Pro-Obama Haitian-Americans want help

Pro-Obama Haitian-Americans want help
December 30 2008

LAUDERHILL, Fla.,

Haitian-American leaders who turned out the vote for U.S. President-elect Barack Obama in Florida say they expect him to help ease crises in their homeland.

Members of a Broward County, Fla., branch of Haitians for Obama, which worked hard to canvass ethnic communities for the president-elect, say that while immigration and the economy are big issues for them, they also expect Obama’s administration to work more closely with Haitian leaders to help their impoverished native country, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported Tuesday.

“Our country is in a permanent crisis,” group member Aude Sicard told the newspaper. “We’re not simply asking for humanitarian aid, but we want this country to send technicians and engineers and see a true path for development in Haiti.”

Saying they’ll continue to build on the activism established to elect Obama, the Haitian-Americans have vowed to continue to lobby for temporary protected status, which would grant undocumented Haitian immigrants in the right to work in the United States legally until their homeland becomes more stable, the Sun-Sentinel said.

Source

U.S. Haiti policy senseless, deadly
By Myriam Marquez
December 31, 2008

Two years ago, Louiness and Sheryl Petit-Frere were newlyweds celebrating their good fortune. Both from Haiti, they had found love and each other in Miami.

Today, Louiness, a 31-year-old baker, waits at the Glades detention facility in Central Florida to be sent to a country he hasn’t seen in a decade, where no one waits for him.

His 27-year-old bride in Miami tries to make sense of a senseless immigration law that would deport an otherwise law-abiding, working man because he had an old asylum petition denied.

Never mind that he is married to a U.S. citizen, that he had, in good faith, filed for legal status and had shown up for the interview at the Citizenship and Immigration Services office when he was hauled away like a common criminal.

Petit-Frere’s mother and five siblings are all permanent U.S. residents, including his brother, Sgt. Nikenson Peirreloui, a U.S. Marine with a war injury to show for his two tours in Iraq. But none of that matters.

The U.S. government deems it imperative to deport Petit-Frere, who has no criminal record, to a place decimated by four back-to-back storms this summer, with thousands of starving, dehydrating children left homeless and adults facing no prospects for jobs.

“It seems terrible,” his mother, Francina Pierre, told me Saturday while she waited for her daughter-in-law to get off work as a grocery store clerk.

“He has nobody left in Haiti,” she said. “My mom died, my dad died, my sister died. And my two brothers live here. One is a U.S. citizen and the other is a permanent resident. We have no more family living in Haiti, no more.”

The Bush administration had sensibly put deportations to Haiti on hold after a succession of hurricanes and tropical storms destroyed parts of the island, leaving thousands without work or home. But the president stopped short of granting temporary protected status, or TPS, to Haitians living in the United States without proper documentation.

Natural disasters generally qualify for TPS consideration — as Central Americans with TPS can attest. But Haitians can never seem to catch a break.

U.S. immigration officials decided recently that it would be just dandy to deport Haitians while recovery efforts on their part of Hispaniola proceed in spurts and stops, as children die of malnutrition and mudslides continue to impede reconstruction.

“How can this nation in good conscience send children and families to face the terrible conditions that exist in Haiti?” Cheryl Little, the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center’s executive director, said in a statement. “People could die because of this decision.”

She’s not crying wolf.

The conditions in Haiti cry out for solutions — not asinine deportations that only exacerbate an already untenable situation.

As President Bush looks through his list of pardons to wipe the slate clean for criminals, he should move to do more for the common man, people like Louiness Petit-Frere. Why not grant TPS for Haitians who have no criminal record, so they can stay and work here until conditions improve in their country?

Those who do have family in Haiti can send money and goods back to help the reconstruction and rev up the economy.

TPS was designated for catastrophic situations like Haiti’s. There’s no reason to deny Haitians TPS. Only racist excuses.

Source

Thrice-built house embodies Haiti aid shortfalls
By JONATHAN M. KATZ
December 30 2008

GONAIVES, Haiti

The farmer camps in a crude tent of broken sandbags as he guards the foundation of his destroyed home and his last possessions: a pickax, a hoe and some charcoal.

This is the third time Olisten Elerius is preparing to build his tiny cinderblock house. Four years ago, Tropical Storm Jeanne flooded it and drowned his father, sister and nephew. Then, late this summer, Tropical Storm Hanna swallowed it along with his daughter and another sister. It could happen again.

