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Life in Devastated Haiti

By       Message Stephen Lendman     Permalink
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Life in Devastated Haiti - by Stephen Lendman

Nine months after the January 12 earthquake, Haitians still have little relief. Over one and a half million left homeless continue struggling to survive, despite billions in aid raised or pledged. It's for development, predatory NGOs, not them. That's the problem, and they suffering as a result, little media attention paid to their plight.

On September 15, Los Angeles Times writer Joe Mozingo headlined, "No plan in sight for Haiti's homeless," saying:

Where to put them is contentious, reconstruction "hang(ing) on the potentially explosive issue" of who owns the land. For example, pre-quake, tenant farmers used to plant corn and sugar cane on a wealthy family's 20-acre parcel "below the city's main transmission lines of the Delmas 33 road."

"Now an estimated 25,000 people call it home," living in one of many temporary camps, poorly protected against heavy rain, severe weather or hurricanes. When security men try to evict them, they're chased off with "rocks, sticks and machetes."

"It's not like we're comfortable here," says Katlyne Camean. "Last night when it rained, I filled three buckets of water from my house. But no one is telling us where they want us to go. I don't want to go somewhere worse."

They're pitted against an indifferent government, woefully little aid, and conditions unacceptable for anyone, including inadequate food, poor sanitation, little safe drinking water, weather-beaten makeshift shelters, too little of everything needed, no resolution of their homelessness, and the world community turning a blind eye to their plight.

Rubble is everywhere, only 2% of it removed. On September 11, AP's Tamara Lush reported that Port-au-Prince is strewn with "cracked slabs, busted-up cinder blocks, half-destroyed buildings," demolished homes, and "pulverized concrete" on streets and sidewalks. "By some estimates, the quake left about 33 million cubic yards of debris in Port-au-Prince - more than seven times the amount of concrete" used for Hoover Dam.

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Overall, it's little different from nine months ago, authorities offering excuses that don't hold water, including little heavy equipment, problems navigating some roads, and few dump sites to put rubble collected.

There's no master plan, says Eric Overvest, the UN Development Program's country director. Also, no one's in charge, Haitian architect Leslie Voltaire saying:

"Everybody is passing the blame on why things haven't happened yet. There should be one person in charge. Resettlement has not even begun yet, and it can't until the city has been cleared."

Allocating funding for other purposes and bureaucratic delays complicate things. Most of all, it's Haiti, the hemisphere's poorest country, exploited ruthlessly for centuries. If a comparable quake struck San Francisco, restoration would begin at once. It takes time, money and commitment, available to well-off White communities, not poor Black ones.

Katrina-ravaged New Orleans residents understand, facing dire conditions five years later, those in Black communities on their own like millions of other poor Americans unaffected by natural disasters. In many respects, their lives are little different, given little aid during dire economic times.

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Refugee International (RI) on Haiti

RI "advocates for lifesaving assistance and protection for displaced people and promotes solutions to displacement crises." Its challenge is helping 41 million world refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs), living in limbo without citizenship rights.

Emilie Parry and Melanie Teff just returned from Haiti after conducting RI's second field assessment "of the humanitarian response and related protection issues..."

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I was born in 1934, am a retired, progressive small businessman concerned about all the major national and world issues, committed to speak out and write about them.

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