In an article published in the Miami Herald last week, the Minister of Defense, Hervé Denis wrote that the newly instituted Haitian Army has been a positive step in the right direction, ending a 22 year absence of an army. According to him, the newly formed military is a professional one devoid of the past checkered history of repression and military coups. In fact it is composed of hundreds of thoroughly vetted young officers who have been professionally trained and have already began work on infrastructure projects, delivering medical services and monitoring the borders and maritime areas against drug traffickers and other contrabands. The success of the army is being touted to align with the newly trained national police which, according to the Minister, are one of the most highly rated police institutions in all of the Americas, helping Haiti transform into one of the safest countries in the Caribbean.

It appears the sentiment of things going on well in Haiti has been making the rounds among the parties partially responsible for the sovereignty of the state over the past 14 years. In the recent UN Security Council meeting on the status of the MINUJUSTH, the Head of Delegation of the European Union, Mr. João Pedro Vale De Almeida called for in depth structural reforms in Haiti. He recalled the mandate of the new peacekeeping mission that replaced the over decade old MINUSTAH, as a mission tasked with reinforcing state institutions in the areas of rule of law, professionalism of the police force and the defense and promotion of human rights. To him, the election of the current President Jovenel Moïse marks the end of a long period of institutional instability in the country. The EU welcomes this new development and sees the strengthening of state institutions as a necessary prerequisite for the country to cope and tackle the myriad of political, social, economic and environmental challenges that it faces. Furthermore, despite the presence of a normalcy of state institutions at this time, which is laudable and necessary, they are not in and of themselves sufficient, because the root causes of the problems facing the nation are still there. Addressing them head on will require bold reforms of the constitution, the electoral system as well as the judicial system in particular, to ensure access to an effective, efficient and impartial judiciary for all. With such praise comes the decision by the UN to extend the mission of the MINUJUSTH. This decision has been confirmed by the Assistant Secretary for Peacekeeping Mr. Jean-Pierre Lacroix.

In other news, Health officials in the West Department have embarked on a vaccination campaign against diphtheria, targeting some 35,000 children from age 1 through 14. According to the head of department, Dr. Benêche Martial, parents must be educated to understand the values of vaccinating their children, as the only way to prevent the spread of the disease. The campaign was launched at the Argentine National School, L’école Nationale Argentine Bellegarde, in Turgeau where some 200 students were vaccinated for free. Teams of health officials have been dispatched across the department to undertake this necessary 163million gourdes, exercise in order to save children from this contagious disease. According to the office of public health, there have been 14 confirmed cases of diphtheria and 48 possible cases since the beginning of the year, with 6 deaths recorded among the probable cases and one death among the confirmed cases.

Another public health issue being talked about in the media is the twin diseases of arterial hypertension and diabetes. Dubbed the “silent killer”, health officials are trying to bring awareness to these diseases in the hope of informing the public and forcing the government to take measures to address the problem. At a meeting last week of a coalition of healthcare professional organizations, the head of the Haitian Association of Hypertension, Dr. Roger Jean Charles, warned that high blood pressure is the primary cause of death among adults in the country and with a population of more than 2million Haitians living with the disease, it is incumbent upon the authorities concerned to address this issue before it gets out of hand. As far back as 2012, the physician wrote in some of the daily newspapers about the dangers of the disease, brought on largely by the nutritional choices people make, by consuming a lot of salt, which is known to aggravate the disease. He warned that the increasing prevalence of the disease can have deleterious effects on the nation’s labor force since those contracting the disease are largely adult who are healthy and productive in the workforce. Stroke and High blood pressure are now a public health concern in the country, killing more people than AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis.

For diabetes, the numbers are equally frightening. According to the organization that monitors the disease, Fondation haïtienne de diabète et de maladies cardiovasculaires (FHADIMAC), there is constant growth in the prevalence, with 380,000 people diagnosed in 2018, against 332,000 just over two years ago in 2015. Cost of managing the disease is also very prohibitive, at about US$2 to US$4 per day, when over 50 percent of the population lives under US$2 a day. One way to address this public health concern is to enlist Haitian physicians to undertake primary preventive measures and to engage the media in educating the public on nutrition and ways to take on these twin silent killers.

Finally, the senator-elect of Grand’Anse Department, Guy Phillippe who is currently serving a 9 year sentence in an American jail for money laundering has written to the Senate President Joseph Lambert, asking for the Senate to give him US$125,000 to pay his attorney fees. The letter which was authenticated by the news outlet LoopHaiti, has yet to receive a response from the senate.

Dela Harlley

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