Fighting for Families
One in 10 kids in Haiti live in an orphanage, and 80% of those children have living family members, according the Haitian government (from The New York Times). This is a three-part photo essay that addresses this statistic, and highlights two of the organizations advocating for families.
Part 1: Unemployment
Haitian unemployment has been measured by USAID at about 50 percent at its lowest, and 70 percent at its highest. Pictured: from the main bridge in downtown Cap-Haitien, Haiti.
They also estimate that 54 percent of people in Haiti live in abject poverty, and 70 percent live on less than two dollars a day. Pictured: from the main bridge in downtown Cap-Haitien, Haiti.
About 95 percent of the jobs to be had are in “the informal sector”, meaning they are selling goods in the market, rowing a fishing boat, picking up garbage, painting a sign, etc. Pictured: a man rowing a boat for fisherman on the northern coast of Haiti.
Resilia Verdus, pictured here, is a single mom of six. She is unable to read or write, because her childhood was spent as a household slave in the home of a family friend, called a restavek.
When Resilia's husband passed away, she sold bag of water on the street to support her family. The meager profits were barely enough to support her family, and she became desperate. She sent her two-year-old daughter to an orphanage with the hopes this would get her food, care and education she needed. Pictured: Resilia and her (now six-year-old) daughter Angeline talk with the Debbie Harvey, the director of the orphanage where Angeline lived.
One organization working to combat the orphanage industry is Haiti Babi, a social enterprise that teaches women how to knit and crochet high-quality baby products which are sold internationally. By giving a woman a job, she invests in her family and the local economy, decreasing the need for traditional aid.
Resilia was hired by Haiti Babi in 2014. Pictured: Resilia is showing off her new skill after her first week on the job.
Shortly after Resilia started working at Haiti Babi, she had the means to better provide food, clothing and care for her family. She decided it was time to bring Angeline home. Pictured: Angeline says goodbye to her "orphanage mom" before departing with her biological mother.
Resilia leads Angeline to the home and five siblings she hasn't seen in four years.
Reslia’s sense of empowerment is obvious just months into her job. Here, she poses in her new formal "church clothes" with three of her children, including Angeline.
Many of the women who work at Haiti Babi have similar stories to Resilia. Before she had a job at Haiti Babi, Hernise was homeless and unable to care for all three of her children. She was forced to give one up for adoption. When asked about it she says that her daughter “lives with a friend in Miami.” Some Haitian families believe that after their child is adopted, they will wire money down to them in Haiti, though this is rarely the case. Now that Hernise is working, she has a home and can provide for her other three children.
Beatrice’s son has a serious heart condition. When he was little he was sent to the U.S. to have heart surgery. In Haiti, many families in difficult situations like this have no choice but to give their children up for adoption. Beatrice fought to keep her family together. Every month, Beatrice saves the majority of her salary from her job at Haiti Babi to pay for her son’s medical expenses.
Martha works the knitting machine at Haiti Babi. In this job, she earns more than twice the minimum wage, which allows her to cover her family’s basic needs, pay for her kids to go to school.
Education is considered a privilege in Haiti. Parents spend an average of $130 every year to send their child to school, while more than 200,000 children remain out of the school completely.
Not only does Martha's daughter receive an education thanks to her mom's employment at Haiti Babi, but she's also given a role model for female leadership. Pictured: Martha's daughter.
Part 2: Malnutrition
USAID estimates that one in five Haitian children are malnourished, one in 10 are acutely malnourished and one in 14 will die before reaching the age of 5. Pictured: a mom feeding her daughter breakfast.
Childhood malnutrition stems from more than just the inability to afford food. Poor sanitation and limited education are also major factors. Pictured: a mom looks down and her undernourished infant.
Kids became especially vulnerable to illness after cholera was brought to Haiti by infected United Nations peacekeepers from Nepal. Roughly 10,000 Haitians have died and nearly a million have been sickened since cholera was introduced into Haiti in 2010. Pictured: MINUSTAH as part of the UN patrol the streets in Northen Haiti.
Misinformation is a problem too. For example, some women will stop breastfeeding their child if they become pregnant again, believing they need to reserve their milk for the second child. Instead, she may feed their child rice water, which has virtually no nutritional value. This is one example of how the child’s path to malnutrition may begin. Pictured: A pregnant mom looks at her undernourished infant.
