Haiti News

Hundreds wait overnight for $250 grocery gift cards in coronavirus-hit Miami



Hundreds of residents of the Little Haiti section of Miami waited overnight in the cold to collect a $250 gift card to the Publix supermarket on Friday morning as the devastating economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic continues to be felt nationwide.

Pierre Casseos slept upright on a milk crate after getting in line at around 11pm on Thursday night.

Casseos, an elderly man who walks with the aid of a cane and appears to be in his 60s or 70s, said he slept outside so he could get the gift card.

Some 200 local residents wound up receiving the gift card.

Jeffrey Watson, a Miami city commissioner of District 5, which encompasses Little Haiti, an area of town with a predominantly black population, said: ‘There’s obviously a demand. We don’t have enough supply.’

In Miami, hundreds stood in line on Friday – many for hours, some overnight – in hopes of obtaining a $250 Publix gift…

Posted by CBS News on Saturday, December 5, 2020

Hundreds of people waited overnight to receive $250 grocery gift cards in the Little Haiti section of Miami on Friday morning

Hundreds of people waited overnight to receive $250 grocery gift cards in the Little Haiti section of Miami on Friday morning

Some 200 people received $250 gift cards to Publix supermarkets

Some 200 people received $250 gift cards to Publix supermarkets

Some of the poorest and hardest hit areas of Miami have seen residents wait hours to get the gift cards due to the economic toll of the coronavirus pandemic

Some of the poorest and hardest hit areas of Miami have seen residents wait hours to get the gift cards due to the economic toll of the coronavirus pandemic

Some people who waited hours were told they could not receive the cards since they were not residents of Miami

Some people who waited hours were told they could not receive the cards since they were not residents of Miami

This is the second time this week that hundreds of Miamians were seen waiting in line overnight for gift cards needed to buy groceries.

Some 500 people began lining up on Monday night around Regatta Park near City Hall so they could get Publix gift cards on Tuesday morning, CBSMiami reported.

Some people waited with their children and their pets while bundled up as the temperatures dipped into the 40s overnight.

‘My coworker picked me up about 3:15am and we got here around 3:50am,’ said Mabel Miller, who used her only day off from work to line up.

Some people on line were turned away because they did not live within the Miami city limits while others came up empty-handed because there were simply not enough Publix cards to give out.

Last month, hundreds of cars were spotted queuing for food boxes at Miami's Gwen Cherry Park

Last month, hundreds of cars were spotted queuing for food boxes at Miami’s Gwen Cherry Park 

The boxes were being distributed by the Miami Marlins Foundation amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic

The boxes were being distributed by the Miami Marlins Foundation amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic

Volunteers place food in the trunks of cars at the food distribution center

Volunteers place food in the trunks of cars at the food distribution center

‘No more line everyone. I’m very sorry but there are no more cards,’ the announcement came at around 9am on Tuesday.

The grocery gift card program was launched by the city of Miami in collaboration with Publix supermarkets. The initiative allows for the distribution of $250 gift cards to Miami residents experiencing hardship and food insecurity during the pandemic.

The sight of Floridians lining up for gift cards or food outside food banks has been all too common since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, which shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon. 

Florida’s coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths have climbed dramatically over the last two months and some epidemiologists fear those numbers could soon hit or exceed levels reached in the summer when the pandemic was at its peak.

After a dramatic three-month decline that began in July, Florida’s confirmed cases began rising again in October, two weeks after Governor Ron DeSantis removed nearly all capacity restrictions on restaurants, bars and other businesses and barred cities and counties from fining violators of local mask ordinances. 

The increase has not slowed since as Florida passed 1 million confirmed cases and 19,000 deaths this week.

Epidemiologists Cindy Prins of the University of Florida and Jason Salemi of the University of South Florida said Friday that lifting the restrictions led some to stop taking proven and effective precautions like wearing masks and social distancing. 

Many people wanted to get back to normal.

‘You’re sick of doing all these things, you’re sick of COVID and so I think you start to relax,’ Salemi said.