After Jeanne struck in 2004, more than $70 million in aid went to immediate relief such as food, medical aid and jobs, but little went to flood control, according to an Associated Press review of relief spending. Despite pledges to prevent such devastation in the future, few projects to build drains, fix roads and stop erosion were even attempted.

In other parts of Haiti, U.S. officials launched an ambitious flood control project. But it took 3 1/2 years to plan and was not placed in Gonaives because of a lack of funding.

So when four major storms hit within a month this year, nothing stopped the La Quinte River from roaring over its banks again. It inundated farmers like Elerius on its way to the center of Gonaives, where men, women and children swam for miles through swirling waters to escape. The storms killed 793 people and caused $1 billion in damage.

“The authorities were always coming here to take pictures and measure things,” Elerius said. “The words in their mouths said they would help, but they never did anything.”

Top officials agree that efforts fell short.

“I think we were very successful in getting Gonaives back on its feet,” Alexandre Deprez, an official for the U.S. Agency for International Development, said of the work after Jeanne. “But it is true that we didn’t put the time and the resources to do what needs to be done in the longer term.”

___

Haiti’s floods are not natural disasters, but a direct result of widespread deforestation, erosion and poverty. Farmers cut trees for charcoal and plant shallow-rooted crops. Rains that would be forgotten elsewhere can kill thousands.

In 2004, Elerius was working in the neighboring Dominican Republic when Tropical Storm Jeanne came twisting like a wounded animal out of the northern sky, sending a wall of water through his cinderblock home and sweeping away his father, sister and nephew. Gonaives residents fled to their rooftops as rivers broke their banks, overflowing morgues with bloated corpses.

A horrified world pledged to help. Elerius returned home just as the money and the white SUVs of non-governmental organizations began flowing into Gonaives, in the north of Haiti.

The U.N. appealed for $37 million in flood relief. Washington would donate more than $45 million, first for emergency food and supplies and then through USAID for the two-year, $34 million Tropical Storm Jeanne Recovery Program.

Disaster officials, newspapers and aid workers called for well-planned, well-financed, long-term aid. Haitian officials told the agencies to spend the money on projects that would save lives: secure rivers, fix roads, design better canals, build homes with better drainage to the sea.

But the U.N. member states, distracted by the Indian Ocean tsunami four months later, raised less than half their funding target.

Work was hampered by violence and insecurity. The Inter-American Development Bank provided about $10 million in loans, mostly for construction of a small drainage system. That project was abandoned by Haitian contractors after bandits stole the cement and steel, IDB representative Philippe Dewez said.

Washington sent money mostly for short-term projects: cleanup, restoration and repair of basic services such as schools, health clinics, roads, bridges and homes. In 2005, the U.S. Government Accountability Office reported that U.S. organizations cleared more than 2 million cubic feet of mud and restored the livelihoods of 48,000 people. But the GAO said they failed to meet an already reduced target for houses and completed no roads or bridges.

Elerius rebuilt his family’s flimsy home at Mapou, a flat plain on the outskirts of the city, just 50 feet from the La Quinte River after it descends from barren mountains toward the sea.

On the denuded hillside, USAID said projects to grow plant cover and build terraces have restored 3,700 acres of the La Quinte watershed — 2 percent of the basin. But few trees are visible, and local officials said most saplings were eaten by goats.

Corruption watchdogs with Transparency International said public funds — nobody seems to know exactly how much — were distributed with little oversight by the U.S.-backed interim government.

Soon after Jeanne, USAID commissioned a study of Haiti’s watersheds, which led to an ambitious $18 million effort to reduce flooding. Work did not begin until February 2008.

The report recommended action in high-risk flood areas, including Gonaives. But the U.S. Congress only gave enough money for the agency to start in two smaller, less populated watersheds — Limbe in the north and Mountrouis in the west, both more than 40 miles away from Gonaives. Some money went to a project on a Port-au-Prince river this year.

“With the funding that we were given we said to ourselves, ‘Why go into a place where you’re not going to make a difference?’ ” Deprez told The Associated Press. “Go into a place where you can focus and make a difference and test the approach that was recommended.”

It will take five years to know the effects of the pilot flood-control programs. Officials then hope to replicate them elsewhere.

