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Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction

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Shelter: Planning to Fail Print
Tuesday, 02 March 2010 16:02
After chaos and confusions surrounding changing plans for providing shelter last week, sources on the ground say the shelter cluster has decided on a three step strategy. First, register those in the camps and if their homes are safe, ask them to return home. If this is not an option tarps will be handed out. If the camp is unsafe, or has been targeted for decongestion then those who cannot return home will be moved to different camps, although land has not yet been secured for this.

As of today, 40% of shelter needs have been covered, representing just over 500,000 people. This leaves more than 700,000 in dire need of shelter with the rainy season fast approaching, and more rain in the forecast for later this week. Yet the shelter cluster's goal is to provide one tarp per family by May 1 – possibly well after the rainy season has begun (at least 13 people were already killed in flooding over the weekend in Les Cayes).
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Debt Relief Legislation Moves Forward Print
Monday, 01 March 2010 13:39
The "Haiti Recovery Act" passed through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week. The bill, introduced by Senators Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Richard Lugar (R-IN) would eliminate Haiti's outstanding debt to International Financial Institutions (IFI) and any debt incurred during relief efforts. Also, the bill would encourage IFIs to make available grants rather than loans "in order to end the debt-relief cycle." Other aspects include the creation of an international infrastructure fund and the extension of trade benefits.
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Six Weeks On, Only 33 Percent Shelter Coverage Print
Monday, 01 March 2010 10:47
One month after the earthquake, MSF (Doctors Without Borders) had the following to say:
"It's hard to believe that four weeks after the quake, so many people still live under bed sheets in camps and on the street," said Christophe Fournier, MSF's International President who recently returned from Haiti. "Where it can, MSF has been distributing tents as well as hygiene kits and cooking supplies, but it is mainly concentrating on providing medical care. "One can only wonder how there could be such a huge gap between the promise of a massive financial influx into the country and the slow pace of distribution. MSF is concerned that with the onset of the rainy season, we'll be facing new medical emergencies, when people who are living without shelter, come to us with diarrhoea or respiratory infections."
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Food Aid Undermines Local Producers Print
Friday, 26 February 2010 18:37
*This post has been edited slightly for accuracy.

The AP reports today on the effects of US rice on Haitian farmers:
Subsidized U.S. rice has flooded Haiti for decades. Now, after the Jan. 12 quake, 15,000 metric tons of donated U.S. rice have arrived.
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Reuters Report Slams MINUSTAH Print
Friday, 26 February 2010 12:23
Reuters reports on the U.N. Peacekeepers's response in the days after the earthquake, reporting a detrimental focus on security.

One member of the US Army's 82nd Airborne Division told Reuters:
"The only time I've seen one of these U.N. troops jump out of the back of a truck was to beat up on somebody or take a shot at them,"
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Haitian Government Abruptly Changes Course on Shelter Plan Print
Thursday, 25 February 2010 13:37
CNN reports that after weeks of planning “tent cities” to house earthquake survivors who lost their homes, the Haitian government is adopting an entirely new strategy. The new plan
revolves around registering residents of the camps and determining whether their homes can be rebuilt.
"If the home has been damaged, teams will be sent to remove the rubble, or a structural engineer will be sent to see if it can be fixed," said Mark Turner, spokesman for the Organization of International Migration, which is assisting in the effort.
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Children Airlifted To US May Not Be Orphans Print
Wednesday, 24 February 2010 13:45
Twelve Haitian children, airlifted to the US, may not actually be orphans, reports Ginger Thompson for the New York Times. Fifty-four Haitian children were airlifted to Pennsylvania in the aftermath of the earthquake, "organized by Gov. Edward G. Rendell of Pennsylvania and supported by top Obama administration officials." The Times reports:
But for 12 of the children, last month’s airlift transported them from one uncertain predicament to another. As it turns out, those children — between 11 months and 10 years old — were not in the process of being adopted, might not all even be orphans and are living in a juvenile care center here while the authorities determine whether they have relatives in Haiti who are able to take care of them.
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Lack of Sanitation Could Lead to Outbreak of Diseases Print
Wednesday, 24 February 2010 12:30
Patricia Mazzei reports for the Miami Herald on the lack of sanitation and the possibility of diseases spreading throughout the make-shift camps:
"But now, more than five weeks after the quake, the dangers of inadequate sanitation could amount to the most pressing public health issue in this quake-wrecked city. "
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Shelter Still Scarce With Rainy Season Fast Approaching Print
Wednesday, 24 February 2010 10:32
Ansel Herz, reporting for IPS, writes about the lack of secure shelter as the rainy season nears.

The UN reports that "[t]o date, over 104,000 tarpaulins have been distributed along with 19,000 family size tents." This provides only slightly more than a quarter of those displaced with shelter.

Even when tarps are handed out, it can be met with confusion, as Herz reports:
At a shelter distribution by CARE International at a camp in a Petionville public square, the tarps were received with a mixture of confusion and disappointment.

"It's not clear for us. We can't set them up because they don't send anyone to give an explanation," said Joseph Jean-Ones, whose family lives in the camp, as he tried to fit one metal pole on top of another.

His wife was given a gray tarp, a set of gleaming metal poles, and a single piece of paper with pictoral diagrams showing how to tie the materials together. The tarps do not come with text instructions, in Haitian Creole or any language.

"They should teach people how to set them up before distributing them," said another man, setting the supplies down on the ground. "Now we don't know what to do with it. It's like they're distributing problems to us."
CARE later told Herz that in the future they would set up an example tarp in each camp before distribution.

There has also been some controversy surrounding the use of tarps versus tents. The Shelter Cluster has largely decided that tents take up too much room and that tarps are the only viable shelter at this point. There are dissenting opinions, however. Herz reports:
"What we're about is shelter, warmth and dignity - it's difficult to get that with tarps," said John Leach, Shelterbox's Head of Operations, in an interview. He said the plastic tarps will prove inadequate under heavy rains.

"If tarps are that great, why are all the U.N. people living in tents?" he asked.
The reality is that no matter how much shelter material is distributed, the situation remains grave:
"No one is pretending that this offers anything but very partial protection from the rains," Alex Wynter, spokesman for the International Federation of the Red Cross, told reporters in a press briefing.

"I would say that the tents and tarpaulins, in addition to giving people a modicum of privacy, give people a tool with which they can stay dry overnight," he said. "But there's no doubt that we face a very grave crisis here, when the rains come."



 
Exodus From PaP Puts Pressure on Rural Communities Print
Wednesday, 24 February 2010 09:47
The Los Angeles Times reports on the stress that the exodus of hundreds of thousands of Haitians from Port-au-Prince has put on rural communities. This is especially significant with the planting season fast approaching and supplies hard to come by and money even tighter than usual. The Times reports:
Villagers are near the breaking point as they try to accommodate tens of thousands of displaced city dwellers just when they would be putting their precious resources into preparing for planting. In desperation, some have resorted to eating their meager seed stocks or killing their chickens and goats to feed the influx, rather than keeping them to sell.
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