Documentaries can help shed light on neglected stories

Ayesha Aleem Communications Manager at One World Media 30th May 2024

The panel - Guillermo Galdos, Andy Lee, Russell Gates and Nevine Mabro - discussing the situation in Haiti at our Unreported World screening at Channel 4.

Earlier this month, we hosted a screening of the Unreported World film, Haiti: Pregnant and On the Run at Channel 4. Ayesha Aleem from One World Media watched the film and the debate that followed.

‘Documentaries don’t change the world’ Nevine Mabro, Channel 4’s Commissioning Editor for News and Current Affairs told us. ‘I wish they did’ she said. ‘But they can have real impact’. That’s why the channel remains committed to Unreported World, its prime time global current affairs strand. Its brief is to shed light on neglected stories. The plight of pregnant women in Haiti is a good example of what the strand does best.

The terrible dilemma faced by pregnant women in Haiti

In Haiti: Pregnant and On the Run, reporter Guillermo Galdos tells the story of expectant mothers in Haiti and the terrible dilemma that they face: whether to stay in Haiti or flee to the neighbouring Dominican Republic, as their country is overtaken by gangs, the government is crumbling and the healthcare system is on the verge of collapse. In the Dominican Republic, they are at less risk of violence, but, without proper documentation, they cannot access local health services. 

Early in the programme, we meet Meme, a 23 year old woman who fled Haiti and now lives in the Dominican Republic. She was nine months pregnant at the time of filming and had decided to leave the poverty and threat of violence of Haiti, to save her life and that of her unborn baby. 

But, as she told Guillermo, she did not have the proper Dominican documentation and so could not access adequate healthcare. ‘I went to hospital three times in one day and they didn’t let me in’. For women like Meme, the fear of deportation on top of the struggle to access healthcare means that life is equally difficult on both sides of the border. 

In the film, Guillermo speaks to young mothers who were forced to deliver their babies in their homes without medical supervision. 

Haiti has a troubled history

Apart from a declining economy, Haiti has also suffered greatly following an earthquake in 2010 and a hurricane in 2016. According to The International Organization for Migration, more than 360,000 people have been displaced across the country. Some families pay traffickers to cross the border illegally into the Dominican Republic. 

Although they manage to flee violence, Haitians who arrive in their new home and avoid being deported don’t escape poverty. This is despite providing essential labour to the Dominican Republic’s agricultural sector. 

Krishnan Guru-Murthy chairing the panel discussion

There is a growing humanitarian crisis in Haiti

In a panel discussion chaired by Krishnan Guru-Murthy, the lead anchor of Channel 4 News, the audience heard from Guillermo who said he was surprised not to see more NGOs in the border region. ‘I was expecting a bigger presence. I didn’t know the humanitarian crisis was as bad as it was,’ he said.

Russell Gates, Regional Director with Concern Worldwide, said there are many NGOs that have been working in Haiti for a long time, including Concern. ‘There are some amazing people doing amazing work in Haiti despite the conditions’ Russell said. He described his own experience of the country. ‘Haiti is a failure of humanity’ he said. ‘Children dying from dehydration and diarrhoea – it should not be happening in this day and age’. 

The media and NGOs can work together to bring important stories to light

The panel discussed the challenges of filming in Haiti, but there was an undeniable optimism in the room by the end of the event. Andy Lee, the series producer of Unreported World said that his team frequently relied on the intelligence and guidance of NGOs when reporting humanitarian stories. The NGOs, for their part, recognised that they need programmes like Unreported World to bring the issues they work on to public attention.

The event showed that the two sides – the media and the charity sector – can work together to bring global stories to British audiences – stories like Meme’s. 

Ayesha Aleem is Communications Manager at One World Media. This event was hosted by IBT and One World Media.


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