by Hannah Stafford, News Editor

After nearly a year of governmental chaos, the small country of Haiti is making progress in the right direction. Jovenel Moise was elected president on Feb. 8, the office having been vacant since January 2015. Moise has made headlines multiple times in the last few weeks for controversial actions, such as his prime minister appointment and, more recently, his new prison policies.

Moise announced the creation of a commission to probe prison conditions on Feb. 24, according to ABC News. This announcement came only a few days after the Associated Press (AP) released a scathing report of Haitian prisons and particularly its largest correctional facility, Port-au-Prince Penitentiary, where 40 percent of the country’s 11,000 inmates are housed. AP reported that 21 inmates had died from infectious diseases and malnutrition within the last month, and a total of 42 had died in 2017 so far. UN Special Representative Sandra Honore said that these deaths are the product of “the worsening of cruel, inhuman and degrading” conditions.

John May, Florida physician and philanthropist to the Caribbean and African nations, called the conditions in Port-au-Prince, “The worst rate of preventable deaths that I have ever seen,” according to AP.

The University of London’s Institute for Criminal Policy Research recently reported Haiti’s penal system as the most congested in the world, with a 454 percent occupancy level. Moise’s commission of nine individuals will have a month to evaluate the conditions of the prison before submitting a full report. According to ABC, Moise finds the reported conditions inexcusable.

“Under my presidency, the Haitian nation will by no means ignore what seems to be a flagrant violation, even a contempt for the right to life that every individual should have, regardless of where he lives,” said Moise at a press conference on Feb. 24.

According to CNN, Moise has also pledged to created jobs and boost the agricultural economy. Haiti has been struggling for many years and the World Bank reported that it continues to “decelerate due to lower investments, uncertain political environment and a modest recovery of the agricultural sector after a severe drought.”

The small country experienced the devastating effects of Hurricane Matthew in the fall of 2016, which killed nearly 1,000 people, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake in 2010 that killed over 200,000 people and a cholera outbreak in 2010, which killed approximately 10,000 people.

“Together, we are going to carry out the national project to develop the country,” said Moise. “As you all know, agriculture is my priority. You all know this, I have just said it. Agriculture needs to be modernized so as to give work to youth, women and men from the country.”