By Mary Frances Schjonberg
Episcopal News Service
Despite the increasing incidence of COVID-19 in the country and the ever-increasing violence in the nine days since Haitians awoke to the news that President Jovenel Moïse had been assassinated, Episcopalians there are trying to serve their communities.
“Well before the assassination, gang activity, kidnappings and killings were on the rise,” Kenneth H. Quigley, president of the board of St. Vincent’s Center for Children with Disabilities in Port-au-Prince, told supporters via email on July 14. “The violence threatens not only the individual safety of all Haitians, but also exacerbates food insecurity, limits access to fuel and other essential consumables. It threatens the progress of many of our Haitian partners who work with great resolve in the face of uncertainty, including the staff at St. Vincent’s. The daily suffering of Haitian citizens is unimaginable, and has worsened, particularly in the last three years.” …
Haiti’s instability has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The country had seemingly avoided the worst of the pandemic until recently. Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 tracker shows 19,374 confirmed cases and 487 deaths as of July 15. However, health experts say that those numbers are major undercounts.
Among those deaths are three Episcopal leaders. The Rev. Lucien Bernard and the Rev. Robert Joseph, the rector and vice-rector of the Episcopal University of Haiti respectively, both died of COVID-19 days apart in early June. The Rev. Fritz LaFontant, 94, a veritable icon of the diocese, succumbed to the disease on June 28. LaFontant was a founding member of Partners In Health and founding director of Zanmi Lasante, Haiti’s largest health care provider outside of the government.