Thursday, February 18, 2010

One Month After the 7.0 Earthquake, Haitians Ready to Move On

by Wadner Pierre 
First published on: http://www,
The men and women of Haiti are strong and ready to show the world that they can rebuild their country. The United States corporate media has broadcast many images of the earthquake that destroyed Port-au-Prince and a great part of southeastern Haiti. Contrary to what many of these images convey, most Haitians have not fallen into desperation or abandoned their dignity. During my recent trip to my country I observed people moving forward valiantly.

Entering the capital from the Dominican Republic, at Croix-Des-Bouquets, I saw residents gathered to discuss solutions to their many problems, which include dealing with NGO bureaucracy, a heavy burden on top of all the others they have carried since the earthquake.

Haitians have had to rely on themselves to secure their basic needs. They walk for miles on foot to retrieve meager rations of water, while USAID employees are seen using up to three SUVs to transport six people. Haitians scrounge up materials to put together makeshift tents, while next to them in a US military compound soldiers have more tents than they can use. Haitians, the lucky ones, used candles to light their tents while the US soldiers in the compound cheered the Superbowl that was shown on a big screen TV.

It took three days for a local Haitian leader to register his community for World Food Programme (WFP) assistance. This is an incredibly long time considering everything he had going for him. He had access to an SUV. He is fluent in three languages and well connected with foreigners. His community (of three thousand people) is located only ten minutes away from where the WFP is based.

Ninety percent of Cite Soleil, located five minutes from the airport, has yet to receive any humanitarian assistance. Jameson Lavalas, a four-month-old baby, was dying from a skin disease. His mother did not have any means to take care of her baby. Two friends who made this trip with me took Jameson and his mother to a U.S. military compound where medical personnel are stationed.

Petite Place Cazeau, a community located ten minutes from the airport, has received some attention from Qatar - a partner of USAID - but most of its people have been sleeping in makeshift tents. The What If? Foundation, a California-based nonprofit organization partnering with St. Claire’s Rectory, fed 1,500 people the week before the earthquake. The number of people doubled, and then tripled, after the earthquake.

Margaret Trost, the founder of the What If? Foundation explained, "We have been doing our best to respond to the immediate need of the people in the St. Claire’s community, but the number of people who are in search of food and water is far greater than what we are able to provide for. Many people are walking miles to the St. Claire's rectory for a meal. I'm grateful that we're able to serve over 3,000 meals a day, but my heart breaks for all the people who go day after day without any food."

Lavarice Gaudin has represented the What If? Foundation in Haiti since the death of the foundation's co-founder Father Gerard Jean-Juste. “People have come to me to get some money to pay bus fare to return to their native towns. I do not have enough to give everybody,” Gaudin said.

Since the earthquake, Gaudin has worked in Leogane, Cite Soleil and other communities. In Leogane, near the epicenter of the earthquake southwest of Port-au-Prince, Mr. Gaudin deplored the lack of leadership shown by the Haitian government. He was hardly the only one doing so. Nobody seems to think that there is a functioning government in Haiti.

With three US ships off shore, countless US helicopters overhead, and US tanks, SUVs and Hummers on the streets of Port-au-Prince, nobody doubts that Haiti is under US control. The airport and customs have been controlled by US soldiers since the earthquake, and so have the ruins of the National Palace. The Haitian National Police are on the job, but have as little food and water as everyone else.

Thanks to a group of firefighters working with France Urgence Humanitaire that arrived a week after the earthquake, Leogane residents have access to purified water. However, most of them still have to walk and carry their water rations for miles. Almost all of this community has been destroyed.

Cuban doctors are praised as saviors in Leogane as they are in Carrefour and Gressier. The Cuban doctors have helped thousands of people since the earthquake. Unfortunately, many newborns delivered by the Cubans are dying due to lack of care.

Ketlene, a community organizer, said, ”No one from the government says a word to us. We simply see a lot of Canadian soldiers, but we do not know what they are doing. We really do not want soldiers. We need help, people who can rebuild our city.”

In a message to the nation, President Rene Preval said little about the delivery of humanitarian aid and focused on continuing projects that halted after the earthquake. Some of those projects have been “ongoing” since Hurricane Jeanne struck Gonaives several years ago. Unsurprisingly, most people disregarded Preval’s message and continue to wonder what is going on with the distribution of aid - especially with their country now swarming with 20,000 US troops, nearly 2,000 Canadian troops, helicopters, and US armored vehicles that patrol the streets of Port-au-Prince.

“We are not at war. Why all these troops?,” asked Thonas, a father of three.

Questions abound about the true intentions of the US government. Why so many troops and so few doctors and nurses? Why are elected Haitian governments always bypassed and deprived of support while dictatorships – the most recent being that of Gerard Latortue – generously funded? As time passes, the true objectives of the aid effort will be made clear.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Haiti One Month after the Earthquake: I Witnessed, And I Want to Tell

By Wadner Pierre 
All pictures by Wadner Pierre

One Month after the Earthquake, bureaucracy worsens the situation in Haiti. Because of a lack of leadership, the Haitian government has no control over the distribution of humanitarian aid. In spite of all the millions of dollars that have been raised and sent to Haiti, the majority of earthquake survivors still do not receive help. However, people do keep moving with dignity and a big hope of restarting a new life and putting their country back to work.

Haitian people always show the world that they are a strong people and can rebuild their country no matter how long it will take them. Haiti's reconstruction should and must be done in the interest of Haitian people. One month since the 7.0 earthquake destroyed Haiti's capital and a great part of the south and southeast of the country, the world has mobilized to help the Haitian people. Millions of dollars and tons of medical supplies have been sent to the country through international organizations and large nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). However, the Haitian people do not know to whom they have to turn for help, and they now are asking the following questions:

What are these millions doing for us survivors?
Who is benefitting from these millions?
Who has access to the UN operations center?
Who decides for the Haitian people?

My recent trip to my beloved country, Haiti, helped me and gave me the answers.

Twenty thousand US troops, several thousand Canadian troops, the NGO sector, armored vehicles, US ships, helicopters, and several hundred SUVs or 4WD vehicles are allowing the NGOs' representatives to continue their bureaucracy while Haitian people have no tents, no water, no food, and children are dying because of lack of care.

World Food Programme administrators are the ones who know which zones humanitarian aid has already reached and which zones have not yet received humanitarian aid. These people have no specific plan to distribute food to people and no idea of how they can better reach the communities. They do not