In Haiti, the rainy season is about to begin, necessitating relocation of the score of people displaced by the earthquake and currently living in over crowded camps. There are plans to move roughly 150,000 people currently living in the camps to the center of Port-au-Prince by May, yet only one site with a capacity of under 4,000 people has been secured to date.
When rains drenched the capital on Thursday night, the Golf Club de Pétionville turned to mud. It was a frightening preview of what the rainy season will hold for the 45,000 people who live there if they stay. Tents collapsed. Ditches overflowed with sewage. People and their belongings were swept downhill.
[M]any Haitians see the expansion of foreign companies as a way to take advantage of the widespread poverty plaguing the country, where the unemployment rate is up to 80 per cent.
The exploitation concerns come as former US presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush prepare to visit the Caribbean nation on Monday to discuss long-term recovery efforts with Haitian officials.
And a part of their plans will be to discuss the expansion of clothing industries in the country - in which workers earn less than $4 a day - one of the lowest wages in the world.
It is the beginning of the rainy season in Haiti. What people had feared since the earthquake is happening. After only 20 minutes of one of the first rains of the season in the camps, the scene quickly transforms into rain soaked mud-bath. Water seeps through everywhere. People are getting wet outside and inside their tents. Tarpaulin sheets have to be cut with knives to prevent them from collapsing under the weight of the rain water. People are panicking and trying to protect themselves. What will it be like for Haiti's people when the real rains come?
"It may have been good for some of my farmers in Arkansas, but it has not worked. It was a mistake...I had to live everyday with the consequences of the loss of capacity to produce a rice crop in Haiti to feed those people because of what I did; nobody else."Chief humanitarian coordinator for the UN, John Holmes, echoed this statement, telling the AP:
"A combination of food aid, but also cheap imports have ... resulted in a lack of investment in Haitian farming, and that has to be reversed."The article notes that while these criticisms have been coming from aid groups for years, "world leaders focused on fixing Haiti are admitting for the first time that loosening trade barriers has only exacerbated hunger in Haiti and elsewhere."
The devastated capital of Port-au-Prince, where hundreds of camps are located, is ground zero for the crisis of the homeless. Refugees in overcrowded shelters live in conditions of utter squalor, surrounded by piles of trash in mosquito-infested camps where the air is thick with the odor from overflowing latrines, and drainage lines are clogged with sewage.To read the entire article, click here.
Security is a problem. So is hygiene.
The flimsy tents and tarps in these camps will be no match for the coming storms, which is why an all-out effort must be made to relocate as many of the displaced as possible, particularly children, before it's too late.
The focus should be on the 29 of 425 sites in and around the capital, with about 200,000 homeless, that U.N. officials say are the most vulnerable to flooding and have been targeted for resettlement. The government's chief advisor on relocation, Gerard-Emile ``Aby'' Brun, says it will take $86 million to build relocation sites and another $40 million to secure rights to the land.
At this stage, money should not be the problem. More than $1 billion in aid has flowed into Haiti, and more is coming.
Aid workers said people were swept screaming into eddies of water and flows ripped down tents an Israeli aid group is using to teach school.
"They were crying. There was just fear down there. It was chaos," said Jim Wilson of the aid group Praecipio, who came running from his own shelter up the hill when he heard the screams.
Two months after the earthquake, thousands in Port-au-Prince and elsewhere still await a first glimpse of humanitarian aid. In the four makeshift camps we visited during our first days in Haiti, life is a daily struggle and conditions are dire to say the least.Amnesty notes that there have been numerous reports of rape and sexual abuse in the camps since the quake:
People are without water, food, sanitation or shelter. Resilience and solidarity with each other are the only things these camp-dwellers can rely on.
The day we visited the police station, a male officer on duty at the table unwillingly counted for us the number of cases registered in the log book: 52 cases of physical and sexual violence since the earthquake.Amnesty, which has sent a mission to Haiti, ends their update with the most pressing issue:
He said that many victims were minors, aged between 11 and 16, and that most of the assaults took place at night.