But the storms didn’t wait.

___

Starting in mid-August, Tropical Storm Fay hit Haiti, followed by Gustav, Hanna and Ike. They destroyed thousands of homes, devastated crops and set the country back decades. Starving families, whose plight had fueled April riots, got even hungrier.

On the dark afternoon of Sept. 2 in Gonaives, there was no warning as mountain run-off began to gather in ravines. Officials were not given orders to evacuate, and in any case no plan was in place. There was nobody to clear fallen trees that had jammed a bridge on the La Quinte River and caused it to divert the day before.

Elerius was in town getting supplies when he heard radio reports about a new storm. Even as rain fell in Gonaives, radio broadcasts in Port-Au-Prince, the capital, repeated predictions that it would veer to the north, away from Haiti.

It was only word of mouth that sent Elerius running home. There he found the river had again become an ocean, his family submerged and his house disintegrating.

He dived into the water and pulled his mother and 4-year-old son Jonslay to safety. Then he yelled for his 6-year-old daughter, Joniska, and his 21-year-old little sister, Jimele.

Neither called back.

This time, without a network of roads that could withstand the flooding, Gonaives was trapped. A Haitian-funded causeway needed to connect it to the capital, 80 miles away across the cactus plain of Savanne Desolee, was left half-finished, denying scores of families a way out. Refugees climbed its scaffolding to escape the rising waters.

Others were stranded on their rooftops. It took four days for the U.N. to bring in ample food aid by ship.

Some development workers say the reduced death toll this year — in the hundreds instead of thousands — validates their efforts. But survivors and local officials say more survived this time because the memory of Jeanne sent them running for higher ground.

Today in Gonaives, homeless families crowd tent neighborhoods. Men scrounge for fish in stagnant floodwaters. Schoolgirls wear sunglasses and surgical masks to block the clouds of dirt that cover the city. The road to Port-au-Prince is still blocked by an enormous lake.

As former Gonaives disaster management coordinator Faustin Joseph said, “Everybody failed.”

The craggy roads of Gonaives are filled again with white SUVs. The U.N. issued a $107 million appeal, of which it has raised about half, and is now requesting $20 million more. The World Food Program has delivered more than 11,000 tons of food. The Haitian government has set aside $198 million for rebuilding roads, fortifying river beds and restoring agriculture.

The U.S. government pledged more than $30 million in immediate relief. Another $96 million from Congress is on its way.

President Rene Preval told the U.N. General Assembly in September he feared that “once this first wave of humanitarian compassion is exhausted, we will be left as always, truly alone, to face new catastrophes and see restarted, as if in a ritual, the same exercises of mobilization.”

Some in Gonaives have become restless.

“If things go like they did after Jeanne again, and it looks like people are doing nothing, we might get up and start burning things down,” said Odrigue Toussaint, 40, who has not worked since he lost his motorcycle to Hanna. “We will let the authorities know it can’t happen again.”

Elerius sent his son, mother and siblings to live with neighbors. He never found the bodies of his sister and daughter.

He sleeps on the dirty ground under the plastic tent. Inside it’s stiflingly hot during the day but cooler at night.

The La Quinte River gouged a shallow canyon through what was once his farmland, where he planted onions, plantains and potatoes. The topsoil washed to the streets of Gonaives, encasing the city in mud.

Haitian construction crews put the river back into its bed a week after Hanna, just as they did after Jeanne, and built temporary levies with gravel and sandbags that Elerius pilfered to make his tent. The bags were falling apart anyway, he said.

The farmer who keeps losing everything is resigned.

“Whatever they do now we’ll accept it,” Elerius said. “I just wish they would have already done more.”

Source

The Rebirth of Konbit in Haiti

Haiti’s road to ruin

Starvation slams Haiti: Kids dying after 4 storms ravage crops, livestock

Haitian children died from severe malnutrition

Haiti’s road to ruin

Tallulah Photography

This season’s hurricanes have made homes in Gonaïves, Haiti, unlivable, and conditions primed for environmental disaster will lead to more ecological refugees.

December 11, 2008
By Roberta Staley

Few are helping Haitians recover from natural disaster-and still fewer see the bigger problem

The drive north to Gonaïves from Haiti’s capital of Port-au-Prince is calculated in time rather than distance-it can take from three-and-a-half to five hours, depending upon rain and your four-wheel-drive’s suspension, to navigate the 150 kilometres of erosion-gnawed road that skirt the country’s coastline.

