Amidst one of the deadliest pandemics in a generation that has forced the entire world to pause, the nation of South Africa finds itself unable to put a pause on the ongoing shameful phenomenon of gender-based violence. South Africa is steeped in a history of gender-based violence towards women which is rooted in outdated beliefs about women and is also a legacy of apartheid that has left the country with a culture of violence. This legacy from the struggle against apartheid has meant that in some spheres violence was seen as a legitimate means of resolving social, political and even domestic conflicts.
President Ramaphosa acknowledged that South Africa was one of the most unsafe places in the world to be a woman, in where as many as 51% of women in South Africa have experienced violence at the hands of someone they were in a relationship with. In September 2019, Ramaphosa admitted the country was in a national crisis of violence against women, as protestors took to the streets for a third successive day in the wake of a string of brutal attacks against women, including rape and murder. The government has made attempts to change the culture of gender-based violence by focusing on South Africa’s men, in addition to allotting more resources and money to special crimes courts, places of safety, clinics for survivors of sexual assault and training for the police. However, in the face of one of the world’s strictest lockdowns, the safety of women has once again become a central topic for national debate. Some of the rules of lockdown have meant movement from one location to another required a permit, which has meant victims of domestic violence were not able to leave their abusers, further exposing them to danger. Other victims were stopped by the police and ordered to go back home.
The exposure to danger that disproportionately affects women during lockdown in South Africa has once again been brought to the foreground by the recent murders of Tshegofatso Pule, Naledi Phangindawo and Sanele Mfaba. Tshegofatso, who went missing on 4 June 2020 and later found dead four days later, was eight months pregnant when found stabbed and hanging from a tree. Naledi is reported to have been murdered on 6 June 2020 after succumbing to multiple wounds caused by an axe and knife, allegedly at the hands of her partner. Sanele is reported to have been murdered by her boyfriend on 12 June 2020 and thereafter dumped under a tree in Soweto, Johannesburg. Theses heinous crimes prompted president Ramaphosa on 13 June 2020, to acknowledge that South Africa had become more dangerous for women during lockdown, while several protestors took to the streets and social media to demand justice for the victims. In the last year more than 2900 women were murdered in South Africa. Before the lockdown an average of 100 rapes were reported every day and experts say that this is just a fraction of what is going on. The implementation of a blanket lockdown that did not seem to take into account the increased risk to women where more than half of the female population has experienced violence from a partner, is a damaging oversight that highlights the case for why gender-based violence needs to be more of a national priority in line with economic and other social concerns. Ramaphosa’s acknowledgement that women were at increased danger during lockdown in the absence of adequate provisions to counter said danger is little but empty sentiment when lives are being lost.
According to some frontline organisations, the cases of rape under the pandemic have increased although there has not been an equivalent addition of needed resources such as PPE and the continuation of vital programmes. In some cases, the management of the spread of coronavirus has taken so much precedence that some of the programmes aimed at addressing issues related to gender-based violence have had to be put on hold, meaning that violence could go unchecked. The pressures against national resources that the pandemic has caused have been noticeable in almost every activity of social, political and economic life, however what is also emergent is that gender-based violence has not taken a pause while the country and the world fight the coronavirus. The current statistics on gender-based violence during the pandemic concur with Ramaphosa’s own assessment that violent men are taking advantage of the eased restrictions on movement to attack women and children. Further to this, the startling correlation between the lifting of the alcohol-ban on 1 June 2020 certainly does create a need for the South African government to take further steps in addressing the issue of alcohol and substance abuse which have been historically closely linked with violent and criminal activity. During the first two months of the lockdown when alcohol was banned some hospitals reported a 70% reduction in trauma admissions. The damning exposure of violence against women during the age of coronavirus demonstrates that more must be done to enforce accountability. The pledge made by Ramaphosa in September 2019, to provide $75 million to strengthen the criminal justice system and provide better care for victims in one step among many in the right direction. However, the pandemic has exposed the urgency of the national issue is one that is equally as pressing as the pandemic. The recovery package of the country will also have to consider further protections and resources for gender-based violence and clear accountability that leads to deterrence and prevention, because the lack of resources and state provisions to help victims has in part lead to further endangerment. The issue of gender-based violence in South Africa is widespread and deeply entrenched within institutions, cultures and traditions in where the balance of power predominantly lies with men, countering this will require a courageous dismantling of the status-quo from various approaches and wider engagement that incorporates both top-down and bottom-up solutions.
