Category Archives: Latin America

How to help the pandemic-stricken Amazon? ‘Amazonize yourself,’ says new campaign

A file photo shows smoke billowing from a fire in an area of the Amazon rainforest near Porto Velho, Brazil. (CNS/Reuters/Bruno Kelly)

Catholic groups and bishops in the Amazon have teamed with actors, academics and indigenous communities to call for attention, as well as action, to the growing threats to life in the region, as they say illegal mining and land grabbing have only intensified with the coronavirus pandemic.

A new campaign, called “Amazoniza-te,” or “Amazonize yourself,” seeks to raise awareness of the many ways that COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, endangers communities and forests in the globally critical biome. It brings together a coalition of Catholic groups, indigenous peoples, scientists, researchers, actors and artists in defense of the Amazon. 

The goal of the campaign, Fr. Dário Bossi of Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network (REPAM) Brazil told EarthBeat, is to sensitize the public, both in the Amazon and internationally, to the present reality in the Amazon — a place threatened both by the surging pandemic and continued rises in industrial activity and government deregulation.

“We are facing a situation where deforestation and land grabbing, fires, legal and illegal mining are being intensified, becoming agents of proliferation of coronavirus in the Amazon region communities,” organizers said in a press release.

Archbishop Walmor Oliveira de Azevedo, president of the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil, said the campaign is an opportunity for people worldwide to express solidarity with the rainforest and its peoples at a crucial moment.

“In this invitation to ‘Amazonize,’ we want to overcome the systematic violation of environmental protection legislation and the dismantling of public bodies by government action to deregulate and illegally expand the activities of mining companies, agribusiness, loggers and ranchers in the region,” the archbishop of Brazil’s Belo Horizonte Diocese said in a statement.

The campaign is the latest initiative by the Amazon church to act on the special synod on the Amazon, held in October 2019 at the Vatican. The synod, called by Pope Francis, drew worldwide attention to the plights facing the people and natural resources of the Amazon Basin.

The Amazon has become an epicenter of the pandemic in South America.

Across the nine-country region, there have been more than 27,500 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among their indigenous populations, and 1,108 people have died, according to data from official sources compiled by REPAM. Many believe the actual figures are much higher, as testing has been insufficient and people with symptoms of the virus die at home rather than a hospital.

In a May 4 letter, more than 60 Brazilian bishops, including Cardinal Cláudio Hummes, expressed their “immense concern” with the spread of the virus and the responses from the federal and state governments. The prelates said limited access to hospitals and the lack of intensive care unit beds has made COVID-19 more deadly to indigenous peoples — already more vulnerable from lower immunity to infections, especially within intentionally isolated tribes. Reports have also linked government health workers with inadvertently spreading the virus among indigenous populations in Brazil, as has transportation along the Amazon River itself.

The pandemic’s spread in the Amazon puts at risk the rainforest as well, as indigenous people have long served as its primary protectors and conservationists. Organizers with the “Amazonize-te” campaign say that the increased presence in the region of miners, loggers, ranchers and farmers has also contributed to the coronavirus’ spread.

“The coronavirus has exacerbated the existing socio-environmental crisis, meaning we are now starting to see an immense humanitarian tragedy caused by a structural collapse. With the Amazon being more and more deforested each day, successive pandemics even worse than this one may come,” the bishops said in their letter.

Although the bishops did not name specific government officials, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has been the target of national and international criticism for his downplaying of the pandemic. In early July, Bolsonaro tested positive for COVID-19.

In a separate letter, leaked to Brazilian media July 26, almost one third of the country’s 450-plus bishops criticized Bolsonaro and his government’s “inaction and omission” in responding to the pandemic, along with their handling of the rash of crises facing its citizens and lands.

As the coronavirus has spread, Bolsonaro has continued steps to block indigenous people from their traditional lands and has loosened environmental and economic regulations in the Amazon. Critics have accused the Brazilian government of using the pandemic as cover for development encroaching farther onto indigenous lands, including recent efforts to sidestep required consultations with local communities to build electrical lines through the rainforest to power mining operations.

“At a time when governments should be looking to protect the most vulnerable, the Brazilian leadership is using it as an excuse to bulldoze through actions which will have a devastating impact on people and the planet,” Moises Gonzalez with the U.K.-based Christian Aid said in a statement July 16.

https://www.ncronline.org/news/earthbeat/how-help-pandemic-stricken-amazon-amazonize-yourself-says-new-campaign

Brazil’s Indigenous communities are being devastated by COVID-19

A young Yanomami is examined by a member of a medical team with the Brazilian army in the state of Roraima July 1, 2020. (CNS/Reuters/Adriano Machado)

SAO PAULO, Brazil — Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in Brazil, Catholic organizations have warned that protective measures should be taken to keep the virus away from the country’s Indigenous population — or the consequences would be disastrous.

The surge in the number of cases among Indigenous since the end of May appears to demonstrate that the worst has happened.

