It’s that time of year when everyone’s making their top ten lists, and anyone who reads my blog knows how much I like a good list, so I’ve come up with my top 10 news stories of 2012 out of Haiti. This is my list of the ones that I’ve found most important or most interesting. I think it’s good to look back on the year in Haiti and look at everything that happened because even though #1 might be a overwhelming tragedy, we too often base our entire definitions on the most glaring of disasters while overlooking everything else that was noteworthy in the country. My top 6 all have come from the last 3 months, so either it’s just been an active time for Haitian news, or I pay more attention to Haitian news when I’m not in Haiti. I’m sure there are some from earlier in the year that I’ve already forgotten myself, but it seems most of the stories from earlier in the year were all about “Where did the aid go?” Not really news. Nonetheless, I hope you enjoy this list and maybe learn something as well. If there are other stories from Haiti that you found interesting from this year that I didn’t include, please add them in the comments. You can click on the links to read full news articles on each story.
1. Hurricane Sandy
A week before Hurricane Sandy ravaged the US East coast, it had already swept through Haiti leaving more than 200,000 people homeless and at least 54 dead. Haitian president, Michel Martelly declared a nationwide state of emergency as the population prepared to deal with food shortages and rising costs of living in the wake of the storm which are still making things difficult. This is after Haiti already suffered from Hurricane Isaac in August which left as many as 24 dead in the country.
2. Sae-E Factory Opening in Caracol
In October the Korean clothing manufacturer, Sae-A opened a new factory in Caracol to much controversy. The factory employs about 1,000 Haitians so far and claims to employ as many as 20,000 in the next 6 years. This factory is the first to open in a large industrial park in Caracol which has been supported by Bill and Hilary Clinton as part of a plan to invest in Haiti’s economy under the label of earthquake reconstruction. The effort is also supported by celebrities Sean Penn, Ben Stiller, Donna Karan, and more. But Sae-A has come under great scrutiny for it’s sweatshop like labor practices and questionable treatment of employees and the plan itself has been criticized for it’s strange location and possible environmental concerns.
3. Arrest of Clifford Brandt
On October 22, Haitian police arrested Clifford Brandt, a wealthy member of the bourgeois, on multiple charges of kidnapping. Brandt was the leader of a notorious kidnapping ring in Port-au-Prince accused of multiple abductions and even homicides. The arrest of Brandt along with 5 of his partners in crime represented a large victory for the people of Haiti as it proved that the national police were cracking down and committed to justice on the issue of kidnapping, but it also illuminated a reality of kidnapping as organized crime in Haiti beyond just the perceived delinquency of dangerous thugs from the slums as often portrayed by the media.
4. Opening of New Airport
When Michel Martelly was elected president last year, one of his first promises to the Haitian people was that he would rebuild the Toussaint Louverture International airport in Port-au-Prince. Ever since the earthquake of January 2010, the country’s only major airport has been in critical condition with visitors coming into the country being received in a building that’s basically a large shed. Just last month they finally finished all of the repairs and renovations to the airport and held a joyous opening ceremony to mark the occasion.
5. Protests in Jacmel
This is one story that I was following closely although may not have been that big of a deal on the national stage. Just a couple weeks ago the people of Jacmel took to the streets in a series of protests that included burning tires and roadblocks to demand justice for the murder of a local man and the kidnapping of a child. The protests were also for increased security in the city including better electric service. They seemed to have worked as the child was soon returned and the electric company responded with electricity later in the night, although the perpetrators of the crime were not caught.
6. Adoption Reform
This is breaking news as it was just announced this week that Haiti will be making major changes to its legislation regarding international adoptions. The system is widely considered a broken one in Haiti with as many as 50,000 children living in orphanages in the country, but only 133 were adopted in 2011. With many children in orphanages that aren’t actually orphans and very few regulations enforced on how the orphanages are operated, many children end up suffering the shortcomings of this broken system. This new legislation could make the process for adoption more attractive to foreigners looking to adopt and bring a much needed change in what adoption means in Haiti.
7. Mirebalais Hospital
The l’Hôpital Universitaire de Mirebalais built by Partners In Health with the Haitian government, held it’s ribbon cutting on November 6 signifying the beginning of a long awaited effort to bring this state of the art medical facility to the Haitian people. A positive example of reconstruction efforts coordinated between public, private, and nonprofit sectors, the teaching hospital is now the largest and most technologically advanced in the country. It is planned to eventually be completely managed by the Haitian Ministry of Health as PIH has helped get it started.
8. Digicel Underseas Cable
In March of this year, Haiti’s largest communications company, Digicel, announced it’s ambitious project to install a 200km underseas cable to Haiti to allow for improved internet connectivity in the country. With a telecommunications infrastructure that’s always struggled to keep up with the population’s evolving needs and abilities, as well as having been significantly damaged in the 2010 earthquake, this initiative by Digicel represents a huge step for keeping the country connected. With more and more educational programs in the country requiring students to use internet as well as much business starting to be done online, the cybercafes of the past decade will be insufficient for the country’s changing needs. This cable is a hopeful step towards something new.
9. Carnival des Fleurs
Different than the Kanaval annually held in February across the country, this year Haiti held Carnival des Fleurs again in July for the first time in years to celebrate the country’s beauty and productivity. Similar to the February celebration with parades and music and costumes, Carnival des Fleurs is smaller in scale and has more flowers and feathers rather than giant paper-mache demons, but still proved to be a huge occasion for the Haitian people to celebrate their culture and look towards a bright future. Implemented this year by President Martelly, who is a famous Kanaval performer himself, the event was intended to bring in a boost in tourism during the summer months as well, especially to a downtown Port-au-Prince which did not host an earlier Kanaval in 2012 as it moved to Les Cayes instead.
10. Plastic Bag Ban
This is the biggest news story from the year that never really was. In September the government placed a ban on the use of all plastic bags and Styrofoam boxes in an attempt to improve the country’s litter problem. These bags and foam products that are used by all street vendors to give their customers their purchased items or food to take away are then discarded in the streets and washed into the waterways and sewage systems. It presents a large problem, that the ban was intended to improve, but without acceptable alternatives available it has been nearly impossible to enforce.