‘When cases go down, people drop their guard,’ Prins said.

DeSantis has said he won’t reimpose restrictions or require masks, although he encourages people to wear them and to social distance. 

He believes the economic and social damage done by restrictions outweighs the risk posed by the virus.

‘I’m opposed to mandates, period. I don’t think they work,’ DeSantis said at his last public appearance on November 30. 

‘There’s narratives that lockdowns work. And they don’t.’

The number of coronavirus cases in Florida has surged in recent weeks

The number of coronavirus cases in Florida has surged in recent weeks

The latest data shows a sharp increase in the number of COVID-19 deaths as well as hospitalizations

The latest data shows a sharp increase in the number of COVID-19 deaths as well as hospitalizations

Florida reported its first cases March 1, the numbers rising gradually before spiking in June, weeks after initial stay-at-home orders were loosened. 

The outbreak peaked in mid-July, when almost 14,000 new cases were reported daily and the number of Floridians hospitalized hit nearly 10,000. 

Deaths, which lag a few weeks behind, peaked in early August when 230 Floridians were dying of COVID-19 per day.

But then the numbers crashed and by late September the number of cases reported daily was down to 2,800. Hospitalizations were at about 2,200.

Prins and Salemi said many factors went into the decrease. 

Counties and cities imposed mask mandates, there were restrictions on businesses and gatherings and, most importantly, Floridians protected themselves.

‘People got really scared when we were approaching 10,000 hospitalizations’ and at 200 deaths per day, Salemi said. 

‘Those are pretty astonishing numbers.’

Citing the improvement, DeSantis on September 25 lifted restrictions on the number of customers that restaurants and other businesses could have inside with some exceptions for hard-hit Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. 

And while DeSantis didn’t repeal local orders requiring masks, he prohibited municipalities from imposing fines, leaving the regulations toothless.

For two weeks, the numbers kept falling, with cases hitting 2,200 per day in early October, an 85 per cent decrease from the peak. Hospitalizations fell to about 2,000 and, in early November, deaths fell to 42 per day.

But two weeks is also the virus’s incubation period and the numbers have since spiked again, reaching 8,500 per day this week. 

Hospitalizations now exceed 4,300 and the average number of reported deaths per day over the last week is 90.

Prins said one of the top causes for the increase is the reopening of bars and restaurants to full capacity in much of the state. 

People go with friends, sitting close together indoors, thinking there is no risk.

‘These are the places where transmissions can occur, especially the bars – we’ve seen images of people clustered,’ she said.

John Horne, a member Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association executive board member and owner of the Anna Maria Oyster Bar and other restaurants, said it’s unfair to cast a wide blame on restaurants for the spread just because some owners aren’t taking precautions.

He’s stayed at 50 per cent capacity and has an employee sanitizing tables, menus, doors and more. 

A bell rings every 30 minutes to remind employees to wash their hands. And while he sees other places packed, consumers make the decision to go in.

‘I don’t think by opening it up to 100 per cent that’s what’s causing the spike. I think people are traveling a little bit more and people are getting tired of wearing masks, they’re getting tired of being cooped up, so a lot of people are coming out and getting closer,’ he said.

Salemi said DeSantis has emphasized protecting vulnerable populations like older people, ‘but it’s certainly not working. The average daily number of Floridians 65 and older reported with a new infection has gone up 81 per cent over the last month.

With virus cases caught over Thanksgiving likely to appear next week and with Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year’s Day coming up, Prins and Salemi fear Florida will soon be back to July levels and may exceed them.

‘When we get together over the holidays with our families, there will undoubtedly be high-risk older people – our parents and grandparents. They are the ones who are going to get infected,’ Salemi said.    

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Haiti News

DHS reviewing humanitarian protections for Haitians and others in the US




The acknowledgment comes amid growing pressure from lawmakers and advocates to redesignate Haiti for Temporary Protected Status, a form of humanitarian relief, which can be granted when it is deemed unsafe to return to one’s home country.

