Haiti Earthquake Update (5/9/2010)

By Bryan Schaaf on Sunday, May 9, 2010.

The transition from emergency relief to reconstruction is happening, albeit slowly.  It won’t be easy and there will be setbacks, particularly given that the rainy season is upon us along with the risks it brings of flooding, mudslides, infectious diseases, and infrastructure damage.  Engineers have completed emergency mitigation measures at six of the most vulnerable settlements to protect the most vulnerable, but much remains to be done.

 

In terms of the big picture, the Haitian government is still trying to get back on its feet.  They lost a third of their civil servants, most Ministry buildings, and the National Palace during the earthquake.  The United States has provided its former embassy building to the Haitian government, where the Office of the Prime Minister and Ministry of Planning now operate.  A Command Center has been constructed on the grounds of the National Palace but it will not be operationally until early June.  It will house the Offices of the President, Prime Minister, Minister of Finance, as well as the Bureau of Taxation.

 

Land was a source of tension before the earthquake, during the emergency response, and if unresolved, it will remain so during the reconstruction.  Only five percent of Haiti’s land is registered and ownership is often unclear.  There is not an accountable and effective mechanism for addressing land disputes in Haiti.  In response, the Organization of American States (OAS) has agreed to help the Haitian government to title 100% of land over the next seven years.

 

Some private land owners have been pressuring the displaced to leave their properties.  In many neighborhoods, the displaced are residing in schools.  In some of these neighborhoods, community members have also been pressuring the displaced to leave as they want their children to resume their educations as soon as possible.  Forced evictions have occurred.  The government declared a moratorium on IDP evictions from schools on April 28 although an official document to that end was never released.  The government is now negotiating with private land owners to build and maintain additional settlements on their properties for pre-determined periods of time.

 

The Haitian government does not want the settlements to become permanent slums.  While exact numbers are difficult to come by, most agree that a number of people living in the camps were not victims of the earthquake so much as victims of abject poverty.  In other words, there is evidence that the services available in these camps (water, health care, etc.) act as a magnet for people in neighborhoods such as Cite Soleil where access to basic services is very limited.  The fact that these settlements seem like a step up is indicative of how sorely in need of development the slums of Port au Prince are.

 

What we will likely see going forward are services becoming less camp based and more community oriented.  Services will probably shift to communities near/around the camps as opposed to in the camps themselves.  This should also help to support neighborhoods that were damaged in the earthquake.  The Haitian government now needs to articulate its vision for addressing the needs of the displaced – both those in Port au Prince as well as the upwards of 600,000 individuals who are staying with friends and families throughout the country. The secondary cities and countryside have been neglected for decades and opportunities to work and study are limited.  There is some evidence that those who went to their communities of origin are beginning to return to Port au Prince for the same reason that they went there in the first place - because that is where the jobs are.  More attention and resources are needed to help host families, with food and livelihoods in particular, so that they can continue to care for friends and family.  Many of these host families were food insecure before the earthquake and their ability to host is not limitless.  The success of the harvest will likely play an important role in determining how long.

 

The Preval Administration had made some progress in clamping down on the drug trade in Haiti.  I am worried that the most neglected parts of the country now risk becoming narco-regions.  It is not a coincidence that long forgotten Port de Paix is such an active trans-shipment point for drugs.  Without economic opportunities, the same could happen in Northern Haiti and elsewhere. When drug dealers have more power than the politicians, or when the politicians are drug dealers, development becomes a real challenge.

 

The Haitian government and the United Nations are conducting a structural assessment of buildings throughout Port au Prince. Over 54,000 buildings, churches, schools, police stations, and other structures have been evaluated so far.  Forty two percent of assessed buildings so far are safe for habitation, thirty two percent could be made safe with repairs, and twenty six percent were unsafe and require demolition.  By end May, over 100,000 structures will have been evaluated at which point assessments outside of Port au Prince will begin.

 

If you’ve noticed green spray point on a building in Port au Prince, that means it was determined to be safe.  Yellow is for buildings that were damaged. The yellow buildings are subdivided into those which require only minor repairs to be habitable, those which require moderate repairs, and finally those which require advanced skills/equipment to rehabilitate.  If a building is marked for demolition, that raises the question of who should do it and who should remove the rubble.  The ambiguity is a disenctive for owners to reconstruct.

 

Many of the buildings marked green remain unoccupied.   Some families prefer to be in the settlements where services are presently located.  Some do not want to go back until their friends and neighbors do.  Others are understandably traumatized and afraid to sleep within their residences.  Many have lost their jobs and can no longer afford rent.  Still, the assessment seems to have built confidence.  The United Nations reports that approximately half of the houses classified as safe have become occupied following release of assessment results.  The rest of those whose housing has been identified as habitable will likely move back when heavy rains become regular occurences.

 

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) 49% of people registered in spontaneous settlements in the Port-au-Prince area as of April 26 were renters prior to the earthquake, while approximately 37% of individuals owned houses. The remaining 14% of displaced individuals did not clearly identify whether they rented or owned houses.  Renters are not going to clear the rubble from land they do not own.  Owners are not going to pay for (very expensive) rubble removal if they think that squatters are going to take over their property once completed.

 

Cash for work programs are a critical for helping families and communities to recover.  However, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) reports that relief organizations are experiencing difficulties working with mayors’ offices on Cash for Work (CFW) activities and rubble removal from schools.  Some local authorities are demanding that agencies employ specific individuals for CFW activities or seek kickbacks from wages provided to beneficiaries.  Some NGOs have been forced to halt operations until disputes can be resolved.  Building local governance capacity and accountability will be key to long term recovery.

 

On May 2nd the Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) organized a cross sectoral shelter working group.  This should have happened sooner.  Security, protection, health, livelihoods, and long-term recovery depend on shelter.  The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) continues to play a lead role in providing emergency shelter materials to the displaced.

 

From a health perspective, acute respiratory infections are the more commonly reported illnesses among the displaced.  Some NGOs report increases in suspected malaria.  No diseases are above what what would normally be expected for this time of year.  In April, the Ministry of Public Health and Population (MoSPP) announced the extension of free access to medicine and services until mid-July.  OCHA reported that as of April 23, more than 116,000 long-lasting insecticide-treated mosquito nets (LLIN) had been distributed to earthquake affected populations.  Haitians do not have a long tradition of using mosquito nets.  Awareness raising campaigns will be required to encourage their retention and use.  The MENTOR Initiative is coordinating efforts to control vector borne diseases such as malaria in Port au Prince.  As of mid-April, the MENTOR Initiative had trained nearly 300 health workers and volunteers working on the prevention, treatment, and diagnosis of vector-borne diseases.

 

OCHA reports that the primary protection concern remains the safety of children during the process of relocating displaced families from spontaneous to planned settlements.  Humanitarian agencies have registered more than 1,200 separated children and continue to trace 278 families. The U.N. has established a Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (PSEA) core group in Haiti to coordinate and oversee prevention of sexual violence by relief organization personnel.

 

The Haitian Government plans to release its 2010 Hurricane Season Contingency Plan on May 15, with the expectation that  humanitarian partners with individual preparedness plans will adhere to the GoH framework.  The GoH Department of Civil Protection (DPC) is participating in a joint effort with humanitarian agencies to  inventory relief supplies in-country to determine available resources for response.

 

From a high of 22,000 troops, the U.S. military operation is now down to 1,300 troops.  As of June 1, the Louisiana National Guard will be in charge of a 500-person contingent, based in Gonaives.  Other National Guard units will rotate in every two weeks from Nevada, Montana, Arizona, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.  Last month, the Seabees built retaining walls, carved out drainage canals and sponsored cash-for-work programs to clear garbage from culverts in nine camps at highest risk from flooding.

 

Spanish troops left Haiti after wrapping up a three-month mission. According to the Spanish government, the 450-strong contingent treated more than 8,300 Haitians and vaccinated some 21,000, removed tons of rubble from devastated homes and opened roads since arriving in late January.

 

Haiti remains politically fragile.  President Preval is scheduled to depart office on February 7th.  Hopefully, elections will happen before then.  As a contingency plan, Préval is asking parliament to allow him to remain in office three months longer if necessary.  This has been controversial, especially given a perceived lack of Haitian leadership in response to the quake. There is the possibility of opposition protests if the measure passes.  At this point, one cannot help but wonder who has the knowledge, skills, and political savvy to be the next Haitian president given the challenges ahead. 

 

The World Bank’s Special Envoy for Haiti, Alexandre Abrantes, said that he sees his assignment as a mission to help rebuild the Caribbean nation as a regional model for reconstruction. Abrantes stated that the pillars supporting this goal are good governance and strong community involvement.  His priorities are to help the Haitian government to better manage the risk of catastrophes, expand the nation's safety nets and rebuild the government's capacity to function efficiently while improving its governance long-term.  He hopes to apply Brazilian experience in social protection programs to Haiti.  For example, Brazil's Bolsa Familia Conditional Cash Transfer program (CCT) provides poor families with a basic income in exchange for their commitment to keeping their children in school and taking them to the doctor for regular checkups.  He holds a seat at the Trust Fund Steering Committee where the Bank ensures that projects are aligned with the government's overall reconstruction strategy. In overseeing the Multi Donor Trust Fund, the Bank also has oversight of financial decisions made.

 

According to long-time Haiti watcher Robert Maguire, this is a ‘defining moment’ in Haiti’s development, and for U.S. leadership and engagement.  He notes it affords an opportunity for the U.S. to engage a global consortium of donors and to work alongside a  diverse array of actors, including Central and South American countries, who are robustly engaged in Haiti.  As an example, the United States and Cuba (not exactly the closest of neighbords) communicated and cooperated during the earthquake response.  Had the U.S. government been aware of what Cuba was doing and where, we might have worked together more effectively.  You can read an interesting United States Institute of Peace (USIP) brief by Robert Maguire on the Haiti Donors Conference and the way ahead here.

 

The US Congress has passed a measure expanding duty-free access for Haitian textile and apparel goods.  It now goes to President Obama to be signed into law.  In a nutshell, the Haiti Economic Lift Program (HELP) Act would expand duty-free access to the US market for additional Haitian textile and apparel exports and extend existing trade preference programs for Haiti through 2020.  Foreign direct investment would most help Haiti if it took place throughout Haiti and not just in Port au Prince where most factories have traditionally been located.

 

So many aspects of development in Haiti - environment, health, water, nutrition, livelihoods, women's rights - could have been considered emergencies even before the earthquake.  Reconstruction presents an opportunity to address these issues head on.  One of the challenges now is to incorporate the displaced into plans and strategies that will guide Haiti toward sustainable development.  It is going to take time, coordination and resources but there is still hope for a better future.

 

Bryan

 

Note:  Photo provided courtesy of CNN 

UN aid official frustrated with Haiti progress (AP - 6/13/2010)

The U.N.'s humanitarian chief acknowledged frustration Sunday with the slow progress in providing shelter to the 1.5 million Haitians still homeless because of the Jan. 12 earthquake, and said a large amount of work needs to be done as the hurricane season bears down on the struggling nation.
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John Holmes told The Associated Press that the complex process of finding available land for transitional shelters, slow decision-making by the government and new waves of Haitians moving into homeless camps have made responding to the crisis particularly hard. "We are a bit frustrated that it's taken so long," said Holmes, who is in Australia for a meeting of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs' donor support group. "We've not been able to build many of these transitional shelters so far."
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The hurricane season began last week and forecasters are predicting it will be an active one, with as many as 23 named tropical storms. Deforestation and erosion has left Haiti particularly vulnerable to flooding and mudslides, and a big storm will create misery for those still living under tarps in flood zones five months after the quake. "We have a lot of things to do and a lot of concerns and a lot of risks before we feel we're in a more comfortable situation," Holmes said.
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Complicating matters further is the influx of Haitians moving into homeless camps, which have swelled in size to 1.5 million _ almost twice as many as the number estimated soon after the quake. Following the disaster, hundreds of thousands fled the devastated capital, Port-au-Prince, to outlying cities to stay with relatives. But conditions in those areas are not much better, and with nothing to do and no income, they've begun to head back to the capital and settle in the camps, Holmes said.
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Others can no longer afford to pay their rent and feel they have no other alternative but to move to the camps, he said. And although some houses have been deemed safe for people to move back into, many residents are too scared to return, fearing another tremor. Many Haitians also believe they will get more food and medical aid if they're in the camps than if they're not, Holmes said.
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"People feel that somehow that if they're in the camps, then something will be provided in the end _ and of course to some extent, it's true," Holmes said. "But I think they may have exaggerated expectations ... which we need to manage. But that's also the responsibility of the government."
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Haiti's government has provided another challenge to the process of sheltering the homeless, Holmes said. Its infrastructure was shattered by the quake, and it is still not fully functioning, which means tough decisions take a long time to make, he said. One major hurdle: getting government approval to build semi-permanent shelters made of wood with galvanized iron roofs. There is no land to build such housing in Port-au-Prince, and though areas have been identified outside the city, it has been hard to reach consensus between land owners, local authorities and the central government, Holmes said.
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That's because officials know that transitional settlements are likely to end up becoming permanent settlements for some, which calls into question issues of what will happen to the houses and the people in the long term. Holmes said he predicts it will be many more months before proper reconstruction can begin. "It has been an uphill struggle the whole way to make progress," he said.

Storm season heightens Haiti's vulnerability (5/13/2010)

Palm Beast Post
By John Lantigua
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PETIONVILLE, HAITI — Wilbert Lucien frowns when he looks up at the rain clouds. A lot of people here do that these days. "It could be very bad if we get a hurricane here," he said. "Very bad." Haitians have already seen the terrifying power of nature this year - the Jan. 12 earthquake - and the start of the hurricane season has made them extremely vulnerable again. Lucien stands in a refugee camp for quake survivors built in a steep ravine on the edge of a golf course in this town above the capital of Port-au-Prince. Since the quake, at least 25,000 people have squatted here in makeshift shacks patched together from scraps of wood, plastic tarps and sheets of zinc roofing. Those flimsy structures barely cling to the sloping ground. Wind and rain are the last things they need.
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Lucien, who said he would much rather be living with his cousin, Maxwell Lucien, in West Palm Beach, is a camp security guard. He fears it will be very difficult to protect the inhabitants if a big storm hits. Mark Saintvil, who works in the camp for an aid organization sponsored by actor Sean Penn, agrees. His son, Lilmark, used to live in Boynton Beach but has since moved to Georgia. His father is glad his son is not in the refugee camp.
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"If a hurricane were to hit here today, I'm afraid some of these people would die," Saintvil said. It certainly looks like a disaster waiting to happen. But international aid professionals in Haiti are not so pessimistic. They say South Florida residents should not imagine winds like those of hurricanes Charley or Andrew, Categories 4 and 5, attacking the capital. "This region is protected by high mountains and we are told that winds have never gone above 85 miles per hour around here," said Richard Poole of the American Refugee Committee.
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That is still a Category 1 hurricane, and the structures in the camps seem extremely rickety for that much wind. But U.N. staffers and other aid workers say they and the Haitian people are making preparations for a big blow. Since the quake, Haiti has been filled with experts on natural disasters, engineers, builders, and health professionals.
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"Right now in Haiti the international community has tremendous capacity," said Giovanni Riccardi Candiani, head of contingency planning for the U.N. Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance. "We have a great ability to mitigate the effects of a hurricane." He said hundreds of refugee camps, ranging from 45,000 inhabitants to handfuls of people, have sprung up around the earthquake zone. They hold more than 1 million people, but the inhabitants considered in the most danger are those living in low-lying areas.
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"It is not so much the wind that is the danger here, but the water, the flooding," Riccardi said. "If you go back to Gonaives in 2004, those people died from flooding, not wind." He is referring to the central Haitian city where 3,000 people were killed by tropical rains six years ago. "Back then the biggest problem Haiti had when it came to storms was letting people know what was coming and having them prepared," he said. "Now with all the organizations here and the Haitian government, too, we have an excellent early warning system."
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Riccardi said a "situation room" has been established at U.N. headquarters near the Port-au-Prince airport, which will be staffed by U.N. personnel, other international organizations and Haitian government ministries. "If we know that 10 inches of rain are coming in the next 24 hours we will be moving SUVs and trucks, helicopters, whatever, to those areas that are the most vulnerable, before the rain hits," he said. He said evacuation plans are in place for some areas. But where will people be evacuated to in a region that saw tens of thousands of structures collapse on Jan. 12?
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The answer to that question is a patchwork - a bit like the huts where the people now live. Hal Taylor, 64, of San Jose, Calif., a volunteer with the United Methodist Church, works at the refugee camp outside Tabarre, a neighborhood on the edge of Port-au-Prince. The camp holds about 2,500 people.
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"The people there have a contingency plan to go into Tabarre and sit it out with people whose concrete homes are still standing, until it all passes," he said. Poole, of the American Refugee Committee, is the director of a new camp 15 miles from downtown Port-au-Prince in a place called Corail. The camp holds 5,000 people in 1,300 spacious new "tunnel tents" that are supported by arched fiberglass rods. They are supposed to withstand winds of 75 mph.
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But Poole said a contingency plan exists in the event of strong winds. Residents would remove the rods from the tents and create structures that stand just a couple of feet off the ground, tie down those structures, lie down and ride it out. "The idea is to get close to the ground and let the wind go over you," he said. Riccardi said yet another contingency plan exists for another low-lying camp.
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"The owner of the land where the camp is located also owns the land just above the camp," he said. "We have already arranged with him to move those people uphill if necessary." Not all landowners have been as helpful. Acquiring the rights to use private lands for shelters has been a problem, once again pitting the haves against the have-nots in Haiti.
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Aid experts are also trying to get more people to move back into their old concrete homes. Many of those structures have been studied by engineers and judged to be safe. But many Haitians have been left so traumatized by the quake and the aftershocks they refuse to do that. The experts figure as the rains increase, more will make the move.
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But tens of thousands of people have no home and no family members who can help. Cities outside Port-au-Prince, such as Jacmel and Leogane, were hit even worse by the quake and are also more exposed to strong hurricane winds. Riccardi said plans are being developed for those people but are not finalized. One possibility is the building of large temporary structures where people can take shelter.
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"A large steel warehouse with concrete slab floors is something we can build in five days," he said. "We have that ability. It is something that is possible." Another plan in the works is to quickly rebuild large public buildings destroyed in the earthquake, especially schools, that also can be used as hurricane shelters. "The schools have to be rebuilt anyway," Riccardi said. "I know it seems like there isn't much time. Hurricane season has already started. But it can be done. We have the capacity, the technology, and those kinds of resources. There is a long tradition in Haiti of taking refuge in schools and churches during storms."
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Riccardi said decisions are close to being made. One person pressuring for more action is former President Bill Clinton, co-chair of the U.N.'s Haiti Reconstruction Committee. Clinton is due in Haiti on Monday and decisions may be announced this week, Riccardi hinted. Haitians living in the refugee camps wonder why the decisions haven't been made already.
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Solange Bernard, 48, a widow who lives in the St. Pierre Plaza camp in Petionville with her children, said it rained hard Monday and her tent leaked. "Me and my children had to stand up on our beds and lift the roof of the tent to try to keep the rain from coming through the holes," she said. "Still it came in and we had to capture it in buckets. "We know people are trying to help us," she said, "but what will happen when a hurricane comes? They haven't told us where we will go. I'm very worried."

Haiti’s Displaced See Their Stories on TV (NYT - 6/9/2010)

By Damien Cave
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http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/10/world/americas/10haiti.html
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CARADEUX CAMP, Haiti — The movie screen rose like an apparition, in the middle of a tent city, on a hillside veined by rain. “Under the Sky,” the title card said, and sure enough, a soap opera about a family living right here suddenly appeared. Love and scandal followed, but the episode focused mainly on one issue: con men in the camps. After a slick villain in dark sunglasses tried to sell registration cards to the show’s main characters, claiming falsely that they could be redeemed for cash, officials with the International Organization for Migration suddenly appeared to save the day.
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“That guy was a thief,” said the patriarch of the family, played by one of Haiti’s most famous actors, Lionel Benjamin. “I knew he was trouble.” First, Haitians received food and shelter; now the moving image has joined the humanitarian response. All over this rattled capital city, Port-au-Prince, outdoor screens are popping up, as a handful of organizations race to produce programming that entertains and informs the hundreds of thousands of displaced people living in camps without televisions or radios.
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The soap opera, financed by the United Nations and its partners, for instance, is part of a 16-episode series shown three nights a week in 16 camps, along with music videos and Haitian movies. Several other groups — including FilmAid, founded by Caroline Baron, who produced “Capote” — are also setting up programs to show movies and train Haitians to shoot their own. And while the result may be amusing, the impetus was serious: organizers say the programs will fill in for a government that has failed to communicate effectively, letting rumors and schemes spread among those most desperate for help.
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“We need to get them good information, not disinformation,” said David Wimhurst, the United Nations spokesman in Haiti. “We have a lot to tell them.” Coming episodes of the soap opera will deal with how to better secure the tents and tarpaulins that many here now call home. There may also be lessons on mosquito nets and vaccinations; on sanitation; and on how to stay safe in the sprawling camps. Each episode cost about $6,000 to produce, and Mr. Wimhurst said the goal was to create something useful and funny. Ms. Baron, who has been screening films at refugee camps in Africa for 11 years, said the best humanitarian programming included fun and function, with a local face.
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“It’s very important that the films we make for the community are by the community so they are readily and easily understood,” she said in an interview after meeting with Haitian officials. “No matter what the subject matter, people enjoy themselves because they can relate to the people on the screen.”
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But the challenges facing these projects are immense. During one recent day on location with “Under the Sky,” the experience of filming was as revealing as the episode itself. One frustration followed another. First, the director of the series, Jacques Roc, 54, who left Haiti when he was 14 and spent most of his career in New York directing commercials and writing jingles, was pulled away to another camp because one of his projectionists had been roughed up.
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The free entertainment apparently undercut some local operators, who were charging $3 “for a little screen in a tent,” he said. “Whenever we’re there, they don’t make any money.” Before he returned, the blinding heat arrived. By 11:30 a.m., it was over 90 degrees and humid on the set. Mr. Benjamin sat sweating and waiting for his cue to start, which finally came an hour later. It was a simple scene for the tent episode, with migration officials showing the family how to use stones to secure tents, but the set in the middle of the camp drew too much attention.
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At one point, a little boy shook a tambourine outside a play area. Later, production staff members threw pebbles at people walking by to keep them moving along rather than gathering and wondering if they might get a job. After dark, Mr. Roc tried to pick up a few shots inside the green army tent he used as a set. It had a mattress on the floor, a dinner table and porcelain figurines in a wooden hutch — a sign that the family at the heart of the drama had been middle class.
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Mr. Roc’s long curls bobbed beneath a baseball cap as he prepared to get started, but then it started raining. A tropical storm had moved over the country. The water pounded away, as if a million golf balls had been dropped on the tent at once. Then it appeared inside, slipping beside the mattress and around the electric lights.
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Mr. Roc, who sleeps in the camp a few nights a week, had seen it before. The first time it rained during a shoot, the production’s two dozen employees scrambled to move their equipment from the ground. “If we had done this episode earlier,” he said, laughing, referring to the tent segment, “maybe we would have been prepared.”
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Over all, in fact, the impact of the soaps and other efforts is hard to measure. Haiti has 1,322 camps, with more than 10,000 tents and 564,000 tarpaulins covering more than a million people, according to migration officials. A few dozen screens, or even 300, would reach only a small percentage of the displaced. At the same time, aid groups have expressed concern about the camps’ becoming permanent slums. Mark Turner, a spokesman for the International Organization for Migration, said the population of the camps continues to grow nearly five months after the earthquake, partly because some people use them as a hub of free assistance, even if their homes are intact. The movie screens, for now at least, are yet another lure.
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On the other hand, when the screens appear in a landscape left mostly dark, outside, with a cool breeze, it can be hard for Haitians not to see it as magical. A few days after Mr. Roc’s rainout here in Caradeux, the screen came alive with his work, which then gave way to gospel music videos. Teenagers gathered to watch and flirt in the early evening darkness, while up on the hill, Ameniz Auxide, 54, swayed, prayed and sang along with what she saw. “If you listen and watch,” she said, her face lit by the screen, “you feel like God is with us.”