Countries in Eastern Europe knows very well that nuclear power plants can be both beneficial and harmful. The 1986 explosion of Reactor 4 at the Chernobyl plant in Ukraine resulted in clouds spreading deadly radioactive particles across the region. Following the nuclear accident at Chernobyl, Belarus suffered more harm than any other region in the Soviet Union due to its location downwind from the plant. 34 years after this nuclear disaster caused damage to the southern part of Belarus, it now plans to fire up its first nuclear plant in July.
This plan has not gone without criticism. Lithuanian Energy Minister Vaiciunas said the “lessons that were given 30 years ago in Chernobyl have not been learned.” When interviewed by The Independent about this, a local resident said locals were split about the project. The plant gives above-average wages and improves local infrastructure. Still, her generation remains “uneasy”. She said that “[t]he thought of what happened back in 1986 can’t fail to make you anxious about what may happen. You know they may not tell you the whole truth.”
Yury Voronezhtsev, the man who led the official Soviet response to Chernobyl, told The Independent he did not believe “that our Belarusian construction workers are any better than the Soviet ones. We have the same people, and the same systems. Don’t forget that Anatoly Aleksandrov, the physicist who designed Chernobyl, assured us his plant was so safe it could be built on Red Square. His confidence did not age well.” He said it was “sad” that Belarusian authorities pressed on with the plant given the sensitivity around this locally. While a December 2018 poll showed that 71 percent in the Astravets district supported the plant, the accuracy of this is difficult to assess given that Belarus is a tightly controlled country.
Nuclear-reactor design has however improved markedly since Chernobyl. Furthermore, the Belarusian nuclear power plant is not a copy of either Chernobyl or Fukushima, the 2011 incident at the latter being the most severe nuclear accident since the explosion at the former. Astravets run third-generation pressurised-water reactors, distinct from the models used in Ukraine and Japan, and equipped with safety measures intended to prevent the kind of accidents that happened there. It is claimed it includes passive safety systems capable of triggering an automatic shutdown and a device installed in a concrete pit underneath the reactor that traps molten fuel in case of overheating, rendering it nearly impossible for radiation to infiltrate the environment.
Still, the Lithuanian Energy Minister, Vaiciunas, says the plant is “a threat to our national security, public health, and environment.” In late May, Lithuania’s ex-energy minister Arvydas Sekmokas said that Europe could pay a heavy price if Belarus fires up the plant. First, it is claimed that the plant is built in breach of safety standards. “Minsk has disregarded International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) recommendations made after the Fukushima disaster that plants should not be built within 100 kilometres of major population centres,” Sekmokas said. Astravets nuclear power plant lies just 45km from Vilnius, Lithuania’s capital. Vilnius’ population of more than half a million people will need to be evacuated if an accident takes place. Lithuania claims that while the power plant has “generally” met the requirements of an EU test designed to prevent another Fukushima disaster, the fact that it is not far from Vilnius was not addressed in this test.
Second, the power plant is built with Russian money and supervision. Vilnius claims the project is a geopolitical scheme headed by Russia to keep Belarus tight. In Lithuania’s 2019 National Threat Assessment, the project was said to enhance Russia’s position in the region. Foreign minister Linas Linkevicius said that in addition to ensuring impeccable safety of the plant, Lithuania and the EU has to work together to maintain the freedom and independence of Belarus. “It imposes a huge economic burden on the country and increases its dependence on Russia,” Linkevicius said. Meanwhile Belarus sees the power plant as a means for reducing its energy dependence on Russian natural gas. The Belarusian Security Council decided to construct it in 2008 after a bilateral energy dispute with Russia. Yet, Rosatom, a Russian state-owned nuclear energy company, got the contract to build the power plant. Coupled with the loan given by Russia to fund it, it appears that Belarus will still be strongly dependent on Russia.
