Issue: In the world’s most impoverished nations, most of the people do not have access to clean water, adequate housing, or basic health care. These countries are paying debt service to wealthy nations and institutions at the expense of providing basic services to their citizens. In 2003, the UN estimated that 30,000 children die each day due to preventable diseases. Debt cancellation frees up resources to reverse this devastating reality.
Jubilee USA, an organization committed to relieving the debt of poor nations, is working this week to build support for House Resolution 241, which would immediately cancel Haiti’s debt and give its people an opportunity to build a stable democracy and work toward a future free from poverty.
Background: Haiti is the most impoverished country in the Americas. Eighty percent of the population lives in abject poverty and one out of nine children dies before reaching the age of five. Life expectancy is 53 years, and nearly half the population cannot read. Haiti’s government is forced to divert $56 million per year from fighting this poverty to reimburse international financial institutions that were established to help countries like Haiti fight poverty. Over half of Haiti’s $1.3 billion debt is for loans granted to Haiti’s dictators.
Social spending has risen by 75 percent in countries that have received debt relief, with funds used to abolish school fees, provide free immunizations, fight HIV/AIDS, and improve access to safe drinking water. Canceling Haiti’s debt could increase the environmental budget tenfold to reverse the degradation that leaves Haiti vulnerable to tropical storms and mudslides. Alternatively, the amount could double resources spent on education or triple funds spent on AIDS prevention.
In 2006, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund added Haiti to its heavily indebted poor countries debt cancelation program. That won’t cancel Haiti’s debt for several years, though, and it comes with strings attached that will make Haiti’s poverty worse in the short term, and possibly for the long term. Haiti’s onerous debt should be canceled immediately without conditions, as a matter of justice and as an essential tool in the global fight to end poverty.
Action: You can help by contacting your member of Congress and urging him or her to co-sponsor House Resolution 241 to help cancel Haiti‘s debt immediately and without strings. Call (202)224-3121 and ask for your Representative’s office, or email:
Rep. Jay Inslee – 1st Dist. jay.inslee.mail.house.gov
Rep. Rick Larsen – 2nd Dist. firstname.lastname@example.org
Rep. Jim McDermott – 7th Dist. www.house.gov/mcdermott
Rep. Dave Reichert – 8th Dist. www.house.gov/reichert
Rep. Adam Smith – 9th Dist. www.house.gov/adamsmith
For more information on relieving the debts of the poorest countries, visit www.jubileeusa.org