Originally: Haitian First Lady Calls for Health Funds

The Harvard Crimson

The First Lady of Haiti argued Friday that the international community should

release funds directed at her nation’s struggling health care system that have

been withheld since a disputed 2000 parliamentary election.

At a speech at the School of Public Healths Center for Population and

Development Studies, Mildred Aristide explained that she could not speak

about health challenges in Haiti without also speaking about international


Aristide said that poverty has prevented Haiti, the poorest country in the

Western Hemisphere, from effectively combating the spread of AIDS. Currently,

300,000 Haitians suffer from the disease, and 60 percent of the population

outside the capitol of Port au Prince lacks access to health care.

As yet, the Haitian government has not received any of the $22.2 million

promised to their national health care system by the international community,

she said.

The aid was part of a $146 million package of loans to the government that

was suspended after the 2000 elections, in which the first lady’s

husband Jean-Bertrand Aristidesecured the presidency. Seven senatorial seats

were contested and the controversy ignited questions concerning the

legitimacy of the Aristide government.

The first lady arrived at Harvard a day after delivering a speech to the

Congressional Black Caucus in Washington in which she made an appeal for

renewed aid.

The health care needs of 8 million people have become embroiled in a

political fight, she said Thursday.

On Friday at Harvard, Aristide said that the current situation is one in

which health care has been held hostage.

In the speech, Aristide echoed her husbands words, that everyone has a right

to live, and said that allowing these potentially life-saving loans to be

blocked, for any reason, is wrong.

Michael Reich, director of the School of Public Health center, praised the

First Lady as an eloquent, passionate, and honest advocate for her country

before the fifty or so assembled graduate students and professors.

The speech was able to contextualize our campaign for humanitarian rights,

said Nancy M. Dorsinville, a Haitian native and Kellog fellow at the center.

In a question and answer period that followed the speech, audience members

asked what could be done to motivate the U.S. government to act on the loans.

Aristide said that continued internal pressure would be welcome.

One audience member offered a less orthodox response, suggesting that Haiti

could secure U.S. aid if it marched on Iraq.