But nothing on the journey—not the cavernous potholes, trenches, or caved-in shoulders—prepares you for the apocalyptic dried-mud moonscape that is Gonaïves. More than two months after hurricanes Fay, Gustav, and Ike and tropical storm Hanna battered Haiti from August 17 to September 8, Gonaïves is barely better off than it was right after the tempests.

Mounds of dried mud cover city streets that United Nations tanks, motorcycles, and SUVs churn into thick dust that hangs like a grey-beige fog. Starving dogs, their vertebrae and ribs jutting through dry, pale hide, skirt among the wheels in a single-minded search for food, sometimes dragging limbs crushed by lurching vehicles.

The hurricanes skinned Gonaïves’s surrounding hills and mountains—denuded of trees for decades—as deftly as a taxidermist, allowing unfettered rivers of topsoil, clay, and water to submerge 80 percent of the city in goop more than a storey high. When the water evaporated, two-metre-deep mud remained. At least 466 people perished from August to September—more than double the number of people who were killed in the rest of the country. As of November, many of the surrounding rice, banana, and plantain fields were still flooded, as were homes on the outskirts of the city. (In total, about 70 percent of Haiti’s crops were wiped out, according to the United Nations’ World Food Programme.)

Bulldozers have started the cumbersome task of shifting tonnes of topsoil and clay from roadways, manoeuvring around overturned and crushed vehicles encased in mud like fossils. Some of the 300,000 residents who have returned to find the walls of their one- and two-room houses still standing are using shovels to dig out the thick, cracking earth, leaving chunks mixed with rotting trash outside doorways. But the homes are unlivable, and families dwell in tents on rooftops, leaving the city’s 40,000 female-headed households vulnerable to sexual predators. Too few trucks carry the mud away, and much of it is simply pushed into hills in the middle of intersections or along one side, creating a surreal version of a giant child’s sandbox.

But it is international apathy—as well as mud—that has Médecins Sans Frontières–Belgium (MSF–B) project coordinator Vikki Stienen so frustrated. Stienen, who is Dutch, arrived in Gonaïves in October, one month after the Nobel Peace Prize–winning NGO arrived to provide emergency medical care to hurricane survivors. MSF–B has managed—minimally—to meet the needs of hundreds of thousands of citizens, creating a replacement water system and a new hospital as well as a mobile-clinic system serving the urban and rural populations still isolated by impassable streets and roads. A handsome, almost rakish, man with green eyes and a jagged front tooth, Stienen was given the task of creating a temporary replacement for the destroyed water and sanitation systems. With the water mains clogged with mud, MSF–B sends several tanker trucks of water every day from a deep well it drilled in September outside the city. The tankers drain chlorinated water into pipes that link to bladders, enormous canvas water containers that, in turn, are linked to communal taps scattered throughout the city.

With the project set to end January 15, the MSF–B team is working desperately to try to ensure the rudimentary water system is expanded and can be maintained by local government workers. However, with the city still blanketed by mud, it is impossible to create any sort of sanitation system, Stienen says. Without toilets, people relieve themselves in the street and behind the mud mounds, with the result that dried excrement mixes with the dust-laden air. Rebuilding the sanitation system is dependent upon all the mud being cleared away, a task that could take a year, Stienen says.

MSF–B feels isolated and overwhelmed by the need; MINUSTAH, the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, should be doing more, Stienen says. “You don’t like to bash the UN, but we had a coordination meeting and you would think they were talking about something else,” says Stienen, leaning back, loose-limbed, in a white plastic chair in the shade, dressed in wide-leg linen pants, brightly coloured loose shirt, and red flip-flops in the more than 30 ° C heat. “Other NGOs and the UN, you see their reaction and it’s as if they don’t care. Where does this apathy come from? Why are they so indifferent?”

Before the hurricanes, most of Gonaïves’s 300,000 citizens obtained their water from about 5,000 communal wells. However, these are also contaminated with mud and must be cleaned out and fitted with new pumps, something MSF–B is also trying to do before it withdraws. “Normally,” Stienen says, “this would be the World Health Organization who would do this, but they’re not here either.”