Decentralized Government Goal of Haiti's Rebuilding Effort

Catholic News Service
By Dennis Sadowski
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Road construction and other infrastructure improvements are beginning outside of the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince in a wide-ranging effort to rebuild parts of the country devastated by the Jan. 12 earthquake. Haiti's ambassador to the United States, Raymond Joseph, said the work in outlying areas is vital to the government's plan to decentralize services and to make it easier for people to move from the distressed capital to rural communities and small towns targeted for future development.
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In a June 2 interview with Catholic News Service, Joseph also complimented the initial response of aid agencies, including the Catholic Church's Caritas Haiti, but urged nongovernmental organizations to speed up the delivery of aid in the quake zone to ease a growing concern among victims that they are being overlooked now that the world's attention has turned to other problems.
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In addition, Joseph urged the world's nations to begin to pay toward their pledges of support for Haiti's rebuilding, as promised during the March 31 U.N.-sponsored conference of donor nations, and for the World Bank to finalize membership of the oversight commission charged with dispersing aid through the Haiti Reconstruction Fund set up for the pledges. In March, donor nations pledged $5.3 billion through 2011 and a total of $9.9 billion through 2014 for Haiti's rebuilding. Only Brazil has begun payments toward its pledge with a $55 million contribution May 11, according to the World Bank.
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"Brazil started the ball rolling," Joseph told CNS. "I said recently Brazil scored the first goal. "At that point, I took the opportunity to remind the international community, those who have pledged, that it's time to pony up," he added. The World Bank subsequently announced that confirmations of intent to contribute have come from Canada, Estonia, Norway, Sweden, Saudi Arabia and the United States. The World Bank also said that at least 14 other countries are expected to chip in to replenish the fund that opened in April with an initial grant of $189 million for recovery efforts.
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Overall, recovery and rebuilding remains steady, but slow, Joseph explained. But he cautioned that it will be private investors, not world governments, who will develop Haiti. "The government is there to prepare the infrastructure and provide security," he said. The earthquake, centered about 15 miles southwest of Port-au-Prince, affected about 20 percent of the country but disrupted 80 percent of the country's economy, he said.
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Seventeen of 18 government ministries were destroyed during the 47-second quake. In the five months since the disaster, Joseph acknowledged that "ministers are not working in tip-top shape, but ... things are going on." "So the lesson is right there for us to learn that we should not have all our eggs in one basket," he said. "So where do we stand? The prime minister of Haiti (Jean-Max Bellerive) said we've gone from generalized chaos to controlled chaos. Right now I think we are passing the stage of controlled chaos to a debut of development in that some work has started," he said.
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But first, Joseph said, the country must set priorities. "Everything is a priority in Haiti," he told CNS. "We have so many choices we are faced with a dilemma." The emphasis on decentralization is also aimed at moving a large segment of the capital's 2.5 million to 3 million people out of Port-au-Prince, a city originally built for 300,000 people.
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Housing is a vital need as well, Joseph said, especially because about 1 million people were left homeless by the temblor. The ambassador estimated that 200,000 to 300,000 people remain in hundreds of makeshift tent camps in and around the capital. Many people have returned to their neighborhoods after inspections found their homes safe, but often return to the camps when word of an aid distribution spreads, Joseph said.
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A CRS staff member told CNS that he found some people do return to the camps when they hear that food distribution is expected, but that the number of people doing so is minimal. He said the vast majority of people remaining in the camps are homeless. Joseph said the government is sorting through numerous offers of housing assistance. The goal is to construct new homes and apartment buildings according to Western building codes, he said.
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Recent demonstrations in the capital have called upon the government to act more quickly in addressing housing needs, especially because the Atlantic hurricane season has begun. The normal rainy season of April and May was less severe than usual, but camp-dwellers living under tarps and plastic sheeting know one hurricane or tropical storm can be deadly. However, Joseph dismissed the protests, telling CNS they appeared to be "some political manipulation because they want to make the government look bad." "The (homeless) people for whom they are supposedly demonstrating are not joining in," he said.

U.S. may extend deadline for Haitian TPS (6/3/2010)

Miami Herald
By ALFONSO CHARDY
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The head of the Homeland Security office in charge of processing applications for Haitian temporary protected status said Wednesday his agency is ``looking at'' a possible extension of the filing period beyond the July 20 deadline. Alejandro Mayorkas, head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, made the statement during a telephone conference call with immigration attorneys and immigrant rights activists involved with Haitian communities in the United States.
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Mayorkas was responding to a request to extend the deadline by one of the activists participating in the call, Steven Forester, Miami-based representative of the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti. ``There will be a need for an extension,'' said Forester, in addressing his request to Mayorkas. Forester said an extension was needed because of a number of problems lawyers helping Haitians file applications have encountered, including high fees, that have prevented some from filing. Forester proposed a six-month extension.
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``We could not broadcast an extension before the fact,'' Mayorkas replied. ``You summarize a concern with respect to a need for an extension that we have heard in various parts of the country. We are mindful of that need and are looking at that issue at this time.'' Mayorkas said that so far his agency has received about 52,000 Haitian TPS applications, still a relatively low number compared to the 100,000 to 200,000 initially expected after the benefit was granted in the days following the Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti.
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Mayorkas later acknowledged an error in citing such a high number that he described as an internal estimate of what his agency was prepared to handle. ``Our initial estimates were between 100,000 to 200,000,'' said Mayorkas. ``I think we made a mistake in sharing publicly what we viewed as numbers for which we should be operationally prepared.'' He said a more realistic estimate was between 70,000 and 100,000.

Red Cross joins international organizations in hygiene drive

6/8/2010
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The Haitian Red Cross Society (HRCS) joined international NGOs working in water and sanitation in Haiti [on 25 May 2010] to stage a special street event opposite Port-au-Prince’s Place Saint-Pierre camp, where an estimated 6,000 people settled after the 12 January disaster. HRCS volunteers led a crocodile of some 300 children from the camp around the Place Saint-Pierre square in Pétionville to where an interagency health promotion fair was held in tented stands.
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The event was organized by the Hygiene Promotion sub-cluster and included groups like Oxfam and Save the Children. According to Pauline Mwaniki, coordinator of the sub-cluster, “the fact that there has been no major outbreak of disease is partly due to humanitarian agencies’ efforts to spread hygiene messages.” “With the rainy season intensifying,” Mwaniki added, “the risks are increasing though due to overcrowding in the camps so we are planning to launch a nationwide health awareness campaign.”
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Diarrhoea is one of the leading causes of death of children under five in Haiti. Even before the earthquake, children could expect to fall ill between four and six times a year. “There is diarrhoea in the camps but our hygiene promotion messages are helping in the fight against the disease, ” said HRCS health coordinator Sherley Bernard, who helped lead the children in songs and dances intended to convey key health messages in a fun way.
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“Now that the rainy season has really started, we have to intensify our efforts to ensure camp communities practise good personal hygiene and that they know how to store water safely and dispose of waste.” The Place Saint-Pierre camp was one of the first in the immediate aftermath of the quake to receive worldwide publicity about its insanitary, overcrowded conditions. A week after the quake, French television reported from the camp that the focus on providing immediate medical care to victims meant hygiene had to “take a backseat”.
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Things are better there now but still far from perfect. People have safe water, but as Friday’s event got underway women stripped to the waist bathed standing up in the newly dug storm drain surrounding the camp. Workers from Save the Children engage children from Place Saint-Pierre camp in Pétionville, Port-au-Prince, in games about key hygiene practices including hand-washing with soap.
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Led by Red Cross volunteers and staff from the organizations taking part, children from Place Saint-Pierre camp took to the streets to sing about how washing hands with soap and water can save lives. Amongst them was Milien Robenson, 13, whose family has been living in the camp since their house collapsed. “It is really good to be able to sing and play games,” he said, “as it takes my mind off the earthquake and I no longer feel so afraid.”
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Mothers came from the Place Saint-Pierre camp to hear how washing hands with soap after going to the toilet or before handling food and babies can prevent diarrhoea. At the Pétionville event, mothers were given a bar of soap to encourage healthy behaviour, but organizers said the biggest challenge is matching messages with actual hardware like drains, toilets and washing facilities.
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“We have an integrated approach,” said Gaelle Fohr, an International Federation health promotion delegate, who also spent the day at Place Saint-Pierre. “In each of the camps where we organize health promotion activities, we also provide water, sanitation and health services.” So far more than 150,000 people have been reached with hygiene promotion work in more than 100 camps where HRCS volunteers work with the International Federation and National Societies.
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Twenty-three-year old volunteer Jeanne Jaboin is a trained nurse and works for the French Red Cross in several camps. Like many of the volunteers she also lost her house in the earthquake and is living with her husband and three children in a makeshift camp by the sea. “In my camp there are no latrines and the water gets easily contaminated,” says Jaboin, “but at least I can use what I’ve learnt as a Red Cross volunteer to help my community stay healthy and avoid disease.”
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Even though some of the HRCS volunteers lost homes, family and livelihoods, they remain committed to helping others less fortunate than themselves. Saturday’s event had been originally planned for Haitian flag day on 18 May – the anniversary of the adoption of the country’s flag, made from the red and blue of the French tricolour, but it had to be postponed.“Even at this difficult time we are proud to be Haitians,” said Bernard, “and as Red Cross volunteers we want to do everything we can to contribute to our country’s recovery.”

IDB to invest $200 million in Haiti’s agriculture through 2014

6/3/2010
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The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) will make $200 million in grants over five years to strengthen land tenure rights, boost agricultural production, increase market access for farmers and reinforce food security in Haiti. The grants will cover a quarter of the total cost of a Haitian government plan to revamp farming after the Jan. 12 earthquake.
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The grants will mark a significant increase in IDB support for rural development in Haiti. Between 2003 and 2009 the Bank approved $129 million for projects in this strategic sector, which accounts for quarter of the country's gross domestic product and generates jobs and incomes for millions of Haitians.
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"Agriculture is key to reviving Haiti's economy after the earthquake," said Hector Malarin, chief of the IDB's Rural Development and Environment Division. "We want to help Haiti improve its food security conditions with projects that boost productivity and contribute to attract investment to rural areas."
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The IDB will finance projects to improve economic and environmental conditions in rural communities, fostering sustainable crop production. These investments will build on past projects involving irrigation and watershed management, as well as on efforts to combat pests and diseases affecting key crops. They will also promote farming techniques to reduce soil erosion and boost productivity.
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One of the cornerstones will be to improve the system to recognize land tenure as a means to stimulate long-term investment in rural areas. Currently, few Haitian farmers have clear title to their land and the country lacks a modern property registry system.
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Under this project, which is being discussed with the Haitian government and other international organizations, the IDB will seek to increase the number of titled properties and improve the quality and access of registry services in certain rural communities, particularly in regions where the IDB is financing projects. The IDB is Haiti's leading multilateral donor. In March, as part of an agreement to increase the Bank's capital, the IDB Board of Governors approved an unprecedented package of financial support for Haiti, which will include $2 billion in grants over the next decade.

Red Cross honors Mat Marek (6/5/20010)

Citizen's Voice
By Kristen Gaydos
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The contrast between an impoverished and devastated nation like Haiti to the prosperous United States has become almost normal to American Red Cross aid worker Matt Marek after many twice-yearly journeys home to the Wyoming Valley. "There's always a little bit of strangeness, but it's home," he said.
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Marek, the American Red Cross director of programs in Haiti, returned Thursday to his native Plains Township to reunite with his family and receive accolades for his aid work after the 7.0-magnitude earthquake rocked the Caribbean country in January. The Wyoming Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross presented Marek with its Humanitarian Award on Friday during the third annual Heroes Breakfast at the East Mountain Inn in Plains Township.
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The Haitian earthquake has been bumped out of the limelight as new disasters such as the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico captured the nation's attention, but the country's recovery is far from complete. Marek, based in the capital city of Port-au-Prince, was the first member of the American Red Cross disaster team to assist in the rescue effort. Now, he's coordinating a multi-year recovery process, as the Red Cross initiated programs focusing on disaster preparedness and improving the Haitians' livelihoods, as well as providing water and sanitation.
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"The unfortunate, hard truth is people are going to be homeless for a very long time," he said. "Getting people back to where they were in all aspects … That's going to take some time." The resources donated during initial fundraising drives was enough to make a start in righting the country, but only time will heal the deep structural and emotional wounds the earthquake broke open.
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"Time is what everything's about," Marek said. "It's not about more money, it's about time." Marek downplayed his own humanitarian efforts in Haiti during his speech, focusing on the efforts of the American Red Cross as a whole. He said the organization is the only reason his story is as unique as the those of the more than 2.5 million people in the Port-au-Prince area.
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"To be so far away, to be part of the response effort that has assisted millions of people, then to come home and get a chance to thank everyone for their support, is really, really special," he said. Through the organization's efforts, more than 500,000 people have emergency shelter, 1.5 million liters of water are served to people on a daily basis, and more than 1.2 million people had nourishment for the two months after the quake, he said.
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During a video presentation of the Red Cross rescue efforts, a still shot captured Marek handing much-needed supplies to another relief worker. The image passed unnoticed for the many attendees finishing up their breakfast remnants or chatting with tablemates. It was a fitting testament to Marek's work in Haiti: done without seeking glory or acknowledgement; his primary goal to better the lives of those in need.
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Marek's Red Cross appointment was due to end this spring, but he has already signed on for an extended stay. Seven words are enough to capture why his son continues to aid the Haitians, said Ray Marek, while introducing him to the attendees in the packed ballroom. "'I stay, because I make a difference,'" Marek told his father a little over two years ago.
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Amy Gabriel, director of communications for the Wyoming Valley chapter, saluted Marek for taking the Red Cross' mission to heart and carrying it with him through his work and his life. "Matt was faced with challenges that many of us would not be able to accept," she said. "He did it with compassion."
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Gabriel also lauded the Marek family for banding together to raise awareness and money for relief efforts in their own community, a compliment to Marek's work thousands of miles away. At the mention of his family, Marek began clapping, prompting a round of applause for their support. Nearly 30 relatives and friends traveled from as far as Houston and Key West, Fla., to cheer on and catch up with a family member who has gone beyond the boundaries of both his home country and what most people could face.
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"With Matt came the Mareks," Gabriel said, adding Red Cross staffers convinced Marek's mother, Mary Jo, to participate in media interviews in support of her son and relief efforts, "which is an accomplishment."

The Rhapsody of Port-au-Prince’s Streets (6/3/2010)

Port-Au-Prince Journal
By DAMIEN CAVE
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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — The gray Toyota Corolla edged closer to the center of the intersection, trying to sneak past the man with a limp, directing traffic in Jordanian Army fatigues, with a whistle and purple plastic wand. Levy Azor, better known as Du Du, directing traffic in May at Borgela and Sans-Fil Streets. He works on his own, motivated by the need for order near his home.
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But Du Du would have none of it. He pointed his baton behind him, then spun around to confront the violator. A sharp whistle. An angry stare. The threat of gridlock faded. “I’m a professional,” Du Du said. “If I want to make traffic go or stop, I do it.”
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That may not sound like much, but in Port-au-Prince after the earthquake, driving is a 10th ring of hell. Picture roads overrun with tents, rubble, pedestrians and peddlers; tap-tap taxis stopping suddenly, dump trucks coughing black exhaust, few stoplights, 99-degree heat, no air-conditioning, dust, beggars and angry drivers blaring horns.
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Now imagine a symphony orchestra. Because that is exactly how Du Du (whose full name is Levy Azor) treats what the rest of us experience as chaos. No official entity has hired him. He is simply a freelancer with a passion for order. And at a time when Haiti’s government attracts mostly anger for its absence, Du Du — who works only for tips and refuses to join the police or military — has quickly become a symbol of hope; a whistle-blowing reminder of the creativity that blossoms in a stateless void.
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His friends and neighbors say that in his 23 years of unsanctioned service, he has never been more appreciated. “He’s working for the country,” said Michelle Anthony, 38, as she watched him recently from a food stand a few feet away. “He is working for us.” Not surprisingly, the earthquake nearly killed him. When the tremor hit around 5 p.m., Du Du was in his usual spot: the middle of Borgela and Sans-Fil Streets, a hilly hairpin intersection between downtown and the airport. A utility pole fell onto his legs as the buildings around him crumbled and the cars shook like toys.
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Nearly five months later, the area has yet to recover. A 360-degree tour of Du Du’s intersection now runs past a row of tents, buckled homes, a trash heap and vendors in tilted shacks. His two-room apartment close by — where he lives alone, with a mattress on the floor and only a calendar on the teal wall — managed to survive. But there have been other losses. Du Du, 43, is slower now, with his scarred legs. Many of his relatives are living in tents. Also, many of the drivers who used to give him larger tips of around 100 gourde ($2.50) no longer drive past. Du Du’s bright mahogany eyes fade when he mentions them. “Maybe they’re dead,” he says. “Maybe they left the country.”
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The traffic has changed too, he says. Drivers are more hot-tempered. There are fewer alternative routes because of the rubble and more trucks from nongovernmental organizations with utopian names, like World Vision. Nonetheless, there is a rhythm and a style to Du Du that seems to work no matter what the circumstances. His purple wand — which is actually a plastic stake for horseshoes — usually leads, but his body and his whistle work right along with it.
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On one recent afternoon, Du Du almost seemed to be dancing, as he waved, spun, whistled and bounced, moving a truck to take a right turn, guiding a station wagon forward, then skipping forward to stop traffic for a group of young girls returning from school in their navy-blue skirts. One girl looked up, amazed, as though she had come face to face with a superhero.
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Indeed, part of why Du Du matters to this city, and is almost universally known by its inhabitants, is because he brings joy to an unlikely location. Nearly every driver who passed during several recent traffic sessions smiled, seemingly thrilled to see that Du Du was there and in charge. Occasionally, people shouted — “Go, Du Du!” or “Great job!” — while one of every 20 or so drivers gave him a tip.
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Du Du says he does not really do it for the money. In fact, when an older white man offered him an American quarter on his way through the intersection, Du Du waved it away, explaining later that the driver had been promising to give him a tip for months and offered the coin only because a reporter was watching.
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He works on his own, he said, to preserve that measure of independence. Asked why he never became an official police officer or a soldier, given his collection of military fatigues, he said he had no interest in working for a government that does so little for its people. “I’m just trying to make my own way,” he said. “I love my job.”

UN aid official frustrated with Haiti progress (6/6/2010)

Associated Press
By KRISTEN GELINEAU
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The U.N.'s humanitarian chief acknowledged frustration Sunday with the slow progress in providing shelter to the 1.5 million Haitians still homeless because of the Jan. 12 earthquake, and said a large amount of work needs to be done as the hurricane season bears down on the struggling nation. John Holmes told The Associated Press that the complex process of finding available land for transitional shelters, slow decision-making by the government and new waves of Haitians moving into homeless camps have made responding to the crisis particularly hard.
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"We are a bit frustrated that it's taken so long," said Holmes, who is in Australia for a meeting of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs' donor support group. "We've not been able to build many of these transitional shelters so far." The hurricane season began last week and forecasters are predicting it will be an active one, with as many as 23 named tropical storms. Deforestation and erosion has left Haiti particularly vulnerable to flooding and mudslides, and a big storm will create misery for those still living under tarps in flood zones five months after the quake.
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"We have a lot of things to do and a lot of concerns and a lot of risks before we feel we're in a more comfortable situation," Holmes said. Complicating matters further is the influx of Haitians moving into homeless camps, which have swelled in size to 1.5 million ‹ almost twice as many as the number estimated soon after the quake. Following the disaster, hundreds of thousands fled the devastated capital, Port-au-Prince, to outlying cities to stay with relatives. But conditions in those areas are not much better, and with nothing to do and no income,they've begun to head back to the capital and settle in the camps, Holmes said.
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Others can no longer afford to pay their rent and feel they have no other alternative but to move to the camps, he said. And although some houses have
been deemed safe for people to move back into, many residents are too scared to return, fearing another tremor. Many Haitians also believe they will get more food and medical aid if they're in the camps than if they're not, Holmes said. "People feel that somehow that if they're in the camps, then something will
be provided in the end ‹ and of course to some extent, it's true," Holmes said. "But I think they may have exaggerated expectations ... which we need to manage. But that's also the responsibility of the government."
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Haiti's government has provided another challenge to the process of sheltering the homeless, Holmes said. Its infrastructure was shattered by the quake, and it is still not fully functioning, which means tough decisions take a long time to make, he said. One major hurdle: getting government approval to build semi-permanent shelters made of wood with galvanized iron roofs. There is no land to build such housing in Port-au-Prince, and though areas have been identified outside the city, it has been hard to reach consensus between land owners, local authorities and the central government, Holmes said.
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That's because officials know that transitional settlements are likely to end up becoming permanent settlements for some, which calls into question issues of what will happen to the houses and the people in the long term. Holmes said he predicts it will be many more months before proper reconstruction can begin. "It has been an uphill struggle the whole way to make progress," he said.

