Tag Archives: Haiti
Photostream : One year for Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) Search and Rescue soldiers since joining Haiti aid team
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Jan 12 (KATAKAMI / BBC) — It was a clear night, as the stars shone down brightly out of a dark Caribbean sky.
There’s the curb against which I saw a baby’s body lying wrapped and abandoned.
There’s the grass leading up to the main building, where I watched a man lay down to sleep between two dead people.
There are the steps that take me through the entrance, and back into the corridor down which a woman’s wail echoed, where a girl wrapped in bloody sheets lay curled up on a table.
And there’s the corner where Astrel Jacques first introduced me to his daughter.
Telia was lying on the tiled floor, her little legs broken, the dirty bandages on her head barely stopping the bleeding from a large gash.
Now, here we are again, the three of us, at the same corner a year later.
Telia’s hair is in braids, each finished off with a white plastic clip.
The scar across her forehead, running down from hairline to eyebrow, is still vivid. So, too, the scars on her legs. She will always have those. But today at least she can smile, and she has a beautiful smile.
“As I’m walking right here, you had to step on dead bodies. Dead bodies was everywhere,” Astrel recollects in broken English as we head along the now pristine corridors.
“Mothers, daughters, fathers, sons: everybody was just fighting to stay alive.”
Telia is a quiet girl. Her father says she is still traumatised.
She was injured by falling masonry when the earthquake hit. Her younger sister was killed. So, too, was her grandmother. The scars, physical and mental, will be with her for the rest of her life.
But will Haiti too be scared forever? Twelve months ago, as I walked past the dead, as the smell of decaying bodies grew more pungent day by day, there was not much to be positive about.
There were, however, some signs of encouragement. One was the sheer level of support and help offered from around the world. Compassion fatigue? Hardly. Haiti caught the world’s attention, and benefited from the world’s generosity.
Then there was the resourcefulness of the Haitians themselves. They managed to return to some sort of basic existence pretty quickly.
There were the international promises to re-build a better Haiti – everyone seemed to agree, and the momentum was building to do just that.
Today though, back on that hospital corner, Astrel Jacques is no longer encouraged.
“As of right now, Haiti will never rebuild. I mean I don’t see any sign. For something to rebuild you have to see signs. You have to see hands put in. You have to see actions. You have to see talks. I don’t see any of it.”
It is a common refrain, born somewhat out of reality, but also out of frustration.
There have been changes here, but so far they have been limited.
In those days after the earthquake, I visited a supposedly temporary camp Next to it was a patch of empty, stony ground. I wondered how much longer it would be before the tents and tarpaulins spread out from the camp to cover it, too.
Haiti’s 2010 Earthquake
- Struck 12 January, 2010 at 1653 local time (2153 GMT)
- Magnitude 7.0, epicentre about 15km (10 miles) south-west of capital Port-au-Prince, near town of Leogane
- Killed about 230,000 people, injured about 300,000 people
- More than 50 aftershocks
- Left about one million people homeless
A month later, when I next saw it, people were indeed beginning to put up rough wooden structures. A few poles and bit of plastic sheeting.
After six months however, as I next passed by, the land was empty, a fence around it. A waste of space it seemed.
Now, there are 350 new homes there. Wooden structures, and temporary, but the people who moved in over the last few days consider themselves lucky. They finally have something more than a tent that they can call home.
‘I can’t rebuild’
The issue many here have is that even this is not a long-term solution. It took the International Red Cross a year to get permission to use the land, to secure it, to get the materials, to move people in.
And yet there are no paved roads in what is Port-au-Prince’s newest neighbourhood, no sewage infrastructure, no electricity. Within a year this may well be Port-au-Prince’s newest slum.
This kind of rebuilding is also the exception. Much rubble is still lying where it fell.
In a crowded district, which sits in the fold between two hills, many of the ruins I climbed over a year ago are still there. As I wind through the tiny alleyways, there are some signs of clearance.
