By Ainsworth Morris, The Jamaican Gleaner, June 17
Two days after the Haitian Stakeholders Security Talks ended in Kingston, Prime Minister Andrew Holness has called for a humanitarian corridor to be established in Haiti, with support from international partners.
Holness believes the establishment of the humanitarian corridor will primarily assist in unblocking the supply chain to facilitate food imports and distribution in Haiti.
Holness also said support for the overwhelmed Haitian national police is urgently required, to facilitate the movement of goods into and through the ports to communities.
The Jamaican PM urged action yesterday while speaking online to the United Nations’ (UN) Economic and Social Council: Special meeting on ‘Saving lives: Addressing the urgent food security needs of Haiti’, 2023 session.
Holness had previously addressed the Haitian crisis on Sunday, saying Jamaica and CARICOM have agreed to continue supporting Haiti towards re-establishing political stability and addressing security concerns.
Food insecurity is of great concern in Haiti, where the situation is deteriorating on a daily basis. This year, 4.9 million people in Haiti, almost half of the population, are experiencing high levels of acute food insecurity.
The Economic and Social Council convened this special meeting to bring together member states, observers and UN partners with representatives from civil society, the private sector and international financial institutions to address the urgent food security needs of Haiti and to save lives.
“This humanitarian crisis in Haiti is compounded by increasing violence and insecurity which has forced many to flee their homes and try to leave the country, oftentimes under unsafe conditions. It is of serious concern that humanitarian agencies, due to insecurity, have been prevented from clearing shipments and delivering well-needed assistance… The resulting vulnerability and weakened resilience have contributed to conditions for ongoing crime. We must break this vicious cycle!” Holness said.
“Health and sanitation have been gravely compromised and education is seriously disrupted. The need for action is urgent and compelling, and requires concerted attention,” he continued.
“The multifaceted Haitian crisis requires multi-pronged, multinational responses and we need to work on all fronts at the same time. While the political challenges need attention, we must also address the immediate needs of the population,” he said.
Holness said Jamaica recognises the importance of collaboration between Haiti and the international community on sustainable solutions to alleviate the food security situation.
He also said the eminent persons group, established by CARICOM, held a successful engagement with Haitian stakeholders on ways to restore political stability and improved governance.
“The statement from the eminent persons group, issued after the Kingston talks, noted that based on the proposals and commitments made, there is a determination to continue consultations and discussions, including in Haiti. This is a welcome development and represents a continuation of CARICOM’s good office’s role towards restoring the sustainability of this great nation; the first black republic in the Western Hemisphere,” Holness said.
“Simultaneously, we continue to have our eyes on the humanitarian situation, but we also acknowledge the need to address the security issues which have impeded the intention to basic human needs,” he said.
Holness, who led a special mission to Haiti in February, also believes a broad spectrum of key stakeholders in Haiti need to be heard if there is to be any chance for implementable solutions to the challenges facing the country, along with neighbours and partners.
“Beyond these immediate concerns, we also need to support the development of sustainable solutions for home-grown food production and agro-processing,” Holness said. “Capacity-building initiatives can focus on strengthening local institutions, farmers’ cooperatives, and extension services to ensure the transfer of knowledge and skills. Farmers will also need assistance in the event of natural disasters.”
He also stated that school-feeding programmes, using local inputs and assisted by the relevant international agencies, could stimulate the local economy and provide alternative avenues for Haiti’s growth.
“This could also be a disincentive to those for whom gang violence is attractive. We therefore need to empower local communities and enhance their capacity to address food security challenges,” Holness said. “In these efforts, donor countries, the UN-system and other multilateral organisations, international financial institutions, as well as civil society, have a vital role to play.”
In the meantime, Catherine Russell, UNICEF’s executive director, noted that Haitian children are being killed on their way to school and women and girls are subjected to staggering levels of gender-based and sexual violence, this while insecurity is compromising the operations of humanitarian actors to meet the growing gap in the delivery of essential services.
“This life-threatening mix of conditions has caused an intensifying food security and nutrition crisis, especially for children. Since last year, we have seen an unprecedented 30 per cent increase in the number of children suffering.
“Nearly a quarter of Haiti’s children are chronically malnourished, which can have devastating consequences for their physical and cognitive development,” Russell said.
She said the malnutrition crisis in Haiti coincides with an ongoing cholera outbreak in which nearly half of the more than 46,000 suspected cases are children under the age of 14 years.
“And severely malnourished children are five times more likely to die from cholera without urgent treatment, yet the national health system is on the verge of collapse and does not have the capacity to adequately respond to the health and nutrition needs of vulnerable children and families,” Russell stated.
Posted June 24, 2023