.  There has been existing area resident support and awareness of Hospital Albert Schweitzer, Deschapelles, and Haiti  over the past several years, as demonstrated by fundraising art shows at local merchants in Essex, volunteer work by “HAS Ambassadors”-a group of area resident committed to HAS, involvement of the International Committee of the Rotary Clubs of Chester, Deep River and Essex, fundraisers for Hospital Albert Schweitzer over the past five years on the grounds of the Connecticut River Museum and elsewhere, and the involvement of several leading business people on the Advisory Board of Choukoun, a micro business project located in Deschapelles.

Woman on the way to market

Woman on the way to market

2.    Since the inception of Sister Cities Essex Haiti in the summer of 2010, area residents, organizations, businesses, and visitors have initiated or supported a plethora of initiatives to support Sister Cities Essex Haiti and bring greater awareness of Haiti to the area.  To learn more about these initiatives, please click here.

3.    There are existing relationships between residents of Essex and Deschapelles as Essex residents have visited Deschapelles and vice versa.

4.    Through the long-time efforts of Jenifer Grant, who has been intimately involved with both HAS and the Deschapelles community since the Hospital was founded, the people of Essex and environs have come to know of the work of HAS. Her sharing of her local knowledge of the people, the institutions, the language and the customs, and her encouragement of many from the Essex area to visit HAS and Deschapelles with her, has not only heightened the interest and support by Essex-area residents for the work being done at HAS and in the Deschapelles area but also serve as a guidepost for SCEH to proceed with its efforts in Haiti.

5.    There is an existing infrastructure in Deschapelles to collaborate with on various community projects: ODES.

6.    There are Haitians in the Chester, Deep River and Essex tri-town area who can lend greater understanding of Haiti and its people.

Frolicking at a water pump

Frolicking at a water pump

Education and good health care are critical to a successful community. Many Haitians suffer from diseases of poverty; malnutrition, tuberculosis, cholera and other gastro intestinal diseases due to lack of clean water, and diseases from a lack of proper preventive treatments. There are many talented people throughout Haiti who, given the chance, can make a huge contribution to the well being of their country. Hospital Albert Schweitzer provides excellent comprehensive health care and community development support. The Deschapelles Library will provide the community with an opportunity to expand their thirst for knowledge. Within Haiti, Deschapelles can perhaps provide a model of collaboration between health care, a source of education through the library and between the people of Essex CT and Deschapelles, Haiti, where each community can grow in understanding of each other’s cultures and work together for a better world.

Haiti is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. 80% live under the poverty line and 54% live in abject poverty. The unemployment rate is 80%. The minimum wage is less than US $5.00 per day. Two-thirds of all Haitians depend on the agricultural sector, mainly small-scale subsistence farming, and remain vulnerable to damage from frequent natural disasters, exacerbated by the country’s widespread deforestation.

slightly smaller than Maryland
total: 27,750 sq km
land: 27,560 sq km
water: 190 sq km

Haiti lies on the western end of the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean. The Dominican Republic shares the island to the east.

Population: 9,035,536

Life expectancy:
total population: 60.78 years
male: 59.13 years
female: 62.48 years

Market day in nearby Verettes

Infant mortality:
total: 59.69 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 66.18 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 53.01 deaths/1,000 live births

Creole and French

Ethnic groups:
black 95%, mulatto and white 5%

definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 52.9%
male: 54.8%
female: 51.2% (2003 est.)

GDP-per capita:
$1,300 (2009 est.)

Population below poverty line:

80% (2003 est.)

Commercial bank prime lending rate:
46.99% (31 December 2007)

Loading up a tap tap at the market

Land use:
arable land: 28.11%
permanent crops: 11.53%
other: 60.36% (2005)

Natural hazards:
Lies in the middle of the hurricane belt and subject to severe storms from June to October; occasional flooding and earthquakes; periodic droughts

Environmental issues:
Extensive deforestation (much of the remaining forested land is being cleared for agriculture and the harvested wood used as fuel); soil erosion; inadequate supplies of potable water

Source: CIA Factbook