Hillary Clinton said, "Those who expect progress immediately are unrealistic and doing a disservice to the many people who are working so hard." While for his part, Kouchner said that "It's because they have no idea of the immensity of the disaster." These statements echo those that were made against people speaking out against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; that to criticize was to undermine or be "unpatriotic" in some way. Yet, it may be the foreign ministers who are unaware of the immensity of the disaster on the ground for the millions of Haitians still homeless nearly 9 months after the earthquake.
A scathing report released yesterday by the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, along with partner organizations, entitled "“We’ve Been Forgotten”: Conditions in Haiti’s Displacement Camps Eight Months After the Earthquake" shows just how immense the disaster truly is.
Based on surveys undertaken in Haiti some key findings from the report are that 75 percent of families "had someone go an entire day without eating in the past week"; 44 percent of families "primarily drank untreated water"; 78 percent of families "lived without enclosed shelter"; while 48 percent "had been threatened with forced eviction."
In addition to the damning report from IJDH, the New York Times reported over the weekend on the calls for help from Haitians living in IDP camps. Recently kiosks in certain IDP camps have popped up with suggestion boxes that have seen increasing numbers of residents demanding more be done, now. The article notes that there have been increased protests demanding a solution to the lack of adequate housing. The Times reports on the case of Sandra Felicien who lives in Corail, the planned relocation site:
Raising her voice to be heard, she read aloud the letter: “Sept. 14. Today we feel fed up with the bad treatment in Block 7. Have you forgotten about us out here in the desert?” The crowd quieted. She continued reading: “You don’t understand us. You don’t know that an empty bag can’t stand. A hungry dog can’t play.” Other tent camps have health clinics or schools or at least something to do, she read. “Why don’t we have such things? Aren’t we people, too?”Maybe Mrs. Clinton would like to tell Ms. Felicien that she is being "unrealistic" and is doing a "disservice" to the aid workers. Or perhaps Mr. Kouchner could tell Ms. Felicien that she has "no idea of the immensity of the disaster."
Heads nodded. The tension dissipated. The crowd dispersed. Ms. Felicien walked her letter to the kiosk to post it. “I don’t know why I keep writing,” she said. “To this point they have not responded. It’s like screaming into the wind.”
It is also worth pointing out that both France and the US have historically played a significant role in the impoverishment of Haiti. Both governments were involved in the overthrow of the democratically elected Jean-Bertrand Aristide, among many other acts. While Haiti was stuck paying off its "independence debt" to France until 1947. France recently rejected calls by activists to pay back this odiosus debt, estimated to currently be worth at least $22 billion. Furthermore, as two countries uniquely responsible for impoverishing Haiti, they have disbursed very little of their pledges. According to the UN Special Envoy for Haiti (PDF), France has disbursed just over 20 percent of their pledge for 2010, while the US has yet to disburse any of theirs. As a comparison, Venezuela has disbursed more than both France and the United States combined.
To read the full IJDH report on camp conditions, click here.