Minsk argues that it has more interest in ensuring the nuclear plant’s safety than most considering how the 1986 Chernobyl meltdown impacted Belarus. A spokesperson for Rosatom told The Independent that “[t]he reactors being used are among the safest in the world and designed to risk the possibility of even the most unlikely event such as a plane strike(…) and the most up to date legally binding set of regulation does not specify any requirements regarding distances between nuclear power plants and cities.” The European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group, a body composed of top nuclear policy officials from EU member states, gave the nuclear power station an “overall positive” review. The International Atomic Energy Agency’s assessment was also positive.
Still, Lithuania continues to press on. On June 9 several Lithuanian lawmakers from the opposition conservative Homeland Union staged a picket outside the Latvian Embassy in Vilnius where they urged Latvia not to buy electricity from Astravets nuclear power plant. Meanwhile Mikhadyuk, Belarus’ deputy energy minister, said that “[t]he position that Lithuania has taken towards the project is absolutely unsubstantiated, it is all about politicising.” Lithuania has invested a large amount of money in a liquefied natural gas floating storage and regasification unit. Astravets is a potentially cheaper and cleaner source of power generation that is readily available for neighbouring nations. Lithuania therefore appears to have an economic motivation to get countries to not buy energy generated from the plant. However, the country denies that this is the reason it is against the project.
Despite this economic motivation, it seems that Lithuania is genuinely concerned about transparency regarding accidents and safety. A couple of incidents have revealed that Belarusian authorities are not completely transparent about the plant. There has already been two known health and safety events connected to the reactor vessel. It was dropped from a crane during installation in July 2016, an incident that Belarus did not admit for weeks. Five months later, the replacement reactor vessel collided with a railway pylon during transport. At least five workers have died in construction accidents, and there has been at least one incident involving fire in the control room. Furthermore, it was announced on May 26 that 100 workers from the plant are infected with the COVID-19 coronavirus.
The Astravets NPP has been at the centre of a breakdown in relations between Belarus and Lithuania during the last decade. Due to its location, it is likely that Lithuania will never fully approve of the plant. In October 2019, the Lithuanian government conducted a major emergency preparedness operation imitating a disaster response to a nuclear meltdown and bought 4 million iodine pills for distribution to citizens. These actions have increased concerns in the country about the dangers of Astravets. Yet the latter dialogue and agreements between Lithuania and Belarus could indicate a warming of relations between the two.
Still, it seems that Lithuania will continue to press Belarus on this issue as Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda will raise Astravets’ safety issues at a European Council summit on June 19. Whether or not Lithuania’s motivation is the economics of it or genuine concern about safety, it is clear that Belarus should take this seriously. If Astravets do not comply with safety requirements and Belarus is not transparent about accidents, it can have disastrous consequences.
Protests, PMF and External Powers: can Iraq’s new prime minister solve the countries security problems?June 8, 2020 in Uncategorized
On the 7th of May 2020, Iraq’s parliament finally approved a new government after six months of political deadlock. The new government is headed by prime minister Mustafa al-Khadimi, Iraq’s former intelligence chief, despite not succeeding in obtaining a full cohort of ministers after several candidates were rejected as sectarian parties argued over cabinet posts. Khadimi’s choices for cabinet posts for the ministries of interior, defence and finance passed with the support of the majority members of parliament present. However, voting on foreign and oil ministers were delayed due to parties failing to agree on candidates. Khadimi’s choices for justice, agriculture and trade were rejected. There are some concerns that the new prime minister may be setting a dangerous precedent by allowing parties in parliament to pick and choose ministers in cabinet through this informal power sharing system known as apportionment. Yet, Khadimi has managed to end many months of political deadlock after mass protests calling for change caused former prime minister Abdul Mahdi to step down, a decision which led to the deadlock as parties in parliament failed to agree on a replacement. Though forming a government has had its challenges, greater challenges lie ahead particularly with regard to security.