Mayorkas said country conditions are “very much under review,” with respect to Haiti and other countries with a lower profile, indicating that the US is also looking at Cameroon and Mauritania for possible protection.

“We’re very mindful of the fact that the conditions in those countries deserve our close review. And that review is well underway,” he said at the UCLA Center for Immigration Law Policy conference Friday.

The Biden administration has already granted protections for Venezuela and Myanmar, marking a shift from the Trump administration, which had sharply criticized TPS and moved to terminate protections the program had provided for immigrants from other countries, arguing that years of extensions were prolonging immigrants’ stays in the United States long after crises abroad had abated.

Nearly 500 advocates, human rights activists, and nonprofit organizations sent a letter this week to the White House calling for the Biden administration to re-designate TPS for Haitians living in the US.

“The Trump Administration tried to end TPS for Haitians, many of whom have been on the frontlines during the coronavirus pandemic and keeping the United States moving forward as our healthcare workers and caregivers, transportation workers and farm workers,” the letter said. “It is imperative that the Biden Administration make things right and redesignate TPS for Haiti immediately.”

Earlier this month, Democratic Rep. Albio Sires of New Jersey and Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida sent a letter to Mayorkas detailing the unsafe issues in Haiti, like food insecurity, gender-based violence and political instability.

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Haiti News

Charly Pierre opens Fritai, Haitian restaurant, in Treme | Food and drink | Gambit Weekly




In 1809, more than 10,000 Haitians fleeing the revolution taking place in their country came to New Orleans, doubling the city’s population. The similarity between the two cultures is profoundly robust, overlapping in areas from music to history and architecture. But nowhere is the sisterhood more apparent than on the plate.

Thanks to a shared cultural root system drawn from French, Spanish and African cultures, many Haitian dishes track with iconic New Orleans specialties.

“We have gumbo, red beans and rice, Creole sauces,” says chef Charly Pierre, who is Haitian American. Pierre was born in the Boston area, but is anchored to Haiti on both parents’ sides and grew up visiting the island every year, he says.

Pierre is opening Fritai, his first brick-and-mortar restaurant, at 1535 Basin Street, close to N. Claiborne Avenue on the edge of Treme. It’s an expansion of what started as a pop-up and soon became a food stall in St. Roch Market. A mix of modern and traditional Haitian cuisine, Fritai showcases Pierre’s fine dining chops while staying resolutely simple and true to the island’s heart and soul.

Once it opens in the next few weeks — he’s still waiting on some permitting and inspections — Fritai will offer many of the same dishes Pierre featured at the market, spotlighting common ingredients like watercress and oxtail and making frequent use of epis, the Haitian version of the Louisiana holy trinity or Hispanic sofrito. Beyond bell pepper, onion and celery, epis is rich with green onion and herbs like cilantro and parsley and spiked with garlic and Scotch bonnet peppers.

“We use it on everything, including roasted fish and beans,” Pierre says.

The 32-year-old chef came to New Orleans six years ago after going to culinary school and cooking in and around Boston. He made a splash early in his career as a winner on Food Network’s “Chopped.”

One of Pierre’s favorite homey menu dishes is smoked fish pasta, just called spaghetti by Haitians. “We even eat it for breakfast,” he says. The popular street food is a sauté of smoked herring with epis and tomato paste, tossed with homemade pasta instead of typical dried spaghetti.

Epis is the base of a vinaigrette for a watercress and shaved mirliton salad, studded with candied plantains and shaved red onion. The menu features plenty of vegetarian and vegan options, like the root veggie fritter made with malanga, spices and herbs and served with a side of pikliz, a spicy relish mixture of cabbage, carrot and pickle.

The menu will offer a pan-roasted fish, usually red snapper, or whatever’s freshest, rubbed with epis and roasted until crispy, with red beans, plantain and Creole sauce on the side. A simple stewed Creole chicken is kissing cousins to the smothered chicken served by home cooks here in New Orleans. A griot po-boy is like a crispy cochon de lait, topped with pikliz and served with plantain chips.

