This article was written with assistance from Sarah Roberto, Alex Lassegue, Donna Barry, and Lauren Spahn
Dr. Joia Mukherjee trained in Infectious Disease, Internal Medicine, and Pediatrics at the Massachusetts General Hospital and has an MPH from the Harvard School of Public Health. She is an Assistant Professor in the Division of Global Health Equity at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical. Dr. Mukherjee consults for the World Health Organization on the treatment of HIV and MDR-TB in developing countries and is a member of the Executive Board of Health Action AIDS, a campaign conducted with Physicians for Human Rights to engage the US health professional community in the international advocacy and education effort to stop the global AIDS pandemic.
To the citizens of the tiny, embattled country of Haiti, the notion of human rights is ever present, based on their collective knowledge that Haiti brought Napoleon to his knees when the slaves fought and died for the right to self determination, removing the vast sugar wealth from France’s treasury. Yet the rights of the people of Haiti have been perpetually suppressed by foreign powers, particularly the United States—from US President Jefferson’s fear of Haiti’s example as a danger to the slave-based US economies to the US President Monroe-lead occupation driven by resistance to European influence in the hemisphere to the more recent neoliberal front against socialism. These forces have resulted in a political scorched earth campaign against rights in Haiti as occupations, dictatorships and kleptocracies have left the Haitian State with massively inadequate resources to fulfill basic rights for its citizens. It is remarkable that, with less than 15 years democracy in Haiti—twice interrupted by US and French backed coups d’état, the people’s notions of rights and their participation in demanding them remains strong as evidenced by frequent protests for government protection of food prices, housing and education.