Last month, Haiti’s
Donor Conference raised money for a nation that has weathered storms time and
time again. The pledges added to the
nearly $3 billion in international assistance that has previously been committed. Not all of this money has translated into
While all of this may seem like a large amount of money for
a small Caribbean island, the country remains the poorest in the Western Hemisphere.
Much of the aid to Haiti
has been aimed at economic growth in non-crisis periods and food aid and
shelter during crisis. This
international response has certainly improved tough living conditions. However, of the UN appeal’s $127 million
during the last hurricane season, little has been spent in reproductive
health. In fact, money spent for
lifesaving reproductive health services only amounted to only 0.1% of the
overall UN appeal. The insufficient
investment in safer motherhood and family planning services undermines success
in bringing down the highest maternal mortality rate in the Western
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incredibly complex context is like pulling a thread and watching the whole ball
unravel. It is nearly impossible to
isolate one cause and effect, one symptom and one cure. To capture part of the picture, a new report
by JSI Research & Training Institute, Inc. highlights persistent gaps in reproductive health,
notably in family planning and adolescent sexual and reproductive health. Reproductive
health in Haiti
is informed not only by dwindling human resources and deteriorating
infrastructure, but also by political instability. Amidst past political transitions, family
planning programming has not seen consistent funding or political support. Adolescent-friendly services and rural
district residents continue to get the short-end of the stick when it comes to
accessing RH services, unnecessarily risking their lives.
But the picture is not bleak. There have been great successes in reproductive
health in Haiti–HIV
being perhaps the most well-known.
Opportunities to build on the coordination and funding of these
successes can serve as a platform to push for integration of comprehensive reproductive health. In fact, not investing in other critical RH
services will shortchange successes in HIV.
As one Haitian doctor so aptly said, "We will never finish with HIV unless we address family planning and allow women to
have the number of children they want."
Opportunities exist with community-based organizations that
have sprung up to address gaps in the public health system. Investing in these local groups, who are
often on the ground before, during and after a crisis, can serve as a bridge
between the crisis response and long-term development goals. In Haiti, where international actors dominate
the humanitarian scene, local leadership to address the most pressing reproductive
health needs should be strengthened. Why
should we wait for another hurricane to put Haiti back on our radar?
A new report from JSI Research & Training, The Long Wait: Reproductive Health Care in
on findings from an assessment of Haiti’s reproductive health
response in crisis and beyond. The report highlights persistent gaps in family
planning and adolescent sexual and reproductive health, particularly in remote
areas. In spite of deteriorating infrastructure and short-term funding
cycles, a number of local initiatives offer promising approaches to fill
reproductive health gaps.
You can view the report here.