We Are Again Exposed to Catastrophe (IRIN - 6/3/2010)

The rain and winds signalling the start of Haiti’s storm season are already taking a toll on the makeshift shelters housing people displaced by the January earthquake, and aid agencies warn that there could be worse to come.
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"Tarpaulins are generally holding up better than tents, but even the best tarpaulin or best tent is not a good place to live during the rainy or hurricane season," Timo Lüge, communications officer of the interagency group overseeing shelter, told IRIN. "Many camps get flooded each time it rains, and living conditions are dire."
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Some 1.5 million displaced people are living in camps. Aid agencies are working to build sturdier, portable housing with raised floors as quickly as possible; 1,873 of a planned 120,000 transitional shelters have been built – enough to house 9,365 people – but completing 120,000 could take about one year, Lüge said.
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Funding and materials are on hand, but land tenure issues and rubble removal are hampering the process. "It will take many months to secure land, buy the required materials, transport them and finish construction," he said. "With building materials for over 7,000 transitional shelters in country, the biggest challenge for shelter cluster [the interagency group handling shelter] members is a lack of available land on which to build," the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Haiti said in its 24 May bulletin.
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In the meantime aid agencies are distributing wood, nails, rope and other materials and disseminating guidance, including in a poster in Creole, on how to reinforce and waterproof existing shelters, Lüge said. In a recent survey of 28 sites international relief agency Oxfam found that "extreme overcrowding" and poor drainage raised the risk of flooding and disease. The OCHA bulletin said there was not enough water for washing, which compromised hygiene. Cases of diarrhoeal disease were low, but skin diseases from lack of water were frequent.
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The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has predicted an "active to extremely active" hurricane season in the Atlantic Basin. OCHA said in a 1 June communiqué: "With so many people still so vulnerable after the recent earthquake, a serious hurricane this year could be devastating." Haiti's Department of Civil Defence has been identifying buildings, such as schools, that could serve as communal hurricane shelters.
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Jean-Ferdinand Jean-Jacques, who lives with his wife and children in Caremaga camp, in the Maïs-Gaté 2 area of the capital, Port-au-Prince, said damage from early storms had been considerable. "Most tents are flooded as we speak; they are rotting from the bottom up. People are working on putting sandbags at the base of their tents."
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Harold Desaugustes, a member of the Caremaga camp committee, told IRIN: "Already, the winds and rain have destroyed temporary shelters of people who do not have proper tents. With the storms starting, we are again exposed to catastrophe." He said many people, including his family, live in rudimentary shelters of plastic sheeting and poles. "Sometimes, in the middle of the night, the structure crashes in from the rain and winds." He recently bought a second piece of plastic sheeting after the first was blown away by the wind.
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Desaugustes's household consists of 16 people, including five children under the age of six. "We generally ask other camp residents who have tents to allow our children to sleep there – a couple of the kids here, a couple there."

Life on the Highway (NPR - 6/3/2010)

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=127212850
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Across the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, hundreds of thousands of people left homeless by the Jan. 12 earthquake have settled into camps. Officials say the quake victims could be in the makeshift settlements for months or even years.
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Many of the camps are dangerous. Some are at risk of flooding, and landslides threaten others. Officials worry that some could be breeding grounds for disease, or that a hurricane could tear them apart. But for the residents of one camp, the greatest threat is traffic. South of Port-au-Prince, just over 1,000 people are living on an 8-foot-wide stretch of median in the middle of Route Nationale 2, a torn-up, six-lane road that is one of Haiti's busiest.
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Lofredo Guerrier used to live in the United States. He lost his home in January's earthquake and now lives in a shelter in the community on the median. Motorcycles, cars, buses and trucks whiz by on either side of shacks erected in the median. Some of the shacks are made only of bedsheets wrapped around sticks with tarps stuck on top.
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Lofredo Guerrier went to high school in Boston, but now he lives in one of the shacks in the middle of this road. "Basically when it rains, we can't sleep out here. And a lot of people got kids, little babies. It's impossible for us to sleep out here," he says.
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The median — just wide enough for a single structure, just wide enough for a mattress — has 326 shelters in a long thin line. "The environment for the kids is not good. ... Look how people are living. You see how the cars are going out there real fast. Basically around here it's very dangerous," Guerrier says. The shacks open straight into the traffic. Residents say speeding vehicles have already hit several people.
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There is no electricity or running water. Women lug buckets of water from a nearby market. They bathe their children and cook over open fires at the curb, cars passing just a foot away. What's hardest here is that we have nowhere to go. We've got to be here. And every night when we go to bed, we put our knees on the floor, raise our hands to God and say, 'God, we are in your hands because we have no other protection.'
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- Rosemene Jean, resident of the makeshift camp
The air is laden with thick black exhaust and reeks of sewage. Guerrier points across three lanes of traffic to a block of portable toilets.
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"It's ridiculous. And when that filled, there ain't nowhere else to go use the bathroom. When that's filled out, we are done," he says. Everyone living in the median lost their homes in the quake. One of the reasons they settled here is that it's a no man's land. Some people have more elaborate shacks than others. Some are made of wood with doors on hinges and windows that open. Others are crude boxes of sheet metal. The simplest are just tarps.
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People want to move out of the middle of the road, but they also recognize that that might not happen for quite some time. Rosemene Jean, 41, lives with her husband and her sister in a shelter of plastic sheeting held up by boards.
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"What's hardest here is that we have nowhere to go," Jean says. "We've got to be here. And every night when we go to bed, we put our knees on the floor, raise our hands to God and say, 'God, we are in your hands because we have no other protection.' " She says she would like move into one of the new planned camps that the government and international aid agencies are erecting, but she hears that they are all full.
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Even as people say they want to leave, many residents are also putting down roots A woman in one shack sells candies, cookies and rice from her front window. Another hawks charcoal. Some young men have opened a rudimentary bar, serving a potent moonshine called clairin from battered plastic jugs. And across the traffic, in a shed next to the portable toilets, residents can pay 25 cents to watch movies and the latest European soccer matches.

Accountants have a big role to play in rebuilding Haiti

5/3/2010
Accountancy Age
By Keith Nuthall
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On January 12, Haitian accountant Kenny Laforest, 32, was having a normal day in Port-au-Prince. He had just started driving home having left his office when the earthquake that devastated his country struck. Speaking to Accountancy Age from the Haitian capital, he recalled: “I had just finished working. I was driving in the street to go to my house. It was terrible. I thought it was a bomb.
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“It was the first time I had seen something like that: there was a lot of noise and afterwards there was [clouds of] dirt, so I could not see anything. I thought to myself, ‘I know what’s happening: in this country, there might be another political problem’. Those were my thoughts.
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“I stayed calm and then I realised it was an earthquake. The buildings [near me] had fallen down. The noise I had heard was the noise of buildings falling down, but I couldn’t see anything. “People were crying; people were yelling out.”
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His office had not collapsed, however, but he did suffer tragedy that day. His assistant had driven home 20 minutes earlier, and her house collapsed in the quake, killing her. Other Haitian accountants died too of course. Among the highest profile victims – already reported in Accountancy Age – was the director general of the Direction Générale de Impôts (DGI) Jean Frantz Richard.
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There were others. L’Ordre des Comptables Professionnels Agréés d’Haïti (OCPAH) member and accountant Chantale Landrin Rosarion died in a building collapse. Many accountants’ offices, especially those in the centre of Port-au-Prince, collapsed or were damaged. “Yes, some accountants are dead,” recalled Laforest, a certified public accountant, who has been working with the World Bank as it helps the Haitian government restore its financial controls.
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He said some of his surviving colleagues have since “left the country – they are in the US or Canada.” Some left to protect their families from the chaos that followed the disaster. “They have children; they have moved their families to take care of them,” he explained. “The situation has been difficult. Even if they have a good job, there was no infrastructure; no good conditions for health…”
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Now, however, Laforest said the country’s accounting and financial systems are recovering. At first, it was a disaster. “During the first 15 days following the earthquake, communications did not work. No one could talk on the phone after the earthquake. For the banks, it was very difficult. Nobody could get to the banks – no one had cash.” But now, he said, “the situation is getting better.” The central bank (the Banque de la République d'Haïti) is operating effectively. And the finance ministry’s financial controls and systems are now being restored after its headquarters were destroyed. The World Bank has helped this critical process, placing accounting experts with the ministry.
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As for the private sector, Laforest said many companies’ financial systems had survived thanks to accounting software packages, whose data had been uploaded to cloud computing remote data sumps on the internet. But bills, receipts and other paper records vital for making tax returns had been lost where offices collapsed.
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Looking ahead, accountancy will loom large in Haiti as the international community spends a pledged $5.3bn (£3.7bn) to fund the initial phase of Haiti’s reconstruction over the next 18 months, including a contribution of $479m (£333m) by the World Bank. Its president Robert Zoellick has told a donor conference at the United Nations headquarters in New York that the bank would serve as fiscal agent for a multi-donor trust fund handling the money.
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This, bank officials said, would “ensure strong fiduciary control and accounting assurance that the funds will reach their intended destiny”. Zoellick added: “This is not just about how much money is raised, but it’s about delivering real results on the ground for the Haitian people, through good governance and effective cooperation by donors.”
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Non-governmental organisations and aid agencies – many now working inside Haiti – know only too well the importance of financial controls for their work. With many local accountants leaving Haiti or being harmed or killed in the disaster, it has not been possible to rely on the remaining quality local accountants, such as Laforest. As a result, some NGOs have been flying in foreign accountants, preferably those with experience of working in emergency situations.
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Christopher Fyfe, 43, a CIPFA-qualified divisional financial controller at the University of Oxford, is one such professional. He was appointed a Haiti emergency finance manager with children’s charity Woking-based Plan International, working out of the capital Port-au-Prince and the southern city of Jacmel.
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There he was creating controls to enable money to be moved safely from Plan’s main country office in the capital to the charity’s emergency offices in Jacmel and Croix des Bouquets (north-east of Port-au-Prince). In his daily blog filed from Haiti during his posting, he said: “This is necessary and painstaking because, without proper controls, the money that you and your friends and your government have given might as well be left in a big bucket in the middle of the market with a sign saying ‘biggest at the front, smallest at the back’.”
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Fyfe worked hard to create systems enabling the detection of outright theft and procurement fraud. He explained: “Controls are needed and costly to implement. Any charity tells you that all your money goes directly to the needy… they are either probably lying or being incredibly irresponsible. “So celebrate the charities that employ HR specialists, internal auditors and the monitoring and evaluation teams that check if the project is working so that they learn from their mistakes. That is the vital framework that is needed to make a long-term difference…”
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Speaking to Accountancy Age, he said: “It’s about getting the balance right between rigour and flexibility.” He found existing financial controllers in Haiti to be very cautious. “It’s important to say what’s really important here; what controls are necessary and what is slowing us down.” Fyfe explained: “We can find good people with degrees from Haitian universities, who understand the fundamentals of accounting , but they have not had years of experience. So you get the policeman effect: they become very cautious. They are not sure what to do, so they put in more controls.
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“Newly qualified accountants can’t always make judgments – but they know how to apply the rules.” This is particularly the case in Haiti with its high levels of corruption. In such instances, “people are afraid to take risks and fear that if it goes wrong, they might get blamed”. The result often is multiple authorisation – maybe five signatures being required. This not only takes time, but also the avoidance of checks, because each authoriser “thinks someone else has looked at it,” he said.
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Far better to have separate and clear responsibilities – for negotiating a deal, checking budgets and signing cheques. This creates more efficiency and transparency, said Fyfe. The former Oxfam head of international finance added that donations should be spent carefully and certainly not in haste. “The amount of money donated to Haiti since the earthquake has been astonishing. It will take a long time to spend it, particularly if it is to be done properly. If anyone is looking for the ‘donations sitting in charities bank accounts after one year/two years/five years’ story I hope they find it,” he wrote in his blog.
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He was put in touch with Plan by Oxford-based accounting charity Mango. Its recruitment director, Lucy Markby, said: “We’re looking for professional qualifications and previous international development and emergency situation experience – particularly in crisis situations.”
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She said non-governmental organisations (NGOs) find it difficult to secure the necessary language skills alongside required professional skills. With the Haiti disaster, the lack of professionals with adequate French language skills has been cruelly exposed, she said – the island country’s elite speak French; with the vast majority speaking Haitian Creole, which is barely intelligible to many French speakers anyway.
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Mango sources financial (and especially accounting) professionals with these skills and send them to the aid agencies and NGOs which need them. The Oxford-based charity also trains developing country professionals (it has run accounting courses in Haiti) and also offers easily accessible training and good practice information, including online resources.
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Haiti is not an easy place for accountants to practice their profession. Last year (even before the earthquake shattered the country’s civil society) it was ranked 168th out of 180 countries on the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index. The l’Ordre des Comptables Professionnels Agréés d’Haïti (OCPAH) was established in 1981, alongside a national accountants council and an accounting training council. Only the order survives today.
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Haitian accountants must be graduates from a university in the country, with a degree in administration and a specialism in accountancy. Then they must work for five years before they gain the right to sign financial statements and become a certified public accountant (CPS). And before that happens, they must take an eight week course staged by OCPAH and pass its professional examination. This can be taken either immediately upon starting work or after an accountant has been a ‘stagiare’ for five years. It’s worth taking the trouble, said Kenny Laforest, from his office in Haiti. “If you have the title, it’s easier to get a job.”

Red Cross Prepares Camps in Haiti for Hurricane Season

6/3/2010
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With beads of sweat glistening on his brow in the midday heat, Jean-Michel Flaurae drives his shovel into the dark brown soil. He and a dozen other young Haitians are hard at work on a steep hillside in Camp Sitron, a cluster of tarp-covered shelters and shacks, in a race against time.
Community workers dig drainage ditches to minimize the risk of flooding in Camp Sitron as part of an American Red Cross program to prepare for hurricane season.
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As meteorologists predict one of the most active hurricane seasons in recent years, the group is digging drainage ditches and laying sandbags and gravel through a disaster-preparedness program developed by the American Red Cross. They are working to make the camp safer for some 300 families who settled here after their homes were damaged or entirely collapsed.
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“It’s hard work, but it’s a good project,” says Flaurae. The 22-year-old with soft brown eyes wears a red T-shirt and knee-high rubber boots supplied by the Red Cross. The American Red Cross is directing similar programs at 9 spontaneous camps around the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, expanding to 25 camps by late June and targeting 100 camps within six months. These work teams, armed with picks and shovels, are trying to limit the damage of pounding rains that will send torrents of water rushing through the camps during the rainy season.
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Trained as an artist, Flaurae designed womens’ sandals before the earthquake hit. Like so many people he knew, within a few minutes, his life had changed forever: he lost his home, his job, and two younger brothers, who died when their house collapsed. Flaurae’s life was spared because he was watching television at a neighbor’s house that survived the tremors. He fled to the bottom of the valley as buildings crashed down around him and when the shaking stopped, he raced back up the hillside, pulling neighbors from the wrecks of their homes. Some had only minor scratches, but many others – too many to count, he says – were already dead. When he reached the house he shared with his 18- and 20-year-old brothers, he found nothing but rubble. Their bodies are still buried under the debris, which is still painfully visible on the hillside directly opposite where his team is digging a drainage ditch.
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Now Flaurae lives at Camp Sitron in a makeshift tarp shelter with his cousin and aunt. They are the only family he has left. He recalls how only a few months ago he could look from his house across the narrow valley to this hillside, which was lush and green. “It was beautiful, with lots of trees,” he says, recalling how he would hike up the hillside to pick mangoes for his family.
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Flaurae says the American Red Cross project is the first positive activity he has been involved with since the earthquake struck. Being part of a work team allows camp residents to earn much-needed cash – they are paid $5 a day in a country where many people live on $2 a day – and make a contribution to their new community.
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With Red Cross training, residents are also learning to administer basic first aid, manage fires, operate walkie-talkies, use a set of colored flags to warn fellow residents of impending threats, and evacuate the camp for a safer location if necessary. To complement this preparedness work, the American Red Cross is shipping seven large, disaster-resistant warehousing tents (33 ft x 75 ft) and fifty mid-size tents to store relief items, such as blankets, tarps, hygiene and first aid items. The American Red Cross is also shipping 75,000 blankets to be stocked in these warehouses. “Now I’m not scared about hurricane season,” says Flaurae, taking a break to lean against his shovel. “I hope we will be ready.”
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You can help the victims of countless crises around the world each year by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross International Response Fund, which will provide immediate relief and long-term support through supplies, technical assistance and other support to help those in need. Donations to the International Response Fund can be sent to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, D.C. 20013 or made by phone at 1-800-REDCROSS or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish) or online at www.redcross.org.

Calculating aid for Haiti (5/31/2010)

The World’s Clark Boyd reports on a group of volunteer statisticians who are helping aid groups make good decisions about allocating aid to Haiti.
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http://magazine.amstat.org/2010/05/swb5_10/
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Since early February, a team of Statistics without Borders (SWB) volunteers has been advising representatives of SciMetrika, LLC (an 8(a) firm that focuses on providing solutions to advancing human health) on the design and execution of a survey in Haiti. Data collected will be used to assess the impact of the magnitude 7.0 earthquake of January 12. The epicenter of this earthquake was near the town of Léogâne, only 16 miles west-southwest of the Haitian capital and population center of Port-au-Prince. Thousands of people died, and homes, businesses, government buildings, and national landmarks throughout the region collapsed or suffered structural damage, resulting in the displacement of millions of survivors.
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In the aftermath of any natural disaster, it is critical to develop reliable estimates of the extent of damage to homes and displacement of people as well as the nature of the displacements (temporary or permanent, current living conditions of the displaced, and so on). It is on these issues that SciMetrika and SWB are focusing.
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Three SWB volunteers—Jim Ashley, Justin Fisher, and Fritz Scheuren—spent a week in Haiti in late March working with SciMetrika’s president and CEO, Jean Orelien. There were five purposes for this trip:
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■To work with local Haitian authorities and professors of statistics to assess the situation and the potential difficulties to data collection
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■To work with the SWB project director, Jim Cochran, and other SWB volunteers to design a questionnaire and plan for executing the study
.
■To assist with cognitive testing, field testing, translation, and back-translation of the questionnaire and instructions for data collectors and their supervisors
.
■To advise on revising the questionnaire and data collection plan based on what is learned from the pilot testing
.
■To design a random digit dialing sample of phone numbers
While the original geographic focus of this study was Port-au-Prince and suburbs such as Carrefour and Petion-Ville, the work of Orelien and the SWB team has led SciMetrika to consider expanding the project to the national level.
.
The project has progressed quickly. By all accounts the assistance provided by SWB has been invaluable, and the data collected through this effort promises to be of great utility to humanitarian organizations in their efforts to identify needs and provide aid to the victims of this earthquake. In addition, SWB volunteers are gaining critical experience and learning important lessons about project management and execution under extreme conditions. SWB also hopes this project will lead to the establishment of a long-term relationship with the Haitian academic community.
.
SWB is an apolitical organization under the auspices of the American Statistical Association, comprised entirely of volunteers. It provides pro bono statistical consulting and assistance to organizations and government agencies in support of these organizations’ not-for-profit efforts to deal with international health issues as broadly defined. The organization’s vision is to achieve better statistical practice, including statistical analysis and design of experiments and surveys, so that international health projects and initiatives are delivered more effectively and efficiently.
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For more information about SWB or to offer project suggestions, contact either SWB co-chair: Jim Cochran at jcochran@cab.latech.edu, (318) 257-3445, or Gary Shapiro at g.shapiro4@verizon.net
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Haiti Cell Phone Survey
www.indiegogo.com/haiti_cell_phone_survey
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In June, Indie Gogo will conduct a cell phone survey of Haitians with the goal of producing reliable estimates about the economic impact of the recent earthquake. SciMetrika, a public health consulting firm, is the main sponsor of this survey, and Statistics Without Borders is providing technical assistance. This survey has two main objectives: (1) Estimate the employment status of the Haitian population and the change in that status; and (2) estimate aspects of the current housing situation (living with relatives, other relatives living with respondent).
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The increasing prevalence of cell phones in Haiti makes it possible for us to reach a large proportion of the population to conduct research. If Indie Gogo shows that this method can provide reliable information, it can be easily repeated and contribute significantly to future relief efforts in Haiti and other parts of the world.
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Indie Gogo already has a team of Haitian professors and students in place to conduct the surveys, and the interviewing is set to begin soon. Because of rising costs in Haiti, they have had to reduce the size of our study, however. They fear that this decision will limit our ability to show the true potential of the method and allow this opportunity to go to waste.
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A brief summary of their methods:
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The population to be sampled are the survivors still living in Haiti after the earthquake. They are selecting a Random Digit Dial sample of active cell phone numbers in Haiti. Their goal is to obtain a sample of 1,000 respondents. Preliminary evidence suggests we can expect an overall participation rate of 50 to 60 percent and a cooperation rate approaching 90 percent.
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A limitation to our proposed approach is the potential for coverage error, particularly for estimates of adults. Adults who do not live in a household with at least one active cell phone may have different responses than households with a cell phone. They will be able to make an estimate of the coverage once the survey is complete.

'Immense challenge' to rebuild Haiti, president tells donors

6/3/2010
AFP
By Ramon Sahmkow
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Haiti faces an "immense challenge" to rebuild after January's earthquake, President Rene Preval told a donors' conference Wednesday called to speed payment of billions of dollars in pledges. Recovery projects to be financed with the 10 billion dollars promised from an initial donors' meeting in New York in March will produce "a more decentralized, fairer Haiti," Preval told the event in the Dominican Republic resort of Punta Cana.
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Former US president Bill Clinton, who co-chairs a commission with Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive overseeing much of the reconstruction funds, called on donors to make good on their pledges to realize those plans. So far, only Brazil has stumped up all its promised sum -- 55 million dollars -- according to the Haitian economy ministry. Wednesday's conference, titled the "World Summit for the Future of Haiti," was aimed at extracting more of the pledged money, defining reconstruction projects and deadlines, as well as reassuring donor countries that the World Bank would oversee the process to minimize embezzlement and corruption.
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"Today, we have a very clear framework in terms of what we must do," said Organization of American States Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza. "This is not just a meeting to look over what has been done, but really to set out a program, adopt it and put it into action." The event was attended by top officials from Europe and the Americas, with more than 50 countries represented.
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According to aid experts, Haiti needs about 11.5 billion dollars for its anticipated decade-long rebuilding effort. The January 12 earthquake effectively leveled the capital Port-au-Prince, killing more than 250,000 people and leaving 1.3 million living in precarious tent camps exposed to tropical storms in Haiti, which shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic.
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The economy of Haiti -- already the poorest country in the Americas -- was badly hit. Even though international aid has flowed in, the magnitude of the disaster means reconstruction efforts have been slow to materialize. Much of the country's infrastructure -- roads, water distribution and electricity -- has to be rebuilt, along with schools and universities. Dominican President Leonel Fernandez, hosting the conference, stressed that "Haiti is not alone, and never will be."
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The Interim Commission for the Reconstruction of Haiti (ICRH) headed by Clinton and Bellerive has an 18-month mandate to oversee rebuilding. After that time has elapsed, the Haitian government is to take full charge. The World Bank said last week it had canceled Haiti's remaining debt of 36 million dollars to help the country pursue its reconstruction. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has also urged countries to set favorable trade terms for Haitian businesses, in a bid to help speed Haiti's recovery.
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The United Nations has warned Haiti against any unconstitutional change of leadership amid moves by the opposition to force Preval to resign, but it backed moves to hold elections by the end of the year.