With at least 367,180 cases of infection and 12,685 deaths, the Amazonian region is one of the epicenters of Brazil’s COVID-19 pandemic. The disease is not only impacting large cities such as Manaus and Belém but has also infiltrated many communities in the countryside, including the villages of traditional peoples that live in the rainforest.

The coronavirus has infected at least 6,626 members of Indigenous groups in the region and killed 157 of them. In the whole country, there are at least 9,500 cases involving Indigenous persons, with about 380 deaths, according to the Association of the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil.

The spread of COVID-19 among Indigenous groups reflects a general lack of governmental protection of their rights, said Antônio Cerqueira de Oliveira, executive secretary of the Brazilian bishops’ Indigenous Missionary Council (known by its Portuguese acronym CIMI).

“In previous administrations, Indigenous rights were not fully secure … but at least there was some kind of dialogue with those peoples,” Oliveira told NCR. “President Jair Bolsonaro has closed all doors and established an anti-Indigenous policy.”

Since his 2018 presidential campaign, Bolsonaro has repeatedly criticized the policy of establishing land reservations for Indigenous groups that are able to prove their historic ties with the territory they are claiming. Although it’s mandated by the constitution, Bolsonaro has claimed that Indigenous peoples already have too much land in Brazil, and promised that he wouldn’t grant any new territory to them.

At the same time, Bolsonaro has declared on various occasions that he would loosen the environmental and legal restrictions for economic activities in the country — especially in the Amazon.

Since he took office in January 2019, there has been an intensification of land invasions and destruction of the rainforest, perpetrated by illegal loggers and miners and by ranchers who want to expand their farming areas. The process often involves violence against Amazonian laborers and Indigenous.

Bolsonaro has also downplayed the severity of COVID-19, even as Brazil has the second-highest number of cases, nearly 1.7 million as of July 8, after the U.S. He tested positive for the disease July 6.

“With the pandemic, the already insufficient number of monitoring agents in the Amazon almost disappeared and invasions quickly increased,” said Oliveira. “The intruders are not only destroying the forest and threatening the Indigenous peoples, but they’re also taking the virus with them.”

Porto Velho Archbishop Roque Paloschi, CIMI’s president, said that wildfires set by invaders also have the potential to increase the dissemination of respiratory diseases. “The removal of such intruders from the Indigenous lands is urgent,” he told NCR.

But the governmental agency for Indigenous affairs, the National Indian Foundation, seems to be going in the wrong direction. According to Oliveira, the foundation has removed its agents from Indigenous lands that are awaiting official recognition from the government, leaving many peoples unassisted.

The protection for isolated Indigenous groups — which live in the rainforest and avoid any contact with non-Indigenous people — has also been severely weakened, said Oliveira. “The doors are wide open for invaders,” he said.

Catholic missionaries — at least the ones connected to CIMI — stopped visiting the rural villages at the beginning of the outbreak. They advised Indigenous groups to avoid contact with people from the outside and to remain in their reservations as much as possible.

But eventually, some of the members of the communities go into the city in order to receive their salaries or governmental assistance and to buy groceries. That’s when spread of the virus might occur.

“People have not been properly oriented to use hand sanitizers after leaving a store, for instance, or to always wear face masks, at least when they leave their villages,” said Fr. Aquilino Tsiruia, a member of the Xavante people in Mato Grosso State.

“The healthcare authorities should have told the Indigenous peoples about it, but they failed to do it,” said Tsiruia.

At least 32 Xavante people died from COVID-19, most of them in June. “The local healthcare system is very precarious, with only a handful of ICU beds available,” said Tsiruia. “Our people has a considerable population of elders, many of whom with diabetes. Everybody is very frightened.”

Reports of a lack of physicians and equipped hospitals abound among the Amazonian Indigenous peoples. According to Oliveira, the healthcare situation has deteriorated since Bolsonaro canceled an agreement with Cuba that allowed hundreds of Cuban doctors to work in remote areas in Brazil.

The program had been created during the administration of left-wing former President Dilma Rousseff and was ideologically targeted by the far-right Bolsonaro.

“In many Indigenous reservations, the Cuban doctors were the only professionals available. Now, there’s a total absence of healthcare specialists,” said Oliveira.

This is one of the reasons why many Indigenous people report that they have been treating COVID-19 cases with traditional healing herbs and teas.

“If we only count on regular medicines, there won’t be enough for everybody,” said Fr. Justino Rezende, a member of the Tuyuka people who lives in the city of Santa Isabel do Rio Negro, in Amazonas state.

Rezende came down with COVID-19 in June. “The number of cases here is going up,” he said. “Many elderly people are dying.”

Given that most villages are near small cities, the most serious cases are often taken to the state capitals, where the hospitals are a little better. Deaths occurring so far away from patients’ families lead to other complications.

“The disease is disrupting millennium-long life systems, given that it impedes the practice of very important rituals — especially the funereal ones,” explained Sr. Laura Vicuña Manso, a CIMI missionary. “The Indigenous groups feel deeply like they are doing something wrong when they can’t perform their traditional rites.”