Stienen is especially worried by the UN’s apparent inability to ensure the safety of the citizens of Gonaïves. The incidence of rape is so high among women, perched on roofs with their children in the dark, that MSF–B has added a psychologist to its mobile clinic to provide trauma counselling. “You ask them, ‘How long will you sit on your roof?’ They say, ‘We are forgotten by the government and the UN,’ ” Stienen says. “This is not security, to sit on the roof with no electricity. So it adds to my question: ‘Is the government and UN taking it seriously?’ ”

Stienen muses that what lies at the root of international apathy is simple cynicism over Haiti’s propensity for disaster. Haiti, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, weathered a severe storm four years ago when hurricane Jeanne killed about 3,000 people. Foreign aid rebuilt the water and sanitation system in Gonaïves and the international community faces the obligation of rebuilding it once more. Once it’s constructed, it is only a matter of time before more hurricanes destroy it again. “People say Haiti is complicated, but this is not a reason not to care,” Stienen says. “Maybe that’s where the apathy comes from, because this country is unmanageable.”

Brazil’s Maj.-Gen. Carlos Alberto Dos Santos Cruz, force commander of MINUSTAH since January 2007, addresses the question of security several days later in an interview in Port-au-Prince. In Gonaïves, the main task of the local UN force, which consists of about 500 Argentine and Pakistani troops as well as local police, is to maintain a safe environment, but “in practice we keep the stability through support of the local police,” Santos Cruz says.

During the hurricanes, he says, UN troops threw themselves into humanitarian assistance: evacuating patients from La Providence Hospital (a once-pretty white-and-green facility, renovated after the 2004 hurricane, that is now mired in dried, grey muck), saving the medicines, and assisting birthing women. Now, Santos Cruz says, the main focus is guarding the warehouse where supplies are stored for the World Food Programme (WFP), which allocated US$33 million for emergency food supplies at the beginning of September. (Only one-third of this amount has been forthcoming from member states.) However, Stienen condemned a decision by the WFP to stop distributing food after fights broke out at a depot weeks after the hurricanes. The WFP cited mismanagement of the depots and a lack of safety as reasons for stopping distribution. WFP Haiti spokesperson Hilary Clarke says that the UN organization still managed to deliver food to women staying in shelters in Gonaïves.

Regular food distribution has resumed, Clarke says, and virtually all of Gonaïves’s citizens are receiving food packages every two weeks containing such staples as rice, beans, and oil, most of it imported from the United States. Still, some children have sickened from lack of food and show signs of protein starvation, called kwashiorkor: reddish, thinning hair; enlarged abdomen; sad, sagging faces; stick-thin arms and legs; and edema so severe it cracks the skin. At MSF–B’s new Hôpital Secours Gonaïves, built in a warehouse once used by the humanitarian group CARE, 15-month-old Cindjina sits on the lap of her mother, Thelse Almonur, in the pediatric ward. Cindjina was 5.9 kilograms, the average weight of a two-month-old, when she was admitted September 27. Thelse is feeding her daughter a peanut-butter paste mixed with vitamins. The paste has helped Cindjina gain weight and, six weeks later, she is up to 6.5 kilograms, still four kilograms below the average weight for her age.

Generally, about one-third of children in Haiti suffer from chronic malnutrition. However, a recent survey by the aid organization Action Contre la Faim showed the malnutrition level in Gonaïves to be about four percent, due in large part to the large-scale food distribution, Clarke says.

Stienen shakes his head. “In Gonaïves, you see more than chronic malnutrition. It is a weakened population, with the most vulnerable being the children. Those families with four to five children, they suffer the most.”

The future does not look promising for Gonaïves’s people. National food shortages have put the country in a “highly volatile situation”, according to the WFP’s Bettina Luescher, speaking from her UN office in New York City. The WFP is planning to begin phasing out food distribution in Gonaïves in 2009 to “avoid creating a context of assistance and food dependency”.

Some people think that a simple solution to this enormous problem would be to move Gonaïves, which sits below sea level at the confluence of three rivers, to higher ground. Stienen laughs humourlessly at the notion; this will never happen, he says. There are neither sufficient resources nor the political will to relocate 300,000 souls up the steep, bare, infertile, erosion-prone hills and mountains.

