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Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction

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Remittances Are Key to Haiti's Economy, and There's 55,000 More Haitians Ready to Start Sending Them Back, But... Print
Thursday, 27 May 2010 09:54
MSNBC ran a segment yesterday on the 55,000 Haitians who had been approved prior to the earthquake to come to the United States. Now, with many - including the family of North Miami Mayor Andre Pierre - living in makeshift camps, they are being denied entry to the US because of immigration quotas. As Steve Forester of IJDH explains, the MSNBC report would have been strengthened by discussing the positive impact these immigrants could have on Haiti through increased remittances, if allowed to come the United States. As the World Bank pointed out on May 17, since remittances make up such a large portion of Haiti's GDP, "Haiti represents the first time the restoration of remittances services was seen as a critical part of disaster relief and response." Allowing increased immigration from Haiti has been endorsed by both the Washington Post and Miami Herald editorial boards, as well as by numerous members of Congress. As Congress has recently allocated $2 billion in funding to Haiti for the next two years, incorporating language that would allow increased immigration would be an easy and cost-effective measure to help Haiti rebuild.
 
Despite Eyewitness and Media Accounts, MINUSTAH Denies Firing Tear Gas Into Camps, Forcing People to Flee Print
Wednesday, 26 May 2010 14:29
"[O]nly pepper spray and rubber bullets were used to quell an out-of-control protest."

As heavy rains threaten to flood camps, UN troops fired volleys of tear gas at a demonstration that spilled out from a university and into the surrounding makeshift camps. Ansel Herz reports for Inter-Press Service that after UN troops entered the campus, students began to flee to the surrounding camps, where a "barrage of tear gas and rubber bullets" sent "masses of displaced Haitians running out of tent camps into the streets". Herz writes:
Read more...

 

 
With Heavy Rains Forecasted, Better Shelter Must be Priority Print
Wednesday, 26 May 2010 11:52
AccuWeather.com Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski reported yesterday that severe rains are expected in Haiti this week, with the possibility of flooding and mudslides. Sosnowski writes:
An average of 5 to 10 inches of rain is forecast to fall on the region into the weekend. However, local amounts will be higher in the mountains, where runoff will be excessive.
With well over a million Haitians living in makeshift camps, heavy rains pose an enormous threat. Tents and tarps are often no match for the berating rains. The rains can also overflow latrines, a serious public health concern. On Monday, The Guardian released a video report that captures the scene inside these camps during the rains. One resident says:
I don't have a mother nor a father. I am by myself trying to make ends meet. I used to sleep in a tent on the street and now because of this rain my tent is destroyed. Tonight I will have to stand on my feet because I don't have anything to sleep on.
Read more...

 

 
USAID Takes Credit for Tarps Over Tents Print
Tuesday, 25 May 2010 16:22

In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, the Haitian government called for some 200,000 tents to help shelter the countless Haitians that had been made homeless. However nearly a month after the quake, contradictions began to arise about whether tents or tarps would be used for relief efforts. We wrote on February 4:

Read more...

 

 
Congress Considering Increased Oversight for Haiti Aid Print
Tuesday, 25 May 2010 11:28
Congressional Quarterly reports today (subscription only) that stronger oversight and regulations would accompany the billion plus dollars allocated to Haiti in the 2010 war supplemental bill. According to CQ, most money would go through USAID, which "has been the subject of withering congressional criticism in recent years for its handling of the tens of billions in international development assistance". The article continues:
When it comes to tightening oversight of USAID, senators are focused on a series of reporting requirements in the bill, which is cosponsored by Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, and Tennessee Republican Bob Corker. Among them are submission by USAID of a detailed multi-year strategy for supporting the rebuilding of Haiti and annual reports on the strategy’s implementation, along with a Government Accountability Office review.
Read more...

