Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Now is not the time to forget Haiti

By Jessica Hinds, EMC Editorial

Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean recently spoke at a two-day symposium on Haiti’s future after a trip to her home country.

The renewed media attention that her speech brought serves to remind Canadians not to let Haiti fall off their radar as the media begin to turn their camera lenses to new stories.

One of the devastating consequences of the earthquake has been a loss of security for Haitian women and girls who have been exposed to widespread rapes in the aftermath of January’s earthquake. Rape has always been a large problem in Haiti, and was only criminalized in 2005.

Current camps for earthquake victims lack security and leave women vulnerable to violence. More than 4,000 prisoners escaped from Haiti’s main jail. This is coupled with the loss of Haiti’s police and judicial services.

In a Feb. 19 report, Human Rights Watch published findings from a field investigation highlighting areas of “urgent action.” The human rights organization called for the provision of security presence and patrolling at campsites, as well as “measures to reduce women’s vulnerability to sexual and gender-based violence, in particular at large camp sites.” The measures they suggested included “constructing shelters that would provide women a certain degree of privacy, ensuring a security presence at camp sites, access for women to safe and hygienic sanitation facilities, and ensuring that women have access to accurate information about various forms of assistance.”

Confirming that the violence is still prominent is a more recent April 1 Reuters Thomson report. The report explains that camp residents are forced to expose themselves to violence by bathing in public and walking through dark passages at night. Meanwhile, other survivors live on the streets.

Sexual violence in Haiti leads to major health concerns such as the spread of HIV. Haiti has the largest HIV infection rate in the region and while the country had begun to make progress in this area, the earthquake has demolished health clinics and deprived HIV patients of medicines.

Haiti’s problems are daunting, and there is no easy solution to the crisis. However, it is important to stand by our brothers and sisters in their suffering. Keep giving, and research organizations to make sure that your money is going toward practical and effective relief. The humanitarian organization CARE, for example has asked for money to be used toward preventing and dealing with the consequence of gender-based violence in Haiti.

Do not avert your eyes from Haiti’s suffering, and when this country and its people begin to lose their hold on the media’s attention, make sure they don’t lose their hold on your conscience.

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