Fritai, in the space where Kermit Ruffins operated his Speakeasy for a minute, has a lounge vibe, with dim lighting, banquettes, a corner bar and side lounge area outfitted with a Haitian symbol that you won’t find in too many pubs. “I got this in Mississippi,” says Pierre, gesturing with pride to an old school console cabinet television. “We had one, my aunts had one – when it stops working you put lace on it and it becomes a table. So Haitian.”

The rum-forward bar program is led by beverage manager Ian Julian, who has worked around town from Dominique’s on Magazine to Hilton Riverside. Besides classic cocktails like French 75s and Sazeracs, he’s mixing up tropical sips, such as the Fritai house Pimm’s fruit cup, spiked with booze-marinated melon, mango and papaya. A weekly happy hour between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. is in the works.

Pierre lived in the Treme for a few years before moving to the Bayou St. John area. “I saw investment money going Uptown, but around here, not so much,” he says. “This is an old-school Black neighborhood and my neighbors are great. When I first visited New Orleans in 2009, I knew this was my city. I feel at home here.”


1535 Basin St.; Instagram, @fritainola

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Haiti News

Small-scale farmers in remote areas of Haiti receive help for food production and COVID-19 – Haiti




Rome, 4 May 2021 – The Government of Haiti and the International Fund for Agricultural Development of the United Nations (IFAD) today signed a financing agreement for a project that will help Haitian farmers recover from the impact of Covid-19 and increase staple food production. The project will kickstart rapid recovery of agricultural production and incomes by rehabilitating small-scale irrigation systems —a basic necessity in a country badly hit by climate change—provide essential agricultural inputs, and help increase farmers’ resilience.

The Emergency Project for Strengthening the Resilience of Small Farmers to the Consequences of the COVID-19 Pandemic (PURRACO, by its French acronym) is a US$ 5.8 million project ($ 5million from IFAD; $ 0.5 million from the Haitian Government and a beneficiaries’ in kind contribution of $ 0.3 million). It will benefit 3,250 poor rural households (around 13,000 people, half of whom will be women and 30 per cent youth).

“IFAD has been committed for many years to improving Haitian family farmers’ lives. In this difficult time the Fund is stepping up to help them recover from the impact of the pandemic, restart their communities’ economies and build the resilience to face future health and other emergencies”, said Rossana Polastri, IFAD’s Director for Latin America and the Caribbean.

PURRACO will target the four Haitian departments most affected by food insecurity due to structural fragilities, recently aggravated by COVID-19 impacts: the Northwest, the Northeast, the Central and the South Departments. It will be implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Rural Development (MARNDR).

PURRACO’s will help households recover, increase their production to pre-Covid-19 levels, and access markets, building food security with enhanced efficiency in agricultural production. At the same time, short-cycle animal husbandry (hens, pigs and goats) will increase the availability of animal protein in these remote rural areas, compensating for historic nutritional deficiencies.

Other IFAD operations are also providing support to rural Haitians. Earlier this year, IFAD announced the start of AGRI-digitalization, a project that will enable 132 rural savings cooperatives and 86 producers’ organizations across Latin America and the Caribbean (22 of them Haitian) to enhance their financial services and to market their products online.

The ongoing Agricultural and Agroforestry Technological Innovation Programme (PITAG, in French acronym) is a US$ 90 million joint investment involving funds from IFAD, the Government of Haiti, the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). It aims to spread the adoption of sustainable agricultural technologies; the project is achieving significant progress in the South Department, where IFAD financing is concentrated.

PURRACO is part of a broader response orchestrated by the Ministry of Agriculture to address the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a coordinated multi-donor effort, several other UN agencies and international financial institutions (IFIs) are contributing to this plan, whose main objectives are to relaunch agricultural production, fishing and aquaculture and to secure physical, economic and social access to food.

Since IFAD started its engagement with Haiti in the 1980s, the Fund has invested in 10 projects in the country with a total value of $ 276.51 million ($ 125.21 million from IFAD funds), benefitting 103,315 families.

