Haiti is currently facing a nation-wide fuel shortage. This is not the first, nor likely the last one that will hit the country. It began in December 2018 but continues to drag on, creating significant hardship and negative impact on the citizens, businesses and NGOs operating in the country.
The fiscal, economic and political history that serves as the impetus of the current situation is prolific and complicated. However, here is a basic overview on how this shortage came about: The Haitian government has exceeded its credit with its main fuel supplier and is now required to provide cash upon delivery when the ships carrying the fuel arrive. For several weeks, the government did not have the cash needed so the fuel just sat on the 2 fuel ships anchored in the waters off the capital Port-au-Prince. Recently, the government was able to pay some of the money owed to the U.S.-based fuel supplier but it was only enough to sustain the country for less than a month. Once that supply is tapped, the cycle will repeat itself.
What does no fuel mean for Haiti? Well, its impact is tremendous. When the shortage began in December, it resulted in fuel caps at gas stations and long lines to fill up. A month in, many gas pumps have been locked up and stations closed. But that is only the start of the problems.
Due to the lack of Diesel, electricity companies have cut backed on output, meaning some areas are only getting 6 hours of electricity per day while others are getting none at all and experiencing 24/7 blackouts. Telecommunications have been completely disrupted because the cell-towers require diesel to run. Water trucks delivering water to rural areas are not longer able to do so. Generators that run water pumps or other household necessities are shut off. If there is a medical emergency, no one may be able to drive to the nearest hospital.
So how does this impact D2C? While our in-country staff is doing an incredible job ensuring our Family Home children are safe and taken care of, they are working under significant strain. Electricity is unpredictable and limited. Students are unable to complete their homework and are falling behind because they have no lights to see their work. Communication between U.S.-based staff and Haiti-based staff is infrequent and prone to disruption. Water-usage has to be monitored in order to ensure we don’t run out and transportation to school or to the market now requires significant logistical planning. Moreover, as the shortage drags on, Haitians are understandably becoming more frustrated and outwardly angry towards the government and other businesses. Protests – with the possibility of riots – make traveling anywhere difficult and potentially dangerous.
Haiti is a country born out of resilience under the harshest of circumstances. We believe solutions to these on-going infrastructure issues are possible but require long-term vision and investment. For now, we remain focused on the safety and growth of the children under our direct care and those who participate in our programs.