Haiti Earthquake

Eviction Threatens Displaced Haitians

December 11, 2012

by AQ Online

Thousands of Haitians have been forcibly evicted from tent camps in the nation’s capital, according to a survey by the international aid organization Oxfam on Monday. Three years after the 7.0-magnitude earthquake devastated the Caribbean nation of 10 million, 357,000 Haitians are still living in 496 makeshift encampments scattered around the capital. The report, titled “Salt in the Wound: The urgent need to prevent forced evictions from camps in Haiti,” says that 86 percent of camp dwellers lack the financial resources to find alternate housing.

Since July 2010, an estimated 60,000 Haitians have been forcibly displaced from the camps, mostly by landowners who have grown impatient with the slow pace of relocation and are eager to reclaim their property. The report finds that government workers are often complicit in the process and that women, particularly those who are heads of their household, are overwhelmingly the victims of forced evictions.

While Oxfam applauds the government’s effort to relocate some displaced Haitians through the rental-subsidy program, known as 16/6, Haiti Country Director Andrew Pugh called on President Michel Martelly’s administration to do more to protect displaced peoples from violence, intimidation and unlawful threats to evict families. The report was rebuffed by an advisor to Martelly, Salim Saccar, who said, "The government is not engaged in a policy of eviction, but it has, through the 16/6 project, taken measures to safely and permanently relocate the people living in the camps to safe and permanent shelters.”

The Oxfam report was published the same day that President Martelly gave his “State of the Country” speech in North Miami Beach, Florida in an effort to rally support among the diaspora. The president has been the target of protests in Haiti for leaving without addressing the housing crisis, choosing instead to embark on an international tour with stops in Japan, Cuba and Europe.

Tags: Haitia, President Michele Martelly, Haiti Earthquake, Tent Camps

A Surge For Haiti?

April 19, 2010

by Ferentz Lafargue

In the immediate aftermath of January’s earthquake in Haiti a number of American government officials and Haitian leaders began deliberating a proposed “Marshall Plan for Haiti.” Writing in The Wall Street Journal on January 30, Haitian Ambassador to the United States Raymond A. Joseph punctuated his appeal: “ ‘poor Haiti’ has contributed greatly to the wealth and the freedom of many. Now it seems that the whole world is poised to return the favor.”

Interest in this proposed Marshall Plan has waned since January; even as governments and development agencies continue assessing the eventual costs of rebuilding Haiti (e.g. the Preliminary Damage Needs Assessment (PDNA) projects the tally at 11.5 billion). However, calls for Haitians around the world to rally together have persisted. In New York, a group of Haitian Americans have begun promoting “A Surge for Haiti”—a term borrowed from the U.S. strategy in Iran and Afghanistan.

The United Nations Association (UNA) Haiti’s “Surge” has two main goals: normalizing life for Haiti's children through a month-long Olympic-style event; and helping families in desperate need earn an income while helping youngsters with music and artistic talents through microfinance.

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Tags: Haiti Earthquake, Raymond A. Joseph, United Nations Association, Rose-Anne Clermont

Ripe for Creative Engagement: U.S. Policy in the Americas

March 22, 2010

by Arturo Valenzuela

The first months of 2010 have shown, in multiple and unexpected ways, the courage, resilience, and solidarity of the citizens of the Americas.  Faced first with a devastating earthquake in Haiti on January 12, the countries and people of the region rallied around a neighbor that had suffered a terrible tragedy.  The outpouring of support and feeling was as broad and spontaneous as if any other of our nations had been directly hit by the earthquake.  Then, on February 27, Chile was struck with an earthquake of historic proportions just two weeks before Chilean citizens inaugurated a new President.  When the Secretary met with then-President Bachelet, and then-President-elect Piñera on March 2, she spoke for our entire country when she expressed profound sorrow at the tragedy and the tremendous respect and admiration for the way the Chilean nation responded.

In my blog on March 13, I wrote about Secretary Clinton’s six country trip to the region.  It was a great honor to accompany the Secretary.  With each leader and citizen we met, our deep and personal engagement with our neighbors in the region was apparent.  Given how much is at stake in the western hemisphere right now, I was pleased to have the opportunity to  testify before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere on March 10—and share  with Members  of Congress my perspectives on our relationships with countries of the region and what we want to accomplish together.

