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Haiti is in the midst of an ongoing crisis as the Caribbean country has not yet received COVAX help, gang violence is rampant, and government forces have clashed with protesters demanding the president resign.
Haiti does not have a single vaccine to offer its more than 11 million people a year after the pandemic began, raising concerns among health experts that Haitians' wellbeing is being pushed aside as violence and political instability across the country deepen.
So far, Haiti is slated to receive only 756,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine through the UN Covax program designed to secure a more equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines among the neediest countries in the world. The free doses were scheduled to arrive in May at the latest. Still, delays are expected because Haiti missed a deadline, and the key Indian manufacturer is now prioritizing an increase in domestic demand.
According to the Pan American Health Organization, the country also didn’t apply for a pilot program in which it would have received some of its allotted doses early. However, a spokeswoman commended its other pandemic efforts, including reinforcing hospital preparedness. Haiti’s lack of vaccines comes as it reports more than 12,700 cases and 250 deaths, which experts believe are underreported.
Modern Treatise’s Tirza Morales dissects the incredibly tense and complex political situation in #Haiti involving protests against President Jovenel Moïse, gang violence, kidnappings, and more. #Politicshttps://t.co/OS6ZPdJ0vK
Meanwhile, according to a recently issued U.S. State Department report, Haiti's government misappropriated more than $1m worth of coronavirus aid. The report also accused government officials of spending $34m in the "greatest opacity," bypassing an agency charged with approving state contracts. Ongoing protests and a spike in kidnappings and gang-related killings have some wondering how any vaccine will be administered given the lack of stability coupled with a growing number of people afraid to leave their homes.
Esther Racine, a 26-year-old mother of two boys whose father died in the catastrophic 2010 earthquake, had summed up the current situation in downtown Port-au-Prince when she said that "Haitians have other problems on their mind; people worry more about violence than the virus."
Many developing countries have long waits to get Covax vaccines as richer countries snapped up supplies, though most have received at least an initial shipment. Some took matters into their own hands, securing shots through donations and private deals.