Calculating aid for Haiti (5/31/2010)

The World’s Clark Boyd reports on a group of volunteer statisticians who are helping aid groups make good decisions about allocating aid to Haiti.
.
http://magazine.amstat.org/2010/05/swb5_10/
.
Since early February, a team of Statistics without Borders (SWB) volunteers has been advising representatives of SciMetrika, LLC (an 8(a) firm that focuses on providing solutions to advancing human health) on the design and execution of a survey in Haiti. Data collected will be used to assess the impact of the magnitude 7.0 earthquake of January 12. The epicenter of this earthquake was near the town of Léogâne, only 16 miles west-southwest of the Haitian capital and population center of Port-au-Prince. Thousands of people died, and homes, businesses, government buildings, and national landmarks throughout the region collapsed or suffered structural damage, resulting in the displacement of millions of survivors.
.
In the aftermath of any natural disaster, it is critical to develop reliable estimates of the extent of damage to homes and displacement of people as well as the nature of the displacements (temporary or permanent, current living conditions of the displaced, and so on). It is on these issues that SciMetrika and SWB are focusing.
.
Three SWB volunteers—Jim Ashley, Justin Fisher, and Fritz Scheuren—spent a week in Haiti in late March working with SciMetrika’s president and CEO, Jean Orelien. There were five purposes for this trip:
.
■To work with local Haitian authorities and professors of statistics to assess the situation and the potential difficulties to data collection
.
■To work with the SWB project director, Jim Cochran, and other SWB volunteers to design a questionnaire and plan for executing the study
.
■To assist with cognitive testing, field testing, translation, and back-translation of the questionnaire and instructions for data collectors and their supervisors
.
■To advise on revising the questionnaire and data collection plan based on what is learned from the pilot testing
.
■To design a random digit dialing sample of phone numbers
While the original geographic focus of this study was Port-au-Prince and suburbs such as Carrefour and Petion-Ville, the work of Orelien and the SWB team has led SciMetrika to consider expanding the project to the national level.
.
The project has progressed quickly. By all accounts the assistance provided by SWB has been invaluable, and the data collected through this effort promises to be of great utility to humanitarian organizations in their efforts to identify needs and provide aid to the victims of this earthquake. In addition, SWB volunteers are gaining critical experience and learning important lessons about project management and execution under extreme conditions. SWB also hopes this project will lead to the establishment of a long-term relationship with the Haitian academic community.
.
SWB is an apolitical organization under the auspices of the American Statistical Association, comprised entirely of volunteers. It provides pro bono statistical consulting and assistance to organizations and government agencies in support of these organizations’ not-for-profit efforts to deal with international health issues as broadly defined. The organization’s vision is to achieve better statistical practice, including statistical analysis and design of experiments and surveys, so that international health projects and initiatives are delivered more effectively and efficiently.
.
For more information about SWB or to offer project suggestions, contact either SWB co-chair: Jim Cochran at jcochran@cab.latech.edu, (318) 257-3445, or Gary Shapiro at g.shapiro4@verizon.net
.
Haiti Cell Phone Survey
www.indiegogo.com/haiti_cell_phone_survey
.
In June, Indie Gogo will conduct a cell phone survey of Haitians with the goal of producing reliable estimates about the economic impact of the recent earthquake. SciMetrika, a public health consulting firm, is the main sponsor of this survey, and Statistics Without Borders is providing technical assistance. This survey has two main objectives: (1) Estimate the employment status of the Haitian population and the change in that status; and (2) estimate aspects of the current housing situation (living with relatives, other relatives living with respondent).
.
The increasing prevalence of cell phones in Haiti makes it possible for us to reach a large proportion of the population to conduct research. If Indie Gogo shows that this method can provide reliable information, it can be easily repeated and contribute significantly to future relief efforts in Haiti and other parts of the world.
.
Indie Gogo already has a team of Haitian professors and students in place to conduct the surveys, and the interviewing is set to begin soon. Because of rising costs in Haiti, they have had to reduce the size of our study, however. They fear that this decision will limit our ability to show the true potential of the method and allow this opportunity to go to waste.
.
A brief summary of their methods:
.
The population to be sampled are the survivors still living in Haiti after the earthquake. They are selecting a Random Digit Dial sample of active cell phone numbers in Haiti. Their goal is to obtain a sample of 1,000 respondents. Preliminary evidence suggests we can expect an overall participation rate of 50 to 60 percent and a cooperation rate approaching 90 percent.
.
A limitation to our proposed approach is the potential for coverage error, particularly for estimates of adults. Adults who do not live in a household with at least one active cell phone may have different responses than households with a cell phone. They will be able to make an estimate of the coverage once the survey is complete.

One Mans Trash (Boston Globe - 5/31/2010)

By Chris Burrell
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The voyage to Haiti is 1,505 nautical miles, lasts about eight days, and burns 32 tons of diesel fuel, according to Captain Roger Pomares of the cargo ship Cala Galdana . BOSTON BOUNTY The voyage to Haiti is 1,505 nautical miles, lasts about eight days, and burns 32 tons of diesel fuel, according to Captain Roger Pomares of the cargo ship Cala Galdana.
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For almost 20 years, Joseph Renna mopped up rooms and hallways at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Now he works for himself, scouring classified ads and junkyards in search of old trucks and auto parts to buy and ship overseas. Renna, who lives in Manchester, New Hampshire, specializes in trucks that are big and beat-up. Missing door handles, rust, smashed windshields, and vehicles built when Jimmy Carter was president – none of that fazes this janitor turned exporter.
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He ships the trucks, tires, engines, and axles back to the country where he was born and raised, Haiti. He’s not alone. Haitian-Americans, who number around 60,000 in Greater Boston, according to US Census figures, ship enough cars and trucks from an East Boston pier to the port of St.-Marc in Haiti to fill a cargo ship every six or seven weeks. Many of the vehicles are packed with clothes, shoes, TVs, mattresses, bicycles – much of it used – as well as canned goods and bags of rice and beans. These goods, like the cars and trucks, are sometimes sent to relatives or friends for their own use, sometimes for them to sell.
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The people engaged in this largely unregulated business say they are helping Haiti. Some development experts agree, but others complain that the island has become a dumping ground for goods in terrible shape and for vehicles too old, too unsafe, and too highly polluting to stay legally on American roads. Even before January’s crippling earthquake left close to 300,000 dead and more than 1 million people homeless, Haiti was the hemisphere’s poorest country. Haitians abroad have long sent remittances, about $1.64 billion in 2009, or 22 percent of the country’s gross domestic product last year, according to the Washington, D.C.-based Inter-American Development Bank. Now, as plans are being drawn and billions pledged from around the world for a new Haiti that will rise up from the ruins of the natural disaster, the business of packing old vehicles off to Haiti is bound to change.
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Renna is banking on the practice accelerating, confident in the simple logic that the cleanup and reconstruction of roads, cities, and houses will spawn even more demand for his commodity. “They need it. They say it will take 10 years to clean up Port-au-Prince,” he says. “It’s why they need trucks.” It’s also possible that the negative environmental impacts of the practice will come under new scrutiny.
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On a warm Wednesday afternoon in April, 53-year-old Renna is in a parking lot on the East Boston waterfront. He’s dressed in a light-blue pocket T-shirt, navy pants, and a baseball cap, and he’s pawing around in his toolbox. Then he hot-wires the 1979 flatbed Ford he recently bought – without a key – for $4,000. “This is going to be a new truck,” he says. “I’ll make it new. You see the nose is broken, but it’s a good running truck. That’s why I bought it.”
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Inside of a month, that Ford and four others, including a dump truck and tow truck, will land in Haiti, greeted by Renna’s brother, Laurent Renna, who lives there. The plan is to rent or sell the trucks, along with a load of used tires and assorted parts, from a yard the brothers own outside Port-au-Prince.
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In a country where 78 percent of the population survives on less than $2 a day and where 60 percent of the people are undernourished, according to data from the World Bank, Joseph Renna argues that his hot-wiring, exhaust-coughing, grease-staining enterprise stimulates the Haitian economy. “I got 10 people working for me,” he says. “That money flows in.”
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A mere three blocks long, Marginal Street in east Boston dead-ends at a gatehouse, the entrance to another world. The Boston Harbor Shipyard & Marina, home to boat builders, metal workers, and sailors, is awash with the rumble of diesel engines, the stench of marine paint, and the ring of steel crashing on steel.
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Once every six or seven weeks, a raucous scene unfolds here when the ship to Haiti sails in and loads up at rising tide. On a gray 46-degree Friday last fall, the sole woman pacing the asphalt docks is Karen Fuller. With her husband, Bill, they are the mom-and-pop team that owns Allworld Removals. But the 66-year-old woman, in dark-rimmed glasses and a puffy green-and-blue scarf, looks more like a grammar school teacher than a longshoreman.
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The United States exported 1.2 million used cars and trucks around the world in 2005, according to figures from Yale University’s Center for Industrial Ecology. Allworld’s slice of the pie adds up to about 2,000 vehicles a year, 900 hauled down the Atlantic from Boston to Haiti and the remainder sent aboard massive ships that depart from Charlestown and Providence to West Africa and the Middle East.
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But nothing else they do resembles the scene at the Eastie docks. The main reason is that Haiti is what’s called a free-for-all. While some developing countries limit the age of the used vehicles imported across their borders, according to Andy Parris, an automotive specialist at the US Department of Commerce, Haiti has no such policy. So several Mack dump trucks ready to roll on board are almost 40 years old – and look it, one with its windows smashed, glass shards littering the corroded floor of the cab. Some cars only get in the boat with a shove from a maroon Ford pickup truck. Others need an old-fashioned push by two guys with strong legs. Not all of the vehicles are junkers. There are Toyotas and Nissan SUVs without a scratch, and even a shiny silver Mercedes, but the math is simple. The cheaper the vehicle, the easier it is to swallow the overhead of shipping it.
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It costs $4,000 to send a Mack dump truck to Haiti, another thousand or two for the longer trailers and school buses. A one-way ticket for a small pickup truck or a Toyota RAV4 is a little less than $1,400. How many cars are unloaded into Haiti in a given year is anyone’s guess. “We don’t have information about used cars,” says Carole Preval, minister counselor at the Haitian Embassy in Washington, D.C. “It’s not a matter for the government; it’s a private initiative.”
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Renal Pierribia, who works for the Fullers and has just spent three days loading the Cala Galdana, will fly to Port-au-Prince, then drive to St.-Marc to supervise the unloading. He goes back and forth to Haiti 10 times a year and sees his work as vital to that country’s survival. He is proud when he recognizes one of their trucks on the road: “You’ll be saying, ‘See? This is the truck. I took that truck to Haiti.’ ”
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Pierribia seems a little dreamy on the docks. But his logic is sound, and so is the practice of shipping so many cheap goods, vehicles and all, to Haiti, says Harvard economist Robert Lawrence. “Whatever capacity they had in Haiti to supply their own consumer needs has been devastated,” he says. “All kinds of products are going to be in scarce supply. It’s a way for them to get cheap consumer durables.” Labor is inexpensive in Haiti, he adds, and part of the economy is built on fixing things Americans throw out. “It’s enhancing welfare in both countries,” Lawrence says.
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J. Brian Atwood agrees. Atwood ran the US Agency for International Development under President Clinton and is dean of the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. He says that sending used vehicles to Haiti is especially important now. “They do need vehicles down there to get crops to markets and to train Haitians to do the reconstruction work,” he explains.
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But Alix Cantave, a professor of public policy at the University of Massachusetts Boston who studies the Haitian economy, doesn’t hedge: “My fellow diaspora Haitians will kill me for saying this, but I do feel that Haiti is a dumping ground for everything people don’t need here. Half the stuff people are sending down there is trash.” Vehicles that would fail inspections here for poor brakes, no seat belts, or excessive emissions, Cantave argues, endanger public health or pollute the environment there. “If it’s not good for America’s health, it’s not good for anyone’s health,” he says. “To me, there’s a moral imperative, a responsibility on the community sending it. I know that folks are trying to help, not doing it maliciously, but the impact on Haiti is extremely hazardous.”
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There are also critical voices inside Haiti. Lionel Pressoir runs a company in Petionville called Destination Haiti, which helps villages create jobs in tourism. One of his clients recently bought a school bus from someone in Boston, and when it arrived, its engine was in such terrible shape that the bus was beyond repair. “You go to Haiti and see the number of cars parked in the street and being torn down for scrap,” says Pressoir. “Businessmen, let’s be honest, are there to make money and are not very clean in making that money. They are taking advantage of certain people.”
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In Haiti, cheap secondhand goods imported from aboard are called “pepe” and are mostly sold in street markets. Cantave says the pepe – especially used clothes – long ago drove artisan shoemakers, dressmakers, and tailors out of business.
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Ketcia Pierre-Louis heads up the chamber of commerce in a town outside Port-au-Prince called Croix-des-Bouquet. At a conference in March at UMass Boston, Pierre-Louis derided pepe: “Why are we getting this old, raggedy stuff?” She scoffs at the claim that used goods benefit her country. “The diaspora may say they are helping, but there is profit for them. They buy it at very low cost from thrift shops or pick it up in the street and ship it,” she says. “Often [the things] don’t even work, and people have to find a way to get rid of them. They burn plastic, and the air is filthy.”
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The solution, argues Pierre-Louis, is for the government to ban pepe. But that seems unlikely. Patrick Delatour, the chairman of President Rene Preval’s Commission for Reconstruction, lectured at MIT in April and said that restoring Haiti’s environment is the key to tourism and economic sustainability. But he said that the government’s – and his own – position was: “As long as people want to send their goods, it is a personal choice, and it doesn’t have anything to do with Haitian policy at this time. When we are confronted by this dilemma of 1.3 million people homeless, I don’t believe this should be a priority.”
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Edmond Raphino, a Haitian-American pastor in Somerville who shipped a used Jeep to Haiti last fall for the use of a church missionary, echoes the idea. “Why should a government that can’t feed their own people go tell a guy that has a truck to help feed his family, go tell him to get a catalytic converter?” he asks. (A catalytic converter can reduce the toxicity of emissions, but hangs low on many vehicles and can get hit while driving on poor roads, so it’s common practice in Haiti to remove the part.)
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Matthew E. Kahn, an economist at the University of California, Los Angeles who has researched the global trade of sending used vehicles from the United States to developing countries, says it’s more nuanced than that. “You and I agree that we’re sending them our dirty cars, but are we sending them cars that are dirtier than the incumbent car already there? If we don’t send them cars, how are they getting around?” he asks. “To get at the environmental-justice issue, that’s the missing link.”
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Without hard data on vehicles in Haiti, there’s no way to tell. Plus, while the government says the business is a private affair, their customs officials collect fees on every import. People shipping to Haiti say the system is corrupt, the fees arbitrary, and bribes commonplace. “The government doesn’t really care,” says Pierribia.
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As recently as December, Marcus Francois, who owns a tow-truck business in Malden, regularly shipped used cars, trucks, tires, and auto parts to his brother, Leopaul Etienne, who sold the goods at a storefront business in Port-au-Prince. The headache always came at the customs lot. “You buy a car for $500, you put it on the boat for $1,350,” he says. “OK, that’s already like $1,800, and then when you get there, they might ask you $2,000 to get it out, US money, just to get it.” Francois believes demand for these used vehicles will decline because conditions in Haiti have only become more dire: People are too poor to buy anything an entrepreneur might want to ship to sell. “It’s really bad,” he says. “They don’t have money. They want food.”
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Chris Burrell lives in East Boston. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.

UN archive captures the horrors and heroism (5/28/2010)

UN News Center
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Amelia Shaw lost colleagues and friends in an instant on 12 January when an earthquake toppled the headquarters of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Haiti. Now she and other UN staffers are completing an ambitious project that they hope will go some way to memorializing the event – both the calamity itself, and the heroic efforts in the days and nights that followed.
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Thousands of photographs, film clips, audio files and other documents taken in the aftermath of the disaster have been compiled and indexed by the United Nations on a digital archive that is now available to the public through a website.
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The Haiti Oral History and Visual Archive as it is officially known is the result of a decision by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) to record for posterity what Ms. Shaw notes sadly was a “historic event for the Organization – definitely by far its largest loss of life.”
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It includes interviews with rescue workers, images from the disaster zone and raw footage of UN staff trying to help Haiti get back on its feet. “The archive aims to take advantage of all the digital media… we have and bring them together in one collection [so as] to capture and preserve the efforts of the UN and its staff,” Ms. Shaw explains.
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Registering 7.0 on the Richter scale, the quake killed an estimated 200,000 people, including 101 UN staff, most of them working for the UN peacekeeping mission known as MINUSTAH. Ms. Shaw, a television producer, was four-and-a-half months pregnant and standing in her office in an annex to MINUSTAH’s headquarters building in the capital, Port-au-Prince, when she felt the building suddenly shake just before 5 p.m. on 12 January. She looked outside, expecting to see a large truck go past.
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But the rumbling got much worse, and Ms. Shaw and a nearby cameraman were soon thrown to the ground by the force of the quake. While they were eventually able to crawl to safety, many colleagues in the main building were not so fortunate. “We spent the next 10 to 12 hours at the site. Everybody was trying to pull the rocks away and help out. It was just the longest night,” she recalls.
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With the help of four other staff members and three volunteers, as well as technical assistance, Ms. Shaw has spent the months since the quake painstakingly arranging the archive so that users can easily find the materials they are searching for. The archive went online yesterday, two days before the International Day of UN Peacekeepers is marked. In the months ahead, more items – the tally is already up to around 7,000 – will be labelled and indexed and made available.
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“This has been a very meaningful project for me as it has everything to do with the fact that I was there,” says Ms. Shaw. “Many of the people that I lost were friends. This has given me a wonderful opportunity to feel like I was doing something concrete and getting something positive out of the tragedy.”

2010 hurricane season may be worst on record (AFP - 5/28/2010)

The 2010 Atlantic hurricane season may be one of the worst on record, US officials warned on Thursday, amid fears it could deepen an oil crisis in the Gulf of Mexico and bring new misery to Haiti. An "active to extremely active" hurricane season which starts on June 1 is expected for the Atlantic Basin this year, US officials said.
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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) predicted 14 to 23 named storms, including eight to 14 hurricanes, three to seven of which were likely to be "major" storms, with winds of at least 111 mph. This is compared to an average six-month season of 11 named storms, six of which become hurricanes, two of them major.
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"If this outlook holds true, this season could be one of the more active on record," said NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco. "The greater likelihood of storms brings an increased risk of a landfall. In short, we urge everyone to be prepared," he said. Hurricane fears are particularly acute this year in the Gulf of Mexico, where millions of gallons of oil from a leaking BP undersea well is pushing into ecologically sensitive marshlands.
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And in Haiti, hundreds of thousands of people are still living in makeshift camps more than five months after a devastating earthquake. NOAA said the prediction that there will be more and bigger storms this year than average was based on several factors. President Barack Obama's spokesman Robert Gibbs said the government is mobilizing for the potential impact of any hurricanes.
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"The president stressed that the government must ensure we consider the effects the BP oil spill could have on storms, response capabilities, and recovery efforts in planning for this year's season," Gibbs said. He added however that "those considerations do not change the primary mission of emergency management officials during a response, which is to support state efforts to protect lives and property."
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Forecasts said that windshear, which helped suppress hurricane activity in 2009 by tearing up storms before they developed, is expected to be weaker this year as the El Nino effect dissipates in the eastern Pacific. El Nino is a cyclical phenomenon that brings unusually warm ocean temperatures to the equatorial Pacific, but cooler temperatures to the Caribbean and the Atlantic.
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Its opposite is La Nina, when Pacific temperatures are unusually cold. In those years, the US southeast is unusually warm, enabling storms to grow and move. Sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic are already up to four degrees Fahrenheit above average, NOAA said. "Whether or not we approach the high end of the predicted ranges depends partly on whether or not La Nina develops this summer," said Gerry Bell, a hurricane forecaster at NOAA's Climate Prediction Center.
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"At present we are in a neutral state, but conditions are becoming increasingly favorable for La Nina to develop." And NOAA said the period since 1995 has been one of unusually high storm activity with eight of the last 15 seasons ranking in the top ten for the most named storms. In 2005, there
were 28 named storms.

World Bank cancels Haiti's debt (AFP - 5/29/2010)

The World Bank said on Friday it had canceled Haiti's remaining debt to help the impoverished country recover from a devastating earthquake four months ago. Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, will not have to repay 36 million dollars owed to the International Development Association (IDA), the bank's fund for the poorest countries, the Washington-based institution said in a statement.
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"Haiti now has no further amounts payable to the World Bank," it said. The IDA debt cancellation was made possible by contributions from 13 member nations: Belgium, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, The Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.
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Shortly after the massive earthquake in January flattened the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, the 186-nation World Bank announced it had suspended repayment of the IDA debt and would seek to cancel it. "Relieving Haiti's remaining debt is part of our effort to pursue every avenue to help Haiti's reconstruction efforts," Robert Zoellick, president of the World Bank, said in the statement.
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"We will continue to work in close cooperation with the Haitian government and our international partners to support the country's recovery and longer-term development." The World Bank noted it has made available 479 million dollars in grants to support Haiti's post-quake recovery and development through June 2011 and is also the trustee of the multi-donor Haiti Reconstruction Fund.

Senators approve two billion dollars in aid for Haiti

5/26/2010
AFP
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The US Senate Foreign Affairs Committee approved on Tuesday a two billion dollar aid package to support reconstruction in Haiti, after a devastating earthquake that struck the nation in January. The bill, proposed by committee chairman Senator John Kerry and his Republican colleague Bob Corker, would distribute the funds over two years to help reconstruction in coordination with Haiti's government.
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The legislation directs the US Agency for International Development to establish a "comprehensive rebuilding and development strategy for Haiti" and calls for the appointment of a senior coordinator to oversee US policy towards the country.
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Under the plan, which must now go to the full Senate and the House of Representatives for approval, Congress would receive a first report on a strategy for disbursement of the aid 90 days after the bill was signed into law, and annually thereafter.
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The legislation initially sought 3.5 billion dollars in aid for Haitian reconstruction over five years, but Republican Senator Richard Lugar sought to scale it back to two billion dollars over two years.
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"While the original legislation was written to demonstrate our long-term commitment to Haiti by authorizing funding for five years, the amendment introduced by Senator Lugar addresses valid concerns," Kerry said during a meeting of the committee.
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"It is quite possible that the situation in Haiti may change significantly over the next two years. The amendment will give us an opportunity to reexamine the funding authorities and assistance plan after two years and modify both as necessary based on the context on the ground."
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The earthquake that hit Haiti on January 12 killed between 250,000 and 300,000 people and left more than 1.3 million Haitians homeless, according to figures provided by the United Nations and Haitian authorities.

OAS reiterates need for a comprehensive civil registry in Haiti

5/25/2010
Caribbean Net News
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The Assistant Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Albert R Ramdin, on Monday called attention to the need to continue strengthening and building a comprehensive civil registry in Haiti that also includes minors and children. He emphasized the fact that the most basic elements of social and economic planning and development require a clear accounting of the population and their location.
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Ambassador Ramdin delivered his remarks during a meeting convened by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI). Entitled “Building a Strong Foundation for Children and Families of Haiti,” the meeting brought together United States Senator Mary Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana; Haitian Minister of Social Affairs and Labour, Yves Cristallin; the OAS Secretary for External Relations, Adam Blackwell; representatives of civil society organizations and others.
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OAS Assistant Secretary General Albert Ramdin
Ramdin highlighted the importance of focusing on the welfare of children in Haiti not only out of moral duty but as a way of promoting long-term stability and prosperity. “Most of the population in Haiti is young, and if we don’t take care of them today we will have a problem in the future in terms of security, the social environment and our economies. Beyond our moral responsibility to take care of children, we have a responsibility as a society to think about our children’s future.”
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The Assistant Secretary General said the Organization began support for the registration of Haitians more than five years ago and that more than 4 million adults had been registered when the earthquake hit the Caribbean nation on January 12. The OAS had started to support the planning process of children registration campaigns prior to the earthquake, but those efforts were halted by the tragedy. Efforts renewed weeks ago and the information of more than 1,500 children and their parents or guardians has been collected so far.
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Ramdin also said he was “appalled” by the system of restaveks or children employed as domestic servants who often undergo abuse. Jean-Robert Cadet, a former restavek, shared his story with those present. US Senator Mary Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana, said the OAS-supported civil registry programs were of great value. The day-long event took place at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, DC. The CCAI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to raising awareness about the millions of children around the world in need of permanent, safe, and loving homes and to eliminating the barriers that hinder these children from realizing their basic right to a family.

