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article image'Don't forget Haiti,' relief organizations urge

By Stephanie Dearing     May 16, 2010 in World
Port-au-prince - It's been four months since Haiti was hit with a devastating earthquake. In spite of millions of dollars given to Haiti and relief organizations to help the quake-struck victims, reconstruction is slow and difficult.
President and CEO of Direct Relief International, Thomas Tighe said in a press release issued May 12, "Although public attention is fading, the effects of the earthquake remain profound on people living in affected areas and continued intense efforts are required." The rainy season is fully underway in Haiti, and the Red Cross reports the sometimes heavy rains are a constant threat to not only earthquake survivors, but for relief agencies, who also live and work from tents.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported in early May that all homeless Haitians located in Port-au-Prince now have shelter, with a push on constructing toilets and putting up transitional shelters.
The story for locations outside of the capital is not as optimistic. For example, the OCHA stated that in Jacmel, only 79% of the people needing shelter had been given tents or tarps.
Emergency assistance is still being provided, but the emphasis of relief efforts is changing. OCHA said organizations are preparing for "... the rainy and hurricane seasons, which are expected to bring powerful tropical storms, landslides, and flooding. Food, trucks, and other lifesaving supplies are being pre-positioned throughout the country allowing for WFP and its partner organizations to continue to reach the most vulnerable in remote areas, and also taking into account the large number of displaced Haitians following the Jan. 12 earthquake... the transition to recovery activities designed to provide longer-term assistance, rebuild livelihoods and create jobs and assets has commenced, but is relatively slow due to the process of approval, especially for Cash and Food for Work interventions, by technical working groups in the Departmental committees."
OCHA reported the relocation of homeless survivors to safer sites had been completed in Port-au-Prince. The outlying areas are lagging behind. Food-for-work programs are being used to prepare relocation sites for temporary settlement.
Cité Soleil is one of the poorest areas in Port-au-Prince. MINUSTAH agents patrol the streets as su...
Cité Soleil is one of the poorest areas in Port-au-Prince. MINUSTAH agents patrol the streets as survivors of the 2010 Haiti earthquake receive aid donated by the Brazilian Army. January 21, 2010. Photograph courtesy of Agencia Brasil.
Marcello Casal Jr./Abr
CNN reported that relief organizations managed to raise $1.3 billion for Haiti. With so much money raised, it is only natural for people to wonder how that money is helping Haitians. CBS News looked spending of donations, concluding the majority of the money has been set aside for future reconstruction projects.
The Red Cross has raised over $400 million for Haiti. In March the organization announced its long-term relief plan for Haiti, saying it had earmarked a substantial portion of funds "... for spending... over the next three-to-five years to support families and communities recover from this devastating tragedy." David Meltzer, senior vice president for International Services at the Red Cross said “The American Red Cross is committed to getting more aid to Haiti and its people as quickly as possible, and to do so in the most transparent and practical way possible to meet longer-term needs such as restoring water and sanitation systems, providing adequate shelter and creating sustainable livelihoods."
The plan outlined by the Red Cross will see a portion of the funds ($200 million) continuing to go to emergency relief (food, shelter, supplies) during the first year. A substantial portion is slated for "transitional shelters," which will serve as semi-permanent housing while permanent shelter is built. A smaller portion of money will go to water and sewage, and a final portion will go to "... helping families rebuild their lives through cash grants, loans and other financial assistance that they can use to buy essential items and empower them as they work to rebuild their lives."
Relief efforts have been hampered in part by the land ownership system. Haiti's history of corruption, a remnant of decades of violence, imparts a special flavour to Haitian reconstruction activities. The largest problem, as touched on the OHCA, is that posed by deforestation, which leaves Haiti vulnerable to the catastrophic ravages of hurricanes and heavy rainstorms. The Christian Science Monitor outlines the issues related to deforestation concisely.
As for the Haitian government, the focus is on getting people back to work, reports the Wall Street Journal, earning the government condemnation from some quarters.
The problem, writes Pascal Roberts in Haiti for Sale, is Haiti's history of slave labour, perpetuated by current day governments which creates "... increased sweatshop expansion in Haiti without extensive improvement in labor practices and wages will continue to have the Haitian people mired in a downward cycle of poverty while the parasitic "commercial elite" and their boot licking sell out Haitian middle class acolytes will continue to line their pockets off the sweat from Haiti's poor."
Direct Relief said that the quake resulted in "An estimated 230,000 people were killed by the quake with 3 million people in need of aid and 1.3 million displaced."
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