Manso described the despair of a few leaders of the Karitiana people from Rondonia State when the first COVID-19 victim of their village died.

“The healthcare authorities wanted to bury the body in the city,” she said. “In the end, after much discussion, we were able to take the body to the village, but they couldn’t perform the whole traditional ritual.”

https://www.ncronline.org/news/coronavirus/brazils-indigenous-communities-are-being-devastated-covid-19

‘Pope Francis’ hospital boat delivers aid to pandemic-hit Amazon

Pope Francis hospital ship. Credit: Vatican Media.

Rome Newsroom, – A hospital boat named after Pope Francis has been delivering medical aid along the Amazon River as rural communities struggle amid Brazil’s devastating coronavirus outbreak. 

“This vessel has already done great miracles in the lives of our riverside people, bringing health and hope,” Franciscan Brother Joel Sousa told the Brazilian bishops’ conference news portal.

Since the boat was inaugurated in July 2019, the medical crew has carried out 46,000 medical consultations in the communities along the Amazon River. However, in the face of Brazil’s coronavirus outbreak, the crew has shifted its focus to prevention and testing.

“We couldn’t be out of this fight. We got together, reorganized ourselves in our service so that together we could also fight against COVID-19,” Sousa said.

The coronavirus pandemic has hit Brazil hard. With nearly 1.9 million COVID-19 cases, Brazil has the second highest number of recorded pandemic fatalities in the world after the United States. 

At least 72,833 people have died of COVID-19 in Brazil as of July 14, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. 

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro announced July 7 that he had tested positive for the coronavirus.

Vatican News reported July 14 that Pope Francis has donated four ventilators to Brazil to treat those who have contracted the virus. One of them, sent to a hospital in Marabá, a municipality in the state of Pará, will be “used especially for the Indigenous peoples,” according to the local bishop.

Despite their isolation, communities along the Amazon River have not been shielded from the outbreak. The virus has spread after two cities along the mouth of the river, Belem and Macapa, experienced outbreaks in the spring.

“We are mainly treating flu-like symptoms and mild, outpatient COVID-19 symptoms. The doctor performs the consultations and we also deliver medicines to the local health department,” Sousa said.

The hospital boat is staffed by medical volunteers, crew members, and Franciscan friars. It was founded by the Fraternity of St. Francis of Assisi in the Providence of God, in partnership with their local diocese and the Brazilian government.

The Brazilian Franciscans were inspired to create the floating hospital when Pope Francis visited their healthcare facility during World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro in 2013. During the visit, the pope encouraged Friar Francisco Belotti to expand his religious order’s charitable works into the Amazon region.

The boat, 105 feet in length, contains an operating room and analysis laboratory, and is able to provide a range of medical services, including X-rays, vaccinations, electrocardiogram, mammograms, and ultrasounds. The hospital began treating its first patients Aug. 18.

In a letter marking the boat’s launch on Aug. 17, Pope Francis, who has often spoken of the Church as a “field hospital,” said that the Church can also now be seen as a “hospital on the water.”

“Just as Jesus, who appeared walking on water, calmed the storm and strengthened the faith of the disciples, this boat will bring spiritual comfort and calm to the worries of needy men and women, abandoned to their fate,” Pope Francis said.

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/pope-francis-hospital-boat-delivers-aid-to-pandemic-hit-amazon-43303

Women, migrants, minorities to suffer most in Latin America as coronavirus rages -UN agency

Screenshot_2020-05-13 Women, migrants, suffer most in Latin America as coronavirus rages
People line up outside of a pharmacy amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Guayaquil, Ecaudor April 15, 2020. REUTERS/Santiago Arcos

SANTIAGO, – The coronavirus pandemic will make a bad economic situation worse for women, indigenous people, migrants and people of African descent in Latin America, a region already plagued by deep-rooted inequality, a United Nations agency said in a report issued on Tuesday.

Unequal access to potable water, sanitation, healthcare and housing could also mean higher rates of infection and death among these higher-risk populations, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) said in the report.

Women are in a “particularly vulnerable situation,” the report said, because their work is more often informal, with few guarantees, leaving them more exposed to the risk of unemployment.

Domestic workers in Latin America, who account for 11.4% of employed women in the region, will be especially hard hit by the virus and economic downturn, with limited access to an already tenuous social safety net in many countries.

Many domestic workers are migrants, or of indigenous or African descent, compounding the discrimination, the agency said.

Women are also most likely to be saddled with the responsibilities that come with quarantine and the closure of schools, increasing stress at home and the potential for domestic violence.

“The burden of unpaid domestic work assumed by women, adolescents and girls, as well as cases of violence against them, are significantly increased,” the agency warned.

Although the UN report focused partly on women, data from around the world has shown that men are dying at a higher rate than women from COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Latin America has more than 369,000 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus and more than 20,000 deaths from COVID-19, according to a Reuters count based on official data.