Sitcom Takes Aim at Danger, Boredom in Haiti Camps (5/24/2010)

Associated Press
By JONATHAN M. KATZ
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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Muddy water flows under the tent and pools around the electric studio lights. Actors sitting at the mock-kitchen table lift their feet away from a very real, growing flood. This is the set of Haiti's new comedy soap opera, "Under the Sky," filmed in the capital's earthquake survivor camps for the hundreds of thousands of people who live in them. The episode was supposed to be about securing makeshift shelters against the strengthening rainy season. Then things got too realistic.
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After an hour of rising water and several blackouts, shooting was canceled for the day. That's one of the dangers of filming episodes in a camp on the flood-prone outskirts of Port-au-Prince. But Haitian-American director Jacques Roc said it's the only way to make sure the series' message will resonate with the hundreds of thousands for whom floods and insecurity are now just daily life.
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"There's a lot that's going on in the camps right now, and when you stay in the camp you learn about it," Roc said. "They have to adjust to this kind of behavior and this is what you try to show to people."
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"Under the Sky" follows a fictional family of five who — like many of the 1.5 million people who lost their homes — fled to tent-and-tarp camps that are now the standard image of life in the Haitian capital.
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Combining comedy, drama and educational messages, it features nationally known actors such as Junior Metellus, a 35-year-old veteran of other Roc projects. He plays Akim, the son-in-law of the patriarch Jean-Jo. Writers are still developing the story as they shoot, so neither Jean-Jo's last name nor details of his pre-quake life have been revealed yet, Roc said.
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They also have not yet said whether any of the characters' family members died in the quake. The creators' primary goal was to establish a middle-class environment for the family — with the appropriate clothes, books and furniture — to demonstrate how the Jan. 12 disaster cut across all layers of society.
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"Not everyone in the tents came from a low background. Some of them had a house. Some of them still have their cars," said Roc, who moved to the United States at age 14 and studied filmmaking at New York University. Each 15-minute episode centers around a core theme determined by U.N. peacekeepers, who came up with the idea and are footing the series' $6,000-per-episode bill.
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Officials with the 9,000-strong force, which came to Haiti in 2004 in part to fight gangs, hope the series will teach camp dwellers about surviving difficult conditions — and equally as important, alleviate dangerous levels of boredom among those living in the camps and others making their way back to broken neighborhoods. "At nighttime it provides an entertainment and a way of communicating information that's useful," said U.N. mission spokesman David Wimhurst.
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The messages concern building safety, violence prevention, camp resident registration campaigns — any of the dozens of dangers and challenges earthquake survivors contend with every day. The planned 16-part series is being shown on open-air screens at more than a dozen camps, part of four-hour programming blocks that also include public-service announcements, movies and music videos. Next month organizers may use the screens to air World Cup soccer games.
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"Under the Sky" airs on six Haitian television stations. There are plans to upload it to YouTube and distribute it to Haitian diaspora stations in the United States. True to their sponsor, Roc's team produces the episodes with military-like precision. Once the peacekeepers hand down the week's message, they write, stage, shoot and edit in a couple days. The first two episodes were shown within hours of completion, emblazoned on big white screens set up at about a dozen earthquake camps where thousands gathered to watch.
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Then came Episode 3. Before Friday's shoot, a low-pressure system over the northern Caribbean started pushing storm cells toward the ravaged capital. Civil defense authorities issued a flood warning, but the 24-strong crew and actors reported to the hillside camp in the neighborhood of Tabarre anyway.
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Lackadaisical clouds gathered over the hill. Then shortly after the sun set, they unloaded. The area beside the shooting tents turned to gelatinous mud. A family's tent was blown off the nearby hilltop, and people ran to protect their few belongings from the deluge. Streams of water flowed into the tents. After a tense wait, the shoot was postponed.
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The next night, Saturday, camp residents across Port-au-Prince had to content themselves with a rerun of the second episode, in which a scheming neighbor in sunglasses hatches a plot to buy and sell forged camp identification cards. (Spoiler: It doesn't work.)
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But there were no complaints from the dozen or so people who braved the flooding pavement of the Champ de Mars to watch "Under the Sky" on a two-sided screen erected a rainy block from the collapsed presidential palace. Young men covered themselves with plastic sheets and a teenage couple huddled under a broken umbrella.
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"As soon as (the weekend comes), this is where I go to spend my time," said a 19-year-old who identified himself only as Luknor. "They come with the big screen to show us what's happening in the country."
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Luknor said he learned from the first episode of "Under the Sky" that his house near Port-au-Prince's main soccer stadium — color-coded "red" by inspection crews — was not safe for his baby, girlfriend and mother to return. There are characters he relates to as well. Akim's wife, Mairilyse, is an out-of-work teacher whose school was destroyed in the quake. The store where Luknor worked collapsed on Jan. 12; he's waiting for the government to help him find another job and home.
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Despite — or maybe because — of all this misery, jokes are what sell the series, Roc said. In one episode, a neighbor walks into the family's shelter only to get reproached by the father: "You don't just walk into someone's tent like that. You knock first!"
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"But where is he going to knock?" the mother replies. "There's no door." The line goes over big. "Haitians like comedy. They like to laugh. Even if it gets serious they have to laugh somehow," Roc said.

In Haiti quake response, east meets west (IFRC - 5/21/2010)

By Alex Wynter
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Most people involved in the humanitarian response to the 12 January earthquake can think of a 'Haiti first '. The first time the government of a country has been one of the main direct victims of a natural disaster; the first time a major international operation has been run from a single, tented encampment in the middle of a devastated capital; the first time beneficiary communications has been undertaken by the Red Cross Red Crescent on a large scale. But there is another first which reinforces the view of International Federation operations chief, Iain Logan, that "this has been a truly global response".
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The Haiti earthquake operation has seen the first field deployment in the Americas by Red Crescent societies. "Along with many other examples of the aglity of the Movement," says Logan, "the rapid deployment of delegates and equipment from Red Crescent societies like Iran, Kuwait, Qatar and Turkey reinforces our global reach."
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Few people were better placed to empathize with Haiti after the quake than Iranians. The 2003 quake that struck Bam, south-east Iran, was itself a cataclysmic event – yet one that was also used by the media as a yardstick for conveying the magnitude of the Haitian disaster. By the lowest estimate of the death toll here, about ten times as many Haitians died in the 12 January disaster as in Bam.
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"The Iranian Red Crescent was among the first societies from anywhere in the world to get to Port-au-Prince," says Paul Conneally, IFRC head of media, who was himself on the ground in Haiti a few days after the quake. "They had set up a temporary base for themselves on the tarmac at the airport," says Conneally, "and we quickly brought them into our first base camp at Batimat."
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Later, when the International Federation's operation moved to its current base on Mais Gate, in the concrete shell of the half-built Hilton hotel, the Red Crescent Society of the Islamic Republic of Iran was fortuitously pitched a few feet away from Israel's Magen David Adom society. It was a benign irony that escaped the attention of no one in the Federation's base camp, and was much talked about. "Only here," people said. The head of the Iranian Red Crescent, Ahmad Esfandiyari, announced that in its first consignment of aid, it airlifted some 30 tonnes of food, detergents, tents and medicine to Haiti on Saturday 16 January.
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Another crescent nation with a devastating modern history of quakes is, of course, Turkey. The Turkish Red Crescent Society – Türk Kizilayi – set up a crisis desk to manage its response in collaboration with the International Federation and other agencies.
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After leaving Ankara on 13 January, a team of Turkish delegates took two days to reach Haiti via Paris and the Dominican Republic. The first Turkish Red Crescent Society relief consignment, flown to Haiti in Turkish air force C130s, consisted of 200 family tents, 2,000 blankets, 145 kitchen sets and – with the management of bodies still a major issue – 1,000 body bags.
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A month after the quake, Kizilayi, as the society and its delegates were often referred to in the Federation's new airport-road base camp, had distributed food, blankets, kitchen and hygiene sets parcels to 1,200 households. Well before endangered people from the Vallée de Bourdon improvised settlement were moved to the comparative safety of Tabarre Issa, the Turkish Red Crescent had set up a small tented encampment there for nearly 200 particularly vulnerable families.
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In a symbolic way, at least, the Turkish Red Crescent might justly claim to have carried out the first humanitarian 'decongestion' in Haiti. The Kuwaiti, Libyan and Qatari Red Crescent societies have also contributed people to the earthquake response, at one time or another. The multinational Qatari medical team were integrated into the French basic healthcare emergency response unit (ERU) that provided mobile clinic services at 18 sites.
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Crescent nations who also donated money to the International Federation appeal, led by Kuwait at nearly 1.5 million Swiss francs, include Bangladesh, Egypt, Morocco, Pakistan, Syria and the United Arab Emirates. "It's often said humanitarian response crosses political and religious fault lines," says Logan, who ran the International Federation's relief operation in Bam.
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"Whether it's Muslim delegates in francophone African relief teams, in the Caribbean for the first time; flags with crescents on them next to Stars of David; or the Haitian muezzin near base camp that we sometimes hear in the morning, this has certainly been an operation where east met west."

School Days Lift Spirits in Haiti (5/22/2010

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=127039766
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In Haiti, one of the strongest signs of life returning to normal four months after the earthquake is that each morning, the streets are once again filled with children in school uniforms. Reopening the classrooms was a huge challenge. Many school buildings were destroyed. Others were quickly occupied by people who had lost their homes and had nowhere else to live. The Ministry of Education has been constructing simple, open wood-frame classrooms to hold schools until more permanent structures can be built.
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One example is the St. Jean L'Evangeliste school in the Turgeau section of Port-au-Prince, which was destroyed in the earthquake. Now almost all the debris from the previous building is gone, with the exception of some shattered cinder blocks tossed to the edge of the lot. Classrooms of plywood walls and corrugated metal roofs stretch to the back of the property. And students have returned, like the group of fourth-grade boys who were recently shoving each other around on the concrete basketball court, yelling and laughing.
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At his school in Port-au-Prince, Lochard Samael, 6, works on a math problem with his teacher. He lost his father in the Jan. 12 earthquake but has since been able to return to school. The Rev. Nelson Augustin, the school's principal, says the old school had 29 classrooms, a library with 5,000 books, an auditorium and a computer lab. Now all they have are the simple classrooms with rows of desks facing a single blackboard. But he says the reopening of his school in mid-April has been a huge blessing.
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They're kids, Augustin says, so they have a big capacity to jump quickly between happiness and sadness. "We have a lot of kids themselves who were victims," he says. "Kids who were under the rubble or their parents were under the rubble. Even kids who lost their parents." Augustin says the biggest problem facing the school right now is that families can't afford the roughly $50 a month in tuition. Parents have lost their homes, their jobs, often all their savings.
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He says the school cut the tuition by 25 percent, but still many people are struggling to pay. The Inter-American Development Bank has given $6 million to build 50 schools like St. Jean L'Evangeliste. Some are finished. Others are still under construction. Most will be in Port-au-Prince. When finished, the temporary schools will provide classrooms for 65,000 students.
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The Rev. Leingkone Arnaud at St. Jean L'Evengeliste says the lightweight walls are actually reassuring to many students who are still traumatized by the earthquake. "Definitely the children feel much safer," he says — especially since there are no heavy concrete walls to fall down on them. Eventually the school will be rebuilt with solid walls, but even the principal has no idea how long it will take to find the money and resources to do that. The school operates in two shifts, with primary school in the morning and the secondary or high school in the afternoon.
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At 1 p.m., parents stream onto the grounds to pick up their young children. Abigail Toussant has come to collect her 6-year-old, Uri. Toussant says she's happy to have her son back in school. They live in a tent with 22 other people. She says for weeks on end, Uri was bored and starting to misbehave. He was always asking her why they couldn't rent a real home. She had to keep explaining that houses across Port-au-Prince were destroyed and there aren't even any left to rent.
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Toussaint adds that one of the hardest things right now is that there's no privacy in the tent. If you want privacy, she says, you close your eyes and go to sleep. She says that except for not having a home, things are returning to normal. And especially for Uri, the reopening of school is a big part of making their daily lives feel like they're getting back on track.

Haiti website launched by office of CARICOM representative

Caribbean Net News
5/21/2010
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The Office of The Special Representative of the Caribbean Community on Haiti has launched its website, www.osprhaiti.org. The website serves as a gateway for online surfers who seek information on the situation in Haiti following the January 12 earthquake and the Haitian, Caribbean and International response to the catastrophe.
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The website is especially useful to those investors, contractors and donors from the Caribbean who wish to engage with Haiti in the on-going plans for that nation’s reconstruction and regeneration following on the disaster. It offers: links to related websites; relevant and timely releases; the text of crucial statements and speeches; special news bulletins; and other important information.
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Among other documents visitors to OSPR Haiti may view and or download is the Action Plan which is being used as the basis for the implementation programme being guided by the Interim Haitian Reconstruction Commission (IHRC) headed by President René Préval and co-chaired by Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive and former US President Bill Clinton. The CARICOM Special Representative on Haiti, former Prime Minister MJ Patterson is also a member of that Committee.
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The website also includes a photo-gallery on Haiti since the earthquake. It is intended that all CARICOM nationals as well as persons in the Caribbean Community and in the Caribbean diaspora will use the website as their gateway to information on Haiti and to obtain the unique Caribbean perspective on the situation which faces our CARICOM sister nation. As far as possible, the website will make such information available in English. The website was created by the Office of the Special Representative with the support of Digital Transtec Limited (DTL) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Jamaica office.

IFAD launches US$2.5 million project to improve food security

5/21/2010
International Fund for Agricultural Development
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They are the essential elements of agriculture – water, soil, seeds – but since January's devastating earthquake, it's been difficult for rural farmers in the West and Nippes Departments of Haiti to come by these necessities. With this in mind, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has provided a US$2.5 million grant – $2 million of which was provided by the Swedish government – to the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) for a locally-managed 18-month program designed to create jobs and ensure food security for the hard-hit Haitian countryside.
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Following the earthquake an estimated 600,000 people migrated from the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince to the rural provinces, severely straining the resources and infrastructure for the farmers living there. "While the initial flood of migrants from Port-au-Prince has subsided, food security is still a critical issue. We've seen many people returning to the capital to look for work, but they've left their children behind," said Josefina Stubbs, Director IFAD's Latin America and the Caribbean Division. "We need to find a long-lasting solution to improve food security. And the only way to do that is by giving these farmers the jobs, tools and training they need."
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The new project – the Haiti Post-Earthquake Support Programme for Food Security and Employment Generation in Affected Rural Areas – is designed to do just that, and is slated to repair some 13 irrigation systems, rebuild approximately 12km of rural roads, help build 300 community and family gardens, and provide around 9000 households with seeds and tools. According to IFAD officials, the project – being implemented by local women's groups and community organizations – will also help build social capital by offering over 250 training courses on marketing, agricultural production, gender issues and organization building.
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"Most importantly, we are estimating that this project will generate around 200,000 days worth of employment. And, as we know, without a job, it's quite tough to feed your family," said Stubbs. "Aside from that, we also have incorporated a green aspect into the project, and are looking to create soil conservation and reforestation projects. The key here is not just to provide immediate relief for the rural people, we also need to provide sustainable solutions that will allow Haiti to rebuild itself over the next five, 10, 20 years."
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The IICA program comprises just one part of IFAD's short-term earthquake response. In April, the IFAD Executive Board set up a US$50 million debt relief program for the nation, and in February, the United Nation's rural poverty organization signed a grant agreement of US$5.66 million to support agricultural production in some of the poorest regions located in the north of the country.

Red Cross: Haiti struggling 4 months after quake (5/20/2010)

Associated Press
By FRANK JORDANS
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Haiti is still struggling to provide homes, sanitation and basic health care to hundreds of thousands affected by the earthquake four months ago, the country's top Red Cross official said Thursday. The Caribbean nation was ill-prepared for the devastating temblor that hit the island Jan. 12, killing up to 300,000 people and leaving many more wounded and homeless, the president of the Haitian Red Cross Society said.
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"The situation is still very difficult for the people," Michaele Amedee Gedeon told The Associated Press in an interview at the International Red Cross Federation's headquarters in Geneva. The Red Cross movement has received 920 million Swiss francs ($800 million) in funds and material contributions for Haiti, where it expects to be providing emergency aid for an unprecedented 12 months. In most disasters the emergency period is set between three and six months.
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"It is the first time we prolonged it because there are so many destitute in Haiti now that we have to take care of their very basic needs," said Gedeon. Apart from providing health care, food and materials for shelter, the group is running much of the sewage system in the capital Port-au-Prince. "We had to take some initiative on sanitation," said Gedeon, noting that the risk of disease remains high in a country where functioning toilets and clean water are a luxury.
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At some point that role will have to be transferred to the government to avoid creating dependence on aid groups, she said. Many ministries were so badly affected by the quake that they haven't been able to resume all of their functions. Among the most pressing concerns is the need to allocate space for new homes. But the issue is fraught with difficulty because many Haitians don't own the land they live on. Gedeon said the Red Cross was trying to negotiate the use of some government land for reconstruction. "I would regret if land was used as a pretext to delay reconstruction," she said.
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Looking ahead, the country will have to face the possibility of further earthquakes, and prepare for them just as it has for hurricanes and floods, she said. "Every day now we have to live with the fact that earthquakes are a reality."

Audio Slideshow: Life in a Camp (BBC - 5/20/2010)

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8689434.stm
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In January an earthquake in Haiti killed up to 230,000 people and left more than one million homeless. As the rainy season began, photographer Jake Price travelled to a number of the many camps that house some of those left homeless and presents his impressions of those struggling to rebuild their lives.

Haiti Earthquake Relief, Phase Two — Long-Term Needs

5/20/2010
New England Journal of Medicine
By Dominique Bayard, M.D.
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A month and a half after January's devastating earthquake in Haiti, the National Organization for the Advancement of Haitians, a U.S.-based nonprofit organization with a division dedicated to improving health care in Haiti, sent in teams of U.S. physicians and other health care professionals, primarily of Haitian descent, as the acute phase of disaster response was ending. As part of this group, I worked in a makeshift hospital in Tabarre, a section of northeast Port-au-Prince.
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As a first-generation Haitian-American and an internist, I expected to be prepared for the situation I was walking into. Haiti was a country I knew, I spoke the language, I understood the people, and by this point I had been watching the disaster on television daily for over a month. I knew that with the threat to life no longer minute to minute but week to week, the long-term recovery phase was beginning. According to my relatives in Haiti, the initial shock was passing. Dead victims had been cleared from the streets, families were either reunited or mourning their losses, the roads were somewhat drivable, and food and water were slowly making their way to survivors. Yet when I came face to face with the disaster, I realized that the media hadn't even begun to capture the extent of the devastation. Seeing Haiti through a framed television screen had given me only a snapshot of destroyed buildings, misplaced families, and stories of loss and survival.
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When you're on site, there is no television to turn off, no place to avert your gaze, no way to avoid hearing endless conversations about loss and devastation — and fears about worse to come. Nor could I turn off the unrelenting heat, or the airborne dust from the rubble of destroyed buildings, or the smoke rising from burning bodies, wood, and rubber. As I looked around, not a single standing building interrupted my line of sight in any direction. Every street was spilling over with masses of displaced people, many of them young children, stuck in a strange purgatory with no place to stay and no place to go.
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I soon saw that the Haitian people were paralyzed by fear. In the middle of the night, while coworkers and I were asleep inside a small home that had survived the earthquake, a minor tremor (measuring 4 on the Richter scale) knocked me out of bed. Immediately, people were screaming in the streets, afraid that "the next big one" was upon them. Neighbors yelled frantically, telling us to get out, that they could hear the building cracking. The next thing I knew, I was sleeping in a tent — the most secure and comfortable option. At that point, my only solace lay in focusing on what I could control —what little I could offer as a physician.
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At our makeshift hospital, we were past the heroic stage of rescuing bodies from the rubble and performing emergency lifesaving surgeries. Now the delayed effects of the earthquake, which affected an estimated 1.4 million people, were manifesting themselves. Inconsistent wound care and rehabilitation for trauma victims and amputees resulted in a multitude of patient visits for infections, disabilities, and complications from delayed treatment, such as gangrene and sepsis. The dust and smoke in the air led to respiratory illnesses, including severe asthma, flares of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, bronchitis, and pneumonia. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), respiratory infections are now the main cause of illness, followed by trauma or injury, diarrhea, and suspected malaria.
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Crowding and poor sanitation in rapidly growing tent settlements were creating or exacerbating medical problems, particularly in children. Mobile clinics from Tabarre provided targeted, large-scale treatment of postoperative infections and therapies for outbreaks of lice and scabies in orphanages. Before the earthquake, diarrheal illness accounted for 17% of deaths in children under the age of 5 years. Now, in addition to the already contaminated water supplies and poor sanitation, the rainy season will increase the risk of acute respiratory infection, diarrhea, and waterborne and vectorborne diseases, including dengue, typhoid, and malaria. In anticipation of this onslaught, the WHO is undertaking large-scale vaccination campaigns and tasking mobile health clinics with identifying outbreaks quickly in order to limit the associated morbidity and mortality.
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In addition, the chronic diseases that patients had been ignoring since the earthquake were rearing their ugly heads. Several patients arrived after having interrupted their treatment for tuberculosis or HIV, with no records of their previous regimens. Large numbers of patients — some who had had no regular health care before the earthquake and others whose care had been interrupted — now presented with acute manifestations of their uncontrolled chronic diseases, in the form of hypertensive emergencies, strokes, seizures, and diabetic ketoacidosis. Although many medications were available, donors had provided a supply of drugs that generally were not targeted to chronic health problems.
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In Tabarre, despite the fact that we limited each patient to only 10 to 15 pills at a time, the medications in highest demand — such as basic antibiotics, asthma inhalers, and hypertension and diabetes medications — became scarce, while boxes of others, such as intravenous amiodarone, remained untouched.
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Public health problems affecting women, ranging from sexual violence to a lack of obstetrical care, were also exacerbated by the earthquake. We treated women and girls as young as 12 years of age for newly acquired sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Many women reported being the victims of forced sexual encounters in the tent settlements. Though these reports are unconfirmed, increasing numbers of reports by health care workers of STIs and sexual violence have led to an official WHO investigation and a targeted assessment of women's health care needs.
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Ultimately, it became clear to me that the most important resource for the ongoing relief effort is the one most threatened by the earthquake: the local people. Though I had not been back to Haiti in 15 years and was there for only 2 weeks, the local people were what enabled me and my colleagues, both emotionally and logistically, to provide care to more than 800 patients a day. Local volunteers — who constituted about half our staff, though they could easily have been devoting time to their own recovery instead — spent every day, sunrise to sunset, making it possible for us to provide care. They triaged patients, organized the physicians, distributed medications, and rose to any necessary task.
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Patients were grateful that the Haitian diaspora was returning to help. Despite their own loss and tragedy, they would laugh at my American-accented Creole and tell me how proud they were of me for coming back. Neighbors living in tents in their backyards cooked a full breakfast and dinner for me and several coworkers every day. In exchange for our provision of a 2-week proverbial Band-Aid, the people helped, encouraged, and took care of us. While international volunteers come and go, the local people will remain the backbone of the recovery process, and integrating them into international relief efforts will be vital.
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The road to recovery will be long, and with the rainy season beginning, circumstances will get worse before they get better. Six months after the 2005 earthquake in South Asia, a similar pattern of respiratory infections, diarrhea, infectious disease outbreaks, poor sanitation, and insufficient shelter persisted and worsened despite a strong initial relief response.4 In Haiti, the initial response has also been strong, and we have learned from previous disasters what to anticipate in the months and years to come. Clear insight into the changing medical needs, together with the collaboration of the strong-willed Haitian people, will drive an effective effort to rebuild Haiti and, I hope, make it stronger than ever.