What lies at the root of this dilemma? Environmental degradation caused by the wholesale cutting of trees. A century ago, Haiti was a tropical rainforest with huge stands of mahogany. However, 20th-century exploitation by foreign corporations and the Haitian government’s need to service an egregious national debt owed its former slave-owning colonial master, France, meant that much of the forest cover was felled for cash. Now only 1.5 percent of the country is forested, according to the UN—a sharp contrast to the lush Dominican Republic, a country adjoining Haiti on the same West Indies island.

But the people of Haiti are also responsible for deforestation. The majority of Haiti’s 9.5 million people rely upon charcoal for cooking; most electricity is privately generated and there is no gas or kerosene. Charcoal is made by cutting down a tree, leaving it to dry in the sun, then slowly cooking it in a makeshift kiln. In an effort to preserve the life of the tree, the stump is left, with the hope it will send out shoots. This woeful attempt at silviculture is largely unsuccessful. In the area around Gonaïves, Stienen says, there are fewer trees than there were in 2004.

The string of environmental disasters experienced by Gonaïves, as well as other places around the world, is giving rise to a world phenomenon: ecological refugees. Rising sea levels and more destructive cyclones and hurricanes that experts link to global warming, as well as widespread deforestation and erosion, have created populations of desperate people fleeing disasters. In Gonaïves, for example, Stienen estimates that there are only 10,000 male-headed households, one quarter the number of female-headed families. The rest of the men have fled to other countries for jobs and a more secure life. However, their families cannot follow and are left to carry on a life of struggle and, possibly, worse hunger than they face now.

But fleeing can be as dangerous as staying. No one knows this better than 22-year-old Timanit Cherisma. Cherisma lies silent on her side in the obstetrics ward of the MSF–B hospital, an intravenous drip in one arm. Just an hour ago, Cherisma gave birth to twin girls. But there is no joy in the room, and the only sound is muted mewing, like new kittens, from the twins, bound in a blue blanket on a cot. The father of the infants died after his boat capsized while he was fleeing Haiti to try to find work in the Bahamas. The twins have no home to go to—it was washed away in the flood. “I see no hope for the babies,” Cherisma’s mother, 48-year-old Tazilia Esenvile, says in Creole.

Back in Port-au-Prince, a handful of courageous people are making an 11th-hour attempt to turn back the tide of total environmental degradation in Haiti, which, at 27,750 square kilometres, is about three-quarters the size of Vancouver Island. The Fondation Seguin was cofounded in 2004 by Serge Cantave to try to save the country’s last remaining pockets of natural forest and to educate teachers and youth about conservation. Through its Ecole Verte program, a sense of responsibility toward the environment is also being cultivated when students travel to mountain regions to plant trees. To date, 30,000 trees have been planted by students, says Cantave, whose organization is financially supported by the development organization Yéle Haiti, headed by Haitian-American hip-hop artist Wyclef Jean.

Without reforestation, Haiti will simply wash away into the ocean. “It will disappear,” says Cantave, who estimates it will take a century of dedicated tree-planting to reverse the clear-cutting. The way this can be achieved, Cantave says, is for the Fondation Seguin to work with an international network of ecological groups. Cantave looks to British Columbia, which has spawned generations of dedicated environmentalists, for help in coordinating tree-planting programs and educating Haiti’s young. “We are asking you to share with us your experiences,” Cantave says. “We are begging the international community for support.” (Another organization, the Lambi Fund of Haiti, which is allied to Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize–winner Wangari Maathai’s Green Belt Movement, has plans to plant one million trees.)

Haiti, despite the meagre streaks of green across its topography, is important internationally for its unique biodiversity: it is a potential source of medicinal plants and a key resting and feeding place for migrating birds, Cantave says. For example, Canada’s black-throated blue warbler, which breeds in southeastern Canada but winters in the Caribbean, stops in Haiti’s Parc National La Visite, a 2,000-hectare oasis. (Haiti’s national parks include Sources Puantes, at 10 hectares; Sources Chaudes, 20 hectares; Forêt des Pins, 30,000 hectares; Sources Cerisier, 10 hectares; and Fort Jacques et Alexandre, which is only nine hectares.)