The most immediate security challenge Khadimi faces is the resumption of mass anti-government protests particularly in Baghdad and in the southern, predominantly Shia, cities such as Basra. Protests, which had an anti-Iranian sentiment, were discontinued because of curfews imposed due to the coronavirus but demonstrators returned to the streets on the 9th of May after a new government was formed. On the 11th of May protesters in Basra issued a statement calling on the governor of the oil rich province to step down after a 20-year-old protester was killed by Iran backed militia group called Thaa’ar Allah. This incident occurred as the new prime minister of Iraq was attempting to appease the protesters, ordering the release of detained protesters and compensation for the families of hundreds of victims who died since protests began in October 2019. Khadimi also promised to dispense pensions, overturning a decision by the last administration to freeze state spending including civil servant salaries and pensions which roughly a fifth of Iraqis heavily rely on. Following the killing of the young protester al-Khadimi said in a statement that his government would commit to respecting human rights and the right to peaceful demonstrations. He also ordered Iraqi security forces to storm the headquarters of the militia group responsible for the violence which was seen as a rare swift response to protest related violence, yet, observers have said that this may not be enough to calm the anti-government protests.
Another pressing security issue is the existence of numerous armed groups in Iraq. In a short government manifesto submitted to parliament, the new prime minister highlighted his plans to “impose the state’s prestige” through bringing armed groups under government control. The majority of armed groups are within the Popular Mobilization Forces or Hashd al-Shaabi in Arabic. The PMF are an umbrella group for approximately forty, mainly Shia, militia groups backed by Iran usually operating outside of jurisdiction of the Iraqi state and, according to Foreign Affairs, answer to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps commander instead of the Iraqi government. Previous attempts by past administrations to control and limit the influence of the PMF have failed. For example, Haider al-Abadi, prime minister of Iraq between 2014 and 2018, tried to limit their political ambitions making several demands which included making their spending transparent and to separate their political wing from their military wing. In the end, the PMF managed to outmanoeuvre al-Abadi and supported his replacement Adel Abdul-Mahdi who they considered to be sympathetic to the PMF and to Iran. Abdul-Mahdi increased the PMF’s budget by 20 percent in 2019 and enabled the militias to expand their presence in Iraq.
Khadhimi is seemingly attempting to put an end to this state of affairs and to limit the scope of the PMF’s influence while expanding that of the states. His new government has already organized its security leadership very quickly, bringing back removed and retired commanders such as lieutenant General Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi who now leads the Counter Terrorism Service (CTS). Saadi’s removal as operation chief in October 2019 helped spark protests in Iraq. Moreover, Khadimi’s May 6th 2020 visit to the PMF headquarters signalled immediate changes to come with regard to the PMF’s remit in Iraq. The prime minister’s remarks focused on the PMF’s role against the Islamic State as opposed to supressing protesters or attacking foreign training missions or diplomats. Furthermore, the roots of the PMF lie in a fatwa, an Islamic ruling on a point of law, issued by the powerful Shi’ite cleric Ayatollah Ali Sistani in 2014 calling on all able men to take up arms and join the fight against the Islamic state of Iraq and Syria which captured large swaths of Iraqi land. The fatwa rallied 100,000 men to join militia groups who eventually aligned with Iran and formed the PMF which essentially became a parallel military organization with a budget od 2.16 billion dollars and 130,000 armed fighters.
However currently, reports suggests that Ayatollah Sistani is trying to strip militias aligned with Iran of their religious legitimacy. In April 2020 the Abass Combat Division, the Imam Ali Combat Division, the Ali Akbar Brigade as well as the Ansar Al-Marja’iya Brigade, all aligned with Sistani have defected from the PMF and expressed their intension to help other militias do the same. This was conducted with the approval of Sistani and under the supervision of one of the cleric’s close confident effectively withdrawing his endorsement of the organization. The reduced legitimacy of the PMF makes the organization easier to control and removes some of their power potentially allowing the new prime minister to succeed in controlling the group where others have failed.
