Haiti is a small, beautiful country. Stretching at just 10,714 square miles, tropical Haiti is located west of the Dominican Republic surrounded by the Caribbean sea. The country is a part of the islands of Hispaniola and is occupied by about 11,263,000 people. Two-fifths of all Haitians depend on the agricultural sector in the form of small scale subsistence farming, a lifestyle that has been affected by frequent natural disasters. Haiti’s big industries and factories include tourism, agriculture, mining, and manufacturing with more than half of the population being formally employed.
Haiti is known for the mountaintop views, beaches, and cuisine. Haiti’s people are strong, entrepreneurial and resilient. They have survived many major challenges, such as the 2010 earthquake, cholera & zika outbreak, and the 2016 Hurricane Matthew. Like the rest of world at this time, Haiti is confronting the unforeseen health challenges of COVID-19.
Chris Jeanty, an entrepreneur, business owner and media personality in Haiti spoke with Latina Republic to offer insight into Haiti’s reaction to the pandemic, and to reflect on the country’s economic future. Jeanty wants the world to know that Haitian society, as a whole, has stepped up to confront and contain the pandemic, and has done well. Jeanty describes Haitians as hardworkers, entrepreneurial, “a people willing to work for their lives.” Jeanty is passionate about Haiti and proclaims, “It’s time to see Haiti, differently.”
COVID-19 in Haiti
The onset of COVID-19 led to 8,499 confirmed COVID-19 cases. Out of 8,499 COVID positive patients, 6,120 Haitians recovered, and there were only 219 deaths. The pandemic led many businesses to close down amplifying the hardships for locals who rely on the informal economy for survival. However, the country as a whole, maintained a low death rate toll compared to many other countries. The government, organizations and its people mobilized quickly to halt the spread of the virus.
— Reuters (@Reuters) March 20, 2020
To cope with the onset of hardships, Haiti received funding from different countries and organizations. Anabela Abreu, a World Bank director states that Haiti was one of the first countries to receive a 20 million dollar grant for emergency financing from the United States through the COVID- 19 Fast Track Facility, a project created as an emergency response to support countries in need of financial and medical assistance.
US$20 million approved to increase #Haiti’s capacity to mitigate the impacts of the #COVID19 outbreak and enhance resilience to natural hazards and health-related shocks: https://t.co/aExY0NVkj7 pic.twitter.com/qIJIXL66j1
— World Bank Caribbean (@WBCaribbean) June 30, 2020
In Haiti, the World Bank has provided enhanced testing, and laboratory, and protective equipment for the healthcare professionals. The organization has also implemented training and practices for healthcare workers to assist the needs of the people of Haiti.
With @USAID_Haiti support, @UNICEF will implement a #handwashing awareness campaign and support #COVID19 prevention by training 2,600 community health workers to reinforce community monitoring. #AmericaActs @USEmbassyHaiti pic.twitter.com/rO739nnPvc
— USAID Haiti (@USAID_Haiti) September 14, 2020
On March 17, 2020, the Haitian government closed all borders and placed flight restrictions because of the Coronavirus. The country set a strict curfew from 8pm- 5am for all businesses, schools, places of worship, and industrial parks.” Haiti closed its borders and restricted flights coming in and out of Haiti. The government moved quickly to limit the possible spreading of the virus through travelers. The curfew protected Haitian’s health, while presenting a hardship for Haitians working for businesses and corporations due to the closures.
“When I tell people about Haiti, they don’t believe me, so I show them, and then, there is no doubt.”
Latina Republic had the wonderful opportunity to interview a Haitian businessman/entrepreneur named Chris Jeanty, who was born in Haiti and has been residing in the country for about 4 years. Jeanty moved to the United States when he was 3 years old and throughout his life, moved back and forth to Haiti to visit other family members. Jeanty went to school in Chicago and ran a banking branch for 3 years before moving to Haiti for more opportunities. Jeanty is currently writing a book to help entrepreneurs start their own businesses in Haiti. The Haitian entrepreneur is an advocate “for all that is Haiti and Haiti’s businesses.” He believes in portraying and highlighting the positive aspects of the country as a whole through his use of media platforms.
“I have been living in Haiti for about 4 years. I have 2 businesses here in Haiti. One is in media and the other is in marketing. I believe that Haiti will change through the impact of its people.”
Jeanty told Latina Republic he envisions himself as an advocate for Haiti in the way of representing the image of Haiti as a whole.
“I believe Haiti does not get a fair representation and I want to portray a positive aspect of the country. Haiti reacted to the Coronavirus outbreak quite well, as one of the top countries to contain the Coronavirus. Haiti is also known for our national teas and remedies to boost the immune system. Haiti has been provided with a lot of funding from different organizations and countries. Although there is a lot of controversy and corruption within the government, the government has provided a lot of resources such as medical supplies, medications, respiratory masks, cleaning stations. There are countries that are also contributing money to Haiti to provide beds and sanitation for the hospitals. The society as a whole has stepped up and did well during this epidemic. The government provided supplemental checks for food products to poor communities and those struggling. Supplies were sent in an orderly manner and were efficient.”