The region’s economies are set to contract by a record 5.3% in 2020, unleashing the worst social and economic crisis in decades, the agency said in a prior report in April.

The crisis is expected to exacerbate festering social and labor discrimination suffered by the indigenous and African-American populations, who already face greater wage gaps compared to other groups, ECLAC said.

 

 

 

https://news.trust.org/item/20200512171007-8v6yv/

 

Farming Families Search for Land

Brazil-farm
Sr. Maria Vagner Souza Silva teaches Biblical Studies in the community of Sâo Joâo Batista in Anapu.

By Sisters Jane Dwyer and Kathryne Webster, SNDdeN

We, Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur (SNDdeN), follow and walk with the people in Anapu, Brazil. From 1982 until 2005, Sr. Dorothy Stang was herself the Pastoral Land Commission in Anapu. Since her brutal murder, we have been coordinating this work. We accompany farming families as they search for land, respect nature, improve their production and life and their own organization. The right and responsibility to initiate belong to the people with whom we journey.

Since 2005, we have created the Committee in Defense of Anapu (CDA). For the last fifteen years, we have met with this Committee for the entire day on one Saturday each month, to address issues pertaining to the farming families, their needs, problems and threats. The people share their difficulties, reflect together on the causes, make collective and group decisions to change attitudes. Opening each meeting, our SNDdeN role is to provide an initial reflection; we call it a mística. This ecumenical experience helps the people to deepen their values and motivation for sustaining them on this journey.

Workshops in 2020

During 2020, we intend to offer practical workshops, requested by the families, on various ways of planting and cloning cacau in the forest, preparing and planting crops without burning, land homeopathy, the extraction of oils and essences from the forest, economic organization of the rural family, and other activities depending on the year’s
journey. We offer Biblical studies, continually providing spiritual resources for motivation on the journey. We aim to decentralize these workshops by offering them in various sectors of the municipality. There are more than 100 communities and conflict areas in Anapu.

Land Conflict and Organization of People

The land in Anapu is all public and destined for Agrarian Reform. We do not encourage people to occupy new lands but to take back lands that have been usurped, bought and sold illegally. The people work together within the judicial system with the National Institute for Colonization and Agrarian Reform (INCRA). After Sister Dorothy’s assassination, the creation of the defense committee, the CDA, helped families with land conflicts, to settle and win in court. The people occupy the usurped lands or organize groups with clear objectives. This organizing does create a lot of tension, violence and imprisonment in Anapu. The Pastoral Land Commission (CPT) defends families against slaughter, murder and violence. At first, the people needed help with everything, from typing letters, reports, petitions to discovering where to get required help. Today they take the responsibility for organizing themselves, finding the information for their defense, approaching INCRA, and all for public defense.

SNDdeN Presence and Ministry

We continue formation and follow-up through workshops, visits, and seeking financial assistance and defense in the face of threats to life, murders and the constant presence of gun and militias. Since 2015, 19 people in Anapu have been brutally murdered, with three killed in 2019, over land conflicts. Several individuals and many families have fled from Anapu, to escape being murdered. People face the threat of gunmen who have murdered companions and family members and intend to kill others. Farm families and their organization have not yet been able to achieve their goal. Our journey with them in Anapu and the wider Brazilian community becomes clearer to us with time. Our Notre Dame de Namur presence in Anapu is more to inform, influence and open channels against isolation from the outside world.

 

 

 

Good Works March 2020: https://www.sndden.org/who-we-are/good-works-international-magazine/

Priests and volunteers deliver 15,000 food baskets amid coronavirus pandemic

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Fr. Omar Sánchez Portillo distributes food in Lima’s Lurin district. Credit: Beatitudes Community

– Priests and volunteers have distributed more than 15,000 food baskets to Peruvians unable to work during the nation’s coronavirus pandemic lockdown. They say they aim to distribute 15,000 more.

Fr. Omar Sánchez Portillo, secretary general of Caritas Lurín and leader of region’s Beatitudes Community, announced March 26 the distribution of 15,000 food baskets to families living on metro Lima’s south side. Lurín is a southern district of Lima, Peru.

“Today we’ve already distributed 15,000 food baskets in the poorest and most vulnerable areas of South Lima. And we’re going for another 15,000!” the priest said March 26.

Sanchez manages a home for orphans in Lurin, in addition to a homeless shelter. Earlier this month, he began an online fundraiser for cleaning supplies and other provisions needed for the facility. He said because of the success of the fundraiser, he was able to purchase food for distribution in the region.

He began another fundraiser when several families approached Caritas, “asking us for help so they could have something to eat because these are people who work as street vendors and motorcycle taxi drivers and unfortunately they don’t have anything to eat because they’re out of work.”

For roughly four dollars per basket, his organization is able to assemble enough staples to replenish the food stores of hungry families.

Sanchez described one family assisted by his group, in which nine family members had been quarantined while the family’s father had been hospitalized. The family had run out of food by the time Caritas brought them a food basket.