Although he knew where to refer victims for medical attention after a sexual assault, he was unable to explain why, on the previous night, a mother seeking police assistance in the attempted rape of her 17-year-old daughter by four young men, was told that the police could not do anything and that the security in the camps was the responsibility of the President of the Republic. Quite a blow for the population’s confidence in the police…
The rainy season looms and all the people we talked to fear the worst. Shelter is what they need and what they ask for. That is their priority.
In the coming weeks, the United Nations, in conjunction with the government and other relief organizations, will begin a communication effort to reach the displaced population, including radio, text messages, television news and even a television soap opera to drive home the point that masses of people must be relocated.
In advance of a March 31 donors' conference on Haiti, health officials are scrambling to assemble a better picture of the country's needs -- but the bulk of relief groups aren't exactly cooperating. To assist with medium- and long-term planning, Haiti's Ministry of Health has required all new organizations arriving in Haiti to provide information about how many people would be on the ground, what their skill sets were and for how long they'll stay. Yet even that rudimentary information has been hard to come by.This situation is not unique to the health sector. Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive and Haitian President Rene Preval have both made similar statements. Reuters reported that Bellerive said:
"We don't know who has given money to NGO's (nongovernmental organizations) and how much money have they given. ... At the moment, we can't do any coordination or have any coherent policies for giving to the population."Preval, in an interview with the Miami Herald noted that while millions have been pledged, very little has gone to the Haitian Government. An AP analysis of aid in the aftermath of the quake found that only one cent of every aid dollar went to the Haitian Government.
Two months after arguably the worst natural disaster of modern times, Haiti faces further calamity as more than 200,000 quake survivors camp in putrid tent cities at risk of major flooding.
Heavy rains fell in Port-au-Prince on Monday, and flooding has already killed at least 13 in other areas of Haiti. The Shelter Cluster plans to have around 93% of those in need of shelter equipped with atleast a tarp or tent by May 1, but with the hurricane season beginning in June it will be impossible to provide adequate shelter to deal with the bigger storms. The Red Cross said today that most people will still have only temporary shelter by the time the hurricane season begins, according to Deutsche Presse-Agentur:
However, more durable solutions would not be ready by June, said Pablo Medina, a member of the International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies.
Instead, communal hurricane shelters were being considered as the only viable option, with the majority of those made homeless after the quake expected to still be living in temporary tents and similar units.
But after nearly two months, it’s not enough. Only half of those displaced have received even the crudest means of emergency shelter: plastic tarps and tents that will hardly protect them when floods start in earnest next month, and the hurricanes come in June. In hundreds of crowded settlements around the country, like the ones sheltering more than 600,000 in Port-au-Prince, food, water, medical care and security remain spotty.The Times urges more coordination with local groups:
Large swaths of the earthquake zone remain untouched by aid. They are choking in rubble, and trucks and volunteers have barely begun to scratch out safe places in the wreckage for people to live.
There is a burning need to tap the energies of Haitians — not just the devastated national government. That means at the grass-roots, church, business and neighborhood groups that know the country, speak its languages, and are deeply committed to its rebirth.To read the entire article, click here.
“A public health disaster looms, and thousands more people are still in need of assistance,” said Daniel Wordsworth, American Refugee Committee President. “Many people still need shelter, and, with the incoming rains, there is a potential for many more deaths from diseases such as malaria, typhoid, and diarrheal diseases.”To read the entire press release, click here.
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Trash and sewage are piling up at the squalid tent camps that hundreds of thousands have called home since Haiti's devastating earthquake — and with torrential rains expected any day, authorities are not even close to providing the shelters they promised.
USAID has provided 160,000 plastic sheets and 24,500 family size tents that will help 185,000 families out of the estimated 260,000 families in need of shelter assistance.
Jacqueline Charles reports for the The Miami Herald today on the politics of aid in Haiti. Charles notes that despite hundreds of thousands still without shelter, the "behind-the-scenes jockeying" by aid groups, NGOs and governments alike will only increase. Charles writes:
The battle includes aid groups known as nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and U.N. agencies that want to be the chief humanitarian agencies, countries that are lobbying for a seat at the decision table, and leaders from around the world who fly in frequently making promises that have yet to be met.
The move is a cause for concern as the ability of UNDP to monitor the disbursement of aid in Haiti has been severely compromised by the chaotic aftermath of the disaster.