Jeanty reports that the response to the coronavirus outbreak was comprehensive and orderly:
“All organizations and all levels of occupational jobs stepped up to offer support and money to those suffering from coronavirus. Social media platforms and big name corporations were able to donate and fund money to the cause. I have never seen so many Haitian entities be so involved in creating awareness. All levels of society, public and private did step up and made a change.”
Haitians are more than what news coverage frequently portrays about them. They are dedicated, hard-working people, as Jeanty describes:
“Haitians wake up, try to sell something and provide a service to make money. You hear that Haiti is the poorest country in the world but in fact Venezuela has taken the title due to per capita numbers. In economic terms, Haiti’s economic activity that goes on unaccounted for because Haitians work on the streets would show a middle income country, rather than a poor country because of the amount of business that is done. There are no Haitians sitting down at home waiting to die. They are so entrepreneurial and are willing to work for their lives. Some work informally and formally to make a profit and a living.”
When it comes to adapting to Coronavirus’ impact on daily life, Jeanty describes how the country is in the process of reopening.
“Everything is back to normal. Schools have reopened but there is pushback because of parents and teachers worried about students being at risking. They are required to wear masks and wash their hands. Haiti as a majority, is back to wearing masks wherever we go.”
Jeanty recently interviewed one of Haiti’s doctors, Dr. Benoit, and received a tour inside a local hospital.
“There were 2 people who were on respirators. The COVID- positive patients had to go to the back house where they are treating COVID positive people. There was a waiting room for the patients and also a secluded area for the patients. Nurses are well covered, but there is a lack of nurses and hospitals because of the lack of healthcare infrastructure. The hospitals were well prepared to deal with the virus because they had their own oxygen and essential resources that were donated. Hospitals are well-situated to assist but there is a lack of healthcare help. Everyone is taking it seriously, wearing masks and washing hands.”
In conversation with Latina Republic, Jeanty reflected on the future of Haiti:
“I do not know where Haiti is going in the future and it is frustrating because I want my country to progress. I am going to write a book as a guide to help Haitians and to show people how Haitians are succeeding and what they are doing to be successful. In the coming years, I want to galvanize, to get like-minded people to work together and do ventures that will help export companies and real estate. I hope Haiti will figure itself out and go in a positive way, but all indicators don’t show that it will go well. I think the country will rely on its people to make the country a better place. Some Haitians who have had bad experiences, tell other people of their experiences and do not want to come back. But there are other Haitians that are successful and I am glad I have my platform to address these issues and communicate them through the stories we tell.”
The closure of the country lasted for about 3 months. Haiti reopened its borders and airports on June 30th. Schools and business have recently gone back to regular schedules. The risk of COVID is still present throughout the country, therefore standard guidelines provided by the CDC remain intact, such as social distancing of 6 feet, a limited number of people in a given space, frequent hand-washing, and the requirement of a face mask.
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The time I spent away from the city was a mini vacation and important spiritual recharge for. Pretty sure even watching the video transfers the same restorative vibes. It's now playing on Youtube / SeeJeanty.The time I spent away from the city was a mini vacation and important spiritual recharge for. Pretty sure even watching the video transfers the same restorative vibes. It's now playing on Youtube / SeeJeanty.
Haiti made fast adjustments over the course of three months to limit the spreading of the Coronavirus. The country is an example for other countries still struggling to fight this virus.
Chris Jeanty wants the world to know that Haiti is much more than what is projected in the news and media.
“Haitians are the largest group of people who have overcome a lot of hardships faced by displaced people in the world. There are many Haitians who have left their country for a better life and because of this, there are Haitians everywhere and throughout Latin America with various opinions of Haitians. There are Haitians that are working so hard. There are a lot of black immigrants in the world and it is so important for the news to reflect different stories to show what Haitians are doing positively.”
To learn more about Chris Jeanty’s work, you can follow him here: Facebook: @SeeJeanty; Instagram: seejeanty; Youtube: SeeJeanty
Featured image, Chris Jeanty, SeeJeanty Media.
Vianna Villacorta | Mount Saint Mary’s University
My name is Vianna Villacorta, I am currently a senior at Mount Saint Mary’s University Los Angeles. I am majoring in Spanish Studies with an emphasis in translation and plan to pursue a business degree. I am American, but I come from a Mexican and Salvadoran background. I am interested in writing about the social issues Latin American countries are facing in the world today such as, education and health. I have traveled to many different countries and regions in Latin America such as Puerto Rico, Mexico, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua. The common factor these countries have are the lack of support and funding from the government. I believe the voices of the habitants of these countries need to be projected to the world to raise awareness. As a Latin American Correspondent, I plan to expand my knowledge, language, and culture of my Latin Heritage. I am thankful to be a part of this experience, in hopes of addressing and helping raise social issues in parts of Latin America. I know this opportunity will help me be a more well-rounded and professional person because of the different connections I will be making with other professionals.