A Note from SOIL on the Recent Unrest in Haiti

SOIL’s July Newsletter

Dear friends,

Again this month, we must depart from our traditional newsletter offerings. As many of you have likely seen, Haiti has been in the public eye this week as protests have gripped the capital city, Port-au-Prince, in response to a government announcement that prices for fuel would increase by nearly 50%, a move required by the International Monetary Fund as part of a reform program to unlock international donor support. For those of us who know and love Haiti, it is deeply disappointing to see the nation portrayed again and again as unstable and violent, with no context given as to the truth of Haiti’s history, which is rife with exploitation and abuse at the hands of colonial nations, the United States prominently among them.

What has been most lacking from recent news coverage is information about the impact these price hikes will have on the lives and livelihoods of Haiti’s most vulnerable, and why the announcement prompted such a swift and serious response from Haitians. In particular, it should be called out that the most severe price hike is on a fuel used almost exclusively by the poorest families in Haiti, for whom kerosene is critical; it provides light for children to study by and to keep the family safe, and it is an important fuel source for many women who sell food in markets, providing a critical source of revenue for many families. The increases in gasoline and diesel prices will also have devastating effects on vulnerable Haitians, as public transit prices will increase drastically, along with the price of most goods. As an island nation that relies heavily on imports, prices in Haiti are already 30-60% higher than other countries in the region, and increasing the costs of local transportation will only exacerbate this.

At the same time that prices are rising, the government (under pressure from business owners and the international community) has consistently blocked attempts by trade unions to increase the minimum wage, leaving families to face a steep rise in the cost of living on a minimum wage that ranges from $1.90 per day to $4.60 per day depending on the type of work.

For now, the government has announced a suspension of the price hikes. While we hope that there can be an alternate solution, we recognize that the announcement and subsequent response from the Haitian people signal difficult days to come. We believe strongly in the power of Haitian communities and activists to raise their collective voices in calling for transparency, dialogue and protection of the most vulnerable. And SOIL will continue stand in solidarity with those fighting for justice and to do all we can to support the basic rights of our colleagues and the communities we serve.

N’ap kenbe / We hold on.

Please keep Haiti in your hearts.

With love from Haiti,

Sasha and the SOIL Team

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