Bizoton 6: Haiti’s camp from Hell (IFRC - 5/19/2010)

By Alex Wynter
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Many quake camps in Haiti are unpleasant because they’re next to rubbish dumps; or dangerous for being on flood plains or at the foot of unstable slopes; or isolated and possibly forgotten for being in the middle of nowhere or buried at the end of side streets. But for sheer hellish living conditions nothing beats this place: Camp Bizoton 6, Route Raille.
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“I’ve worked in at least 35 camps now, and none was anywhere near as bad as this,” says Jens Poul Madsen, team leader of the International Federation's Danish Red Cross relief emergency response unit, which has just done an assessment there and now plans to expedite a distribution.
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Madsen, by common consent one of the most experienced and determined of the relief delegates who have worked in Haiti, uses his words advisedly. The Bizoton 6 “camp” consists of a single file of shacks nearly a kilometre long on the central reservation of Route Raille – the busy coastal highway leading west out of Port-au-Prince.
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The front of the shelters face the westbound side; their backs the eastbound. The quake-affected residents – 965 of them according to the local committee – have placed tyres and stones on the road to force traffic to stay a couple of metres from their doors. Even just standing outside one of the shelters is an ordeal. Every truck that roars past spews dust and diesel exhaust right into the doors and windows. Should any vehicle linger, it’s immediately blasted forward by a cacophony of horns –standard practice in the Haitian capital.
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It’s difficult to talk and – many residents say – impossible to sleep. The combination of noise, dirt, heat, fumes and stress is overwhelming. Every trip to the toilets involves darting through the traffic. As does any trip anywhere for that matter. Parents are permanently terrified for their children, choosing simply to lock them in the shelters for much of the time. Occasionally, they’re run down, like nine-year-old Emmanuela Mondesir was recently; she had a lucky escape, losing only a front tooth after she was knocked onto her face.
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“For three days after the quake we looked for somewhere to take refuge,” says Luma Ludger, 30, the head of the Bizoton 6 camp committee. “There was no open space at all, so in the end on 16 January we came here. It was a last resort. “Now the camp is actually growing again. People who’ve been evicted from other quake sites are coming here.” The central strip is packed with shelters from one end to the other.
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Clearly the Bizoton 6 residents need to be moved as urgently as any quake-affected people in Haiti. But asked what their most urgent daily needs are, Ludger says only, “protection from the rains”, which are intensifying, and “a safe place for children”. “There’s just no peace,” says 31-year-old Jean Kempez, yelling above the tyre roar he and his neighbours live with round the clock. “We live like animals,” he says, with considerable understatement as there is no developed country in which animals could legally be kept in the conditions that prevail at Bizoton 6.
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Pierre Betty, 26, says that last week a car left the road and demolished a shelter that was mercifully empty at the time. “People just ran in all directions, but thank God no one was killed.” Somewhat miraculously the camp from hell has retained a sense of community, even though there is no place to gather safely; people wander up and down the line of shacks dodging cars and trucks to meet and talk. “My husband would like to find a job that would pay enough for us to be able to leave this place,” says Judith Sinnew, 38, who shows off the huge scar covering much of her calf muscle from the messy fracture she suffered in the quake.
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What can be done? “The first priority is to get them some proper family supplies,” says Jens Poul Madsen, “but we don’t want to provide full shelter kits because these people have to move from here – it’s just too dangerous to stay. “The logistics of distribution will be very difficult,” he adds. “We can’t stop the traffic or assemble beneficiaries near their homes, so we’ll have to find some neutral territory where we can set up.”
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Bizoton 6, it has to be said, slipped through the humanitarian net. Anyone who’s been working in Haiti for any length of time will have driven past it at some point. Yet even here, in this nightmarish place, people smile, are welcoming to outsiders, and patient with each other. In Bizoton 6, probably not for the first time, the foreign aid worker cannot but wonder: surely the equanimity of the Haitian people must be deceptive?

Penn’s Tale Captivates Lawmakers Assessing Haiti Aid Programs

CQ
By Emily Cadei
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Leave it to a thespian to best evoke the drama of the ongoing crisis in earthquake-ravaged Haiti. Actor and activist Sean Penn had the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hanging on his every word Wednesday as he spoke of the harrowing — and sometimes violent — conditions in Pétionville, a camp of 50,000 displaced Haitians where he and his aid group, J/P Haitian Relief Organization, have been working for four months.
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Bob Casey, D-Pa., who presided over the hearing on the rebuilding efforts in the Caribbean nation, was apparently so captivated by the two-time Oscar winner’s vivid account of attempts to save a teenaged boy dying of diphtheria that he did not interrupt Penn’s lengthy opening statement.
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However, he had no qualms about reminding the next speaker to wrap it up when his time expired. The panel was assessing the earthquake relief effort ahead of a scheduled May 25 markup of a bill (S 3317) that would authorize $3.5 billion to support the long-term rebuilding and reconstruction of Haiti. But the committee members heard tales of two very different Haitis.
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In the accounts from Penn and independent experts, the aid effort is beset by frustrating bureaucratic snags and an ongoing lack of leadership and resources. However, officials from the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) focused on the aid effort’s achievements.
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“We have much to be proud of,” Kenneth H. Merten, the U.S. ambassador to Haiti, said in his opening remarks, lauding both the U.S. government’s responsiveness and the teamwork with the Haitian government and international organizations. Merten also took pains to acknowledge the sovereignty of the much-maligned Haitian government when Bob Corker, a Republican who represents Tennessee, questioned the ability of Haiti’s leaders to manage the reconstruction.
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“Today the man that’s on the ground and making things happen, the sheriff, if you will, is President [René] Préval, is that what you’re telling me?” Corker asked. “He is the leader of the country; he has got a lot of support from the international community,” was Merten’s cautious reply.
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Former USAID administrator Andrew H. Natsios had a much blunter assessment. “We’re dealing with one of the worst-governed countries in the world,” he said, urging the committee to make governance reform the “first priority.”
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A congressional aide said lawmakers would look to both the State Department and the international development community as they consider the Haiti Empowerment, Assistance, and Rebuilding Act, introduced earlier this month by Corker and Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat. Congress is devoting “a lot of money” to assist Haiti, the aide noted, but there has not been “enough accountability and strategy associated with it.”

UN redoubles efforts to house Haiti's homeless (5/19/2010)

AFP
by Erica Berenstein
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The head of the UN mission in Haiti Edmond Mulet unveiled new efforts on Tuesday to provide secure housing to thousands of people made homeless by January's devastating earthquake. One key component of the UN plan would offer assistance to homeowners, enabling them to rehabilitate houses that might have been damaged but are still basically sound.
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"We're in the process of identifying houses that haven't been totally demolished to help the owners make the necessary repairs, so that they will be encouraged to return home and also provide shelter to others in need," Mulet said. January's quake left more than 1.3 million people in need of shelter and claimed as many as 300,000 lives.
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Five months after the quake, several hundred thousand people remain camped out in tent cities and streets in the capital Port-au-Prince. "After having supplied tents to the majority of quake victims, it's now time to get on with the next phase -- providing more solid and secure homes to people now that the rainy season is here and hurricane season is on the way," Mulet said as he visited an outdoor camp that is home to some 8,000 people on the border of notorious Cite Soleil shantytown.
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The UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has for months been saying that people in the camps are first and foremost being given the option to return to their homes, where possible, although many are scared to do so because of the risk of another quake. The 7.0-magnitude quake on January 12 left much of Haiti's capital Port-au-Prince in ruins, destroying infrastructure and the seat of government and causing a humanitarian catastrophe in a country already considered the poorest in the Americas.
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About half a million people left Port-au-Prince after the quake, said Imogen Wall, a UN spokeswoman for humanitarian affairs. "Some of them have come back, some have come back temporarily. Some haven't come back but are thinking about it as their houses are assessed. We know that a lot of people will never go back," Wall said. She said about 40 percent of the city's houses are safe, and occupancy rates in those are at about 50 percent.
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"Which means people are now feeling able to go back to their homes, which is what we need them to do ahead of the hurricane season," she said. "The camps are not an acceptable or a sustainable solution for anybody at this point." Efforts are focused now on getting the homeless out of camps in public spaces and into temporary wooden structures that are strong enough to survive the hurricane season, she said.
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But finding space to accommodate the new "transitional" housing is difficult, she added. "This is our key challenge right now. This is a very congested city and transitional shelter needs space," she said. "Finding the capacity to clear the rubble from where you could put buildings up is also a major challenge." Adding urgency to the task is that after the quake, many of Haiti's homeless moved to places that are vulnerable to landslides, particularly during the hurricane season, UN officials said.
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But resettling them in safer places is "not an easy task," said George Ola-Davies, a spokesman for the UN Mission in Haiti. "We're still looking out for more areas where they could go to for other temporary relocation before permanent or semi-permanent buildings start going up for them to move into," he said. "That is another big challenge."

Haiti leader vows to step down with 'calm heart' (5/18/2010)

Miami Herald
By JONATHAN M. KATZ
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Surrounded by waving banners of blue and red, Haitian President Rene Preval pledged Tuesday to step down as scheduled next year, rebuking critics who say he is using the post-earthquake emergency to hold onto power. Preval told thousands celebrating Flag Day in the seaside town of Arcahaie that he will step down at the end of his term, Feb. 7. The two-term leader sparked protests this month when he adopted a decree that would extend his term by up to three months if a planned presidential election is not held by the end of November. "This is the last May 18 I will spend with you as president," Preval said. Pledging to pass his office to a successor on the constitutionally mandated day, he added, "I will go and my heart will be calm."
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A group of men positioned near the dais let up a supportive cheer. A group of hecklers in the back chanted, "He must go!" - ironically the same message, though with a markedly different tone. Larger protests were expected but never materialized. Swarms of Haitian police blocked vehicles trying to enter the town, leaving long lines of cars full of Flag Day revelers sweating in the morning sun.
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In Port-au-Prince a tire was burned in front of a university, but no larger demonstrations took place. Arcahaie was an appropriate setting to call for solidarity: Haiti's flag day rivals its Jan. 1 independence day among national festivals, celebrating the unity with which rebel slaves and free people of African descent defeated their French colonial rulers to become the Western Hemisphere's second independent nation and world's first black republic.
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The town is where a revolutionary congress adopted the flag in 1803 by taking the French tricolor and ripping out the white part. On Tuesday, red and blue banners declaring "Together let's remake Haiti" were hung along the road from the capital. School groups and marching bands waved flags and danced in the town's square. Teenagers and 20-somethings left their cracked homes and tents behind, packing buses and pickup trucks for drives to turquoise-water beaches for all-day parties.
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Holding elections on time will be difficult. Much of the electoral council's headquarters and records were destroyed in the quake. Officials must also contend with the loss of polling places, countless voter deaths and the displacement of 1.5 million people.
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A February election for legislative seats was canceled because of the disaster, leaving Haiti with a third of a parliament for the foreseeable future. The Organization of American States and United Nations say elections can be held before the end of the year - if needed political decisions are made on time. On Monday 1,000 people kicked police barriers, shouted insults at Preval and called for the return of exiled former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. A week earlier, at least twice as many protesters flooded Port-au-Prince's national mall.
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Associated Press Writer Pierre Richard Luxama contributed to this report.

Diphtheria cases in Haitian camp prompts emergency vaccination

UN News Service
5/18/2010
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United Nations agencies are helping health authorities in Haiti carry out an emergency vaccination campaign after an outbreak of diphtheria in the capital, Port-au-Prince, a spokesperson with the world body said today. Cases of the disease were first reported on Saturday in Camp Batimat in Cité Soleil district, one of the settlements housing people displaced by the January earthquake, Christiane Berthiaume, spokesperson for the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), told reporters in Geneva.
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The UN World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF are supporting the vaccination campaign led by Haiti's health ministry. About 2,000 people thought to have been exposed to the diphtheria bacterium are being specifically targeted in the vaccination campaign, carried out by more than 80 vaccinators.
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Diphtheria is an infectious disease that spreads from person to person through respiratory droplets from the throat through coughing and sneezing. The illness usually affects the tonsils, pharynx, larynx and occasionally the skin. Symptoms range from a moderately sore throat to toxic life-threatening diphtheria of the larynx or of the lower and upper respiratory tracts.
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Since February, an estimated 888,000 people living in displaced persons camps in Haiti have been vaccinated in the ongoing campaign against diphtheria, including more than 220,000 children under the age of eight. A second phase of the campaign will start in June and will target people living outside the camps.
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Meanwhile, Edmond Mulet, the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Haiti, on Monday visited camp "Tepis Vert" in Cité Soleil district to assess the living conditions and the needs of the 7,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) there. "We are here to better understand you, listen to you and try to solve the problems," Mr. Mulet told inhabitants of the camp, who have been suffering from inadequate basic services, including lack of sanitation facilities. The camp is also prone to flooding.

Haiti Remittances Key to Earthquake Recovery (5/17/2010)

The World Bank
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- Remittances expected to surge by 20% in 2010, yielding an extra $360 million.
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- Haitians with "temporary protective status" in the United States are a main source of support.
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- Diaspora bonds proposed to assist in Haiti's long-term development.
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Yolene Henry lost three cousins in Haiti's devastating earthquake. Her niece was pulled from the rubble and needed medical treatment. Her mother, brother and his family were sleeping outside their damaged home in tents. Henry responded like many others in the 1 million-plus Haitian diaspora: She increased the amount of money she sent to her relatives in Haiti. "Now I also support extended family members and acquaintances who lost their property," says the Washington, D.C. area resident.
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Remittances are expected to surge 20% in 2010 in a country where they normally make up more than a quarter—and maybe half—of the national income, says World Bank economist and remittances expert Dilip Ratha. While a rise in remittances has occurred after other disasters, Haiti represents the first time the restoration of remittances services was seen as a critical part of disaster relief and response, says Ratha.
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Now, Ratha and others in the international community wonder how big a role the large and relatively wealthy Haitian diaspora in the United States, Canada, France and other countries will continue to play in Haiti's recovery. The expected 20% bump in remittances in 2010 will amount to an extra $360 million above normal remittances levels, according to World Bank's Outlook for Remittance Flows 2010-11 (pdf). The diaspora officially sent $1.4 billion in remittances to Haiti in 2008, and unofficially may have sent as much as $2 billion.
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Much of the increase this year will likely come from 200,000 undocumented workers granted "temporary protective status" to live and work legally in the United States for 18 months, says the report. If the temporary protective status is extended another 18 months, additional flows to Haiti could exceed $1 billion over three years, the report adds.
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"Financial help in the form of remittances from family members is always the first to arrive in times of distress," says Ratha. "When the systems and infrastructure are completely broken and institutions are not working because of the earthquake, at that time quick relief and relief that has impact has to be provided at an individual level, and remittances do that."
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Such "people to people" assistance is increasingly recognized as an important factor in rebuilding lives and livelihoods after a disaster, partly because it is at the grassroots level, and it is given to individuals by people they know, says Saroj Kumar Jha, program manager of the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery at the World Bank. For instance, Dr. Magalie Emile, Chair of Board of Directors for the Association of Haitian Professionals in the United States, said she was inspired to help a small business owner while visiting relatives in Haiti in March.
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"That's just one option for the diaspora – to reach out to local merchants and local business owners and lend that support,' she says. "It may be something as easy as buying a $200 computer to help someone sustain a business. But you're not going to know this if you don't travel home." With an eye toward capturing that kind of support, Ratha has proposed Haiti issue reconstruction diaspora bonds to tap the wealth of the diaspora.
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This group would likely be more willing than typical foreign investors to lend money to Haiti at a cheap rate, thereby making socially relevant projects that offer a lower rate of return more affordable, he says. In the past diaspora bonds have been used by Israel and India to raise over $35 billion in development financing. Several countries—including Ethiopia, Nepal, the Philippines, Rwanda, and Sri Lanka—are considering (or have issued) diaspora bonds recently to bridge financing gaps.
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"Not only Haitians abroad, but also foreign individuals interested in helping Haiti, even charitable institutions, are likely to be interested in these bonds," says Ratha. Offering a reasonable interest rate—a 5% tax-free dollar interest rate, for example—could attract a large number of Haitian investors who are getting close to zero interest rate on their deposits. The bonds should also be implemented by a credible organization overseen by international agencies or observers, he adds.
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Ratha says a diaspora bond sale could raise $200 million if 200,000 Haitians in the United States, Canada and France were to invest $1,000 each, and much higher amounts could be raised if bonds were open to friends of Haiti and guaranteed by multilateral or bilateral donors.
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The idea has sparked interest in the international community, though some of the initial enthusiasm for it subsided as nations stepped forward to pledge billions of dollars for the reconstruction of Haiti, Ratha says. Fifty countries pledged $5.3 billion for Haiti in the next three years, and as much as $9 billion in the next decade. But the country will need more than that in the long term, and diaspora assistance brings other benefits, such as reconnecting family and friends from afar, says Jha.
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"I think the fundamental point about remittances managed through a diaspora bond will essentially be the people-to-people connection. It's not a donor-beneficiary connection here. It's more a connection between two individuals, two families, two people who share common cultural backgrounds, a common way of life, and a common identity." "I think if we try this for Haiti and it works, one could really then make diaspora bonds integral to any reconstruction effort in future."

As Haiti looks forward, it looks back at its birth (5/17/2010)

Miami Herald
By JACQUELINE CHARLES
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ARCAHAIE, Haiti -- Its red and blue colors have long symbolized strength, the coming together of two separate groups of freedom fighters, joining forces in their quest to become the first independent black nation. Now as Haiti prepares to honor its beginning, the 207th anniversary of the flag that has long symbolized its strength -- L'Union Fait La Force -- the nation finds its people struggling to reclaim their identity in the midst of handouts, foreign troops and an uncertain future.
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``The independence of Haiti is the symbol for the dignity of man, black men in particular,'' said Dr. Georges Michel, a Haitian historian who helped draft Haiti's current constitution. ``Flag Day must be celebrated even if we have an occupation of a polyglot of foreign troops.'' Four months after the 7.0-magnitude quake, the Haitian government, along with international aid groups, struggle to clear public plazas and private land of an estimated 1.5 million victims. Other challenges include organizing elections for a new president and parliament against a backdrop of increasing demonstrations, and keeping budding frustrations at bay.
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``The 18th of May?'' said Annette ``So Ann'' Auguste, a singer and supporter of exiled former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who turned her Port-au-Prince home into a shelter for quake victims. ``What do I have to celebrate'' when ``independence today is being stepped on?''
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But for every mixed emotion over commemorating Flag Day, there are also pockets of pride over its dawning, especially in Arcahaie, a town of 102,000, 29 miles north of the ravaged capital. Largely spared the destruction of its neighbors, the city is nevertheless feeling the effects of the quake. Town leaders estimate that 10 percent to 15 percent of Arcahaie's buildings, many of them more than a century old, were damaged or destroyed.
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One is St. Francois d'Sales Catholic school, where students attend classes in an annex constructed from pieces of cardboard and used University of Miami banners. The century-old school building is uninhabitable, Sister Jeanne Jean said. ``It's with a lot of difficulty that we are trying to ensure that the students don't lose the school year,'' she said. Like most people in this sleepy coastal town, Sister Jeanne can't say with certainty how many people fled to Arcahaie after the disaster. What she does know, she said, is that a lot are here -- even if the town is absent of the tent cities that blanket Port-au-Prince.
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``We received dozens of requests,'' she said of parents wanting to enroll their children, adding that the overcrowded school could only take 12 more students. But even with those pressures, Patrick Delatour, the government minister leading Haiti's reconstruction efforts, sees a chance for Arcahaie to return to its former glory as the place that developed the whole coffee plantation system and as the one-time capital of the British occupation of Haiti.
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Maybe so, say residents, but it will take more than wishful thinking to help this region where the first flag was sewed to once again play a leading role in Haitian history. ``Arcahaie is stacked with problems,'' said Father Bichara Délisca, whose century-old Roman Catholic church and rectory were both badly damaged. `` The health center can't meet the people's needs; there are no professional schools; there aren't enough grade schools.''
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Still, the town hasn't done all that bad, he and the mayor concede. As workers gave City Hall and the church a quick face-lift last week, the place was abuzz with talk of a new market to replace the one shattered in the quake. President René Préval, who will join Haitian and foreign dignitaries in the modern public square for a celebration on Tuesday, recently sent a generator for the local health clinic and bags of cement for Délisca, who sleeps in a tent in the rectory's yard. A new road being built by the government has led to the rediscovery of a coffee plantation, colonial homes, and Fort Drouet, among dozens of forts built after the revolution to keep out French invaders.
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Days before Flag Day, a festive mood enveloped the town as residents cleaned in front of their doors, konpa music filled the air and giggling teens looked on as workers built a concert stand in the square.
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Mayor Jean-Yvon Nestor said while the town can always use more help, it has done well by both Préval and Aristide, who built several modern structures including the dome-shaped City Hall and a monument dedicated to flagmaker Catherine Flon, the Betsy Ross of Haiti. Nestor acknowledges that while the veil of grief shrouding a post-quake Haiti is nothing to celebrate, his small town's giant place in history is. ``We will glorify it, and put flowers at the foot of the monument,'' he said, referring to a marble hexagon figure depicting the various colors of the Haitian flags over the years. ``We may be materially poor, but spiritually, we are rich,'' said Michel, the historian.

``The worth of Haiti is not in the materials, it's a spiritual one and it's an intangible asset.''