A third security problem for Khadimi is having to manage relationships with both Iran and the US, two adversaries who in January 2020 came close to war with each other. On January 3rd 2020 the US killed top Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad. Soleimani was in charge of the IRGC’s Quds Force responsible for extra-territorial clandestine operations. The Iranian commander cultivated relationships with Shia armed militias and executed Iranian interests in Iraq reportedly working with Shia militia groups within the PMF to continue attacks against US troops stationed in Iraqi bases. The US has roughly 5000 troops in Iraq as part of an international military coalition to defeat ISIS. On the 8th of January Iran responded to the Killing of Soleimani by launching missiles targeting Iraqi bases hosting US troops. Although no US soldiers were killed at least one hundred of them were diagnosed with brain injuries. Khadimi must balance these relationships to prevent Iraq from becoming a battleground for external powers once again. US officials have worked with Khadimi while he headed Iraqi intelligence and during the war against Islamic state and is likely to mend ties that frayed under the former prime minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi. The US and Iraq are set to hold a strategic dialogue in June 2020 to define the terms of their future relationship. Washington is seeking to reduce its presence in Iraq and sees Khadimi as a partner who could be willing to prevent Iraq from drifting further into Tehran’s political orbit. There could also be an advantage for Tehran in settling for a prime minister who can engage constructively with the US. For instance, once Khadhimi was confirmed in Iraq’s parliament, Washington extended a waiver allowing Iraq to continue importing Iranian gas and electricity for 120 days without being sanctioned. The waiver is considered a lifeline as Iran is facing acute economic pressure from US sanctions as well as an outbreak of the covid-19 coronavirus.
It may be too early to tell if Mustafa al-Khadimi’s appointment to the office of prime minister of Iraq could solve Iraq’s security problems. Releasing protesters and compensating families may not be enough to halt the mass anti-government protests that have only calmed due to the coronavirus. However, it is more than previous prime ministers have done. To truly garner the support of protesters and to see an end to demonstration would be to yield to some of their demands which include less Iranian influence immediately clashing with pro-Iranian groups such as the PMF. These Iranian-backed militia groups are still influential in Iraq despite Sistani’s recent efforts to delegitimise them. But the PMF’s power is not as strong as it once was. Iran, which financially supports the PMF, has been heavily sanctioned and is facing a maximum pressure campaign by the US which could possibly mean less support for the PMF. Furthermore, thanks to Sistani’s efforts, four militia groups have left the umbrella organization encouraging others to do the same. Hence, if there was a moment to bring the PMF under the direct control of the Iraqi state it would be now. Attempting to remove Iranian influence from the PMF can also backfire. The PMF may attempt to outmanoeuvre Khadimi like they did with al-Abadi. Moreover, Iran would not be willing to have their influence over Iraq stripped from them and will likely take action. Therefore, gradual change may be required when dealing with the PMF and Iran as opposed to the quick overhauls demanded by the protesters. Balancing Iraq’s relationships with Iran and the US is also a daunting task. From the US’s perspective, Khadimi should do all he can to prevent Iraq from further drifting into Tehran’s orbit. However, Iran is seeking greater economic ties with Iraq. Thus, appeasing both simultaneously is difficult. Nonetheless, Khadimi’s appointment was welcomed by both Iran and the US suggesting that he could be a medium for both parties to ease heightened tensions which, as a biproduct, solves some of Iraq’s internal security problems.
