Blind to Extreme Poverty?


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Blind to Extreme Poverty? Inequalities and Extreme Poverty in Haiti

May 2017 / Anne Moulin, Poverty reduction and social development adviser, Swiss Department for Development and Cooperation


Haiti is one of the poorest and most unequal countries in the world. Concretely, it means that, while around two million people are struggling every day to survive (25%), another four million are poor and one million is at risk of falling into poverty. Only a tiny minority enjoys a very high standard of living. ​In this context, the Cooperation office in Port-au-Prince needs to make strategic choice​s about where to invest in order to best support the country’s development objectives.

A workshop to address these issues took place recently, to prepare the new strategy of the Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC). Considering the current situation, many factors and assumptions needed to be addressed: can we talk about inclusion when nearly the whole population is considered poor or vulnerable? How can we help to propel economic growth and – at the same time – support the development of specific tools to reach the most vulnerable, if redistribution mechanisms are nearly inexistent? The positive facts also have to be taken into account: the earthquake of 2010 showed that the population is extremely resilient and, in the last couple of years, progress has been made in the education and health sectors.​ Furthermore, the government is looking at setting up a national social protection policy.

As a result of the workshop’s discussion, the SDC staff reflected on the people they intend to reach through their intervention in each domain (local governance, agriculture and food security and vocational education and training). In a second step, they defined groups among the target population that are at risk of being excluded (from SDC interventions) if no appropriate and additional activities are planned. For example, the agriculture and food security domain will target the small producers owning less than ½ (half) acre of land, but specific interventions will be developed ​​​to additionally support daily labourer and sharecroppers. Specific funds shall be allocated for such activities.

This approach allows the SDC to continue its work based on the long term vision of improving the governance system without being 'blind to extreme povert'.