Haiti may have dodged a bullet as tropical storm Gaston – which meteorologists had feared might hit Haiti – dissipated late last week. But the scare was a reminder of just vulnerable hundreds of thousands of displaced Haitians, who lack adequate shelter, are.
Aljazeera English reported from Haiti on the country’s lack of hurricane-preparedness. Beginning its report with IDPs’ “bat teneb” protest of forced evictions, neglect, and unfulfilled promises on Friday, Aljazeera’s Sebastian Walker describes some of the challenges that Haiti – a country that is severely hit by hurricanes nearly every year – faces in the wake of January’s earthquake. If a hurricane were to bear down on Haiti, “…the sheer numbers of those still living under tarpaulin means an organized evacuation is almost impossible,” he explains, before visiting a hurricane shelter that can house 400 people - at an IDP camp that is home to 40,000.
“We’re not going anywhere, because we have nowhere else to go,” Oreste Saint-Philippe, an IDP camp resident explains. “We’ll just have to stay here, and see what happens.”
“This whole thing is just a charade. We’ve never received any real help,” another camp resident, Viergela Laguerre, says. “Instead of information what we really need is houses.”
Walker goes to Nigel Fisher, “second in command” of the UN Mission in Haiti, for an explanation of why people still lack adequate shelter eight months after the earthquake. Fisher claims that the UN “just didn’t have all the resources we needed for all the tasks at hand.”
Fisher is correct in that the international community has fallen far short of its aid pledges, as we recently noted. More difficult to understand than the UN's failings perhaps is why large NGO’s, which have received tens of millions of dollars in private donations, and sometimes tens of millions more in U.S. taxpayer money through USAID, have failed to deliver more viable shelter.
Going back to the bat teneb, Walker concludes: “…it’s not hard to understand the frustration at what nearly eight months of a multi-billion dollar relief has achieved.”