The coronavirus pandemic has turned the world upside down. Massive concerns rise in regards to how to deal with the new normalcy of everyday life. Due to this pandemic, prisons all over the world have become a hotspot for the spread of coronavirus due to the close living proximity experienced by inmates. Measures have been taken all over the world to prevent this, for instance, the Italian government has allowed several inmates over the age of 70 to be transferred from prison to house arrest. In Italy, where an extraordinary number of inmates are connected to the mafia, the government decision in regards to this measure has led to the release of several notorious crime bosses. This will be seen by the mafia as a loophole to be exploited. Due to this new policy, as many as 70 mafia bosses may be eligible to be transferred to the house arrest. There are some who have already been transferred, including Francesco Bonura. Francesco Bonura is 78 years old mafia boss who served eight years of the 23-year sentence imposed on him for racketeering and cocaine trafficking in a case involving other top Sicilian bosses in 2012. In the 1990s, Bonura got off on a technicality in a case in which authorities charged him with five murders. He is still considered as the head of the Uditore crime family of Sicily. Another crime boss who has been transferred from prison to house arrest is Vincenzino Iannazzo. He is the boss of the Ndrangheta crime family from the southern province of Calabria. Iannazzo’s case is more interesting because he is only 65 years old and should not be eligible for the transfer. However, his lawyer convinced a judge to transfer him to house arrest, even though he is younger than 70, claiming he was at risk to the virus based on his gender and age.
This particular decision has drawn much criticism from the public element. Several prosecutors and investigators have been known to state harsh criticism, saying that releasing mafia bosses will allow them to return to their home turf and reinforce their control over affiliates and local businesses, even if they were under house arrest. Italy’s anti-mafia Chief Prosecutor, Federico Cafiero de Raho, stated that it is particularly odd to have let out those serving time under the country’s harsh prison isolation regime. He also emphasized that the government seems to be carried away with panic while thermal scanners should be enough to treat these mafia bosses rather than transferring them to house confinement. The Mayor of Palermo, Leoluca Orlando, also stated his criticism by saying that these crime bosses can do anything they want if they are being released, including rebuilding their illegal business merely by giving orders to the members of the crime family. From a political point of view, this decision has been seen as a blunder produced by the incumbent left-wing government and created ammunition for the right-wing opposition. Prosecutors, victims’ groups and opposition parties have heaped blame on Justice Minister, Alfonso Bonafede. Far-right League leader, Matteo Salvini, has in particular been beating the drum by calling for a vote of no-confidence towards Bonafede.
The coronavirus pandemic might force the government to enact some unusual measures. However, putting mafia bosses back to their home turf is seen as an act of betrayal and disrespect towards the public and victims of mafia’s brutality, since the country has a long history with many violence conducted by the mafia. During this crisis, it is very possible for mafia organizations to furtherly infiltrate the economic life of Italy’s citizens, especially during this period of financial difficulties. Furthermore, returning mafia bosses to their home turf where it would be more difficult to monitor their communication with the outside world, would be seen as sending a message of weakness which could be exploited by the Mafia. It could also indicate that the Italian government is easing its approach in regards to fighting organized crime in the country.
Ten years ago, on January 12, 2010 a deadly magnitude 7.0 earthquake shook the nation of Haiti for 35 seconds causing devastating destruction to the country. Since then, the nation has faced ten years of disarray which have included political corruption, economic difficulties, violence linked to anti-government protests and a humanitarian crisis. The direct aftermath of the earthquake saw the death of around 300,000 and the most recognisable buildings in Port-au-Prince Haiti’s capital levelled. Haiti is particularly vulnerable to national disasters and only two years prior, in 2008, was hit by four hurricanes. In 2016 Haiti experienced further devastation from Hurricane Matthew. The 2010 earthquake however was reported to be one of the mostly deadly recorded in history and in response to the devastation experienced by Haiti, nations around the globe including the United States, the United Kingdom and China pledged to provide aid, money, and support to help save lives of those affected.
In October 2010, while trying to recover from the devastation of the earthquake, a cholera epidemic broke out across the nation, which took nearly a decade to overcome with some cases still lingering. During the peak of the epidemic in October 2012, only two years into the outbreak 7,000 had already died from the outbreak,by 2018 nearly 10,000 people had died from the disease with over 800,000 becoming sick from the outbreak. At the onset of cholera outbreak, hundreds of thousands of the Haitian population were still living in temporary camps of tents which were overcrowded, with limited access to electricity, water, and food, making them extremelyvulnerable to the disease.
