Haiti’s economy hit hard by COVID-19, and multiple shocks

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A man transports goods to a street market in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on Saturday, June 5, 2021.

PA

Millions of Haitians have less income today than at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, a new study by the World Bank and the United Nations Development Program found.

Almost 45% of households in Haiti have lost income, with women – especially mothers with young children – young workers and those with less education being particularly affected, according to the study.

“One year after the start of the pandemic, women are twice as likely as men to stop working. This has been accompanied by an increase in domestic responsibilities, in particular the supervision of children’s educational activities, ”noted the UNDP and the World Bank.

The snapshot on Haiti is part of a larger overview of the impact of the pandemic in Latin America and the Caribbean in key areas such as labor markets, income, food security, gender equality and access to basic services like education, COVID-19 vaccines and internet connectivity. The report notes that Caribbean countries like Haiti, Jamaica, Dominica, Saint Lucia, Guyana and Belize face particularly worrying levels of food insecurity.

“For some countries, a visible recovery from the outlook for mid-2020 is observed: Bolivia, Guatemala and Honduras have posted the largest declines in the incidence of food insecurity,” the report said. “On the other hand, the situation in Argentina, Colombia and Ecuador remains worrying but stable, with households facing levels of food insecurity similar to those at the start of the pandemic in 2020.”

Across the region, employment is around 62%, but the recovery still has not reached pre-pandemic levels. In Haiti, where the unemployment rate has always been a subject of debate due to the expansion of the country’s informal sector, the study indicates that it fell from 41% before the pandemic to 52% in June.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted pre-existing inequalities in the region, where the most vulnerable and poorest groups have been disproportionately affected,” said Luis Felipe López-Calva, UNDP regional director for America Latin and the Caribbean.

The report noted that 7% of Haitians in formal jobs before the pandemic now have informal jobs. They also found that, like in Haiti, the quality of jobs available in the region has declined, with individuals working fewer hours per week.

“The number of working hours decreased slightly during the pandemic, an alarming aspect if we take into account that Haiti was the country with the fewest number of working hours per week (33 hours per week) and which negatively impacts household income, ”the report says. noted.

Experts feared that with its weak health system and past struggles with infectious diseases, Haiti would be hit by a significant wave of coronavirus infections and deaths. But that has not been the case, even with what is widely recognized as an underreporting of infections and deaths. As of December 4, the most recent data available, the country had recorded 25,691 infections and 754 deaths, giving it one of the lowest death rates in the hemisphere.

Yet Haitians have not been immune to the effects of the pandemic. The last country in the region to receive COVID-19 vaccines, Haiti has a vaccine reluctance rate of around 60 percent, according to the study, and a vaccination rate of less than 1%.

Almost a year after the start of the deployment of the first doses of a COVID vaccine, the virus remains of concern not only in Haiti but in the whole region, where the new omicron variant has already been detected in Argentina, Brazil, Canada. , Chile, Mexico and the United States. States. The Pan American Health Organization warned this week that countries must continue to take advantage of the public health package to protect their populations from the deadly virus and that people must get vaccinated when it is their turn. .

To date, 55% of people in Latin America and the Caribbean have been fully vaccinated against COVID, according to PAHO. Yet there are still too many people who are unvaccinated, with 20 countries in the region yet to meet the World Health Organization’s 40% year-end immunization target. Among those far behind: Guatemala, Jamaica, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Haiti.

As Haiti lags behind with vaccination, the study also found that Haitians were among those who received the least economic support during the pandemic. Less than 4% of Haitian households have received economic aid from the government, compared to nearly 80% in Ecuador, and less than 10% of school-aged children can afford to attend classes virtually.

Haiti has been affected by multiple shocks since 2019. They include natural disasters, a persistent political and socio-economic crisis, gang-related violence and the Haitian-Dominican migration crisis. The challenges have only worsened since the July 7 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, which was followed five weeks later by a magnitude 7.2 earthquake in Haiti’s southern peninsula.

The Haitian government recently presented the results of its earthquake post-disaster needs assessment, the effects of which he estimates at $ 1.6 billion in damage and loss. This figure represents nearly 11% of the country’s gross domestic product for 2019-2020. The costs of reconstruction and economic recovery are estimated at around $ 2 billion.

On Tuesday, UNICEF, citing the various crises and gang violence that continue to hamper the humanitarian response in the earthquake-affected region and forced the displacement of more than 19,000 Haitians, issued an urgent appeal for 97 million of dollars. The money is intended to expand aid to 950,000 people, including 520,000 children next year, the UN agency said.

“Throughout this year, Haitian women and children have moved from one crisis to another. They suffered long-lasting trauma from kidnappings, displacement, earthquakes and evictions, ”said UNICEF Representative in Haiti Bruno Maes. “They’ve been under pressure for too long. Their resilience capacities have been strained and they need support to overcome these crises and recover. “

This story was originally published December 8, 2021 at 7:00 a.m.

Jacqueline Charles has reported on Haiti and the English-speaking Caribbean for the Miami Herald for over a decade. A Pulitzer Prize finalist for her coverage of the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, she received the 2018 Maria Moors Cabot Prize, the most prestigious award for coverage of the Americas.


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