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Tuesday 7 February 2023 Dublin: 8°C
Alamy Stock Photo Rose Delpe cries as people displaced by gang war violence in Cite Soleil walk on the streets of Delmas neighborhood after leaving Hugo Chaves square in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
THE MORNING LEAD
Irish NGO fighting cholera in Haiti amid 'power vacuum' and civil unrest
Goal is the primary international non-governmental organisation in Port-au-Prince and in surrounding communities.

AN IRISH AID agency has spoken about its fight against a major cholera outbreak in the violence-ravaged capital city of Haiti.

In early October 2022, the Ministry for Population and Public Health (MSPP) in Haiti announced a resurgence of cholera cases after the last epidemic, which was declared in 2010, killed more than 10,000 people, affected at least 800,000, and continued until 2019.

The Ministry said on 4 November that the suspected number of cholera cases across Haiti was 5,800 and that the number is forecast to increase dramatically to 100 cases per day within the next three months.

Dieudonne Leroy, GOAL’s Head of Security said that they are actively liaising with the Irish team in the United Nations to find a solution and warned that any expectation of establishing political stability is hopeless given the humanitarian crisis. 

In his comments to The Journal Paul d’Anglejan, GOAL Country Director in Haiti said that while the gang violence has made it very difficult his teams are working with local groups to bring aid to the most affected areas.

Bernard McCaul, GOAL’s regional co-ordinator has outlined the response to the cholera outbreak as his team delivers specific assistance to fight the disease. 

As previously reported by The Journal the Haitian capital has descended into heavily armed marauding gangs terrorising the local population in pitched battles against Government forces.

The port had been barricaded, halting much-needed fuel and food supplies, which has resulted in a major humanitarian crisis on the island nation.

Such is the catastrophic descent that Irish diplomats based at the UN Security Council have found themselves at the centre of a major push towards a military intervention on the ground. 

Aid agencies have come under attack and it is estimated that hundreds of locals have been killed in indiscriminate fighting, with 100,000 people displaced. 

The US and Canada have both imposed sanctions on gang leaders, but while the diplomatic efforts are creeping towards intervention the aid agencies are working on efforts to assist as the security situation further deteriorates. 

Goal is the primary international non-governmental organisation in Port-au-Prince and its surrounding communities. It has been providing humanitarian aid programmes in Haiti since 2010.

Cholera response

One of those aid workers working on the cholera crisis is Cork man and Goal’s Latin America and Caribbean Regional Director Bernard McCaul.

“We have significant expertise and operational capacity to respond to infectious diseases outbreaks like the cholera outbreak in Haiti, in support of the Haitian Ministry for Health and National Directorate for Potable Water and Sanitation (DINEPA),” he said.

“We have already established a community-based epidemic surveillance system and are reporting on suspected and confirmed cholera cases in communities that we have access to, and we are analysing water quality consumed by households.

He outlined the details of the work: “We are also conducting WASH (Water and Sanitation Health) activities including distribution of cholera kits, chlorination of existing water points, repairs to public water and sanitation facilities, and decontamination of households who have been in contact with cholera.”

Goal is also assessing WASH needs by reviewing handwashing stations in schools, water point facilities, waste management, sanitation facilities and watershed management, and upgrading these facilities where possible.

a-woman-displaced-by-gang-violence-reacts-after-she-and-others-were-removed-by-authorities-from-the-hugo-chavez-square-where-they-had-taken-refuge-in-port-au-prince-haiti-november-17-2022-reuters Alamy Stock Photo A woman displaced by gang violence reacts after she and others were removed by authorities from the Hugo Chavez Square where they had taken refuge. Alamy Stock Photo

The Irish aid agency has been engaging regularly with the UN Security Council for the last 18 months, as conditions deteriorated following the catastrophic earthquake that struck the Southern Peninsula in Aug 2021 and the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise in July 2021.

It now remains one of only two international aid agencies which, in partnership with community-based organisations, has access to the most high risk and vulnerable neighbourhoods in Port-au-Prince, including Bas-Delmas, Cite Soleil, and Carrefour.