 

 
UN Investigating Prison Massacre Examined in New York Times Report Print
Monday, 24 May 2010 17:44
The UN has announced it is investigating the killings of between 11 and 40 prison inmates in Les Cayes following the earthquake – an incident examined in a feature New York Times report over the weekend. The Times reports that eyewitness accounts blame police – who were backed up by UN forces – of carrying out the murders of prisoners as they lay on the ground, rather than a “prison ringleader” whom Haitian officials say committed the killings before vanishing. UN documents, the Haitian National Police inspector general’s own report, and statements by prison employees, judicial officials, and victims’ relatives also refute the “prison ringleader” story.

The Times reports that the massacre followed an escape attempt:
The escape plan, set in motion on Jan. 19 by an attack on a guard, proved disastrous. With Haitian and United Nations police officers encircling the prison, the detainees could not get out. For hours, they rampaged, hacking up doors and burning records, until tear gas finally overwhelmed them.
Read more...

 

 
NPR Contrasts Conditions in Two IDP Camps Print
Monday, 24 May 2010 15:43
A revealing NPR story over the weekend contrasts two IDP camps which are situated directly across the street from one another. Camp Ancien Aeroport Militaire is home to some 50,000 people, one resident described the camp as "hell", according to NPR. Eugene, injured in the quake, lives with his 6 children under a tarp, NPR describes his living conditions:
When it rains, his roof leaks. Food distributions are chaotic, if they happen at all. The toilets are so full of sewage that Eugene says he can't even use them.
The contrast with what stands across the street however is most amazing:
More than 500 large white tents are laid out in rows on an expanse of leveled gravel. There are rows of brand new toilets. There are shipping containers fitted with clean shower stalls that have never been used. Tarps from the U.S. Agency for International Development are draped over each tent.
Read more...

 

 
Amidst Protests, Preval Declares He’ll Step Down When Term Ends Print
Friday, 21 May 2010 16:20
AP reported this week comments President Preval made at a ceremony honoring Haiti’s Flag Day that he will step down when his term ends on February 7:
“This is the last May 18 I will spend with you as president,” Preval said. Pledging to pass his office to a successor on the constitutionally mandated day, he added, “I will go and my heart will be calm.”
Preval’s announcement reiterated similar statements he made last week, and followed protests by thousands of people Monday in what AP described as “the strongest showing of opposition to the Haitian leader since the quake” expressing outrage over his handling of the post-earthquake crisis and suggestions that he might extend his term. AP noted that
Many demonstrators identified themselves as supporters of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was exiled to Africa aboard a U.S. plane during a 2004 rebellion. Protesters marched to the national mall following speaker trucks that trumpeted calls for Aristide's return.
Read more...

 

 
Diphtheria Outbreak Leads to Emergency Vaccination Program Print
Tuesday, 18 May 2010 16:31
Just over a week ago, CNN aired a report with Sean Penn on the case of Oriel, a 15 year old who contracted diphtheria and eventually died. We wrote then:
The report does a good job describing how - despite its fixation on Penn’s personality – that the boy’s life might have been saved had, first, vaccinations been available, and then, second, the antitoxin to treat diphtheria been more easily accessible once Oriel came down with the disease. Yet, as CNN reported, “it took Penn -- even with his star power -- 11 hours to get his hands on one dose.”
After the report, the World Health Organization responded by saying that it was "just an isolated case and there are no other cases."

Today, the UN News Center reports that an outbreak of the disease over the weekend has prompted health authorities to begin a targeted vaccination campaign, writing:
Cases of the disease were first reported on Saturday in Camp Batimat in Cité Soleil district, one of the settlements housing people displaced by the January earthquake, Christiane Berthiaume, spokesperson for the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), told reporters in Geneva.
Read more...

 

 
Is the Miami Herald calling for all parties to be involved in the elections? Print
Monday, 17 May 2010 16:44
A Miami Herald editorial calls on Haitian political actors to unite in order to hold a credible vote as soon as possible. This is especially important given that:
Haiti's parliament went out of business last Monday because the earthquake forced the cancellation of legislative elections in February. That has left President René Préval as the sole effective constitutional authority in the country, with no preparations undertaken so far to hold new elections.
The Herald states that
Haiti's leaders need to unite in the common interest of organizing transparently free and fair elections in the shortest time frame possible.
Read more...

 

 
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