Vast migrations of Haitians are a cause of various health related issues to the more advanced, yet still developing country of the Dominican Republic. In comparison to the Dominican Republic, Haiti’s life expectancy is 12.61 years shorter and the likelihood of obtaining HIV/AIDS is 50% higher. Moreover, Haiti has 22.89% higher reproduction rate than the Dominican Republic, yet sadly has a 56.88% higher rate of infant mortality (Ifitweremyhome.com). Given the incredibly permeable border that separates the Dominican Republic from Haiti, it is no surprise that some of this same health issues have plagued the Dominican Republic.
Race and Gender-based Health Issues
The permeable border that separates the Dominican Republic and Haiti presents two major areas of contention regarding the health of Haitian women in the Dominican Republic–medical tourism of pregnant women and gender based violence.
Medical Tourism of Pregnant Women
Poor, or lack of, health facilities in Haiti attract pregnant Haitian women to the Dominican Republic in order to have birth. According to Lauren Gilger, pregnant women flee to Dominican Republic “so that they can have their babies in hospitals instead of on the floors of their homes.” Given birth in Haiti is particularly dangerous. “The lifetime odds of a women dying while giving birth in Haiti are one in ninety-three.” Due to new legislation, public health care is provided free of charge to anyone regardless of documentation. According to some Dominican Republic officials,half of patients giving birth in Dominican hospitals are Haitian. In a country whose medical facilities do not suffice even for their own population, “Dominican hospitals and clinics are being overwhelmed by haitian women.” (Gilger 2011).
Although empirical data has been difficult to find, lack of documentation coupled with racial discrimination limit the job opportunities available to Haitian migrants–especially women. Because of this, “many Haitian women are exposed to violence, prostitution, and trafficking when they migrate to the Dominican Republic” (NCA 2011). Despite a 2003 legislation “enhancing criminal prosecution and penalties for human trafficking”, an American delegation has found that the Dominican government has given “little attention is given to the trafficking of Haitian women and children into the Dominican Republic for the sex tourism industry or to the trafficking of Haitian children for forced labor (IRCWCRWC 2005). The trafficking of Haitian migrants for sexual services do not only pose health issues regarding physical and mental abuse, but also facilitate the spread of another health crisis–HIV/AIDS.
As previously stated HIV/AIDS is heavily prevalent in Haiti. Because Haitian migration patterns concentrate in sugar plantations known as “bateyes”, it is not surprising that “since the mid-1980s residents of plantation-based communities for sugar cane workers (bateyes) have had the highest rates of HIV infection in the Dominican Republic (Brewer 1998). Compared to the rest of the population, those living in bateyes are 4 times more likely to contact HIV. (Rojas et al. 2011). The higher prevalence of HIV infection in Haiti has led many in the Dominican Republic to view the HIV epidemic in the bateyes as a ‘Haitian problem” (Brewer 1998).According to Brewer (1998), Haitian women who immigrated without partners were six times more likely than other Haitian women to have HIV infection. This finding makes particular sense since many of the Haitian women that immigrate to Bateyes depend on sexual services for money and goods necessary for survival. Combined with the fact the approximately 65% of women living in bateyes between 15 and 19 years of age perceive themselves to be under no risk of contacting HIV, it is evident that poor economic conditions combined with lack of sexual education have made Haitian women in the Dominican Republic particularly vulnerable to the HIV/AIDS epidemic . It is to my belief that because the problem has been seen largely as a Haitian issue contained in the sugar plantations, the Dominican Republic has not done its best to counter the epidemic from growing. “Haitian immigrants..face a higher level of human rights violations(eg, lack of public health sanitation, illegal status in the country although they may have been born in the DR) that place them at an unparalleled risk of HIV infection. ” (Rojas et al. 2011).
Instances of Cholera in Haiti has been the source of much anti-Haitian prejudice in the Dominican Republic. Within the civilian Dominican population, there is the belief that Dominicans should fear the spread of cholera in the Dominican Republic as Haitian’s lack the proper “hygienic conduct to be able to control this disease that they bring to the country.” (Dlugoleski 2011) Though human-to-human transmission is rare, the Dominican Republic has taken at times extreme measures for political gain. (Dlugoleski 2011). These measures include massive deportations of those who just look Haitian in appearance (Dlugoleski 2011) as well as momentarily closing the border(Hernandez 2010).