Haiti: “Great Unmet Needs Continue to Be Identified Every Day”

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Although months have passed since the massive earthquake that devastated Haiti, our partners believe that a lot more should be done to help Haitians recover and rebuild.

Oxfam America’s Coco McCabe reports that even months after the earthquake, some communities have not seen any change at all in their quality of life.

“My colleague, Kenny Rae, sent an email message from Haiti last week—a stark reminder that for many of the people of Port-au-Prince and surrounding communities, little has changed in the nine weeks since a massive quake leveled much of the Haitian capital.

“‘2 months later, great unmet needs continue to be identified every day,’ said the brief e-mail, before summarizing in one, short-hand-like sentence, the sweep of challenges people there face: ‘3 babies have been born in this small camp of 40 families since the earthquake.’

“The reality is this: newborns are living outside with their families on a hill too rocky to accommodate latrines and too steep for water trucks to climb. When Oxfam staffers reached the camp on Monday, they learned that the people there had received virtually no assistance since the quake.”

In the temporary camps, where many people are still living, sexual violence against young Haitian women is on the rise.

“Thousands of women living in temporary camps around Haiti are threatened by sexual violence and have inadequate protection from any authorities,” Amnesty International said after a three-week visit to the country in March.

“Sexual violence is widespread across the hundreds of spontaneous camps that sprung up in the capital and other affected areas of Haiti following the massive earthquake that struck the country in January…There is a general feeling of insecurity inside and around the camps, particularly at night. Women and girls living in makeshift shelters feel vulnerable and are afraid of attacks.”

“Most victims of sexual violence interviewed by Amnesty International were minors. One 8-year-old girl was raped when alone in her tent at night. Her mother had gone out of the camp to work and did not have anybody to look after her daughter during her absence. A 15-year-old was raped when she went out of the camp to urinate, as there were no latrines within the camp.”

According to the American Jewish World Service, many Haitian farmers have been left jobless as a result of the influx in food aid.

“Emerging reports are verifying what civil society groups have been saying for years: the influx of cheap U.S. rice as food aid is disrupting local agricultural markets. In many rural areas in Haiti, farmland remained intact after the earthquake. But the well-intentioned introduction of free U.S. rice now threatens to undercut the ability of local farmers to sell their crops, depriving them of their livelihoods at a time when strengthening the country’s agricultural sector is key to overall recovery.”

And even as money for reconstruction projects flows in, according to Oxfam’s blog, many unemployed Haitians who are willing and able to work on these projects have not been given access to these jobs.

“‘Haitians are telling us loud and clear that they want to get back on their feet and start working for the reconstruction of their country,’ says Marcel Stoessel, Oxfam’s chief of mission in Haiti… ‘Haitians are not expecting charity. They want to get jobs, to educate their kids, and to make sure they have a roof over their heads at night.’

“There’s a lot of work to do in Haiti—a stunning amount, from the physical reconstruction of the capital to the building up of a more responsive government, a robust civil society, and a strong economy for the entire country. And there is the will among citizens, thrown together in unexpected ways because of this calamity, to tackle that enormous job and get it done.”

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