Gang violence

The Goal workers are understood to be particularly aware of the dangers in the area and the threats posed by the heavily armed gangs. 

As previously reported, it is suspected that guns have been smuggled from arms dealers in the US.

The gangs, the United Nations has said, are using sexual violence, indiscriminate killings and kidnappings as a weapon against the local population.

Dieudonne Leroy, GOAL’s Head of Security in LAC Region, spoke about how the heavily armed gangs have capitalised on the political instability and Haiti’s poorest and most vulnerable people.

“Since the assassination of President Moïse, a vacuum in governance has emerged. No replacement has been elected and without outside intervention from armed forces or UN Peacekeepers, Haiti will be unable to hold a fully democratic election given the current humanitarian climate,” explained Leroy.

He said that the NGO is liaising with representatives from the UN Security Council and Ambassador Fergal Mythen, Ireland’s Permanent Representative to the UN, to emphasise the importance of additional security support in Haiti.

GOAL in Haiti 2022-2 GOAL GOAL officials on the ground in Haiti. GOAL

Paul d’Anglejan, GOAL Country Director in Haiti, said the NGO is using a network of local groups in Port-au-Prince to respond to the spread of cholera, but that international assistance is urgently needed. 

“The return of cholera is a major threat for Haiti, amid significant levels of insecurity and civil unrest.

“The cholera threat is also heightened because of a lack of access to clean water for a large portion of the population, lack of basic sanitation facilities in communities, including open defecation practices and a health system which is in a precarious state.”

He said that Goal is “uniquely positioned” to respond to this crisis:

“Our network of over 200 community-based organisations have granted us access to some of Port-au-Prince’s most dangerous neighbourhoods and we are supporting UN agencies and facilitating their access to these communities too so they can carry out life-saving protection interventions,” he said.

Goal is currently working alongside the Office of the High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR), Haiti’s national water authority, and the Ministry for Health, said d’Anglejan.

The United Nations and Haiti appealed this week for $145.6 million to help fight a fresh wave of cholera that has already killed 161 people in six weeks.

Haiti’s health ministry on Monday reported 8,708 suspected cases, with 7,623 people hospitalised, as the disease has spread to seven of the country’s 10 departments.

Last week Haitian police, following a battle with gunmen, took back control of the country’s main oil import terminal for two months.

street-vendors-sell-meat-at-the-petion-ville-street-market-in-port-au-prince-haiti-october-18-2022-reutersricardo-arduengo Alamy Stock Photo Street vendors sell meat at the Petion-Ville street market in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, next to rubbish. Alamy Stock Photo

The stranglehold had caused severe fuel shortages and prevented the delivery of drinking water which was key to fighting the cholera outbreak.

Almost 100,000 people had been displaced in the violence that has engulfed the country since June 2021.

Diplomacy

Canada this week joined with the US in imposing sanctions against former Haitian president Michel Martelly and two ex-prime ministers accused of profiting from armed gangs, and announced a new aid package for the country.

A spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs said Irish diplomats are continuing to work their colleagues in the UN in New York on a potential resolution that could get a mandate for a military intervention in the country.  

“Ireland is deeply disturbed by accounts of violence, particularly Sexual and Gender-Based Violence, and by the outbreak of cholera in Haiti. Ireland is also particularly concerned about the protracted food insecurity crisis and reports of instances of humanitarian aid being obstructed,” the spokesperson said. 

The diplomatic spokesperson said that Irish team at the UN Security Council has been actively highlighting those concerns.

“Throughout our term on the Security Council, Ireland’s engagement on Haiti, particularly on issue of humanitarian access, food insecurity and health, has been informed by close cooperation with civil society and humanitarian organisations in Haiti, including GOAL.

“Ireland’s intervention at the October UNSC meeting on Haiti focused on three key issues of concern: violence and the security situation; lack of access to humanitarian aid; and efforts to find a political solution.

“In 2021, Ireland provided €1.7m in funding to civil society partners for programmes and projects in Haiti, in addition to over €1.4m in humanitarian funding,” the spokesperson added. 

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