It is urgent that Congress approve a generous aid relief and reconstruction package that supports a sustainable, decentralized, Haitian-led recovery as soon as possible. A delay in approving the supplemental will postpone much needed efforts in Haiti and affect the replenishment of the International Disaster Assistance account, damaging the U.S. government's ability to address humanitarian crises around the globe.
There's a storm brewing in Haiti.The full show, with details from the investigation is set to air tonight on CBS Evening News, check your local CBS station for air time.
Not a storm from the rainy season bearing down, but a storm over why so many are still in dire straits a full four months after the earthquake.
Why so many are facing the ravages of the rainy season without safe shelter to protect them?A storm over how that could be the case when so much international aid has been committed to help the people of Haiti.
Critics such as Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic Policy and Research say more money should have been spent up front making sure the population's emergency needs were met. He argues that many donors who dug deep during their own tough times to give, thought they were putting immediate food in people's mouths, giving immediate medical help, and putting a roof over victims' heads now.
Protesters took to the streets of Port-au-Prince yesterday, reports AP. Thousands of Haitians came to demand that President Preval step down, angered by the decision to stay on an extra three months if elections are not conducted. AP put the number of protesters at 2000, while Reuters reported that police "used tear gas and warning shots to disperse" the crowds. Al Jazeera, looking at the causes of the protest, reported on the perceived political vacuum that has allowed significant powers to be consolidated in the executive branch and international community:
The entire lower house and one-third of the senate are no longer sitting because the earthquake prevented February's legislative elections from taking place. "Effectively the parliament is ceasing to exist as a governing body and the people on the streets are pretty concerned about that," Al Jazeera's Seb Walker, reporting from Port-au-Prince, said.
"It concentrates power in the hands of the president and the international commission that has been set up with former US president Bill Clinton as a co-chair.
The process must emphasize the greatest possible flexibility and participation by voters and candidates. Displaced people should be allowed to vote where they currently live, not their old destroyed neighborhoods.
Opposition parties will need aid to organize and campaign. In a country where transportation and communication are difficult and expensive, Mr. Préval’s Unity Party should not be given undue advantages.
The electoral council, now operating out of a gym seized in a drug raid, is also embroiled in controversy. Opposition candidates barred from February legislative elections that were canceled after the quake have accused council members of favoring Preval's newly formed Unity party. One council member also faces dismissal on charges of embezzlement.The article does not say whether the previously excluded political parties will continue to be left off the ballot when the postponed elections do take place, or even if a new registration of candidates and parties will be required before the elections. For more on the electoral council and the excluded parties in February's election, see this, this or this.
According to the latest UN figures, 1.3 million Haitians have been left homeless by the quake. Some of these Haitians are no longer sleeping in abandoned cars but in flimsy structures fashioned from plastic sheeting and salvaged wood--a minuscule improvement, to say the least. Over 218,000 survivors are living in makeshift camps in Port-au-Prince at immediate grave risk of flooding and landslides.
In the minds of too many of the privileged and the powerful, post-earthquake Haitian society has become little more than a faded photograph. Survivors' shelter and medical needs are no longer in focus or in vogue and too many relief efforts are being shortchanged. Virtually nothing is being done by either the Haitian government or international actors for those who will be flooded out of their squatter camps. Large-scale food aid--often distributed inequitably--has nearly run dry.
At the central plaza in Port-au-Prince, now home to thousands of displaced Haitians, water pelted rows of tents, seeping inside from every direction Monday night. At the Champs de Mars people tried to close shut entrances, some with thin cotton sheets or blankets. Mothers rushed to move children sleeping on the ground.
Suddenly, the constant noise of the street came to a halt, replaced by the thud of monstrous drops falling hard from the sky. The only welcomed sight: gleeful children cooling off after another scorching day.
The water quickly started collecting along the roadside. Aid workers say they fear that constant rain will overflow garbage- and rubble-filled canals, flooding the encampments that have sprouted on their banks.
The situation in some camps could be life threatening.
