COVID-19 in Haiti: the reopening of the factories between caution and resignation

COVID-19 en Haïti: réouverture des usines entre précaution et résignation

The yellow dots painted all meters on the sidewalk of the plant is the first sign of adaptation of the textile industry in haiti in coronavirus: the resumption of work, after a month of judgment, is accompanied by many precautions, that fail to compensate for all the health problems.

Located in the industrial park of Port-au-Prince since 2013, the Korean company MBI has taken measures to face the epidemic: forced to pass in front of the spectrum of the laser thermometer, the access is denied to anyone who has a temperature greater than 37.5 degrees.

Once their hands washed and mask placed on the face, the workers can settle with their position of work.

“As the president had requested, we were here: we lived with the little bit of savings that we had,” says Ghislaine, back to her sewing machine after a month of inactivity.

On 19 march, the haitian president Jovenel Moses had ordered the immediate closure of the entire factory, following the detection of the first two cases of coronavirus in the country.

No unemployment insurance exists in Haiti and, to compensate for the sudden loss of activity, the State was committed to pay a half salary to the workers.

“The assistance we received does not cover all our expenses for the month lost,” says the employee, who, trusting not to have received only a quarter of his income as usual, prefers not to give his family name.

Because of the high inflation and the rapid devaluation of the national currency, the minimum wage of workers has not ceased to lose value in recent months.

But in a national economy dominated by the informal sector, the 500 gourdes (4,90 us$) paid for a day of 8 working hours are nevertheless very popular.

“Employees who are not currently there continue to call us to come to work, unfortunately, we can’t receive” regrets Yves Summer, director of human resources at MBI. “We must respect the orders given by the State for the reopening 30% of the staff only,” he says.

Number of rows of sewing machines remain thus deserted in the factory where, to the usual production of uniforms medical, and has now added the production of masks in the tissues.

“Five-a-bench”

The haitian government has ordered 10 million of the masks including the first million had to be offered by the companies: MBI has given 46 200 pieces to the State of haiti.

This diversification exceptional activity cannot allow the company to continue its activity because its main customers are based in the United States, market now facing a large economic crisis.

“This is not only the United States, but all over the world: we are all very worried,” explains Shin Sangho, president of MBI in Haiti, during the visit of its plant held for several international media.

“Can’t export “” says Yves Summer in front of a stock of pants that was designed for the american market.

The awareness of day-to-day gestures barriers that she receives at the plant have pushed Evelyne Saintilien to drastically change her back to home after his work day, installing typically the water and soap in front of his door.

But these precautions seem futile in the face of the difficulties she encounters during her travels in public transport.

“It is bonded to five people per bench. Me I wear a mask, but it is not the case of everybody, ” she says.

“If you demand to be fewer in number, then the driver insists that we pay for passengers as it can’t take,” she adds while stacking the masks in black cloth, similar to the bar his face.

The noise of the sewing machine suddenly stops in the hangar. At the lunch break, a majority of employees rushing to go buy a hot plate to the outside of the industrial park.

And on the sidewalk, at the edge of a road axis major of the capital, mercantile, food and guests gather around the boilers. Without the respect of rules of hygiene and the distances of caution.

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