Misery and Despair Plague Haitians - by Stephen Lendman
Six months after Haiti's January 12 quake, inadequate relief has arrived, numerous accounts calling conditions hellish, unsanitary and unsafe - New York Times writer Deborah Sontag's July 10 article for one, headlined, "In Haiti, the Displaced Are Left Clinging to the Edge," saying:
Conditions around Port-au-Prince "contain a spectrum of circumstances: precarious, neglected encampments; planned tent cities (with poor sanitation); debris-strewn neighborhoods, (and only) 28,000 of the 1.5 million (or more) displaced moved into new homes," the affected areas "a tableau of life in the ruins."
Oxfam's Julie Schindall said "Everywhere I go, people ask me 'When will we get out of this camp?' " She doesn't know so can't say.
In her July 3 article, Montreal Gazette writer Sue Montgomery headlined, "Haiti's camps of despair," saying "life in Haiti's 1,300 camps is crowded, unsanitary and increasingly dangerous, (an ongoing) miserable, boring existence....proper housing (and pre-quake conditions) years away" at best.
In dismal slums, she describes traumatized Haitians living in "torn, sweltering and soaked tents suitable at best for weekend camping," surrounded by rubble and the stench of rotting garbage, their patience taxed to the limit, their lives shattered for lack of basic services, including housing, sanitation, and enough food and clean water.
Torrential afternoon rains leave "lake-sized puddles in which mosquitoes breed, then spread malaria. Deep, raspy coughs can be heard everywhere. Scabies and other infections transform children's soft skin into irritating red bumpy rashes. Bellies are swelling and hair turning orange from malnutrition. Vomiting and diarrhea are as common as flies."
On June 25, writing in the Los Angeles Times, E. Thomas Johnson from the Danish DanChurchAid relief organization headlined "Haitians still wait for recovery," saying:
"In more than 10 years of emergency relief work, I've never seen camps like those in Port-au-Prince. International standards....are in no way being met." Recovery and reconstruction efforts haven't even begun, posing a:
"significant risk of further disaster. (The camps) are congested beyond imagination, with ramshackle tents standing edge to edge in every square foot of available space," under rainy conditions "rais(ing) very real concerns about a cholera epidemic." If a hurricane strikes, the death toll could be horrendous because nowhere can refuge be found.
Although rubble clearance will take time, it's "shocking (that) it hasn't begun. In four days of driving through this sprawling, heavily populated city recently, I saw only one backhoe in operation (repairing a sewer line)." The only modest cleanup efforts are by Haitians with shovels and wheelbarrows, inadequate for the enormous task. A "convoy of construction equipment" is needed, but there's none. Why not, asked Johnson?
On July 3, Haitian-Truth.org saw "little hope for Haiti," the country infested with "a load of foreigners and local bureaucrats, businessmen and other exploiters maneuvering for part" of the billions of pledged aid, very little so far delivered, President Rene Preval, collaborating with corporate predators, mindless of his people's misery, some of the worst seen anywhere.
Yet "Millions are being made constructing (makeshift homes) that are nothing more than garbage and will not last 12 months."
Pre-quake, most Haitians had no electricity or running water and still don't. Too little of everything affects the homeless, and construction is more talk than reality. Crime is always a problem, but "more prevalent (now, attacks in camps) terrorizing thousands, especially women and girls," Director Malya Villard of the Commission of Women Victims for Victims, Kofaviv, calling conditions "an ideal climate for rape."
"Heaven protect us" from international community "experts (and disaster capitalism profiteers). But then, Heaven" long ago forgot Haitians.
On July 13, the Washington Post's Dana Milbank headlined, "The sad math of US aid to Haiti: 6 months, 2 per" of the amount pledged, saying: