- Nine months after the January 12 earthquake, Haitians
still have little relief. Over one and a half million left homeless continue
struggling to survive, despite billions in aid raised or pledged. It's
for development, predatory NGOs, not them. That's the problem, and they
suffering as a result, little media attention paid to their plight.
- On September 15, Los Angeles Times writer Joe Mozingo
headlined, "No plan in sight for Haiti's homeless," saying:
- Where to put them is contentious, reconstruction "hang(ing)
on the potentially explosive issue" of who owns the land. For example,
pre-quake, tenant farmers used to plant corn and sugar cane on a wealthy
family's 20-acre parcel "below the city's main transmission lines
of the Delmas 33 road."
- "Now an estimated 25,000 people call it home,"
living in one of many temporary camps, poorly protected against heavy rain,
severe weather or hurricanes. When security men try to evict them, they're
chased off with "rocks, sticks and machetes."
- "It's not like we're comfortable here," says
Katlyne Camean. "Last night when it rained, I filled three buckets
of water from my house. But no one is telling us where they want us to
go. I don't want to go somewhere worse."
- They're pitted against an indifferent government, woefully
little aid, and conditions unacceptable for anyone, including inadequate
food, poor sanitation, little safe drinking water, weather-beaten makeshift
shelters, too little of everything needed, no resolution of their homelessness,
and the world community turning a blind eye to their plight.
- Rubble is everywhere, only 2% of it removed. On September
11, AP's Tamara Lush reported that Port-au-Prince is strewn with "cracked
slabs, busted-up cinder blocks, half-destroyed buildings," demolished
homes, and "pulverized concrete" on streets and sidewalks. "By
some estimates, the quake left about 33 million cubic yards of debris in
Port-au-Prince - more than seven times the amount of concrete" used
for Hoover Dam.
- Overall, it's little different from nine months ago,
authorities offering excuses that don't hold water, including little heavy
equipment, problems navigating some roads, and few dump sites to put rubble
- There's no master plan, says Eric Overvest, the UN Development
Program's country director. Also, no one's in charge, Haitian architect
Leslie Voltaire saying:
- "Everybody is passing the blame on why things haven't
happened yet. There should be one person in charge. Resettlement has not
even begun yet, and it can't until the city has been cleared."
- Allocating funding for other purposes and bureaucratic
delays complicate things. Most of all, it's Haiti, the hemisphere's poorest
country, exploited ruthlessly for centuries. If a comparable quake struck
San Francisco, restoration would begin at once. It takes time, money and
commitment, available to well-off White communities, not poor Black ones.
- Katrina-ravaged New Orleans residents understand, facing
dire conditions five years later, those in Black communities on their own
like millions of other poor Americans unaffected by natural disasters.
In many respects, their lives are little different, given little aid during
dire economic times.
- Refugee International (RI) on Haiti
- RI "advocates for lifesaving assistance and protection
for displaced people and promotes solutions to displacement crises."
Its challenge is helping 41 million world refugees and internally displaced
people (IDPs), living in limbo without citizenship rights.
- Emilie Parry and Melanie Teff just returned from Haiti
after conducting RI's second field assessment "of the humanitarian
response and related protection issues..."
- Parry's September 13 article titled, "Haiti: Emergency
Paralysis" describes what she calls:
- Haitians "caught up in a protracted state of emergency.
In the way that a spinal cord injury's paralysis leads to bedsores, atrophy,
and skin rot in the patient, the (poor) humanitarian response in Haiti
feels paralyzed. The local community networks and linkages are atrophying,
the spontaneous camps are developing bedsores, and the momentum, the window
of opportunity within this emergency, may be turning to rot."
- Why? Because of world indifference. Planned reconstruction
is for profit, leaving poor Haitians on their own to survive, the world
community indifferent to their plight.
- RI spent time in Haiti shortly after the quake, reporting
on March 2 "From the Ground Up," explaining the toll on survivors,
their desperate need for everything, including "food, water, shelter
and protection from abuse and exploitation." They need an enormous
amount of humanitarian aid. It's pledged but not provided.
- RI recommended linking humanitarian efforts to Haiti's
civil society network, comprised of grassroots community-based organizations
plus the well-established internal NGOs. Most, however, are more self-serving
than for poor Haitians, a topic a previous article addressed, accessed
through the following link:
- RI said few needs so far were addressed, including little
or no "coordination and communication between Haitian civil society
and UN and international NGOs...." Grassroots locals were mostly shut
out to give corporate and well-connected NGOs free reign to profit from
the vast human misery.
