Haitian Cholera, a Deterrent to Child Trafficking


Child trafficking is rampant on Haiti's border with the Dominican Republic.

Lately, Haitians have experienced high levels of—what scholars have coined– psychological reactance. It is a reaction caused by the fear of losing something deemed valuable, in this particular case, their very lives. Naturally– when neighbors– friends, and family members—those still alive—keep dying of an invisible, highly contagious and seemingly uncontrollable disease, people react psychologically by taking greater risks or measures to prevent more lost. That would explain recent rioting, fleeing to the relatively inhospitable safety of the Dominican Republic and even killings, as some recent reports have indicated.

Similarly, this concept applies to the neighboring country of the Dominican Republic. The Haiti cholera case has demonstrated that, if contracted, cholera could avalanche into a countrywide epidemic destroying as many lives as it could. Therefore, it is perfectly logical for Dominicans, too, to experience varying levels of psychological reactance; thus, compelling government officials to deploy available resources to border towns, an attempt to keep fleeing Haitians on their side of the fence.

Nevertheless, these preventative deployments, urgently needed in the months after the earthquake to prevent a massive flood of human trafficking on the border, could not be allocated complained government officials. Yet, facing the threat of cholera, troops flooded the Haitian/Dominican border with unprecedented urgency urging Haitians to keep their fatally infectious disease on their territory.

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The office of Leonel Fernandez, president of the Dominican Republic, has offered some sympathetic plea about the exploitation of children: “The Dominican government deeply laments cases involving exploitation and trafficking of Haitian minors,” it wrote in an email to the Miami Herald claiming the administration “intensified border security, prosecutions and sanctions against smugglers.” The truth however, rested in Dominican immigration records, which the Herald indicated, have shown only two convictions since 2006 and none since 2007.

Traffickers smuggled 1,411 children out of the country one month after the earthquake, figures that increased sharply to more than 7,300 boys and girls through October. As the Herald as indicated, “Gen. Francisco Gil Ramirez, the then-director of CESFRONT border guards, challenged Herald reporters during an interview for proof that his guards had been bribed to let undocumented kids enter the country. But the general declined to watch videos shot by The Herald, where middle-men are seen taking cash from Haitians who cross the river and later hand it to CESFRONT guards.”

While both Haitians and Dominican governments have signed treaties and laws to combat the rampant child trafficking industry, a U.S. State Department report concluded, this year, that the Dominican Republic “does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so. »

In fact, neither government has seen the border plague as a compelling interest, admitted Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive to reporters of the Miami Herald. “There are people on the Haitian side who are profiting because they are the ones who organize the trafficking. The same on the Dominican side, » he articulated.

Evidently, this is not only a Dominican problem. Some minimal efforts from the Haitian government, even in the scarcity of resources, to strategically dispatch some forces to the most heavily trafficked area along the border could serve as a deterrence or at least significantly reduce the atrocities. After all, the Haitian government has the sole responsibility to protect its citizens. Its failure to offer tangible solutions to pursue the unscrupulous has not only facilitated trafficking, but also perpetuated the practice.

However, the hypocritical nature of the immediate preventive measures of Dominican officials should not be overlooked. When the neighbors complained about a lack of necessary resources to stop this lucrative, illicit commerce, in the face of a cholera epidemic, the same children are not good enough to even seek protection or at least find temporary shelters from the exploiters. While government allocated necessary resources and made appropriate, yet unpopular decisions to protect their citizenry from a potential cholera outbreak, Haitians could virtually do nothing to protect them from this disease deemed unfamiliar to the entire Western Continent.

As the mountain of circumstantial evidence about the origin of this cholera strand, « It very much likely did come either with peacekeepers or other relief personnel, » said John Mekalanos, Harvard University microbiology chair. « I don’t see there is any way to avoid the conclusion that an unfortunate and presumably accidental introduction of the organism occurred, » he later added. Meanwhile, cholera will keep accumulating Haitian lives absent any containment and/or developed immunity to it, like South Asian peacekeepers did during their summer outbreak. Official reports have confirmed 200,000 cholera cases in Haiti, including more than 2,500 fatalities.


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