Today, fifty-three Democratic members of Congress sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton underscoring the gross inadequacy of relief efforts of USAID, International Organization of Migration (IOM) and other aid organizations in Haiti’s camps for the internally displaced (IDPs).
Co-sponsored by Representatives Yvette Clarke (NY), Donald Payne (NJ) and Frederica Wilson (FL), the letter urges the administration to focus its attention on the deteriorating situation in the camps, in particular the lack of water, sanitation and other basic services; the increase in gender-based violence; and the frequent occurrence of forced evictions of camp residents.
The letter comes in the wake of the latest Humanitarian Bulletin published by the United Nation’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which provides an alarming overview of the IDP situation. According to the report, only 19% of the US$175 million funding requirement for basic water and sanitation needs of “transitional shelter and spontaneous camp residents” have been met by donors. This situation, the bulletin states, will have “direct consequences on the health situation of vulnerable populations” and puts individuals in densely populated urban areas at “heightened risk of cholera and water-borne disease contamination,” particularly with the imminent onset of Haiti’s rainy season.
The congressional letter also notes the “strong chance” of a new “spike in cholera” if nothing is done to improve IDP camp conditions quickly. It recommends that greater “accountability and transparency be brought to the task of IDP assistance”, in particular with regard to the efforts of USAID and IOM. It also calls on the Obama Administration to require contracting NGOs to provide complete coverage of IDP camps (presently a majority of camps are not covered) and to consult and coordinate directly with IDP communities.
Signers include a number of House leaders: James Clyburn (SC), Assistant Minority Leader of the House; Jan Schakowsky (IL), Democratic Deputy Whip; Elijah Cummings (MD), ranking member on the Oversight Committee; John Conyers (MI), ranking member on the Judiciary Committee; Bennie Thompson (MS), ranking member of the Committee on Homeland Security; Eliot Engel (NY), ranking member on the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere; Emanuel Cleaver (MO), chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus; and Raul Grijalva (AZ) and Keith Ellison (MN), co-chairs of the Progressive Caucus.
To see the full text of the letter click here (PDF).