I talked about efforts by the United States and the international community to build back Haiti, including the Haiti donors’ conference coming up on at the end of this month at the United Nations.  This includes the ministerial-level International Donors’ Conference that the United States, in cooperation with the Haitian government, will co-host on March 31, 2010 in New York at UN headquarters.  The conference “Towards a New Future for Haiti” has been in the works essentially since the hours after the earthquake hit.  We all knew that building back Haiti better would require enormous and sustained support from partners around the world.  Over the last eight weeks since the quake struck Port-au-Prince, international relief efforts on the ground have been incredible.  In spite of this, it’s clear that we still have a long way to go to provide the Haitian people with the living conditions, economic, and educational opportunities they deserve.  The March 31 conference is just one step in mobilizing the broad international support that the government and people of Haiti must have in order to realize their vision of a stronger, vibrant Haiti emerging from this tragedy.

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Tags: Michelle Bachelet, Organization of American States, Merida Initiative, Sebastian Piñera, Arturo Valenzuela, Ciudad Juárez, Haiti Earthquake, Chile Earthquake, House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, Pathways to Prosperity Initiative

Moving U.S. Policy Beyond Hemispheric Crises

February 10, 2010

by Christopher Sabatini

Two recent crises have overtaken the U.S.’s broader policy framework and agenda for the region. First, there was the coup in Honduras, now the tragedy in Haiti. The first was a potentially avoidable political train wreck that ended up dividing the hemisphere, the latter, one of the worst humanitarian disasters in the hemisphere’s history and an opportunity to unite the hemisphere.

Together the two countries, whose populations total just under 17 million people, have dominated the U.S. policy agenda in a region with close to 600 million people. In other words, we risk having lost our focus on genuine regional powers such as Brazil and looming political problems such as Venezuela by focusing on the immediate crises of just under 3 percent of the region’s population.

But there is hope. For all its heart-wrenching tragedy, Haiti is an opportunity to forge a broader hemispheric coalition and agenda in a way we failed in Honduras. Creating this historical partnership requires establishing a broad regional framework for monetary pledges, coordination, modalities, and goals of a comprehensive, long-term relief plan for Haiti that builds off Brazil and Chile’s long-standing commitment and the U.S.’s deep pockets and military and humanitarian presence.

Time, though, is running out.

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Tags: Haiti, Haiti Earthquake, disaster relief, U.S. Latin America policy

UNASUR to Focus on Haitian Aid Coordination

February 9, 2010

by AQ Online

Leaders of countries including Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, and Haiti arrived in Quito, Ecuador, on Tuesday to discuss a collective response to Haitian President René Préval’s appeal for aid. It was the first time Alvaro Uribe, president of Colombia, had visited Ecuador since 2008 when he ordered the bombing of a rebel camp on Ecuador’s side of the border. Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez had also planned to attend, but cancelled his trip at the last minute to attend to his country’s electricity emergency.  He sent Foreign Minister Nicolás Maduro in his place.

Rafael Correa, the current president of the 12-member Union of South American States, also visited Port-au-Prince on January 29 to pledge from his country as well as the regional block.

Vice President of Bolivia Álvaro García Linera, also attended, along with representatives from Argentina, Suriname, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, the Organization of American States and the Inter-American Development Bank. The gathering was to focus exclusively on coordinating aid to Haiti, putting aside other political differences between members of the two-year-old block.

Tags: Hugo Chavez, UNASUR, Haiti Earthquake

Haiti’s Post-Traumatic Mental Recovery

January 26, 2010

by Stephen Alderman

For two weeks Haiti has been at the forefront of our collective consciousness. But looking at long-term rebuilding efforts, aid organizations must recognize a challenge that goes beyond providing basic supplies and rebuilding: helping Haiti’s people to move toward psychological and emotional recovery.

On January 11, 2010, the day before the earthquake struck Port-au-Prince, the gap between Haiti’s need for mental health services and the presence of available care was already enormous. Other than the visionary accomplishments of Partners in Health in the central plateau in Haiti, public sector primary health care did not exist, and similarly, community-based mental health care remained a dream. There were few trained professional personnel and none of the infrastructure necessary to run hospitals and health centers.