Thanks to the group’s donors, Sanchez said, “we gave them a little statue of Our Lady of Aparecida donated by some good friends from Brazil…. We’ll keep on going!”

The delivery of food baskets is being undertaken in coordination with public health authorities, in order to avoid crowding at the headquarters of the Beatitudes Community.

Volunteers reportedly stay quarantined on the premises so as to avoid possibly infecting their families or other citizens.

The Peruvian government declared a state of emergency starting March 15, limiting travel in the country, closing public institutions and private businesses and issuing a 15 day stay-at-home order for all residents. However, on March 26 it announced the order would be extended to April 15.

While isolation and social distancing measures are expected to help slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, day laborers have been especially hard hit financially.

There are 950 coronavirus cases in Peru and 24 deaths.

 

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/priests-and-volunteers-deliver-15000-food-baskets-amid-coronavirus-pandemic-27964

Brazil eases residency visa requirements for trafficking victims

Screenshot_2020-03-25 Brazil eases residency visa requirements for trafficking victims
ARCHIVE PHOTO: Workers are pictured at a construction site in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, October 6, 2015. REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski

RIO DE JANEIRO,- H uman trafficking survivors will have an easier time gaining residence in Brazil after they are rescued, according to an ordinance issued by the government on Tuesday.

The measure creates a special procedure to expedite the issue of visas to migrants subjected to trafficking and violent crimes like domestic abuse, the government said.

Brazil is a regional hub for human trafficking, but rescued survivors have been without a clear path to residency since a 2017 change in the nation’s migration law, experts said.

Under the new measure, a visa applicant must be recognized as a victim by government authorities. Then migration authorities have a final say, taking into account if the victims cooperate with efforts to catch their abusers.

When granted, the visa authorizes migrants to work legally in Brazil.

“This … protects abused immigrants, usually women, who suffer aggression and violent relationships,” said Andre Furquim, director of the migration department at the National Secretariat of Justice, in a statement.

In Brazil, trafficking victims from Bolivia, Paraguay, Haiti and China have been found in forced labor and debt-bondage, particularly in the construction and textile industries, according to the U.S. 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report.

About 40 million people globally are estimated to be enslaved – in forced labor and forced marriages – in a trade worth an estimated $150 billion a year to human traffickers, according to the U.N. International Labour Organization (ILO).

But changes in Brazil’s migration law in 2017 that overturned an earlier residency ordinance left trafficked migrants in legal limbo, said Joao Chaves, a federal public defender and migration specialist.

“We have been waiting for this for two years and four months,” he said.

Larissa Getirana, from Caritas, a non-profit that helps migrants, said she considered it “unfair” for the government to make survivors’ cooperation with criminal investigations a determining factor in their applications.

“They are people who have already gone through an exploitative situation,” she said.

She also questioned the requirement that applicants provide an official document with a photograph, given that traffickers often take identification documents away from their captives.

 

 

https://news.trust.org/item/20200324195919-3j8pr/

Haiti’s Cry for Help as Climate Change is Compared to an Act of Violence against the Island Nation

Joseph-Jouthe
Haiti’s Environment Minister Joseph Jouthe says that “climate change is a very big terror in Haiti”, and without funds the Caribbean island nation is unable to adapt and mitigate against it. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

 

MADRID, Dec 13 2019 (IPS) – Haiti’s Environment Minister Joseph Jouthe has compared the climate emergency to a violent act and appealed to the international community for help to fight climate change.

“Climate change is a very big terror in Haiti. It’s very hard for us to deal with climate change,” Jouthe told IPS on the margins of the United Nations climate summit, the 25th Conference Of The Parties (COP25), in Madrid, Spain.

“Haiti is not responsible for what’s going on with climate change but we are suffering from it. We want better treatment from the international community.”

Jouthe said Haiti remains committed to strengthening its resilience to climate shocks and to contributing to the global effort to mitigate the phenomenon.

Haiti is pursuing a four-fold objective in relation to climate change:

  • promoting, at the level of all sectors and other ministries, a climate-smart national development;
  • creating a coherent response framework for country directions and actions to address the impacts of climate change;
  • promoting education on the environment and climate change as a real strategic lever to promote the emergence of environmental and climatic citizenship; and
  • putting in place a reliable measurement, reporting and verification system that can feed into the iterative planning processes of national climate change initiatives.

But Jouthe said the country simply cannot achieve these targets without financial help.

“In Haiti all the indicators are red. We have many projects but as you may know [The Caribbean Community] CARICOM doesn’t have enough funding to build projects,” he said.

Patrice Cineus, a young Haitian living in Quebec, said access to funding has been a perennial problem for Haiti.

But he believes Haiti is partly to blame for the seeming lack of inability to quickly receive financial help.

“Haiti, my country needs to build evidence-based policies, and this will make it easier to attract help from the international community,” Cineus told IPS.

“If we don’t have strong policies, it’s not possible. We need research within the country. We need innovative programmes within the country and then we can look for financial support and technical support.