IOM Launches New Push to Improve Life for the Displaced

5/18/2010
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IOM has launched a major new push to identify and meet the needs of more than 2 million Haitians living in displacement camps following the January 12 earthquake. In its role as lead agency in the Haiti emergency response’s Camp Coordination and Camp Management (CCCM) cluster, IOM has established a new camp management operation team, funded by the EU’s humanitarian arm ECHO, which will reach out to local authorities and community leaders to improve the flow of information between affected populations and humanitarian actors.
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The first step is to establish close relationships with the mayors of seven communes in the larger Port-au-Prince area, as well as Haiti’s civil protection department (DPC) – the government-appointed agency in charge of camp coordination. The team will also forge ties with local community leaders, and hold commune-wide meetings with non-governmental organisations to improve coordination on a municipal (commune) level.
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“Our goal is to draw a clear picture of each commune, establish priorities and then feed that information into the humanitarian system in order to better meet specific beneficiary needs,” says Daniel Desmarais, head of the camp management operation.
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“It is crucial that the information flows both ways, so we can best understand and answer the Haitian people’s own priorities. The commune by commune approach is crucial, as each area has its own personality with its own challenges, requiring very context specific responses,” adds Desmarais.
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The operation has seven camp-specific teams – one for each commune – each of which has one camp manager, one field assistant, one community mobiliser, and a driver. An additional five mobile teams will also be available to respond to specific situations as they emerge. The teams will report information on a publically accessible Wordpress blog – a creative new approach designed to improve the transparency of information flowing through the system.
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“It works great; it’s available to anyone from anywhere. You can access this information from Gonaives to Geneva, from Petionville to Paris,” says Mr Desmarais. A blog for each commune will feed specific field-based information to the NGO community on the ground, while another blog will provide a strategic overview for organizations working under the CCCM umbrella.
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The camp management team will subsequently go camp by camp throughout the communes, check the accuracy of the information, and make logistical arrangements to meet the identified needs. “We want to better organize the response’s camp management capabilities to meet the significant and continuing challenges of this crisis,” says Desmarais. “We as IOM can step in as camp managers of last resort, but the needs are far too great for us alone. The work of our partners is absolutely crucial.”
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In related news, 50,000 mosquito nets have just been delivered to Haiti for urgent distribution by the Health Cluster and other NGO partners ahead of intensifying rains. The shipment, to be distributed in collaboration with the Haiti disaster response’s “Health Cluster,” is among the first major consignments to arrive, of an estimated 1.4 million nets needed in malaria prone Haiti. IOM will coordinate with the vector borne disease working group of the Health Cluster to establish priority areas and individuals to receive nets.
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“With the upcoming rainy season representing a period of naturally increased malaria risk, there is an urgency to get these nets out to camp residents and host communities to try and prevent any excess outbreaks of the disease,” says Dr Patrick Duigan, head of IOM’s health unit in Haiti. However, Dr Duigan notes that there is no indication as of yet that malaria rates have yet risen above normal levels for the country. Recent figures indicate that the percentage of suspected malaria cases reported for Haiti’s earthquake displaced population has decreased to 3% in recent weeks, or an average of 4.7% for the period from February 2010 until present.
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”The net distribution is a clear example of the kind of synergies that are taking place through the CCCM and Health Clusters and other NGO partners, to comprehensively address the needs of Haiti’s displaced communities,” Duigan says.
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For further information please contact Mark Turner at IOM Haiti, Tel +509 37025066/ +509 34906678, Email mturner@iom.int or markyturner@yahoo.com

OAS ready for elections in Haiti (5/17/2010)

Caribbean Net News
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The Group of Friends of Haiti of the Organization of American States (OAS) met at OAS headquarters in Washington, DC, to review and discuss the preparations for the Haitian general elections and the role of that the OAS, its Member States and the United Nations will play in accompanying Haitian authorities and providing technical electoral support.
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Assistant Secretary General Albert Ramdin
OAS Assistant Secretary General Albert R Ramdin, who chairs the Group of Friends of Haiti, updated the Member States on the joint preparations for the elections undertaken by the OAS and the United Nations, as well as a task force of the international community made up of Haiti, Brazil, Canada, the United States, the United Nations, the OAS, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the European Union.
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“The OAS and the United Nations believe that elections can be held from a technical perspective before the end of the year in accordance with the constitution if the necessary political decisions are made in time,” Ambassador Ramdin stated.
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The first meeting of the international task force for electoral assistance to Haiti was held May 10 with the objective of defining the scope of activities to be carried out, as well as the challenges ahead and the division of labor between the stakeholders in this process. Ambassador Ramdin said the OAS contribution to the process of electoral assistance will take place in four areas: registration, processing, printing and distribution of national ID cards; the development or presentation of a voters’ list; the provision of technical assistance, training in the software application Oracle and data-based management for the Provisional Electoral Council; and the establishment and technical support of tabulation centers under the leadership of the Haitian authorities.
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The OAS Assistant Secretary General also warned that in addition to technical issues there may be political challenges as the elections, which are set by the Constitution for November 28, the last Sunday of the month, approach.
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“There will be political issues coming up over the coming months, especially with the registration of political parties and whether all political parties comply with the law,” Ambassador Ramdin said. “We had a situation with one political party where in absence of a clear leadership several candidate lists were submitted. I hope those issues can be resolved in the intermediate period.”
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For his part, Ambassador Duly Brutus, Permanent Representative of Haiti to the OAS, thanked the international community for its support and expressed confidence that current political issues between the stakeholders in the Haitian elections process will resolve themselves in time.
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“The Haitian people have clearly demonstrated their commitment to the principle of democracy,” Ambassador Brutus stated. “It is clear that the administration of President Préval knew how to put in place from the beginning of its rise to power the mechanisms that would allow the country and the political forces in it to resolve their differences through dialogue. We believe in the end the different stakeholders will work out their problems among themselves.”
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Participating actively in the meeting also were the Director of the United Nations Electoral Assistance Division and Haiti Mission Chief, Tadjoudine Ali-Diabacté; representatives of OAS Member States Brazil, Dominican Republic, Canada, the United States, Mexico, Jamaica and Chile; and OAS Permanent Observers Spain, in the name of the Presidency of the European Union, and France.

For Haitian-Americans, a day to rejoice, reflect (5/17/2010)

Boston Globe
By Sean Teehan
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Local Haitian-Americans united yesterday in music and dance four months after an earthquake devastated the country, destroying homes, breaking up families, and taking thousands of lives. Sorrow and joy were shared as members of the community came together for a colorful parade celebrating Haiti’s Flag Day.
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“It’s not only rejoice,’’ Alta Jean said as she watched the parade from a wall by Franklin Park in Dorchester. “When something hurts you, that’s the only way to express our feelings. . . . Either we are dancing, or our hearts are bleeding.’’ The 10th annual Haitian- American Unity Parade, organized by Haitian-Americans United Inc., elicited memories of lost loved ones for many in attendance. Names of some of those who perished in the Jan. 12 earthquake were placed on a banner displayed as a memorial on a truck at the head of the parade.
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The name of Eliezer Romulus of Stoughton, who was in Haiti visiting family when the earthquake struck, was in a prominent location at the banner’s bottom. “He would be here; every single year he’d be here with his wife,’’ Marie Nerolien said of Romulus. Nerolien, who is a cousin of Romulus’s wife, spoke lovingly about how the 63-year-old X-ray technician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center used to watch her children. Although the celebration reminded her of the kind-spirited man she lost in the earthquake, she said that continuing the tradition was only right.
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“I’m here to remember him,’’ Nerolien said. “If he was alive, that’s what he’d be doing.’’ While many remembered how the earthquake changed their lives, paradegoers also danced to the furious percussion of a drum band, to brass bands, and to hip-hop Creole music blasting from floats. Waving Haitian flags and wearing the country’s red-and-blue colors, they watched as a group of women broke into dance each time the parade halted. A color guard spun flags to the music.
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“The country and community has just been so devastated,’’ said Kathleen Jeanty, a Haitian-Americans United volunteer. “But it’s time to look to the future.’’ Though looking ahead, Jeanty and her relatives could not help but remember the horrors they experienced on the day of the earthquake and in its aftermath. Anne Marie Robert, Jeanty’s aunt, who arrived here for a visit two weeks ago, had returned to Haiti from another Boston visit two hours before the earthquake hit. The roof of her home in Cape-Haitien collapsed on her as she showered, and she was pinned to the floor.
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“I was there [trapped] at least 30 minutes,’’ Robert said. A strong aftershock enabled her to free herself from the rubble. She was kept from returning to the United States until now because her visas were in suitcases that were destroyed. Governor Deval Patrick and Mayor Thomas M. Menino launched yesterday’s festivities. “I want this community to know that I feel [for] them, and I see them, and I worry about them,’’ said Patrick, who served as the parade’s first non-Haitian grand marshal.
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Menino also acknowledged the magnitude of this year’s parade, calling it “more significant than ever before.’’ The feelings of unity were strongly evident yesterday, said Nesly Metayer, chairman of the Massachusetts Haitian-American Earthquake Task Force.
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“I believe this earthquake compelled us to come together,’’ he said of the Haitian-American community, which he described as divided in the past. “I really think we have moved beyond our differences.’’ After marching about 2 miles down Blue Hill Avenue from Mattapan Square, marchers and onlookers proceeded to Franklin Park in Dorchester, where a stage was set up and speeches were given by several people, including state Representatives Linda Dorcena Forry and Marie St. Fleur.
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Both Forry and St. Fleur encouraged local Haitian youths to integrate the culture of their homeland into their American lives. “This is how you pass the past down to the next generation,’’ St. Fleur said of the parade, in an interview beforehand.
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As brass bands and a dance squad performed between speeches, many in the audience danced and waved Haitian flags. The mid-70s weather and sunny skies allowed for a longer celebration than in some past years, which have been rainy and cold. That, St. Fleur said, could be an omen. “I think it’s a sign that we will rise,’’ St. Fleur said. “We will rise from the ashes.’’

Menlo Park Man Recalls How Haiti Saved Jews from Nazis

5/14/2010
The Jerusalem Post
By Rebecca Anna Stoil
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In the devastating aftermath of the Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti, many Jews felt a measure of pride when they turned on their televisions to see Israeli medical teams on the scene. But for some the sight evoked not only pride — it was a reminder of an important and nearly forgotten era 60 years ago.
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For those Jews, Haiti was more than a troubled Caribbean nation struggling against hunger and poverty and now disaster — it was the nation that saved their lives when they found door after door closed to them as they tried to flee Nazi Europe.
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“I was 4 years old when I escaped from Germany and went to live in Haiti for a year, until immigrating to New York,” said Bill Mohr of Menlo Park. “I do not know what would have happened if Haiti had not opened its doors to those fleeing the Holocaust.” After the earthquake put Haiti in the news, Mohr was inspired to explore this intriguing part of his past. He and his wife, Harriet, wanted to know more. Not only about Bill’s family history, but also about Haiti’s almost unknown role in providing 150 to 300 Jews with a shelter from the disaster looming in Europe.
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Initially the two found only minimal historical documentation of the refugee community in Haiti. However, soon they were able to start putting together a clearer picture of the tiny Jewish community, which swelled with the arrival of the European immigrants but declined as Haiti’s fate turned in the postwar years.
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Although Bill, now 75, spent less than a year of his life in Haiti, he has become immersed in putting together the puzzle and tracking down details about this little-known piece of Jewish history. In fact, what started with a curious interest has snowballed into a full research endeavor, keeping the couple busier than they could have imagined. “We started working on this right after the earthquake,” said Harriet, “and now every day there’s an e-mail or related phone call. Everyone is coming out of the woodwork. It’s become a full-time and deeply meaningful project. It’s the discovery of a lost tribe, almost.”
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Bill’s ties to Haiti began late in 1938, following Kristallnacht. His father, Ernst, was arrested Nov. 10 and held at Dachau until the end of December. During that harrowing time Bill’s mother, Auguste Midas Mohr, worked feverishly to get immigration papers after finding out from a friend that Haiti was a possible escape route. The family also had an affidavit that would allow them to enter the United States eventually, “but there were numbers given out [and] people could only come slowly into the United States when their number was called,” she told her daughter, Ruth, in an oral history many years later.
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“I went to Hamburg on the night train all by myself and I contacted our friend, the Haitian consul-general, Mr. Fouchard,” who issued the visas that saved their lives, Auguste, now deceased, recalled in the oral history. Auguste Midas and Ernst Mohr in Germany shortly before their departure in 1939.
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Once Ernst got out of Dachau, the family continued preparations and then left, with each of the four family members allowed to take the equivalent of just a few dollars on the journey. The family — Ernst, Auguste, 5-year-old Ruth and 3-year-old Bill — spent 32 days on the high seas, traveling with the only company to include Port-au-Prince on its Caribbean route. Auguste recalled that “the children were very happy there and they ran up and down the ladder to the captain’s deck and the captain let them take the rudder.”
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When the family arrived in the Haitian capital, Fouchard’s father had prepared a small house for them. They quickly settled into a Haitian routine. Bill and Ruth played with neighborhood children, and Auguste learned from the locals how to place orders from the market. In their middle-class circle, appearances were maintained even at what must have seemed like the end of the world. “The men wore white suits with white shirts, and they always had to wear a tie in that terrible heat,” said Auguste. “The kids went to kindergarten and they learned French in no time.”
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Because many of the Jews who had recently arrived came from Austria, Auguste recalled that any Jewish newcomers who joined the tiny community were known as “Austrians.” The Bigios, a family that immigrated to Haiti from Syria at the beginning of the century and still is influential in the country today, took charge of organizing the diverse mix of Sephardi and Ashkenazi refugees.
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With no work and little money, the Mohr family struggled, even in the relatively cheap Haitian economy, to make ends meet. “With no money, we were invited to the wedding of the chef du protocol,” Auguste said. “My friend and my neighbor made Ruth a little dress so she could be a flower girl. The dress was made out of one of the collars of my dresses. I wore my wedding gown that was dyed black … It was between Christmas and New Year’s Day and we were dancing there in the open air.”
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Shortly after arriving in Haiti, Ernst became very involved in the suddenly blossoming Jewish community and helped to form the Joint Relief Committee of Haiti, a local branch of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), and served as its secretary. “Many of the refugees were in dire need of financial assistance, and he worked toward the aim of lessening their burdens,” Bill said. Ernst “was always interested [in Jewish life], and he vowed when he came out of concentration camp that he would devote himself to Jewish causes, and that is what he did,” Auguste told Ruth in the oral history.
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In February 1940, the Mohrs received word they could legally enter the United States. They arrived in New York City the next month, where Ernst fulfilled a promise he had made to the tiny Haitian Jewish community. Serving as an emissary from the Port-au-Prince community, he went to plead its case for refugee aid before the JDC, seeking a subsistence stipend for the Joint Relief Committee of Haiti.
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Apologizing that it could not afford more, the New York headquarters approved $50 a month for the Haitian branch — of which $47.49 of the first installment went to order and ship 300 pounds of matzah from Horowitz Brothers & Margareten for Passover. Once in the United States, Ernst also kept his promise to devote himself to Jewish causes. He was a founding member and executive director of Temple Anshe Sholom in Kew Gardens, N.Y., and was active in B’nai B’rith, United Jewish Appeal and State of Israel Bonds, which awarded him a medal of recognition in 1966. Bill is doing what he can to continue his parents’ legacy.
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He and Harriet established the Haiti Jewish Refugee Legacy Project to centralize their research and provide a clearinghouse for information about the Jewish refugees of Haiti. As a result, the Mohrs have heard from a number of people who either came through the island nation sometime during the war or are descendants of Jews who were there. They are tracking down leads at the USC Shoah Foundation Institute, are in touch with a documentary filmmaker in New York who may be interested in the project, and reached out to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and Yad Vashem, neither of which, according to Harriet, were aware of Haiti’s role in saving Jews.
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That role was significant, she said, even if the numbers look relatively small. “It was a profound statement [the country] made,” said Harriet, who has written books on human development and spirituality. Bill was a manager at Hewlett-Packard for 27 years; their daughter, Tara, lives in San Francisco and chairs the board of UpStart Bay Area, which supports Jewish innovators. “Haiti made the decision to take a stand, take Jews in and issue these passports. There was a sympathetic energy going on. “Passports were the difference between life and death for at least 300 people and their children, so it turned into saving thousands.”
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Days after the earthquake, the JDC described Haiti as “a legitimate source of inspiration,” noting that it “played a small yet critical role in saving Jewish lives during the darkest chapter in the Jewish story.” According to the organization’s records, starting in 1938, Jewish refugees from Central Europe immigrated, with JDC assistance, to Haiti. By the time travel was rendered impossible with the outbreak of World War II, some 150 Jewish refugees had reached Port-au-Prince. The Joint Relief Committee Haiti financially supported about one-third of them.
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According to Harriet, not all Jews with Haiti passports came to the island nation. Some with Haitian documents simply leveraged them to flee to other countries. Others didn’t get the chance to use them at all. “We didn’t realize there were concentration camp prisoners with Haiti passports who got caught before they could make it out,” she said. “Some of these people perished in the camps, while others were liberated at the end of the war.”
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Haiti — which in 1947 was one of three countries that changed their original positions and voted for the U.N. partition plan, giving Jews a homeland — had a Jewish population of around 200 people in 1957. But the political climate, lack of economic opportunity and longing for an active Jewish community on the part of Haitian-born Sephardis, as well as the refugees, began to take their toll. By 1970, approximately 75 percent of the Jewish population had left, mostly for the United States, Argentina and Panama. According to the World Jewish Congress’ last count, in 1997, the permanent Jewish community of Haiti numbered 25, mostly still centered in Port-au-Prince.
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The Bigio family that organized the community at its peak is still active, owning Haiti’s only Torah scroll and serving as Israel’s consul to the troubled nation. With history turning again full circle, it was Gilbert Bigio who offered his land to house the Israeli field hospital in the earthquake’s aftermath.
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Seeing Israelis saving Haitian lives reminded Bill of his personal connection to the country, and launched the Mohr family’s efforts to make sure Jews learn about — and remember — a time when Haiti saved Jewish lives. Please visit Haiti Jewish Refugee Legacy Project. For donations to Haiti relief, please visit ajws.org.

Haiti Jews still picking up pieces, but Israeli presence strong

5/13/2010
By Larry Luxner
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If tracking down Haitian Jews was hard before the Jan. 12 earthquake, these days it’s next to impossible. There’s no rabbi or functioning synagogue in the country, and land phone lines are still mostly out of service more than 100 days after the devastating event.
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“We don’t know how to cope with this tragedy,” said Gilbert Bigio, a businessman who is also Israel’s honorary consul in the capital of Port-au-Prince. “They’re already talking about the next shock, because apparently the first earthquake was not complete.” For half a century, Bigio’s mansion was the de facto Jewish community center of Port-au-Prince. It was where Haiti’s only Torah scroll was kept, an Israeli flag fluttered from the rooftop and each Passover the country’s 50 or so Jews would gather for a seder, singing, “Next year in Jerusalem.”
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That beautiful mansion, with its luxurious swimming pool and a gazebo for outdoor parties, is now a collapsed pile of rubble — destroyed like countless other structures in the earthquake that leveled much of the city. After the quake, Bigio managed to find the Torah scroll amid the ruins of his house. He took it to his daughter’s undamaged home nearby for safekeeping. None of Haiti’s Jews were known to have been killed in the quake.
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Since the quake, which killed an estimated 230,000 and crippled the country’s fledgling economy, there are only about 15 Jews left in Haiti, according to Bigio, out of a total population of 9 million. And they spend most of their time in Miami or the neighboring Dominican Republic because conditions at home are so difficult. Sharona Nathan, daughter of the late Israeli peace activist Abie Nathan, is one of them. She lived in Haiti from 1979 to 1991 to be with her mother, who managed a hotel in Port-au-Prince. Nathan eventually landed a job as an English teacher at the local Berlitz language school and married a Haitian man of Palestinian origin whose parents ran an art gallery in the capital.
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She was one of nine Israelis in the country when the earthquake struck. “When the quake happened, there was no communication whatsoever,” she recalled. “My daughter in Israel was freaking out. People around the world were traumatized, because they got the whole story, but we had no idea of the extent of the damage.” Nathan’s family eventually learned via family friends on Facebook that she was alive and unharmed. Besides Nathan, the only other Israeli known to be living here full time is businessman Daniel Kedar, who runs the ProDev foundation now providing disaster relief to quake victims. Kedar’s wife, Maryse Penette, is a former tourism minister of Haiti.
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“Until the quake, [Israeli] presence here was virtually nonexistent,” Kedar said. “There are no Israeli products, no Israeli names, nothing. So Israel for the Haitians has only religious connotations. All of a sudden, we’ve become one of the biggest players in relief, so we’ve had an exposure totally disproportionate to the size of our mission.” Israel was one of the earliest countries to dispatch a relief and rescue team to Haiti, and the Israel Defense Forces set up a sophisticated field hospital that was widely hailed as the best place to get medical care in Port-au-Prince in the days after the tremor.
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Between 20 and 30 Israelis are now doing relief work in Haiti, according to Kedar. Israel also has decided to build a $1.5 million vocational school to be funded by the Jewish diaspora, Bigio said. The idea is to teach Haitians how to become plumbers, mechanics, carpenters and the like — all skills that will be much needed for a post-quake recovery.
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Luis de Torres, Christopher Columbus’ interpreter, is said to have been the first Jew to set foot in Haiti, in 1492. The first Jewish immigrants to Haiti came from Brazil in the 17th century, after Haiti was conquered by the French. These Crypto-Jews were all murdered or expelled along with the rest of the white population during the slave revolt of Toussaint L’Ouverture in 1804.
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Archaeologists have discovered the remains of a synagogue in Jeremie, a city along Haiti’s southern peninsula that was home to many mulatto families of Jewish origin; there also are vague historical references to Jewish tombstones in the port cities of Cap Haitien and Jacmel. By the end of the 19th century, Sephardic Jews began arriving in Haiti from Lebanon, Egypt and Syria. Bigio’s uncle came from Syria in 1896, and his father arrived 20 years later.
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In 1937, Haitian officials — like their counterparts in the Dominican Republic — began issuing passports to hundreds of desperate Eastern European Jews fleeing the Nazis. Many of those grateful Jews stayed until the late 1950s. At one time as many as 300 Jews lived in Haiti, with congregants packing Bigio’s house every Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur for services. But attendance dwindled along with Haiti’s Jewish population, especially after the 1986 overthrow of Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier and the ensuing chaos of the Jean-Bertrand Aristide years.
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“There has never been any anti-Semitism in this country,” Bigio said. “The Haitians always had admiration for Israel, and now more so than ever.”

