It’s been 16 days since protests kicked up in Haiti and shut down travel throughout the country. Last weekend, the protests took a break for the weekend and never really kicked back up.
The government made an announcement that they would take a few measures to address the issues at the heart of the protest.
They announced a desire to subsidize staple foods, and that they would audit the import taxes and make sure they are enforced properly to get the money they need to do so.
They also announced that they will investigate the wasted money from the PetroCaribe loans, which was another major rallying cry of the protesters.
So the general population is waiting to see what will happen.
In my opinion, this is far from resolved.
This is a pile of embers after a blazing fire. All it will take is a little more fuel and it will kick right back up, or if it sits long enough, maybe it will fizzle out on its own.
Unfortunately, despite these small victories, the protests have kicked off what could be an even more brutal economic collapse.
As a result of the protests, many foreign governments have classified Haiti as a “no travel zone”, or in U.S. State Department terms, it is under a level 4 travel advisory, similar to Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, etc.
Some may disagree with their assessment, but it is probably fair to say that the only people I would advise to be in Haiti right now are those that are familiar with the culture, politics, and language and are willing to be in a place that has the potential to go into lockdown again with little to no warning.
This means tourists, including short term missionaries, will not be coming to Haiti any time soon. In turn,
-Hotels are closing, or reducing staff, meaning hundreds are getting laid off
-Taxis, Food suppliers, and other “support services” to the tourism industry don’t have clients
-Construction on new tourist projects will come to a stand still
-Restaurants and Boutiques that cater to tourists are struggling
For missions organizations, this means that short term teams won’t be coming.
Each organization is different, but here are a few of the results of teams getting cancelled.
-Support staff will be laid off. There are no teams to cook for, clean up after, and work with.
-Direct funding for projects is down, as a percentage of team fees go to the ministries’ general funds.
-Engagement and Awareness will be down. Each person that comes on a trip talks about it on social media and with their friends and helps to get more people aware of, and supporting, their host organization.
For at least one ministry I talked to, this will lead to lay-offs of workers, and a near complete halt on any capital projects, such as construction, moving forward.
Beyond the fact that ministries may not be able to do what they had hoped to do, this is also a time when many have become aware of new needs for a more sustainable future. Gasoline, Diesel, and even Propane are still in short supply and remain on the edge of running out if the government falls behind in their payments again. One of the major differences in how people fared during this last protest was whether they had any solar power to sustain them through 10+ days of receiving no city power. Now is a season for missions to install solar to prepare for continued blackouts in the future, but these are costly investments, especially in a time of economic recession.
So, all of this is to say.
Pray for Haiti, and support your friends and missionaries in Haiti more than ever.
If you had planned to go and can’t, please consider doing a social media campaign to spread awareness and raise support to those who you already care for. Maybe even try consider a fundraiser for them.
If you have means available, support anyone you know in Haiti financially at this time. While there are corruption and heart issues at the core of the current problems, it is most manifested as an economic crisis, so money is at the heart of most ways to help right now.
If you have friends in Haiti, check in with them. Pray for them. Ask good questions about how they are doing and find ways to help them in their struggles. Heck, if you want to help the economy and them, you could even offer to send them to a couple nights at a local hotel, where they can relax while still benefiting the local economy.
Above all, pray for Haiti, and for those you hold dear that are still there. These protests kicked off a chain of events that will results in short term struggles. If things work out well, this could be a revolutionary even in Haiti and it could usher in a much better period for Haiti, but it will not come without short term struggle.
Also, pray for wisdom for those of us who are out of Haiti at the moment. It is hard to be away from home, and we are seeking wisdom for when it is best to return. For us personally, we will take every opportunity while we are the in states to spread awareness and prepare well for our return, which we are hoping will be in March.