2002: Loune Viaud, Haiti
Realizing the Human Right to Health for All Haitians.
Rewarded for her innovative human rights based approach to establishing healthcare systems in Haiti, Loune Viaud, Director of Strategic Planning at Zanmi Lasante, received the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award in 2002. Haiti is the most impoverished country in the Western Hemisphere, with the lowest life expectancy and highest infant mortality rates. During a period when the international community did not believe impoverished and illiterate communities could be treated for AIDS, Loune and her colleagues at Zanmi Lasante/Partners In Health implemented one of the most effective HIV/AIDS programs in the world. Using a rights-based approach, Zanmi Lasante also provides health care to hundreds of thousands of Haitians. Loune was honored, not only for her groundbreaking work in AIDS treatment, but for advocating that health, access to medicine, and clean water are all fundamental rights, and working with the local government and citizens to build the government’s capacity to respond to those human rights.
RFK Center has been working with Loune since 2002 to transform the international community’s interventions in Haiti, many of which undermine human rights, including the right to health. Loune’s primary concern has been to address the flow of international donor and loan funds into Haiti, because the lack of coordination with local entities undermined the Haitian government’s ability to fulfill its human rights obligations. Although the Haitian Constitution guarantees the right to health and education, ineffective international assistance meant that the Government of Haiti lacked the resources to either educate its people or effectively care for their health. Accordingly, RFK Center projects and advocacy work focuses on the human right obligations and accountability of international interveners in Haiti.