Climate Change Haiti

Haiti: Women in the Face of Climate Change

Haiti: Women in the Face of Climate Change

As a Caribbean Island, we know Haiti can get extremely heated. In the face of climate change, Haiti has been nothing less of scorching. As years go by, the temperature is increasing and the people of Haiti have more concerns about accessing water and natural resources. When we think of climate change, we think of changes in the environment- which is obviously important. However, we lack to think of how climate change affects whole populations, and in this case the women of Haiti.

What is happening in Haiti? 

As of 2023, only 40 percent of Haiti’s population had access to clean drinking water or access to drinking water supplies according to the World Bank. Any water accessible to communities was contaminated with parasites or led to major cholera outbreaks due to the population practicing open defecation. Water systems are slow to be updated and unkempt, so the population is only able to ingest low-quality water. Along with water, the agricultural field is highly depended on for survival. 

The lack of water leads to less irrigation for crops, meaning no source of production for income or to feed themselves. Environmental degradation has left Haiti more vulnerable  to floods, heatwaves, hurricanes, and earthquakes. Due to the Haitian economy being supported by goods such as cacao, maize, rice, and coffee, communities have taken a toll from most climate catastrophes. Specifically, Hurricane Matthew in 2016 caused losses and damages estimated at 32 percent of 2015 GDP. 

How are women in Haiti affected directly by climate change?

Directly and indirectly, women are at a disadvantage in Haiti and are blocked from their basic resources due to the effects of climate change. The climate catastrophes that have taken place on the island have taken a toll on the women, leaving them primarily responsible for securing their incomes and taking charge of the agricultural portion of their land. Alongside Haiti practicing open defecation, there is no proper waste treatment for women and children to have privacy, This leaves them in a vulnerable state, causing physical and sexual violence incidents to occur when seeking a safe place to defecate. 

Human waste then adds to contamination of pollution for women and their kids to ingest or come into contact with.The heat increase in global temperatures has affected the increase in water-borne diseases and made the majority of children sick. Malaria cases increased, also involving cholera outbreaks within communities at an alarming rate. Climate change has caused an increase in spread of vector-borne illnesses such as malaria, dengue fever and Zika virus- these are linked to worse maternal and neonatal outcomes.

We cannot forget how women are in charge of traveling some vast distances to collect water from their nearest well, body of water, or safe water projects. A World Bank study showed 122 projects around the world saw water projects including women in their decision making were six to seven times more effective than those that did not. This goes to show the great dependence most families have on their women to provide for them.

On the agricultural side, agriculture in Haiti is heavily relied on for some sort of income, though it is low. This is the most important sector for women in the lower and middle income countries- women being primary procurers work longer hours on a daily basis for securing their pay and resources to provide their families basic necessities. 

This puts added pressure on girls, who often must leave school to help their mother manage the increased burden. Soil degradation is so severe in Haiti that the soil is stripped of its beneficial nutrients and are unable to make food for sustaining its population. A recent interview was conducted on two women from Haiti speaking of their experiences living in these conditions. 

Fernande Alcide, a fifth year student at the University of Caribbean was asked how the effects of climate change and environmental disasters on women and girls in your local rural communities:

“In my community women face the challenger of water, as natural resources and dry seasons force them to search further for daily use. Water storage is often contaminated as it is captured by rain and containers have no covers. This causes itchy skin.” 

She also stated in her society there are challenges between men and women’s voices- women’s voices are not taken seriously so it is harder for policy or impact to become change, women cannot make change for themselves. Gender inequality is a regular issue that stops progression in sustainable development goals. Environmental injustices is not a newly created issue, it has been around for quite a while. Women have faced gender-specific violence and harassment as a result of their climate activism, remain underrepresented in global climate negotiations, and their solutions are drastically under-resourced, according to the United Nations Foundation. 

Other reasons women are having trouble

Aside from climate catastrophes, scarcity of water and water contamination (which are huge issues), women have trouble leaving these areas that are more prone to climate change and natural disaster. For most families, these women have been around these environments their whole life and have no other acknowledgements of help. They have numerous care-giving obligations, lack of financial assets, and limited rights to land and property. If they do manage to leave, women are faced with unemployment, child marriage, or human trafficking. Since women are commonly left out of any policy making decisions, little change happens. Men take up at least 67% of climate related decisions, letting women me under represented significantly. 

What is being done for change?

Thankfully, a lot of organizations like the United Nations Foundation and the World Bank have seen the issues for women in Haiti to initiate change. The United Nations Foundation has released the conference in 2022, which was themed on gender equality and the context of climate change, elevating intersections and the urgency of tackling the gender dimensions of climate. They have also announced to help increase women’s leadership and decision-making power in the climate space since it is urgently needed. Women have begun to advocate for themselves and raise their voices on these issues to try to initiate more change, fighting for less imbalances of power.

On the other hand, the World Bank Group has been very committed to research on this issue- through projects like the Sustainable Rural and Small Towns Sanitation Project, they have advocated for women to be integrated into the management of newly built or rehabilitated water supply systems. In addition, efforts from the World Bank have proven commitments to improve the water and sanitation sector, launching new actions against climatic events and other hazards. 

As a person at home, we can help support disaster preparation and build more programs to prioritize women and girl’s experiences. We can also support programs  that will help provide education and economic opportunities, like the CARE’s Tipping Point Program that helps communities push back against harmful gender norms to help younger girls. We have the ability to create more spaces and push impact for the women in Haiti to face serious consequences of climate change. 

 


Khaleb Hernandez | Environmental Correspondent

Hello everyone! I am currently a senior studying Environmental Science and Policy in Tampa, Florida. Before I moved to the United States, I was raised in Guatemala City- where I was exposd to an abundance of environmental injustices and experiences. With my mother being from Colombia, I’ve traveled to various places around Central and South America to realize there are many topics not being addressed for the well-being of smaller communities, mostly indigenous or communities living under the poverty line. Hearing people’s stories inspired me to dig deeper into how these communities have adapted to their way of living, including lacking the basic resources we have access to in our daily lives. With Latina Republic, I aspire to share their stories and bring awareness to their unique circumstances, including giving them the attention they need in all forms. I am confident sharing stories will attract a greener future and more opportunities to guide the right people into improving the ways of living in Central and South America.