Some support has been forthcoming. The German international-cooperation enterprise Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit recently donated about $800,000 to the Fondation Seguin for a special project to plant 120,000 fruit, evergreen, and spice trees, as well as pasture grass to retain the soil. Cantave says the project is married to economic and infrastructure development for surrounding subsistence farmers to encourage them to support reforestation efforts.

Is Haiti doomed to be a country of no hope? Many, it would seem, despair that Haiti’s political, economic, social, and ecological wrongs will keep it in a state of desperation that will never be overcome. Yet if history has proven anything, it is that human will is an unstoppable force. People like Stienen and Cantave, with their sense of moral outrage, are an inspiration to the rest of the world to show the will to help Haiti overcome the myriad of problems afflicting its beleaguered people.

Source

MSF/Doctors Without Boarders Canada

Poverty crushing the People of Haiti

By Dawn House
November 28 2008

Poverty is so crushing in Haiti that a simple cut or broken bone can become so infected in slums plagued with filth and raw sewage that the only remedy is amputation.

Adding to the misery in the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation are hurricanes — Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike this year left 790 people dead and hundreds more injured, and now facing life-threatening infections.

But amputation can be a death sentence in Haiti, which depends on manual labor for survival, said Salt Lake City physician Jeff Randle, who has treated Haitians for a decade. It’s not uncommon for impoverished families, sometimes believing the injured are under a voodoo curse, to abandon disabled adults and children in the streets.

Randle, who first witnessed such despair while on an LDS Church mission, founded Healing Hands for Haiti in 1998. The nonprofit charity, based in Salt Lake City, has become the only agency in Haiti to provide wheelchairs, prosthetic limbs and braces for people who have lost limbs or were born with a disability.

The group needs donations, medical supplies and health-care professionals willing to volunteer a week or two to help staff its clinic in the capital city of Port-au-Prince.

The first year, 14 volunteers headed by doctors and social workers from LDS Hospital in Salt Lake City paid their own way to Haiti, where they provided rehabilitative therapy for more than 300 patients in 10 days. Despite political unrest and corruption in the country, almost all signed up to go the second year.

In the ensuing years, Randle has been joined by medical teams from 16 states. Most, including Randle, pay their own way while donations help with travel costs for the younger professionals. Last year, 21 medical workers from Canada raised $39,000 to finance their trip and fund treatment and training projects. The volunteers filled 42 large hockey bags with equipment and supplies and used 112 donated teddy bears as padding.

Healing Hands for Haiti has grown to a paid staff of 40 at its 7-acre compound in the foothills of Port-au-Prince. The group supports a clinic, school and shop where Haitians are trained to make prosthetic limbs and provide therapy for disabled adults and children. The group also conducts classes for workers from orphanages in taking care of their disabled charges, and lobbies schools to accept disabled children.

The annual budget is $180,000, “and each year I have no idea where the money is going to come from,” said Randle, who chairs the foundation. “But somehow, it comes.”

Said the group’s executive director, Jim Stein of Minneapolis: “Our most immediate need is money to support our staff in Haiti and to buy equipment and supplies.”

Last year alone, 399 wheelchairs were distributed throughout the island. And recently, an anonymous donor gave $250,000 to help jump-start the construction of what will be Haiti’s first rehabilitation hospital.

Recently, Healing Hands gave seminars after the November collapse of a ramshackle school on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, where more than 90 people, many of them children, were killed and more than 160 were injured. Haitians were taught about evacuation planning, survival skills and managing emotions in a country where little attention has been paid to building codes.

The need is desperate.

In October, a top United Nation’s official warned that the devastation from this year’s hurricane season has dealt a severe blow in efforts to combat poverty, according to the U.N. News Service.

Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes said that the four successive hurricanes have left an estimated 1 million people needing humanitarian relief and major recovery assistance.

Even before the storms, 80 percent of the island’s population lived under the poverty line and more than half in abject poverty, according to a report from the Central Intelligence Agency.

Two-thirds of all Haitians depend on small-scale subsistence farming and remain vulnerable to damage from frequent natural disasters made worse by the country’s widespread deforestation in lands cleared for food and fuel. The report said that inadequate supplies of potable water and soil erosion remain major environmental problems.

Source

They need a lot more help then they are getting.

Don’t turn your back on girls – Sexual violence in Haiti

27 November 2008

Sexual violence against girls in Haiti is widespread and pervasive and, although already at shocking levels, is said to be on the increase. While information on the true levels remains scarce, there is much evidence of sexual violence both in the family and within the wider community, particularly by armed gangs.

