Amid Caribbean spring break hotspots lies the most economically impoverished country in the Western Hemisphere: Haiti. First colonized by Christopher Columbus in 1492 and later ceded to France, the island became the site of lucrative sugarcane plantations, worked by tens of thousands of Africans who were brought to the island as slaves. In 1804, a former slave named Toussaint Louverture led a revolution that defeated Napoleon Bonaparte's army, making Haiti the world's first black republic. Western governments, fearful of similar revolts, refused to recognize Haiti's sovereignty and spent much of the 19th and 20th Centuries inhibiting the country's development. Widespread poverty led many Haitians to cross the border into the Dominican Republic on the eastern side of the island in search of opportunity. Despite the slaughter of 10,000-20,000 Haitian immigrants in 1934 by Dominican dictator, Rafael Trujillo, many Haitians still felt their opportunities would be better across the border--even more after the 2010 earthquake that took around 200,000 lives.
This influx renewed Dominican policies against Haitian immigrants, whose darker skin and African heritage contrast with the average Dominican. In 2013, the country's highest court stripped birthright citizenship from over 200,000 Dominicans of Haitian descent. The government required undocumented people to register or face greater risk of deportation--a condition too costly, time consuming, or nerve racking for about a quarter of a million people who missed the deadline. As a result, thousands of undocumented Haitian Dominicans began hiding in rural labor camps known as "bateyes" to avoid deportation. Others have been deported or have voluntarily left in fear.
Week of Compassion is working with Batey Relief Alliance, Church World Service, and Global Ministries to provide food, medical care, clean water, and other essential services to thousands living in unsanitary conditions in Haiti's border community of Anse-a-Pîtres. Some of these deportees had never before set foot in Haiti and do not even speak French or Haitian Creole, and the unstable Haitian government is ill-equipped to provide meaningful response. "The deportees stay in the camps in the hope of returning to the Dominican Republic where they've called home," Batey Relief Alliance CEO Ulrick Gaillard commented. "They have no money to move to other places and start a new life in Haiti."
"This immigration crisis affects innocent lives," Galliard continued. "We must find real solutions to prevent the situation from deteriorating further." Your support to Week of Compassion helps meet the deportees' emergency needs, giving us the opportunity to explore lasting solutions to this injustice.
Fiji Cyclone Update
Tropical Cyclone Winston entered Fiji's waters on the eve of February 19, 2016. A week earlier it has passed by the islands, but made a sudden turn and cut right through the center of Fiji, leaving behind a massive path of destruction. Winston was a Category 5 cyclone (the strongest rating) with reported wind speeds of almost 300 km per hour (185 mph). This would make it among the strongest cyclones ever to make landfall globally, and the strongest recorded in the Southern Hemisphere.
Thousands of people are living in temporary shelters, mostly emergency centers like church halls and schools that were set up by the government before the cyclone made landfall. It is estimated that 21 people lost their lives, and 7 are still missing at sea.
Areas most affected are western, central, and northern Fiji. Both the western and central areas are closer to the capital, Suva, where the distribution of aid is being administered. The northern part of Fiji is one of the areas that is hardest to reach and normally receives aid weeks or months after the cyclones; and with the severity of the damage in the country it could be 2 to 3 months before aid arrives.
There is a great need for basic necessities to put people back on their feet - temporary shelters, educational materials for children, medicine, and clean drinking water. These supplies will make a difference in the life of people who literally have nothing to their name at this time. These villagers, unlike urban dwellers, do not even have bank accounts to their names. The majority, if not all, are subsistence farmers and fishermen.
Temporary shelters will help provide space for women to work with their art and crafts to sell for income to support families. The seas are still too turbulent for fishermen to go out fishing, and most root crops are damaged. The Fijian government is working its way out from the center, with its main focus on areas worst hit by the cyclone. Week of Compassion and other international organizations are coming to our aid as well, and for this we are so ever thankful.
Salia village is situated in the one of the far northern island of Fiji, Kioa. With only one elementary school and a medical center staffed by a single nurse, it is a good place to focus on for a total population of about 800 people. As I have mentioned, government assistance will arrive for these people, but it will come weeks from now. While they wait, it is good to put them on their feet to continue to live normal lives.
In this time of need, we people of God continue to stand with our people here in Fiji. Our hearts and prayers continue to be with families who sleep under open skies, in partially damaged houses, and with good neighbors who offer them comfort in these trying times. All in all, our God is still faithful by the service we are able to bring to the suffering, even in the little that we do. Please keep praying for the whole country of Fiji as it recovers, and also to for your information, there are about two months left before this cyclone season is over, and we have in the past experienced two to three cyclones in one year. So please pray for Fiji.
Rev. Nikotemo Sopepa
Global Ministries Long Term Volunteer