When a child becomes sick, many of these families do not know why, and lack the knowledge and means to help them heal. Some turn to orphanages get their vulnerable child the care they need. Even if the orphanage or clinic heals these kids and returns them to their parent — the education of the caregiver is still an issue, and the same health problems often return. Pictured: a mom seeking care for her young infant.
Second Mile Haiti is a non-profit in northern Haiti that is giving families another option. They have a live-in recovery center where a child can overcome malnutrition and get the care they need while their mother goes through an education program about health, agriculture and business. Pictured: a mom about the graduate the Second Mile program playing with her now healthy children.
During education classes and one-on-one sessions, caregivers in the Second Mile program learn that prevention of malnutrition begins with family planning, prenatal care, breastfeeding, and improved hygiene and sanitation. Pictured: a mom take classes with her child.
Nineteen percent of Haitian caregivers are a relative other than the child's mother, and yet, the child's mother is deceased in less than 2 percent of cases. The Second Mile program makes it possible for kids to remain with their families even if their parents have died or do not have the capacity to care for them. Pictured: Sam stays at Second Mile with his grandmother, who is his primary caretaker.
The nurses at Second Mile train and work alongside each caregiver so that she can become the expert in caring for her sick child. Pictured: a nurse shows a caretaker how to measure the amount of medicine to give her child.
By educating the women on how to treat her child, she becomes empowered in her own abilities as a caretaker. Meanwhile, the child recovers faster under the care of their most trusted nurse.
The courses at Second Mile are taught by the Haitian staff. Shelia, pictured here, often uses songs to help the women learn and remember the lessons.
All of the women take an exam upon arrival at the Second Mile clinic, and repeat the test on their last day at the center. Most women average a 30 percent increase in test scores after completing the program. Pictured: a Haitian mom studying while holding her young infant.
One of the biggest changes in a child who has overcome malnutrition is the dramatic shift in their personality. Once cranky and sluggish they are now bursting with playfulness and curiosity. Pictured: a healthy child who is about to graduate from Second Mile.
When Walky and Alandine (pictured left and right) arrived at Second Mile, both were acutely malnourished. Eight weeks later, they are healthy and bursting with energy.
46 percent of caregivers have experienced the death of one or more children due primarily to preventable factors. By empowering women with education, Second Mile is making a healthier future for all kids in Haiti. Pictured: a young mom holds her sick child.
Upon graduating the Second Mile program, women receive a business stipend that allows them to start their own micro-enterprise. Pictured: a program graduate and child with her business goods.
The women take the knowledge they've gained in the program back to their community. Pictured: a boy in a village in northern Haiti.
To ensure the family continues to thrive after completing the program, Second Mile does follow-up visits for two years after their graduation. Pictured: a program graduate feeling empowered.
Part 3: Food Security
The other major factor that has lead to undernutrition in Haiti is food security. Half of Haiti's food is imported, including 80% of its rice—leaving the impovrished country vulnerable to market prices for basic foods.
More mountainous than Switzerland, Haiti has a limited amount of cultivable land. Despite this, a large portion of Haiti's most prosperous farmlands are way up here. Pictured: mountains outside of Furcy, in soutern Haiti.
There was a time when agriculture made up 66 percent of Haiti's labor force and 35 percent of its GDP. However, massive deforestation has made farming difficult due to subsequent flooding and landslides. Here, a farmer proudly shows off her field of cabbage, planted in rich mountain soil.
These girls help tend their family's farm in the mountains and transport their crops to a nearby village, where the produce will be delivered and sold in town.
These kids live on their family's farm in the Massif de la Selle mountains at an altitude of about 5,600 feet. They spend their weekends leading their donkey's down the mountain to deliver carrots and produce in a nearby town.
Haiti was originally referred to as the "Pearl of the Antilles" due to its overwhelming beauty. It was also one of France's richest colonies, producing massive amounts of sugar and coffee. Now the country is 98% deforested, which has led to land slides that have devestated it's agricultural richness. Pictured: two boys row a fishing boat in Labadee, Haiti.
Further threatening food security are floods and hurricanes. This downpour was the result of a hurricane that passed alongside the island — but did not hit. These girls were sent outside with a bar of soap to bathe in the heavy rain shower.
Being an island, one of the few commodities Haiti does have is it's oceans full of sea food. However, researchers have estimated that Haiti’s coral reefs are the most overfished in the world.
Despite this, the markets are still filled with fish for sale, although some claim they are getting smaller and more expensive every year.