Updated: Mar 19, 2020
We would like to update you on actions by the Haitian government as well as Espwa to protect extremely vulnerable children and families from the threat of Coronavirus.
Coronavirus Prevention by Haitian Government
While there are no confirmed cases in Haiti, there are currently 21 confirmed cases in the Dominican Republic as of March 17. Haiti has made precautionary efforts to curtail the spread of the virus, including:
Closing the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic
Suspending most international flights from Europe, Canada, the Dominican Republic, and Latin America
For flights from the U.S., passengers are required to present proof of negative test results for the virus
These measures are expected to last at least two weeks.
Coronavirus Preparations by Espwa
Preparations began at Espwa about three weeks ago, including:
Stockpiling cleaning supplies and food
Parent meetings at Espwa schools to review basic hygiene practices
Basic hygiene practice training with students (already included as a part of the school curriculum but being emphasized and reviewed)
Cholera Victims at NGO Health Tent in 2010
Potential for Deepening Crisis
While these are drastic government measures, the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic is extremely porous. Most traffic between the two countries is illegal, and border control is not well-enforced. Many Haitians live and work in the Dominican Republic, and if they return to Haiti through illegal border crossings they run the risk of transporting the virus.
Additionally, much of Haiti’s food and resources are imported from the Dominican Republic. This means that with the border closed, the food and supply chain is effectively cut off. A prolonged and unpredictable closure of the border would mean severe food insecurity, a spike in already high prices, and a deep cut to the economy.
In a country already struggling with food insecurity and a spiraling economy due to sociopolitical insecurity, tension, and violence, the effects could be catastrophic.
Preventing a Crisis that could be Worse than Cholera
We must also reflect on Haiti’s history with cholera starting in 2010. Cholera, once considered almost eradicated thanks to modern sanitation, is an easily prevented disease. However, due to Haiti’s poor water and sanitation infrastructure, under-resourced health facilities, and widespread ignorance of good hygiene practices, there were over 812,586 cholera cases and over 9,606 deaths.
Haiti’s infrastructure is still weak and severely underfunded, especially with the most recent economic downturn. An outbreak of Coronavirus would devastate already overwhelmed health services. If an easy-to-control waterborne disease like Cholera can kill 9,606 in Haiti, the much harder-to-control airborne Coronavirus would wreak even more destruction. This is the crisis that MUST BE PREVENTED in Haiti.
Faith, Hope and Love at Espwa
While we share the discomfort of the unknown of this virus with the rest of the world, we have faith in our staff’s ability to respond to this potential crisis.
With more than 1,200 children and families relying on our services, it is critical that we remain prepared.
Our entirely Haitian staff at Espwa is dedicated and prepared for any actions they may need to take in service and protection of the children. With the staff’s love of their community and connections with civic leaders, our community-based approach ensures we are all working together for the same goal – keeping children, and their families, healthy and safe.