Via The Guardian: Amid devastation of Hurricane Matthew, Haitians urged to go to the polls. Excerpt:
In a classroom of a devastated local college, an instructor is impressing upon a group of construction workers that the earthquakes and other natural disasters that seem to inflict disproportionate pain on the people of Haiti are not “God’s wrath”.
It has been just over a month since Hurricane Matthew laid waste to the coastal city of Jérémie, killing more than 1,000 people in the region and destroying the flimsy homes of thousands of families, including scores who have taken refuge in the college and in other schools or public places.
Yet to the disbelief of people focused on the day-to-day task of recovery and basic survival, many of these same buildings are to be transformed on Sunday into voting booths for a Haitian presidential election that was postponed after the hurricane made landfall on 4 October.
“It rains every day, there are landslides, a shortage of food and people’s conditions are miserable,” said Louisiane Nazaire, a local mother and community leader in a farmers’ organisation. “Some have lost everything, including their identification cards, and yet we’re expected to believe that people are going to stand in line under the rain at voting centres that have not even been secured.”
In the western hemisphere’s poorest country, mention of the politically seismic presidential election that has just taken place a two-hour flight away in the US is met with a shrug. And yet there are echoes of that event in some of the concerns being voiced in Haiti – namely around women’s political representation (the Haitian parliament is entirely male) as well as misogyny and physical violence.
“Gender-based violence is a huge issue at any time in Haiti but it seems to increase during the election season,” said Ismeme Elismar, an engineer who has trained with support from the NGO ActionAid and is now working with the organisation in Jérémie to construct long-term safe spaces for women and children who have been at a greater risk from violence in the hurricane’s aftermath.