Public security and the legacy of sexual violence
Against a backdrop of kidnappings, criminal violence and gang warfare, violence against women and girls in the community has soared. One trend is the prevalence of rapes involving groups of armed men.

For the three years that followed the military coup in 1991 when President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was ousted, rape was used as a political weapon to instil fear and punish those who were believed to have supported the democratic government. During this time, there were widespread reports of armed men raping women.

Since the fall of the military regime, this has become a common practice among criminal gangs. In run up to Haiti’s annual carnival in February last year, 50 cases of rape were reported in just three days in the capital against women and girls in the capital Port-au-Prince.

Violence in the family is also prevalent and often hidden. Children often lack the resources and support they need to report violence in which family members participate or collude. The result of the failure to acknowledge and address this problem is a social climate in which violence in the family is seen as normal and inevitable.

Poverty in Haiti is extreme and plays a major role in putting girls at greater risk of sexual violence. Girls are bribed to remain silent by perpetrators, who are able to give them money to pay their schools or accommodation fees. Others who go in search of a public place with lighting by which to do their homework because their home has no electricity are attacked by groups of men.

Girls who become pregnant as a result of sexual violence find themselves at risk due to the lack of adequate healthcare. Only one in every four births in Haiti is assisted by qualified health personnel and large numbers of women and girls are dying as a result of pregnancy related complications.

The consequences of sexual violence on girls are profound and lasting. In addition to immediate physical injuries, survivors may have to face unwanted pregnancy; sexually transmitted diseases; and mental health problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression.

These consequences can have particularly series long term effects on girls, who are at higher risk of dying during childbirth or pregnancy and may also find their education disrupted, or find themselves excluded from school due to pregnancy.

One girl who raped when she was eight years old said: “I was going to school, but I left after I came here [to a shelter] because my father raped me. I was in the first year. I loved copying the lessons, writing. When I grow up I would like to be a doctor.”

Barriers to justice
Girls are often unwilling to report cases of rape, largely due to shame, fear, and social attitudes that tolerate male violence. Another major disincentive to reporting is the lack of confidence that girls will experience a positive and supportive response from law enforcement officials.

In some rural areas, the sole representative of the justice system is the justice of the peace. It is not uncommon for the justice of the peace to encourage girls who have faced violence accept an “amicable settlement” with the family of the perpetrator.

The justice system in Haiti is weak and ineffectual. The Police unit in charge of protecting minors is woefully under-staffed. In March 2008, the unit had 12 officers to cover the entire country and not a single vehicle. It is not surprising that so many of those who attack girls are never brought to justice, and so many girls feel there is no purpose in reporting crimes of sexual violence.

The authorities in Haiti have taken steps in recent years to address the problem of violence against women and girls. The Ministry of Women’s Affairs was established in 1994 and has been involved in important initiatives to address the problem.

In 1995, a National Plan of Action to Combat Violence Against Women was adopted. If implemented, this could bring about significant improvements in prevention and punishment.

The Haitian authorities face major challenges posed by the ongoing public security crisis, a succession of humanitarian disasters, and high levels of poverty and marginalization. These important concerns cannot be allowed to drown out the needs of Haitian girls.

Amnesty International is calling on the Haitian authorities to take immediate action to safeguard the rights of girls:

  • Collect comprehensive data on the nature and extent of violence against women and girls. The lack of data currently stands in the way of devising effective solutions;
  • Investigate and prosecute all complaints of sexual violence;
  • Ensure that police provide a safe environment for girls to report sexual violence, and ensure that all complaints are promptly and effectively investigated.

Source

Sanctions have played a role in the poverty. Recovery could take decades or longer unless outside help is increased.

Haiti Sanctions

Study Says Haiti Sanctions Kill Up to 1,000 Children a Month

By HOWARD W. FRENCH,  November 9, 1993

International Sanctions on Haiti Fueled Repression, UN Official Says

By Don Bohning,  March 1, 1999

Seems to me Sanctions are a form of extermination, of innocent people.

Economic sanctions are a “Weapon of Mass Destruction”

Published in: on November 29, 2008 at 5:09 am  Comments Off on Poverty crushing the People of Haiti  
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