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,
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
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.