“We cannot have access to funding because the projects we are submitting are not well done. We don’t use scientific data to build them. They are not done professionally,” Cineus added.

Cineus’ theory appears to be substantiated by the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC), which helps CARICOM member states address the issue of adaptation and climate change.

The centre’s Executive Director Dr. Kenrick Leslie said since 2016, under an Italian programme, it is required to develop projects that would help countries adapt to different areas of climate change.

“One of the areas that we have been considering, and we spoke with Haiti, is to build resilience in terms of schools and shelters that can be used in the case of a disaster.

“Funds have been approved but, unfortunately, unlike the other member states where we have already implemented at least one, and some cases two, projects, we have not been able to get the projects in Haiti off the ground,” Leslie told IPS.

“Each time they have identified an area, when we go there the site is not a suitable site and then we have to start the process again.”

While Haiti waits for funding, Dr. Kénel Délusca, current head of mission of a technical assistance project, AP3C, of the Ministry of Environment and Environment and the European Union, said the country remains one of the world’s most vulnerable to climate change.

Scientists say extreme weather events like hurricanes, floods and droughts will become worse as the planet warms, and Island nations like Haiti are expected to be among the hardest hit by those and other impacts of a changing climate, like shoreline erosion.

“The marine environment is extremely important to the Haitian people. There are more than 8 million people living in coastal communities in Haiti,” Délusca told IPS.

“There are more or less 50,000 families whose activities are based on these specific ecosystems. In other words, this is a very important ecosystem for Haiti and different levels – at the economic level, at the cultural level, at the social level.”

Haiti is divided into 10 départements, and Délusca said nine of them are coastal. Additionally, he said the big cities of Haiti are all located within the coastal zone.

“These ecosystems are very strategic to the development of Haiti. The Haitians have a lot of activities that are based on the marine resources. We also develop some cultural and social activities that are based on these environments,” Délusca said.

For poor island countries like Haiti, studies show, the economic costs, infrastructural damage and loss of human life as a result of climate change is already overwhelming. And scientists expect it will only get worse.

Though Haiti’s greenhouse gas emissions amount cumulatively to less than 0.03 per cent of global carbon emissions, it is a full participant in the 2015 Paris climate agreement and has committed to reduce its greenhouse gas emission by five percent by 2030.

 

 

 

 

http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/12/haitis-cry-help-climate-change-compared-act-violence-island-nation/

Haiti’s civil unrest reaches chaotic, disruptive point

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A girl stands at a Food for the Poor feeding center in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where families receive meals or provisions to take home. (Courtesy of Food for the Poor)

The humanitarian situation in Haiti, dire even in normal times, has worsened in recent months because of violence on the streets, stalling work throughout the country that is performed by sisters and by church-based relief agencies who work with sister congregations.

“Since September, the political situation has become worse, and so nobody has been able to go into the city,” Sr. Denise Desil, mother general of the Little Sisters of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, a Haiti-based congregation, told GSR, referring to the capital of Port-au-Prince. The result, she said, is that sisters in her congregation are more or less “staying home” in the congregational motherhouse in nearby RivièreFroide because “we are not free to move out … it is not safe to travel.”

More than 40 people have been killed and dozens injured in the wake of street protests in Port-au-Prince and other major cities since September, the Associated Press reported.

“Obviously, everyone in Haiti is being seriously and adversely affected by the chaos,” said Sr. Marilyn Lacey, executive director of the humanitarian agency Mercy Beyond Borders and a member of the Religious Sisters of Mercy.

Lacey told GSR her program funds scholarships for 174 girls in the Gros Morne area of northern Haiti and several more at universities in Port-au-Prince, but the students are unable to attend their schools.

“All schools have been shut down nationwide since early September,” she said.

The immediate cause of the protests, many of which have been peaceful, is unhappiness with the leadership of President Jovenel Moïse, a Haitian businessman who was a political neophyte when he was elected in 2016.

Charges of electoral fraud have dogged Moïse since the elections, and Moïse’s political opponents say his administration has not done enough to deal with long-standing problems of government corruption. They also say his government is mishandling Haiti’s already-struggling economy. His opponents are calling on the president to resign.

Moïse, who has vowed not to step down, has pleaded for national unity.

“The country is more than divided, the country is torn apart,” Moïse said late last month, as reported by The Associated Press.

The struggle between Moïse “and a surging opposition movement, which coupled with economic struggle and corruption have led to soaring prices of basic goods, crumbling healthcare facilities, and pushed the country to the brink of collapse,” the United Nations said Nov. 1. The U.N. noted that the majority of those killed died of gunshot wounds, 19 of those apparently “at the hands of security forces, and others by armed demonstrators or unknown perpetrators.”

Though there is a long history of political street protests in Haiti, the current challenge for day-to-day life in many Haitian cities is the paralyzing street violence, sometimes by gang members, say the sisters and others involved in humanitarian work.

The picture is grim in other ways.

“Costs for ordinary things like food and fuel have skyrocketed due to transport blockades. People hunker down in their homes, fearful of venturing out,” Lacey said. “Street gangs have stepped up their activity and power.”