- Locals had "a hard time accessing meetings at the
UN compound in Port-au-Prince" to be part of a coordinated response.
RI also interviewed displaced Haitians "who expressed concern about
security," especially women and children vulnerable to rape other
violence, and abuse. Then and now, they also lacked minimal amounts of
everything, RI saying:
- "Most people who lost their homes sleep under makeshift
dwellings of sheets and sticks providing little protection from rain,"
and none from hurricanes. "The sanitation in the camps does not meet
minimal international standards. The need for shelter poses immense logistical
challenges....intrinsically linked to land ownership and property rights,"
an issue the Preval government is doing nothing to resolve.
- Affected Haitians then and now need everything they're
not getting, receiving pathetically little of the pledged aid. "By
all accounts, the leadership of the humanitarian country team is ineffectual.
Following the earthquake, it took three weeks for the Humanitarian Coordinator
to call a meeting with aid organizations."
- Damage to affected and surrounding areas "have far-reaching
implications that go beyond" reconstructing Port-au-Prince. The entire
country needs help, mostly for its deeply impoverished, neglected and exploited
people, the quake affected ones desperate for help, so far not forthcoming.
- In her September 13 article, Parry said:
- "....in every part, semi-open space or crossroads
in Port-au-Prince and the environs, we see a gathering of quake-displaced
persons, make-shift lean-tos (few donated), tents....packed closely together,
filling every space. There are no latrines, no showers, no (minimal) SPHERE
standards observed, and no communications with international or local agencies
responding to the emergency."
- Chaotic conditions have risen to "extreme heights."
Everything needed is in short supply or not provided. Security is lacking,
forcing women to sleep in shifts to protect them and others from rape and
abuse. The problem for thousands of unaccompanied children is enormous.
- Present day Haiti is like January's, except for "the
overwhelming stench of sewage and garbage," and the toll on Haitians
after months of neglect.
- "Children and adults have developed skin rashes
and infections due to the poor water and sanitary conditions in the camps.
The tents and lean-tos are tattered and torn; hundreds blew away in the
recent storms, none remain dry (when it) rains, and it is the middle of
- Across the city and surrounding areas, grassroots networks
"are weakening," without enough resources, support, or ability
to work with established NGOs or world humanitarian organizations.
- Of the 1,000 - 1,300 camps, only six are policed by UNPOL/MINISTAH
- there but doing little besides writing up incidences of rapes, other
crimes, and botched "street abortions" for girls as young as
- Camp Coordination and Management, under the leadership
of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) "is a confused
and contradictory mess, with an overwhelming number of cases where local
camp groups have no idea" who's in charge or what needs to be done
- "The numbers in the camps have grown," some
displaced people having returned to Port-au-Prince from rural areas. Nothing
is being done to help them. Little coordinated aid is provided, many camp
residents saying "they feel they are being left to rot, left in the
camps to die."
- Scheduled November Elections
- On November 28, first round legislative and presidential
elections will be held. Democracy, however, will be absent because the
nation's most popular party, Fanmi Lavalas, and 13 others are excluded,
the system rigged to "elect" Washington friendly candidates.
- Lawyer Ira Kurzban, an immigration and employment law
expert and former legal counsel to President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, calls
the process "unfair, unconstitutional and undemocratic."
- Haitians know a charade is planned. Many will opt out,
their choice in April 2009 for the sham process to fill 12 open Senate
seats that saw an estimated 5 - 10% turnout. Why bother this time when
virtually no one running gives a damn about ordinary Haitians. It makes
a mockery of real elections - illegitimate, farcical, and little more than
bad theater. Nonetheless, unless the fluid date is changed, it'll be hailed
as democracy in action. Millions of Haitians know better.
- A Final Comment
- Haiti remains in emergency. For growing numbers, aid
is "too little, too late." It presents an enormous challenge
for those who care, to "do better, in order to support the possibility
of hope, the possibility of recovery, and the opportunity to build back
- So far, it's planned only for the privileged, ordinary
Haitians are on their own to survive. Other generations faced it earlier
for centuries, helped only by the brief interregnum under Aristide, why
millions in the country so badly want him back. His presence alone would
make a world of difference, helping and providing many with what's now
fading - hope.
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
email@example.com. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com
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