1. cancel immediately and completely all debt owed by Haiti to these institutions;...and also push for “the cancellation of all remaining bilateral, multilateral, and private creditor debt owed by Haiti” and to secure grants, instead of loans, from multilateral lenders for Haiti through January 2015.
2. suspend Haiti’s debt service payments to the institutions until the debt is canceled completely; and
3. provide additional assistance to Haiti in the form of grants so that Haiti does not accumulate additional debt.
But after consuming $106 million in the first 60 days, the Red Cross in the past month has tapped just $5 million more and has come under fire for what critics call anemic spending.The American Red Cross plans on spending about half of their donations this year, and the rest over a 3-5 year period, reports Robles. The former board member, Victoria Cummock, had some particularly harsh words for the organization, saying, "That's not disaster relief, that's long-term recovery, and that's not the Red Cross' mission and not the donor intent either."
Other aid groups, members of Congress, bloggers and even a former board member are among the growing chorus asking what the Red Cross is doing with such a massive amount of money raised in such a short time.
The organized relocation camp at Corail-Cesselesse has thousands of spacious, hurricane-resistant tents on groomed, graded mountain soil. The settlement three miles (four kilometers) down the road — named after the U.S. president in hopes of getting attention from foreigners — has leaky plastic tarps and wooden sticks pitched on a muddy slope.
Corail has a stocked U.N. World Food Program warehouse for its 3,000-and-counting residents; the more than 8,500 at Camp Obama are desperate for food and water. Corail's entrance is guarded by U.N. peacekeepers and Haitian police. Camp Obama's residents put up a Haitian flag to mark their empty security tent.
"Somebody's not doing their job right. Because, if this is as good as we can do, it's certainly not good enough."
For some, the place is called Mais 54 Caradeux. For others, Toto Camp, and yet others still, Toussaint Louverture camp, in honor of the leader of the revolution that led to Haiti’s independence.
Regardless, the future of the 1,507 registered families living on this dusty, rolling terrain is uncertain.
About two weeks ago, government bulldozers showed up after dark and, without warning, began to level the haphazard maze of bed sheets and sticks. People grabbed what they could before their homes toppled.
The Los Angeles Times reported on Sunday about the upcoming rainy season and efforts made in preparation by both aid agencies and the government. While rains have already begun, they are set to increase in both intensity and frequency over the coming months. Despite dire warnings and months of preparation Haiti is still not ready for the rains, reports the Times. Thousands of Haitians are in extremely vulnerable areas, however relocation efforts have been delayed and only just recently have gotten under way. In the meantime, the rains continue to make life miserable in the make shift camps that are home to hundreds of thousands of displaced people. The Los Angeles Times writes:
The rainy season is bearing down, and Haiti is not ready.
Three months after the earthquake killed more than 200,000 people, more than 2.1 million Haitians are still living in tents and under tarps, many on dangerous hillsides and tidal flats.
Ernst Y'Voyelle, 38, studies those clouds warily from his hut clinging to the edge of a ravine in a hillside tent camp where as many as 50,000 people live.
"There's going to be a lot of people buried here," he said.
The Refugee Camp community members reports that they did not receive warning before the large Conseil Nationale Equipements (CNE) bulldozers and graters came to their community with Haitian National Police escorts late on Sunday evening 04APR10, shorts after 7:00pm. With consistency, numerous individuals reported that the uniformed officers first threatened the families with violence if they did not leave their homes immediately. The assesment team was informed that anyone who argued was then forced out with violence. The use of batons were reported, and firearms were discharged into the air.
The aid group Action Against Hunger on Sunday slammed Haiti's forced evictions of hundreds of homeless quake victims from the pitch of the country's national stadium.
With only 20,243 tool kits reported as distributed and 81,000 households with ropes and fixings provision, this remains a vital gap in the response. A large number of emergency shelters constructed will require strengthening for the rainy season.
"It ought to be done faster. But you have to coordinate it with the U.S. Army, the Corps of Engineers, with the U.N. people, with the European community, with the Oxfam, all a bunch of actors, together."