Sr. Sissy Corr, a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur who works with its Notre Dame Mission Volunteers ministry, told GSR that the current protests have to be seen in the context of a yearlong unfolding of events, noting that frequent gunshots and roadblocks have been the norm since February, accompanied later in the year by crippling inflation. The “tipping point,” she said, came in late August, “when there was no fuel for generators and huge rises in the cost of gasoline.”

“There’s underlying fear,” she said. “You sense it in the air.”

Corr said she feels those putting up road blocks are “young guys wearing bandanas without jobs” who just want an opportunity for work so they can provide for their families. Overall, she said, Haitians now “are just hungry and scrapping by to get some money for food. They hunger for a better Haiti.”

The situation has frustrated sisters, who are used to conducting their ministry against great odds, Desil said. The challenges of security, travel and dealing with potential gang threats have stopped some work, such as teaching, she said, and slowed (though not fully halted) the sisters’ work in providing food for children in an orphanage in Artibonite in northern Haiti.

Desil said one sister in her congregation has not been able to get her needed diabetic medications. Long-term, she said, “we can’t live in this condition.”

Those involved in humanitarian ministry must try to figure out when they can eke out some work around those days when it is not possible to get around because of security worries.

“Protesters allow us free days such as Saturday and Sunday so that we can go out to buy food and medication,” said Korean Sr. Matthias Choi, who heads the Haiti mission of the Kkottongnae Sisters of Jesus, a South Korean congregation with a 30-year history of work in poor communities throughout the world. However, the situation on the streets often limits that work to serving elderly residents of a senior citizens’ village.

“It seems like the cycle has become three to five days of demonstrations and one to two days off,” she told GSR.

Though Choi said members of her congregation are not in any immediate danger, she said they have had to deal with shortages of rice; fuel, such as propane and diesel gas; gauze for wounds; milk for children; and medication.

Lacey said her organization’s staff members have had to fly from Port-au-Prince to Gonaives in northern Haiti, which is normally a three-hour drive, “since the main north-south highway has dozens of daily blockades at which you pay multiple bribes to pass, if lucky, or get robbed or attacked if unlucky.”

 

More life in the street’ with tenuous improvement

There are tentative signs that the situation might be improving.

Corr said an industrial-sized bakery she helps run in the city of Les Cayes closed in October because of the insecurity in the coastal city. But the facility was scheduled to reopen Nov. 26 because of availability of fuel and baking ingredients plus slightly improved security.

Corr left Haiti in September because of a death in the family and has not returned to Haiti since then. Interviewed by GSR from Florida, she said she hopes to return as soon as possible, though she is still concerned about safety.

“What’s changed?” she said. “I want to be prudent.”

The situation in Port-au-Prince has improved a bit since late November, said Sr. Annamma Augustine, an Indian Missionary Sister of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. “There is more life in the street,” she said.

But Desil said she thinks the overall situation is not improving. Schools remain closed, people are afraid to go out, and gunmen are still shooting. “Things are not better,” she said. “We are tired of this situation.”

The situation is not uniformly dire across the country, but the effects of the stalemate are being felt everywhere.

Augustine told GSR that while the congregation has had to discontinue its ministries in Port-au-Prince for now, its ministries outside the capital are still running, including in the dioceses of Port-de-Paix in northern Haiti and Les Cayes in southern Haiti.

Work in and near Ouanaminthe, not far from the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic in northern Haiti, continues, and the overall situation is stable, said Colombian Sr. Alexandra Bonilla Leonel, a member of the Sisters of St. John the Evangelist, also known as the Juanistas. However, the paralysis in major cities like Port-au-Prince is causing prices for food and other goods to rise, she said.

“The economic impact is being felt,” Leonel said.

Humanitarian efforts continue

Lacey and others are concerned about the effects of the situation long-term.

“It goes on and on. Protestors have one goal: Shut down the country until Moïses leaves. Meanwhile, of course, it is really hurting the common people the most,” she said.

Other humanitarian efforts continue doggedly despite serious challenges. In a Nov. 21 statement to GSR from the Florida-based humanitarian organization Food for the Poor, agency director Angel Aloma said, “Getting food out to the areas in the countryside has been a challenge. Our workers have been shot at, and in one case one of our drivers was injured.”

Some families have still been able to make it to a Food for the Poor feeding center in Port-au-Prince, he said.

“Even when our workers could not cook the usual meals, they would package up dry provisions such as beans and rice and give that to the hungry who were able to make it to the feeding center,” Aloma said.

In another case, the agency sent bags of rice and beans by boat to La Gonave Island, population 87,000, “which has been severely impacted by the unrest,” said agency spokeswoman Kathy Skipper. It was not possible to ship food and water from a port in Port-au-Prince because of security issues, she said, so the agency found someone with a private port.

“It has been challenging, and we have been saddened to see how long it has continued. But we have seen these cycles in Haiti before and we pray that soon it will be peaceful enough to return to our normal operations,” Aloma said.

