OCHA Bulletin Highlights Massive Shortcomings in Relief Efforts

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Monday, 28 March 2011 14:15

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ (OCHA) latest “Humanitarian Bulletin” provides some insight into just how much the relief efforts have struggled to provide results over the last year. Despite grandiose aid pledges, complete with the customary sound bites, the situation on the ground has not greatly improved. A few days after the earthquake President Obama stated:

“To the people of Haiti, we say clearly, and with conviction, you will not be forsaken; you will not be forgotten. In this, your hour of greatest need, America stands with you.”

That reality that is described by OCHA is one where the greatest needs of Haitians have, in fact, been forgotten. Although world leaders pledged over $5 billion dollars last April, and private donations from Americans alone topped $1 billion, OCHA reports that:

A Water, Hygiene and Sanitation (WASH) and CCCM Cluster analysis reveals that most of the funding to partners to support sanitation, water trucking activities and camp management will be exhausted by June 2011. As a result, it is expected that the number of humanitarian actors able to continue activities will be drastically reduced, which in turn will have serious consequences on the living conditions of camps residents. Their level of vulnerability will be particularly high due to the rain and hurricane season.

But how much worse can the “living conditions” of those in the camps really get? The same OCHA bulletin notes that only 29% of the camps have waste removal, only 43% of the camps have water tanks or trucks bringing water in, and less than 30% of those in the camps have received chlorination tablets in the last month. For a more independent analysis of the situation in the camps, see Mark Schuller’s report, “Foreign Responsibility in the Failure to Protect Against Cholera and Other Man-Made Disasters”. In addition, over 230,000 people have either been evicted, or are threatened by eviction, and the “eviction rate is increasing,” according to OCHA. The report discusses the evictions in the context of the reduction in the IDP population, a subject covered at length last week.

OCHA also notes that there are many residents still at serious risk in the case of heavy rains or hurricanes. OCHA notes that, “It is predicted that one or two hurricanes will affect Haiti,” this year. Camp residents who had to endure the rainy season and hurricane season last year will have to face it again, as only a small fraction have left the camps because of better alternatives. OCHA estimates that at least 300,000 people are at risk, including over 100,000 in the Artibonite department. As AlertNet reported today:

Yet for those families who have yet to move into adequate housing more than a year after the earthquake, it takes very little - just a bout of heavy rain or strong winds - to tip their lives back into crisis.

Student Mislene Valius, 22, lives 30 metres from a canal in Vallé de Bourdon in the Haitian capital. “When it rains, I have to go up on the roof or the hill to avoid being struck by disaster," she says. "My worries are growing more and more because my country can't take care of this situation."

Dorvil Sonson, a 47-year-old carpenter, says his family no longer gets visitors since the quake forced them to move to a tent city above a ravine in the Delmas area of Port-au-Prince.

"I live in a tent with my wife and three children, and you know it's a risk living here, because if there's a landslide we'll be among the victims," he says.

The full OCHA report, which also discusses the negative effect of rising food prices, the current “lean” season where food stocks are at their low point, and the ongoing response to the cholera epidemic (also under funded), is available here (PDF).

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