Haiti Asks Expats to Return Home (IPS - 5/14/2010)

Members of the Haitian diaspora responded with "massive and spontaneous" aid immediately after the January 12th earthquake, with thousands of professionals leaving jobs abroad to go and assist their compatriots, according to a government minister. Now the Haitian authorities are hoping that even more expatriates will return to settle in the Caribbean country as it undertakes its immense reconstruction programme.
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"We are asking skilled Haitians living abroad to return because we need to fill the void in the professional sector," said Edwin Paraison, minister for Haitians living abroad, as he visited Paris at the start of a European tour this week. "We were touched by their massive, spontaneous and generous reaction after the earthquake," he added. "But we have to focus on long-term efforts as we move ahead."
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The aim of his tour is to promote the government’s mobilization plan to entice professionals back, with offers of good salaries, housing and transportation, Paraison said. "We know that people get accustomed to a certain standard of living abroad so we have to facilitate their return by providing definite benefits," he told IPS in an interview. "We have to think of things that will make their lives easier in Haiti." He said the government was also launching a public awareness campaign so that Haitians who had remained in the country would not feel that they were being displaced by those who opted to return.
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"We have to admit that there might be some small problems with feelings of resentment, but we cannot escape the fact that we need to replace the function of those who lost their lives in the earthquake," he said. Calling Paris the "capital of the Haitian diaspora in Europe", Paraison met with groups based in France as well as with French officials, including immigration minister Eric Besson. Repatriation will need coordination from various parties, he said.
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An Anglican priest by training, Paraison is also focusing on faith-based communities to spread the word, and he held talks with various congregations here. He was scheduled to meet with groups in Switzerland and Spain as well, ending with a diaspora conference in Barcelona.
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Paraison’s visit coincided with events in Paris commemorating the abolition of slavery. Several associations also held demonstrations and a march on Monday, calling on France to pay reparations to its former colonies who suffered from the slave trade.
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In the case of Haiti, protesters with the activist MIR (Mouvement International pour les Reparations / International Movement for Reparations) said there was a special obligation as the Caribbean country bore a heavy financial and human toll in its violent break from France two centuries ago. Following its independence, Haiti was forced to pay France 90 million gold francs in exchange for recognition of the country’s new status and also as reparation for "lost lands and income" in the slave revolt that led to autonomy. The country had to borrow heavily from international banks to pay the sum plus interest, sinking ever deeper into poverty. The payments to France were completed only in the mid-1940s.
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In 2004, then Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide calculated the value of the sum Haiti had to pay as US$21 billion at current rates. Paraison told IPS that Haiti was open to whatever France wanted to do in the area of cooperation and assistance, but he added that his main concern was "mobilizing the diaspora" and appointing a permanent representative for Haitians living here.
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Metropolitan France is home to about 75,000 Haitians, among the 4-million strong expatriate community, according to figures from the Haitian embassy in Paris. Those living abroad comprise 83 percent of all Haitian professionals, resulting in a severe "brain drain" for the country, said ambassador Fritzner Gaspard.
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Most expat Haitians are based in the United States and Canada. A significant number live in the Dominican Republic and other Caribbean countries such as Cuba and Jamaica, while others have settled in Europe, Africa and other regions. Even if a small minority of these people return to Haiti, their contribution would boost the reconstruction efforts, as the country lost more than 20,000 professionals among the estimated 300,000 victims of the earthquake, Gaspard said.

Still Homeless in Haiti (NYT Editorial - 5/14/2010)

Of the more than 1.5 million Haitians left homeless by the Jan. 12 earthquake, about 7,500 have been moved from the most dangerous areas of crowded tent cities to new resettlement sites. The conditions in those tent cities are grim. Thunderstorms are fierce, and the plastic sheets and tarps distributed after the disaster are fraying, along with the people’s patience.
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Meanwhile, the demand for secure housing keeps growing as people who fled the capital, Port-au-Prince, move back, because that’s where most of the aid is. Why is it so bad? The reasons are partly understandable and partly maddening.
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When the United Nations, donor countries and aid organizations rushed to Haiti’s aid, the first priority was water, food and medical care. With the rains coming, they raced to distribute emergency shelter materials to more than a million people, and, almost miraculously, they succeeded. They also sent engineers out to mark structurally sound homes with green paint. Many people still aren’t going home. They are afraid of more quakes, or can’t afford rent, or have no jobs to return to.
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The biggest problem — the worst frustration to relief organizations ready and eager to build homes — is the lack of land to build on. Haiti’s government has been far too sluggish in finding and acquiring sites to build new housing. Property ownership and land titles were a messy business in Haiti in the best of times, and now, with records destroyed and many landowners reluctant to cooperate, the problem is excruciating. Some communities take a not-in-my-backyard stance toward indigent newcomers because it seems obvious to them that new “transitional” settlements will likely be permanent.
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Central to the ambitious plans for rebuilding Haiti is the goal of creating new population centers outside the cripplingly congested capital, with new jobs, schools and clinics to go along with new housing. Aid organizations can help in this by moving their rebuilding and redevelopment efforts out to the provinces to give displaced people the reasons and opportunity to relocate.
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They can’t get started until President René Préval and his team make up their minds about where new communities will go. They need to acquire property, by eminent domain if necessary, to meet the urgent need to safely shelter the displaced and to ease the pressure on Port-au-Prince.

A Haitian Influx Startles the North Country (NYT - 5/14/2010)

New York Times
By KATIE ZEZIMA
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BURLINGTON, Vt. — The United States District Court here hired a Creole translator on an on-call basis in February. Three months later she is putting in 10-hour days, working so much that she does not have the time to search for a full-time job. The northern Vermont border has tempted some Haitians.
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The workload for the translator, Chrissy Etienne, 24, reflects the unexpected and unusual circumstances playing out in northern Vermont near the Canadian border: More and more people are trying to enter the United States illegally, and nearly all of them here are Haitian, law enforcement officials said.
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Soon after an earthquake devastated Haiti in January, the Obama administration announced that all Haitians in the United States would be allowed to stay and work in the country for 18 months, regardless of immigration status. Rumors that all Haitians would be welcome began circulating in Canada, although the order applied only to Haitians in the United States as of Jan. 12, the day of the quake. Since Jan. 23, at least 150 Haitians living in Canada have tried, under cover of night, to slip over the border and navigate the dairy pastures and dense forest of northern Vermont.
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“This activity is definitely one of the larger groups, if not the largest of any focused nature, that we’ve had on our border,” said Tristram J. Coffin, the United States attorney in Vermont. The sudden influx of immigration cases has swamped the federal courthouse, where clerks are learning how to pronounce Creole names and filings are being waived to expedite proceedings.
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“I remember jokingly saying I’ll never be called because there’s no one who speaks Creole here,” said Ms. Etienne, a native of Haiti who was hired after volunteering at an African community center here. “But this is practically full time.” Mr. Coffin’s office has charged about 40 Haitians with the federal crime of re-entry after prior removal. The authorities released the others on orders of supervision or under their own recognizance, an official said. Most of the Haitians caught crossing the border were ordered deported from the United States years ago, Mr. Coffin said, which is unusual for such a large number of cases.
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“Almost all of these people have been removed from the U.S. before,” Mr. Coffin said. And they wanted to return to the country, according to interviews with Haitians in Canada, lawyers and refugee advocates.
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“People thought that the United States were going to receive all the Haitians,” said Jean Ernest Pierre, president of CPAM Radio Union, a Haitian station in Montreal. “And as they saw that they had no chance to become Canadian permanent residents and because some of them received negative decisions, some people decided to return to the United States.”
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Marjorie Villefranche, program director at Maison d’Haiti, a community center that serves the nearly 200,000 Haitians living in Montreal, said most knew that crossing into the United States was illegal but were willing to take the chance. Many, she said, had trouble finding work and adjusting to life in Montreal. “They are desperate,” Ms. Villefranche said. “They don’t have family with them, they live alone. They probably think it’s better for them to go back into the States, get a better job and make money.”
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Many arrived in Canada in 2006 and 2007, according to American and Canadian refugee advocates, seeking refugee status there after Haitians in Florida complained of stepped-up immigration raids and a group in Florida started directing them to Canada. The Haitians were allowed to stay in Canada even if their applications were denied because of an immigration policy that later changed. The group, which charged Haitians for help with asylum applications, was later shut down by the Florida attorney general’s office for deceptive practices.
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Felicier Edmond was hoping to return to family and a construction job in Florida, said his lawyer, David Watts. Mr. Edmond was ordered deported from the United States in 2001 and later went to Canada, joining his wife and son. Mr. Edmond and a companion were arrested the evening of Feb. 5, when Border Patrol agents spotted them walking south on a Vermont road, trying to flag down a car and “ask for a ride to Vermont,” according to court documents.
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Mr. Watts said he was unsure whether Mr. Edmond understood the severity of recrossing with an outstanding deportation order. “Did he really understand the implications of the order and that he would be charged with a felony?” Mr. Watts said. “He just wants to get back to pay his mortgage. How patriotic is that?”
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After discussions with Mr. Coffin’s office, Mr. Edmond pleaded guilty to a lesser charge Tuesday and was living with his wife and son in Florida by Friday, said Mr. Watts. He added that his client was released under the supervision of the federal immigration agency.
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In North Troy, Vt., a granite marker designates the border of Canada and the United States. Mr. Edmond’s wife said in a telephone interview that she also crossed the border with the couple’s 3-year-old son. She took a taxi to the border and walked over before being caught by agents. She was released 16 hours later. “I don’t have another way to come back,” she said. “I don’t have no parents to fill the green card for me, my husband don’t have nothing.”
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James Guillaume, 41, was caught on the border in Highgate, Vt., on Feb. 26 and, according to the charges, had previously come into the country through Florida with a fake passport and admitted to agents in Vermont that he crossed into the United States from Canada. Last month a lawyer for Mr. Guillaume tried to convince a judge that he should be released to the custody of his girlfriend.
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Mr. Guillaume, clad in jeans and a brown polo shirt with a skull flanked by angel wings and the words “Damage Case” on the back, was led into court with his hands cuffed. He was the sixth Haitian to appear in court that week. His lawyer, Bud Allen, argued that Mr. Guillaume should be released from detention and live with his girlfriend and other family members in New Jersey. Judge Christina Reiss denied the request, saying that Mr. Guillaume could pose a flight risk and that it could be difficult for him to attend hearings in Vermont.
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Mr. Allen said he and his client were considering a number of avenues, including whether he should plead guilty, which might make officials more likely to sentence him to time served. The cases continue to wind through the court, and Ms. Etienne’s phone is still ringing. The flow, however, may be slowing. Mr. Coffin said it had been a few weeks since he charged a Haitian national with a felony, though more have been caught coming over. “We took some law enforcement steps on both sides of the border,” Mr. Coffin said. Haitians in Canada said the number of people who have been caught is making others reconsider, but many are still planning to cross.
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“They are determined,” said Erwin-Joseph Jean-Louis, a Haitian who has been granted asylum in Canada. He said that the practice was well-known in Montreal, and that residents helped one another raise money to cross. He knows of few people who have crossed successfully, and thinks more will try. Some initially came to the United States by raft from Haiti and, Mr. Jean-Louis said, think nothing of stepping over a border. “They risked their lives and they succeed, so why not crossing this border? It is nothing in comparison,” he said. “Living in the United State is a great life. Even if it is illegally, at least you can live well in America.”

Haiti relief less than Katrina, 9/11 (USA Today - 5/15/2010)

By Martha T. Moore
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Four months after an earthquake devastated Haiti, Americans have donated $1.3 billion for disaster relief there, almost on a par with theirgiving after the Asian tsunami in 2004, according to a tally by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.
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Four months after the tsunami struck Asia, Americans had given $1.5 billion, according to figures tracked by the center. Lower giving for Haiti could be the result of the recent recession, says Una Osili, director of research. The pace for Haiti relief donations trails that of giving by Americans after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005. More than half the total for Haiti has been raised by the American Red Cross, which has collected $444 million, and Catholic Relief Services, nearly $136 million, according to a list of relief agencies compiled by The Chronicle of Philanthropy.
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Immediate needs in Haiti are so great that relief organizations are spending faster than they initially expected. Members of a coalition of aid organizations called InterAction, which include the American Red Cross, Catholic Relief Services, World Vision, the U.S. Fund for UNICEF and Save the Children, have planned to split their funds almost equally between immediate relief and long-term reconstruction in Haiti, InterAction President Sam Worthington says. Now, aid groups may have to choose between meeting immediate needs and rebuilding the country later.
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"We have the largest humanitarian disaster in an urban setting since World War II. It is tapping the limits of our capacity to respond," Worthington says. If emergency relief is too expensive, it could eat into the budget for long-term rebuilding, he says.
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Partners in Health, which is not a member of InterAction, has raised $66 million and will have spent $25 million by the end of June compared with its original plan of $18 million, spokesman Andrew Marx says. "We could easily have spent all the money we have improving shelter for people in the resettlement camps around Port-au-Prince," Marx says. By focusing on health care, "we've succeeded in doing a lot without completely exhausting the resources that we are hoping to invest in longer-term reconstruction."
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The Red Cross projects it will spend $200 million in the 12 months after the quake, says Nan Buzard, senior director of international response. It has spent more than $110 million, about 90% of it on food, relief supplies and shelter. "Haiti was a disaster before the earthquake on many different levels," Buzard says. "You're not going to have a clear relief-recovery line."
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The cost of reconstruction in Haiti could be $14 billion, according to a study by the Inter-American Development Bank. Nations have pledged $9.9 billion, including $1.15 billion from the U.S. UNICEF spokesman Patrick McCormick says conditions in Haiti are "not bad, considering the extent of the damage." There have not been outbreaks of disease because of contaminated water or sanitation, he says. "We haven't seen huge rioting. The Haitians have been magnificent, they really have. I'm not pretending they aren't living under very difficult conditions - they are. We need to get them out of those camps."
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Some emergency operations such as search-and-rescue, distribution of tents and tarps and supply of water trucks are "basically complete," Buzard says. But life in Haiti is still "grim." "People still don't completely grasp how difficult day-to-day life is," she says. "We have to stay urgent, and we have to stay moving fast."

CARICOM on Haiti elections task force (5/14/2010)

Caribbean Net News
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GEORGETOWN, Guyana -- Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Assistant Secretary-General, Foreign and Community Relations Ambassador Colin Granderson participated in the first meeting of the Task Force on Elections in Haiti which was held in Port-au-Prince on Monday 10 May. The Task Force, composed of representatives of Haiti, CARICOM, the Organization of American States (OAS), the European Union (EU), the United Nations (UN), Brazil, Canada and the United States, was created to provide coordinated international support to the Government of Haiti in its preparations for the forthcoming elections.
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At its meeting, co-chaired by Haiti's President René Préval and UN Special Representative Edmond Mulet, the Task Force discussed the steps that needed to be taken in order to organise elections within the parameters established by the Haitian Constitution. The Task Force took note of the assessment reports that were recently done by the OAS and the UN on holding elections. Both organisations were of the view that despite the challenges, elections were technically feasible in 2010.
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The Task Force took stock of the considerable challenges posed by the effects of the 12 January earthquake on electoral preparations, including in particular on the registration of voters and the update of electoral lists, which it was agreed would begin as soon as possible. The sequencing of the various elections required and the availability of resources were also among the matters discussed.
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Under the leadership of the Government of Haiti, Task Force members offered to provide all necessary technical, logistical and material assistance to the electoral process, with a view to supporting the Government's efforts to ensure participatory, legitimate and timely elections.

Haiti's neighbours pull back welcome mat (5/12/2010)

Miami Herald
By FRANCES ROBLES
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PORT ANTONIO, Jamaica -- Emmanuel Geurrier and 30 fellow Haitian quake survivors took to the sea last month with pretty much any port in mind. ``In Haiti, people are sleeping in the street and in the roadside, and I don't want to stay in a country where I have to live like a dog,'' he said Thursday, while in immigration custody in Jamaica. ``I took a boat and said, `I go anywhere!' Then I see Jamaica.
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``Maybe I can stay.'' On Sunday, three days after speaking to The Miami Herald about the challenges of living in Haiti after the quake, Geurrier was sent home. He is one of hundreds of Haitians who have landed on Caribbean shores in the four months since a 7.0-magnitude earthquake rattled the nation, killing an estimated 300,000 and displacing some 1.3 million people. And while nations such as Jamaica and the Bahamas initially announced compassionate gestures toward their Caribbean neighbor, the welcome mat has been yanked. Fearing a deluge of Haitian migrants, Jamaica and the Bahamas -- like the United States -- have renewed repatriation policies for migrants captured at sea that were in place before the quake.
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Haitian migrants have not swarmed the waters as many had feared, but officials are wary that the upcoming hurricane season will flood Port-au-Prince settlements and push people to take desperate measures. Geurrier, who had been deported from Jamaica before, landed on the country's northeast coast on April 10. His group followed another boat of 62 migrants that had already been repatriated, including a handful of escaped prisoners.
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But the second group included 11 children and a pregnant woman who gave birth three days after landing, raising issues about whether the mother and her Jamaican-born infant named Francisca should be allowed to stay. The group was held in custody at a Port Antonio Seventh Day Adventist Church, where policemen kept watch and local volunteers helped care for them. The Jamaican government paid the bill while locals combed the ladies' hair, brought in food and played with the kids.
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One migrant, a tailor, was given a sewing machine to help pass the time while others played cards. ``We don't have anything against Haitians; we'd like to help,'' said Orane Bailey, senior policy director for border security at the Jamaican Ministry of National Security. ``But we can't keep this up too long. That's the message we would like to send.''
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The tab to house and feed the group grew to $2,500 a day, he said. The government spent $12,000 on medical care alone. He noted that the first group of migrants included 16 people who had been deported from Jamaica before. The second group had nine.
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``There are genuine refugees from the earthquake, and there are smugglers,'' he said. ``It's a very challenging situation, but there are people who would like to exploit the situation of the earthquake.'' The Bahamian prime minister came under fire when shortly after the quake he released Haitian migrants who had been in custody, because with Port-au-Prince air and sea ports destroyed, there was no reasonable method to deport people.
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``A couple of weeks ago, when we were confident things had settled down, we lifted the temporary cessation of repatriations,'' Bahamian Immigration Minister Brent Symonette said. ``We have repatriated a couple of hundred. That's normal routine.'' The Turks and Caicos repatriated 124 people who arrived on one boat shortly after the quake. But the number of migrants there has not swelled, because Haitians who arrive there generally hail from Cap Haitiën, which is in the north and was not affected by the tremors.
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Turks was also hit hard by Hurricane Ike and no longer has the construction jobs Haitians seek. From our standpoint, there hasn't been an increase. One of the reasons that is so is because of the presence of the U.S. Coast Guard surrounding Haiti,'' said Clara Gardiner, permanent secretary for the Turks and Caicos Border Control and Labor. ``The Coast Guard essentially had Haiti on lockdown.''
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Within three days of the Jan. 12 quake, the U.S. Coast Guard sent 10 ships to Haiti. So far this fiscal year, which began Oct. 1, 555 Haitians have been interdicted at sea by the U.S. Coast Guard. Some 1,782 were interdicted last year. On Tuesday, the Coast Guard repatriated an overloaded vessel in international waters north of Cuba which carried 105 Haitians. The U.S. Border Patrol reports a 15 percent decline in the number of Haitians caught making land. Since the quake, 43 Haitians have been arrested for entering the country illegally, compared to 51 last year.
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U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen said the number of Haitians caught at sea is up now, but down historically. The numbers may rise more, he said, when rain during hurricane season -- it starts June 1 -- begins flooding survivor camps. With that threat imminent, neighbor nations are eager to send the message that any new migrants will be sent home.
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``The repatriation was a bit surprising, because the prime minister had said he was prepared to help,'' said Max Alce, charge d'affaires at the Haitian Embassy in Kingston. ``I think that's why they came: They took the prime minister at his word.''
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Jamaican Minister of Information Daryl Vaz said people misunderstood Prime Minister Bruce Golding when he said, ``We will not turn our backs'' on quake survivors. He meant Jamaica would not turn Haitians back -- at sea, Vaz said. They are allowed entry, processed and given medical attention before being repatriated, Vaz said. ``They did land, and we provided help,'' Vaz said. ``We are not in the position to sustain that.''
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Jamaica expected the international community to help pay to house Haitian migrants, and that money never arrived, he said. ``The government is saying that it takes a lot to take care of them, but I think they can take care of themselves,'' said Easton Dixon, the church deacon who housed the migrants. ``People are willing to take them in and give them work on farms. If the government were to say `Does anyone want them?' you would be surprised: in half a day, everyone would have a home.''
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Dixon grew attached to the infant Francisca and started the paperwork to adopt her. But her mother, Rose-Mitha Jeanty, who had been told she could stay in Jamaica with her child, changed her mind when she learned she was being sent back to Haiti. ``It was so sad,'' Dixon said. ``All of them were crying, even the men. They were saying that they don't have nowhere to go; they have no house -- even the people with the baby.

More Cash for Work Opportunties (5/12/2010)

Caribbean Net News
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As Haiti continues to recover from January’s catastrophic earthquake, the head of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today announced an increase in cash- and food-for-work programmes for the country.
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“Step by step, the people of Haiti are rebuilding their country,” said the agency’s Executive Director, Josette Sheeran, in the capital, Port-au-Prince. “This is a tribute to a nation that has shown extraordinary resilience in the face of epic levels of devastation.”
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More than 200,000 people were killed in the 12 January quake, which left 1.3 million people homeless, in addition to damaging Government buildings and vital infrastructure.
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WFP food was being distributed within hours of the magnitude-7.0 earthquake, and the agency has helped millions of people with its life-saving food rations in the first few months after the disaster.
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WFP is currently working with Haitian authorities to put the agency’s so-called toolbox – also including nutritional supplementary feeding and school meals – to full use, and these schemes are expected to benefit more than 2 million people. “We will look to empowering farming families and to stimulating markets across the country as a way to support the local community,” Ms. Sheeran, who wrapped up her two-day visit to the country, said.
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As Haiti enters the rain and hurricane season, WFP is also working to pre-position food, trucks and other supplies. It is also supporting local communities protect themselves against flooding, erosion and landslides. During her trip, Ms. Sheeran visited a cash- and food-for-work programme in the city of Croix-des-Bouquets, near the capital. Under this scheme, people who have lost their homes and livelihoods are building flood barriers to prevent the erosion of fertile soil, in return for food to feed their families and money to rebuild their homes.
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Such initiatives, she pointed out, are a vital element of WFP’s efforts to support long-term reconstruction, helping to jump-start the local economy and address food insecurity. Work projects are being scaled up to include 140,000 workers across Haiti, with benefits reaching up to 700,000 people in total. In Port-au-Prince, the WFP chief visited a school meals programme with the agency’s newest Ambassador Against Hunger, pop singer Christina Aguilera.
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In January, the five-time Grammy winner performed in MTV’s ‘Hope for Haiti’ telethon that raised more than $60 million for disaster relief, including for WFP relief work. Ms.Sheerhan travelled to Haiti from Brazil, where she honoured President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva for his leadership in the fight against hunger and inadequate nutrition in his country and across the world by recognizing him as a Global Champion in the Battle Against Hunger.
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“The Government of Brazil and the World Food Programme share a common vision of a world free of hunger,” she said. “President Lula has shown leadership in the fight against hunger by pushing the needs of the poor and the under-nourished to the very top of the international agenda.”
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Ms. Sheeran, who visited the site of one of Brazil’s national hunger programmes, “Fome Zero” (Zero Hunger) project near the capital, Brasilia, said Mr. Lula da Silva’s enthusiasm for the needs of the hungry had set an example for others.

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