Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

COVID-19 in Haiti — The Current Response and Challenges

Originally published by the Center for Economic Policy and Research by Jake Johnston & Kira Paulemon

On March 19, Haitian president Jovenel Moïse confirmed the first two cases of the novel coronavirus in Haiti. The number has since increased to eight. In response, the president has declared a state of emergency and ordered schools, factories, and religious entities to close; established a curfew; and closed the country’s borders. The government announced the new policies after previously suspending air travel from most countries.

The initial reported cases both related to individuals who had traveled internationally. There has, however, only been limited local testing. As of March 25, 58 tests had been administered nationwide, according to the latest epidemiological update. The Ministry of Health has outlined a plan to combat the pandemic in Haiti, estimating a budget of $37.2 million. Already, international and local organizations have been meeting to coordinate the response.

After nearly two years of sustained protests and government inaction, the economic situation in Haiti has already made life exceedingly difficult for the vast majority of the population. The currency has rapidly depreciated, inflation has remained elevated, and the government has been unable to increase revenues domestically or through international assistance. The Haitian government has few fiscal resources to draw upon in responding to the coronavirus pandemic, and Haitian families, many already pushed to the edge, are facing an increasingly perilous future.

There are multiple complementary aspects of the response to this virus in Haiti. One centers on the health care system and the ability to adequately detect, treat, and contain the virus. The other relates to the government’s ability to establish and enforce policies that encourage physical distancing. In addressing the latter, it is important to consider how the Haitian population interacts, lives, and survives in order to implement effective policies to contain the virus, protect the population, and ensure access to essential goods.

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