Outside Fabula’s tin shack for instance, the mound we stood on six months ago has been cleared, leaving an empty plot where one day someone will build.
Fabula’s son is now one year old. I met him in the first few minutes of his life. He was born just after the earthquake. His mother, too exhausted to push him out, almost died in labour.
Her life is still immensely hard.
“Nothing has changed,” she says.
“The people who are fortunate have done some small rebuilding, but the unfortunate have not done anything. My mum lives up the hill in a camp. I still can’t rebuild our house.”
Pushed to the limit
Haiti is the kind of place that gets under your skin.
It plays with your emotions.
I have spent much of the past week here feeling angry. Why has seemingly so little been achieved?
You can point fingers in many directions. At the government and its weak leadership – but then 17% of its civil servants died in the earthquake, and it was weak anyway.
At the international community, for failing to live up to their promises, but then all agree this is one of the most complex humanitarian disasters of the modern age, and addressing it is going to take decades.
At the NGOs – of whom there are thousands here – for failing to start longer-term projects, but then they have been pushed to the limit by other challenges, a hurricane and a cholera epidemic. They have kept Haiti alive on life support.
The challenge remains though, to move this country off emergency care, and into long-term rehabilitation.
The big stuff needs to be addressed.
A more able political leadership needs to be established. Infrastructure projects need to be planned – new streets, a sewage system and power grid. Jobs need to be created. Houses built. An entire country needs to be recreated.
How though, do you do that? Let’s hope in a year’s time we’re not still asking the same question. (*)
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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, jan 11 (KATAKAMI / AP) –– The man’s body was face down, his white dress shirt shining like wax in the sun, as he was unearthed in the ruins of a central Port-au-Prince restaurant a year after the earthquake.
That bodies are still being found in rubble is a sign of how far Haiti has to go to recover from a disaster that left the capital in ruins and is estimated to have killed more than 230,000 people.
As the dust was still settling from the Jan. 12, 2010, disaster, volunteers and hundreds of aid groups flocked in with food, water and first aid that saved countless lives. But the effort to rebuild has been dwarfed by the size of the tragedy, the extent of the need and, perhaps most fatally, the lack of leadership and coordination of more than 10,000 disorganized non-governmental organizations.
The international community “has not done enough to support good governance and effective leadership in Haiti,” the aid group Oxfam said in a recent report. “Aid agencies continue to bypass local and national authorities in the delivery of assistance, while donors are not coordinating their actions or adequately consulting the Haitian people.”
Less than 5 percent of debris has been cleared, leaving enough to fill dump trucks parked bumper to bumper halfway around the world. In the broken building where the man was found, workers hired to clear rubble by hand found two other people’s remains.
Meanwhile, about a million people remain homeless and neighborhood-sized homeless camps look like permanent shantytowns on the fields and plazas of the capital. A cholera epidemic erupted outside the earthquake zone that has killed more than 3,600 people, and an electoral crisis threatens to break an increasingly fragile political stability.
The promise of a better Haiti remains just that.
“The problem is that at a certain point the international community gave the impression they could solve the problem quickly. … I think there was an excess of optimism,” said Ericq Pierre, Haiti’s representative to the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington.
Progress has been slow across the board, starting with the omnipresent rubble.
The U.S.-based RAND organization said donors and the Haitian government are responsible for more not being cleared. Haitian workers are not given personal equipment while heavy lifters have been blocked by customs officials at the border, the report said. The government has also not designated sufficient dumping space.
“Unless rubble is cleared expeditiously, hundreds of thousands of Haitians will still be in tent camps during the 2011 hurricane season” — which runs from June through November, the report said.
It does not help that the fees collected by customs officials — such as those blocking the large rubble-removing equipment — are one of the few bright spots in a Haitian economy that was already the worst in the hemisphere before contracting by 7 percent over 2010, according to the World Bank.
