The head of the UN Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH), Helen La Lime, says Haiti needs a strong response to the COCVID-19 pandemic that could challenge its delicate balance of stability, security and development.
La Lime told the United Nations Security Council via videoconference last week that BINUH, together with 19 UN agencies have been working together to support the country against the backdrop of longstanding fragility, exacerbated by 18 months of a protracted political, economic, social and institutional crisis.
She said the pandemic is “stretching this country’s already fragile health system and testing its meager social safety net.”
She told the UN Security Council that, Haiti, a country of more than 11 million inhabitants, currently only has the capacity to treat a few hundred patients at a time, drawing attention also to “suboptimal coordination within the State” and “inadequate funding of the national response plan.”
This week Haiti reported that over 5,000 people infected with the virus, while 80 had died so far since the first case was detected on March 19.
La Lime said that if the public health and socio-economic dimensions of the pandemic are not addressed urgently, they risk further aggravating the humanitarian and socio-economic situation, threatening significant human suffering and large population outflows—significantly impacting the whole region.
Despite the pandemic, over the past four months, BINUH and the UN Country Team have been assisting Haitian authorities and institutions in progressing towards stability and sustainable development.
In the throes of the pandemic, a resurgence in gang activity is exacerbating the already volatile situation and compounding the plight of the most vulnerable in Haiti.
The US envoy said, the “vicious circle of mistrust, recrimination, and ultimately violence,” is again starting to define Haitian politics, at a time when the entire society should be unified in responding to the pandemic, and working toward lasting foundations on which to build a successful future for the nation.
It is becoming increasingly evident that Constitutional reform is needed to break the circle and create conditions for institutional stability, good governance and the rule of law, which she called “three essential characteristics for the country to thrive.”