Press release No.: IFAD/18/2021

*IFAD invests in rural people, empowering them to reduce poverty, increase food security, improve nutrition and strengthen resilience. Since 1978, we have **provided US$23.2 billion in grants and low-interest loans to projects that have reached an estimated 518 million people. **IFAD is an international financial institution and a United Nations specialized agency based in Rome – the United Nations food and agriculture hub.*

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Meet Newly Matched Jean-Luc Rolland: The Journey from Haiti… : Neurology Today




By Jamie Talan

April 15, 2021

Article In Brief

Jean-Luc Rolland came to live in the US after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. He worked as a phlebotomist, medical assistant, and chemist while he waited to become a permanent US citizen and qualify for student loans. He discusses his journey from Haiti to the US to his match in neurology at Johns Hopkins.

Jean-Luc Rolland’s interest in medicine began when he was around 6 years old, when his father, a physician, would bring him to the hospital where he tended the sick. He recalled the many times throughout his childhood when people would come up to his dad and thank him for saving their lives. He would come to understand his father’s critical thinking skills and his high dose of compassion—and that was inspiration enough to follow him into medicine.

Then in 2010, an earthquake in Haiti, where he was born and raised, altered his and his family’s life immeasurably. The disaster killed hundreds of thousands of Haitians, including Jean-Luc’s 21-year-old brother. The family didn’t know how the country would move forward. His parents sent Jean-Luc and his two younger sisters to live with an uncle in the United States. Jean-Luc was in his senior year of high school when they moved to Fort Lauderdale. He finished his senior year at a private school there.

He took his father’s lessons with him. It was easy. He gravitated to science. He went to college in North Carolina and after graduation worked as a phlebotomist, medical assistant, and chemist while he waited to become a permanent US citizen and qualify for student loans. He applied and was accepted into the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta. His experience in a hospital laboratory left him thinking about a career in pathology. But then his third year began and his work with patients shifted his thinking.

“I wanted a human connection,” he said. That came very quickly. His first clinical experience was a man who had arrived to the emergency department at night following a minor traffic accident He complained of trouble seeing, and a neurology consult was ordered. The neurologist found a complete right-sided visual field deficit. The next morning, Jean-Luc arrived and listened to the sign-out and looked at the brain scan and pinpointed a lesion in the occipital lobe. That led them to discover metastatic lung cancer that had spread to his brain. Intravenous steroids improved his vision and cognitive state.

“It was at that moment that I understood the connection between his presentation and the brain lesion,” said Jean-Luc. “I felt I could literally see inside his brain, even though we can’t.”

He had always thought that neurologists could diagnose but that the treatments were limited. “That is just not true,” he said.

During medical school, he and his colleagues started an organization called Haiti Konbat Maladi dedicated to helping communities in Haiti improve health outcomes and get the services they need. They have been providing medical supplies to local hospitals in Haiti, and partnering with local hospitals, schools, and community centers to develop educational resources and health care for the locals with hopes of breaking the cycle of poverty.


“Being able to say that I am a neurology resident is so meaningful to me and to my family. We arrived to the US in such a brutal way and my parents have always pushed us to do whatever we wanted to do—but to make a difference in the world.”—JEAN-LUC ROLLAND

He matched into a neurology residency at Johns Hopkins Medicine. Jean-Luc’s wife, Dominique Guillaume-Rolland, is working on her PhD at Hopkins, where she is a Global Women’s Health Fellow. Dominique, who is also Haitian, grew up in the U.S. They met through a friend and they quickly realized how many connections they had. Her grandfather was his dad’s attending in Haiti. Their mothers worked at the same bank.

“Being able to say that I am a neurology resident is so meaningful to me and to my family. We arrived to the US in such a brutal way and my parents have always pushed us to do whatever we wanted to do—but to make a difference in the world.”

Jean-Luc connected with his parents by Facetime on Match Day and they read the letter together. “My mom cried for a good ten minutes, and then cried some more.”