Mental disturbance had already emerged as a major public health concern in Haiti, its incidence exceeding that of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined. The reason for this unfortunate state was the combination of extreme poverty and unremitting despair. The World Bank has ranked Haiti as having the 133rd highest GDP in the world, better off than only several small island nations and a few war-torn African countries. Even the opportunity for people to lift themselves out of poverty by subsistence farming is not an option for struggling Haitians: there are no trees, no top-soil and no arable land. Poverty and minimal hope have devastated the mental well-being of many Haitians, leading to high rates of suicide, gender-based violence (54 percent of women reported sexual assault in one study), child abuse, and alcohol and substance abuse.

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Tags: Haiti Earthquake, Haiti Relief Efforts

A Haitian-American Perspective: Resilience in the Face of Tragedy

January 14, 2010

by Richard André

“Parliament has collapsed. The tax office has collapsed. Schools have collapsed. Hospitals have collapsed.”

Those were the words of Haitian President René Préval as he described the level of damage caused by the 7.0 earthquake and multiple, comparable aftershocks that hit Haiti on Tuesday evening. With pictures and videos flooding in from news sources, relief organizations and even camera phones, the extent of the physical destruction seems unfathomable. Not to mention the psychological trauma of seeing everything from your house to your NationalPalace, the most proud symbol of Haitians' rich history, reduced to rubble. Corpses now line the streets of Port-au-Prince, and as my cousins described it, the city “smells like death.”

For many around the world, the deluge of news covering the earthquake is the first time that the conditions in Haiti are nearly impossible to ignore. And although this earthquake and its aftershocks are perhaps the worst single natural disaster to hit Haiti, it is certainly not the only one in recent years. Between August and September of 2008, Haiti was pummeled by four consecutive hurricanes that devastated the coastal region of Gonaives and left more than 800,000 in need of immediate humanitarian aid. In other words, Haitians are no strangers to nature’s fury.

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Tags: Haiti Earthquake

Reflecting on Haiti’s Earthquake

January 13, 2010

by Ruxandra Guidi

The presidential palace was, at least at the time of my visit a little over a year ago, one of the most solid-looking buildings in Port-au-Prince. Located at the center of the Champ de Mars plaza, the white structure was said to have been modeled after the White House and meant to inspire reverence.

But as we drove around the potholed streets surrounding the plaza and saw the piles of garbage and rows of crumbling buildings located within a few blocks, I remember thinking of the everyday plight of ordinary Haitians.

Sadly, the building and its neighborhood have now collapsed. And no one knows how many people may be trapped in the rubble. Yesterday's 7.0-magnitude earthquake has left the presidential palace in ruins, as well as the national cathedral located downtown and a large hospital in the suburb of Pétionville. As the news continue to trickle in, I fear that many more parts of Port-au-Prince, other large cities and parts of the countryside have fallen to pieces, leaving thousands dead or missing, and without shelter.

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Tags: Haiti Earthquake

How to Help Haitian Relief Efforts

January 13, 2010

by AQ Online

Immediate international assistance is critical for Haiti after yesterday’s magnitude 7.0 earthquake hit near the capital city of Port-au-Prince. Today’s Daily Focus is dedicated to how AQ Online visitors can help.

All reports coming out of Haiti point to a catastrophic loss of life, the widespread destruction of already frail infrastructure and a looming humanitarian disaster. Haitian President René Préval described “unimaginable” destruction in his first public statement since the earthquake, reporting that “Parliament has collapsed. The tax office has collapsed. Schools have collapsed. Hospitals have collapsed.”

Haiti’s capacity to respond to such events is extremely limited and foreign aid and assistance provided by governments and non-governmental sources will be crucial.

AS/COA Online provides a comprehensive list of ways to support relief efforts
. One such way is through Yele Haiti, the non-profit organization founded by Haitian musician Wyclef Jean, who spoke with Americas Quarterly for the Fall 2009 issue. Text the word “Yele” to 501501 to donate $5 to relief.

These sites also have compiled lists of organizations currently accepting donations: Six ways you can help in Haiti, Haiti Disaster Relief: How to Contribute.

If you are interested in sponsoring a New York-based team of doctors and paramedics experienced in disaster-relief who are working to get to Haiti, please contact aqinfo@as-coa.org.

Please post your comments here on other ways to help Haiti.

Tags: Haiti Earthquake, Humanitarian Relief for Haiti, Disaster Assistance, Haiti Relief Efforts