The cholera outbreak further affected the weakened Caribbean nation which prior to the earthquake was already suffering food shortages, a political crisis and had a damaged health care system that was put under further pressure with the outbreak. With most hospital facilities significantly damaged in the wake of the 2010 earthquake, medical care to treat those affected by the cholera outbreak was being provided in temporary hospitals while construction was taking place to rebuild permanent ones. At the time of the outbreak it was not known what caused the epidemic, which resulted in some of the population becoming scared and as the fear spread across the country a wave of violence erupted. This fear resulted in priests of the Caribbean religion of Voodoo facing unwarranted violence, which lead to the death of 45 priests who were blamed for the outbreak. It was only in the later years of the outbreak that it is true cause was revealed – a United Nations aid workers had accidentally started it; with the introduction of peacekeepers in 2010 where they were re-deployed from Nepal, where a cholera outbreak was underway, to help in emergency work following the earthquake. Scientists believe that waste from the base where these peacekeepers were located leaked into the river starting the outbreak. While the UN admitted that the outbreak had been caused by one of their peacemakers who had deployed to the country from Nepal, a civil case brought against the UN resulted in no prosecution or accountability. In October 2018, eight years after the outbreak initially began, it started to stabilize, though it did not completely disappear.
Donations and Funding
Following the 2010 earthquake, billions of dollars were raised and donated to Haiti to help rebuild the nation. However, it has been a slow road to recovery with very little seeming to have been done. In 2012 the Prime Minister of Haiti Gary Conille reported that the aid provided to Haiti was scattered and there was a lack of coordination. Furthermore, aid groups were being criticized for their lack of shifting from emergency aid to focusing on helping the country develop and rebuild. The political situation at the time also hindered the aid process. Due to a long history of chronic government corruption, a number of non-governmental organizations and aid donors set their own priorities with minimal coordination. By the time that President Jovenel Moise came to power in 2017, he had reported that he was unsure where the aid was spent as little had been achieved to show for it. People were still living in temporary camps, though they were now equipped with electricity and access to clean water. At the time, President Moise disclosed that he believed only a fraction of aid went directly to the government. Experts however have blamed bad governance, excessive bureaucracy, and inflated contracts with foreign companies. One of the main projects of the financial aid was the rebuilding of the state university of Haiti hospital, and it is one of the most advanced projects to date with some construction having been started; however, the hospital remains unfinished with piles of building materials lining the road to the new hospital and as of January 2020 the old hospital is struggling to serve the community. President Moise has requested further funding to help establish the economy and the country, and has stated that he is actively working to improve collaboration among the institutions in Haiti and also international bodies to ensure that money is spent effectively in the future.
As well as facing a cholera outbreak and continuing to recover from the damage caused by the devastating earthquake in 2010, Haiti is now facing one of the worst humanitarian crises with 1 in 3 people, around 3.7 million, in urgent need of food assistance. Due to Haiti being impacted by natural disasters on a relatively regular basis, the country has suffered from high levels of instability, including droughts which have ravaged harvests and which have resulted in shortages of food and inflations of prices of basic necessities. Furthermore, a collapse in the Haitian currency of Gourde in 2015 which continues to depreciate every year, made it more difficult for the population to access food which is imported into the country, as the average income per person is around $0.40 a day. As well as limited access to food due to droughts and price inflation, food and resources became hard to come by because of protests against the government, during the closing months of 2019, protesters blocked roads, which prevented the transportation of goods and food aid for the people of Haiti. These actions prevented those in need getting vital aid, which has only amplified the humanitarian crisis which has left large swaths of the Haitian population struggling to get food and survive. International aid has been provided however, to overcome the poverty and lack of food furtherinternational intervention is required.
While Haiti continues to be impacted by a poor economic situation, coupled with an ongoing humanitarian crisis and unstable political situation, it has to date not been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which globally has seen over 300,000 deaths and over 4 million confirmed cases. To date, Haiti has reported at least 182 cases and 15 related deaths. This figure however is likely low and the situation on the ground is likely significantly worse. The number of tests being carried out in Haiti is unknown, which can explain why the official figures coming out of Haiti are so low. The limited access to resources and the damaged medical system which is still recovering from 2010s earthquake means that higher test rates are not being carried out. However, some analysts have said that along with the low-test rate there may actually be a lower number of cases due to the political turmoil and protests, having kept international travellers away from the country keeping the figures low. However, due to the low number of tests being carried out this is only speculation and unable to be proven until more tests are being carried out, with true figures being represented.
Another reason why the figures for COVID-19 might not be true is people are afraid to come in and get tested, due to groups of gun toting vigilantes threatening to lynch people infected with the virus. This fear of people being lynched and attacked due to the virus are strong due to the actions and violence which took place during the cholera outbreak. As well as patients being attacked, doctors and nurses are also facing hostility and violence with some being doused in bleach by people on the streets in Haiti. In order to protect patients and medical staff alike, hospitals have taken to releasing recovered patients in the middle of the night. On top of the fear of attack on patients and medical staff, leaders of the Voodoo religious community, with fresh memories of the attacks on priests during the cholera epidemic, have been appearing on radio and television to dispel any notion that they may be linked to the virus and that they did not conjure it up.
Further complicating the situation is the fact that there is a strong belief amongst the local population that the government is lying about the amount of cases and deaths, to gain financially. This has in turn resulted in doubts about following health precautions and has even led to some disbelieving COVID-19 diagnoses. Which has resulted in a number of cases where families have turned up to hospitals and have physically removed family members from medical care, often resulting in the patient’s death. In one instance in the south-eastern Cotes-de-Fer region, fifty people came and removed a family member who had tested positive for COVID-19. The individual died the following day; however, members of the entourage have since refused to be tested and have even set up barricades on the roads into their village to prevent authorities or medical teams coming in to test them.
As well as people who are infected or recovered there has been a growing fear over the people who have died from the virus. With families being blocked from graveyards and prevented from burying their loved ones as some fear that those who have died from COVID-19 being buried in the graveyard could cause contamination. One solution to this has been that individuals who have died as a result of COVID-19 are now being buried 13 feet down with concrete poured on top to prevent contagion. Despite every precaution the country has taken and can take considering the limited access to resources there is a huge fear that the pandemic could, potentially still hit the country hard. This is likely to increase as a lot of Haitians return from the Dominican Republic due to job losses. This migration of population could increase the number of cases as the Dominican Republic is one of the worst hit nations in the region, with 15,264 confirmed cases having only had 8,534 recovered with 468 deaths. On top of this basic sanitation is a challenge in the slums and rural hinterlands in Haiti, which are still present following the 2010 earthquake, all of these can affect the possibility of COVID-19 hitting Haiti hard. Along with the increasing fear and evident lack of resources, Haiti could have a higher case count then recorded as people are not able to be tested due to the medical system not having the ability to test. As well as the population having a growing fear of the virus and disbelief of the seriousness of the illness not willing to get tested if offered. . All of these issues, lack of resources, a growing disbelief in the virus and even the fear of it can contribute to the virus already being widely present in the country, or even hitting the country harder when he does pick up speed.
The current situation in Haiti complex, with a lot of the issues stemming from the 2010 earthquake and a lack of reconstruction in the years that followed. The low official figures of cases are attributed to the fact that there is not enough resources to carry out tests, with analysts and medical professionals believing the number of cases in Haiti to be a lot higher than is recorded. However, the current situation in Haiti is not only affecting the medical system and the possible increase of cases of COVID-19, it has also affected the economy and created a humanitarian crisis for the nation. With an unstable government in Haiti over the years has restricted the amount of aid they can access from the international community, with hundreds of millions of dollars in international aid funds as well as loans from the World Bank, and Inter-American Bank earmarked for Haiti. Looking at the events over the last 10 years it can be said that Haiti could be facing a catastrophe if the pandemic hits the country hard it could lead to an overwhelming number of cases. Which will put further pressure on the already struggling medical system and a people with high suspicion and fear of such a pandemic. Due to the poor use of international aid from the earthquake, Haiti could find itself struggling to counter the pandemic and could prevent further international support.