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The lords of Port-au-Prince and their DOA referendum




By Garry Pierre-Pierre | The Conversation

When Haiti’s constitution was ratified in 1987, the country was emerging from a decades long dictatorship. The writers vowed then to make sure there would be no opportunity for the country to slide back into another authoritarian regime. 

One of the first clauses written was term limits. A president cannot serve two consecutive terms and can only hold office twice. The Constitution was so laden with clauses aimed at the Duvalier regime that some critics felt it was too emotional and lacked legal vision to guide the country as it transitioned to a democratic system.

The slogan of the day was “Makout pa la dann” or “No Makout in it.” I was amused because at that point, Makoutism was so systemic and ingrained in the fabric of Haitian society that to expel Makouts would have been to cast aside more than 75% of the population. We had become zombified under the Makout system. 

Now, here we are taking another revision of the Constitution, and this time it is even messier than the last rodeo. President Jovenel Moïse decided a couple of years ago that it was time to revisit the clauses in the Constitution and make it a fairer and better legal roadmap for the country and its citizens everywhere.

The government has been emphasizing that under its proposed revision, the Diaspora would finally get its rights restored by lifting legal restrictions that forbade them from being able to vote, running for office themselves and owning property. 

You’d think there wouldn’t be much of a pushback from something like this. This sounds terrific, I would argue. Well not quite. 

A DOA referendum

This referendum is dead on arrival. Even within PHTK, as the ruling party is known, there is no unanimity. The U.S. State Department doesn’t support it. The opposition doesn’t think much of it. The population loathes it. The Diaspora doesn’t know much about it. 

According to former Chamber of Deputies member Jerry Tardieu, what Moise is proposing will appear in electoral laws and not be codified in the constitution, which renders them meaningless. 

“In both form and substance, the process that led to the drafting of this new constitution is causing problems,” Tardieu wrote in an opinion column. “It leads us towards chaos and instability especially as it aims to put all the powers in the hands of a president-king to the detriment of the legislative and judicial powers.”

If the former representative of Petion-ville is right,  this referendum is as stiff as a used rubber band. Furthermore, the most profound changes revolve around the presidency and its power. There are clauses about impeachment. You can’t impeach the president if he violates the law. He can only be reprimanded. You can’t hold him or her accountable on so many fronts. 

And to think, back in 1987, Haitian constitutionalists went through pains to ensure that dictatorships would ever be repeated in our history. 

While those accusations have been bandied about loudly on the streets of Haiti’s cities, I believe that this referendum is a ruse for the current regime. It is a blatant effort to buy themselves a get-out-of-jail-free card meant to inoculate them from any past or current grift committed. Donald Trump would be proud and envious of them. But more on that in another conversation. 

A losing battle

The reality is that few people would dispute that the constitution needs an upgrade and adapt to fit the 21st-century realities and beyond. At the time of the 1987 writing, the emotions were raw.

Now, the central question remains why this constitutional review is so controversial. To begin with, there is a lack of transparency. The government is playing defense and as the saying goes, “If you’re playing defense, you’re losing.” They are losing.

It begs another question: Are Haiti’s current political woes the result of a weak constitution or due to weak governance. You can draft the perfect constitution, but without good governance, it will go to waste. If you’re dishonest or devious, you can game the best system. 

In November 2019, I was in Haiti reporting on the then-upcoming 10-year anniversary of the earthquake, which has now come to define Haiti in the eyes of the international community. I interviewed a young activist who was instrumental in organizing some of the protests that locked down the country. 

I asked him what’s the end game for his movement and his thoughts about this country’s future. He told me that the country lacked good governance and that Haiti’s centralized form of government is unsustainable. There are no governors, the country is broken into 10 departments (which are like states in the U.S.), so there is no one controlling local budgets. Decisions are handed down from the capital. 

He said a system under which a governor can make decisions for his or her department would be more manageable because accountability would rest on local officials who would  manage their own budget. Under this system, he told me, departments would compete, and the competition in turn, would lead to a better country where decisions are not dictated from the lords of Port-au-Prince. 

He does make a cogent argument. 

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