Chris Bessey, the Haiti country director for Baltimore-based Catholic Relief Services, echoed those sentiments in an interview with GSR, saying, “We’re doing everything we can to keep things going.”

Though hopeful that the situation will change, Bessey said he sometimes worries it could “go on for months or years” if a political solution to the crisis is not found, noting that the “masses of people” are caught in the middle of a political struggle.

Bessey said he does not believe donors to CRS’s work in Haiti will give up on the country, saying there is a loyal donor base in the United States for work in Haiti.

“I know there is a strong connection [in the United States] with the people of Haiti,” he said, citing individual, organizational, diocesan and parish-to-parish ties.

Boyer Jean Odlin, a young professional who has been out of work since Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti in 2016, is among those hoping for change.

He moved from the southern coastal city of Les Cayes to the island of Île-à-Vache in May in hopes of a better life. Though day-to-day life on the island is not as difficult as it is in the large cities like Port-au-Prince, Odlin told GSR that one example of the difficulties of life now in urban areas is that of armed gunmen stopping cars and demanding money, he said.

The only solution to the current political stalemate, he said, is to end the “fighting between the opposition and the government.” As it is now, he said, the situation in Haiti has become “unlivable. There is so much misery right now.”

 

 

 

 

https://www.globalsistersreport.org/news/world/ministry/news/haitis-civil-unrest-reaches-chaotic-disruptive-point?clickSource=email

 

 

 

 

 

Ireland, France set to block EU-Mercosur trade deal over Amazon

BED9A5E4-EE61-40A2-A8F5-85B8A0098FEBVast tracts of the Amazon jungle has burned and are being cleared by loggers and farmers in Novo Airao [Bruno Kelly/Reuters]

As wildfires rage through the Amazon, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar and French President Emmanuel Macron have said they will vote against a trade deal between the European Union and South American trade bloc Mercosur unless Brazil takes action to protect the rainforest.

Varadkar said in a statement he was very concerned at the record levels of rainforest destruction, and said the Irish government would closely monitor Brazil’s environmental actions in the two years until the Mercosur deal is ratified

“There is no way that Ireland will vote for the EU-Mercosur Free Trade Agreement if Brazil does not honour its environmental commitments,” he said.

Macron, meanwhile, believes his Brazilian counterpart Jair Bolsonaro lied to him on Brazil’s stance on climate change, and France will now join Ireland in blocking the trade deal between the EU and South American nations.

“Given the attitude of Brazil over the last weeks, the president can only conclude that President Bolsonaro lied to him at the Osaka [G20] summit [in June],” a French presidential official said on Friday, as a public row flared between the two leaders over wildfires raging in the Amazon rainforest.

Brazil’s comments and policies over the past few weeks showed the right-wing Bolsonaro did not intend to respect obligations on climate change and also did not want to commit on concrete proposals to maintain biodiversity, said the official.

“Under these conditions, France will oppose the Mercosur (Free Trade Agreement with the EU) as it stands,” the French official added.

About 500 protesters, many from the Extinction Rebellion climate strike group, blocked the road outside Brazil’s embassy in London on Friday morning, incensed at Bolsonaro’s lack of environmental protections.

“When we destroy elements of biodiversity, we cut the threads that hold everything together,” Farnan Ellwood of the University of the West of England told Al Jazeera. “Biodiversity is nature’s protection mechanism, its insurance policy.

“We need to stop using hardwood furniture, stop eating beef – because it’s the beef farming which is driving deforestation. The second thing is to recognise the world has changed – we simply cannot go back. But there is some good news; scientists are trying to rebuild the biodiversity. If we can put the fire out – literally and figuratively – and stop the decline, then we can try to restore some of these complex networks of biodiversity.”

Macron had tweeted on Thursday that fires burning in the Amazon amounted to an international crisis and should be discussed as a top priority when the G7 countries meet this weekend in France.
Bolsonaro then blasted Macron for having a “colonialist mentality”. German Chancellor Angela Merkel joined Macron’s call on Friday, and it looks likely to be a topic for discussion.

Vast tracts of the Amazon – often described as the lungs of the world – are currently ablaze in what is known as the burning season. Environmentalists have blamed deforestation for an increase in fires and accuse Bolsonaro of cutting protection of an area deemed crucial in combating climate change.

Varadkar said Bolsonaro’s effort to blame non-government environmental organisations for the fires was “Orwellian”.

Ireland and France will need other EU states to help form a blocking minority if it wants to kill the deal which was reached in June after 20 years of negotiations between the EU and the Mercosur countries – Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay.

But the Irish government is under pressure to defend its beef farmers, already suffering from Britain’s looming EU exit and low prices, by seeking to ensure Mercosur countries do not flood the market with cheaper beef.

Bolsonaro has rejected what he calls foreign interference in Brazil’s affairs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/ajimpact/ireland-block-eu-mercosur-trade-deal-amazon-fires-190823095908509.html