With nowhere to build, construction of new housing has barely begun. Even Oxfam said earlier this year it would be too complicated to address the key underlying issue of sorting out Haiti’s broken system of land ownership, where several people will hold seemingly equal claims to the same plot of land.
Internationally financed inspectors have certified houses where people can return, but indications are that few have — at best many of those leaving the sprawling camps are merely moving their shacks closer to where they used to live.
Meanwhile, only 15 percent of needed temporary shelters have been built, with few permanent water and sanitation facilities.
The owners of small construction materials businesses like Justin Premier, 43, should be raking in money. But most people in his neighborhood are just buying plywood to reinforce their tarps.
“It’s going to take a lot of time for us to come back where we were before,” Premier said.
The earthquake was an opportunity to completely remake a broken education system where only half of school-age children were enrolled, mostly in bad private schools that often charge predatory fees.
Plans from the Inter-American Development Bank for safer buildings and a unified Creole-language curriculum have not yet come to fruition.
Instead, schools have opened here and there. About 80 percent of children attending school before the quake are going to class again, said UNICEF Haiti Education Chief Nathalie-Fiona Hamoudi. UNICEF planned to build 200 semi-permanent structures to teach in, but only finished 88 by the end of 2010 because an ongoing cholera outbreak diverted its effort.
The reconstruction effort overall is hampered by the failure to deliver or spend billions of expected dollars in aid.
Americans donated more than $1.4 billion to help earthquake survivors and rebuild, but just 38 percent of that total has been spent to provide recovery and rebuilding aid, according to a Chronicle of Philanthropy survey of 60 major relief organizations.
Governments have not done better.
More than $5.3 billion was pledged at a March 31 donors conference for a period of 18 months. Only $824 million — about a quarter of the public money not including debt relief — has been delivered, according to former U.S. President Bill Clinton’s U.N. Office of the Special Envoy to Haiti. Some $3.2 billion in public funding is still owed.
The United States had originally pledged $1.15 billion for 2010, but moved nearly its entire pledge to 2011 following delays in Congress and the Obama administration.
Clinton was supposed to take care of the governments. In July he told AP he would contact donors the following week to remind them of their promises, and again expressed frustration when payment was slow through the summer and fall.
But as the year came to an end, even the United States — whose secretary of state is his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton — had paid just a fraction of what it promised, pushing off nearly $1 billion in money pledged for 2010 to 2011.
Bill Clinton has had three prominent, simultaneous roles in Haiti’s rebuilding: co-chair of the reconstruction commission with Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive; U.N. special envoy for Haiti; and head of his Clinton Foundation, a major donor. But on his recent trips to Haiti he has been left merely expressing frustration that more is not getting done.
Bellerive said he is disappointed by the slow delivery of funds. He said the delays may be caused by uncertainty surrounding the question of who will succeed outgoing President Rene Preval.
“Perhaps some donors say, ‘Let’s wait until we know exactly who will be there for the next five years,'” he said.
Preval’s government, weak to begin with, was decimated and never really recovered. Ministries were relocated but were not able to replace vast numbers of staff killed in the quake or the material lost in the destruction.
Preval has been seen by most Haitians as ineffective at best, and many observers have criticized him for being responsible for a lack of leadership within Haiti.
“Everyone is talking about the resilience of the Haitian people, and everyone is taking advantage of that resilience,” Bellerive said. “It’s going to end. Success for me is to do the basic, the minimum, so we can really build a future. And we have to do it right now.”
As the Wednesday anniversary arrives, Haitians will remember that day of sorrow with a Mass in front of the destroyed cathedral, still in ruins.
In an Op-Ed to Haiti’s Le Nouvelliste newspaper, Pierre asked that on the anniversary itself, foreigners leave Haitians alone.
“I ask only one day per year, from 2011 on, to enable us to mourn our dead … to try to understand how and why we got where we are,” he wrote. “We need to find some peace.” (*)