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Aid Groups, U.N., U.S. Discuss Response To Haiti’s Earthquake As Year Anniversary Approaches

On Friday, the Office of the U.N. Special Envoy to Haiti said that 63.6 percent of the aid international donors “pledged to Haiti in 2010 after a devastating earthquake nearly one year ago” has been disbursed, Deutsche Presse-Agentur/M&C reports (1/7).

“The analysis is based upon updates from 55 public sector pledge-makers at the March 31, 2010 international donors conference,” according to a press release from the Office of the Special Envoy for Haiti. A total of “approximately $2.01 billion” was committed for recovery activities last year, which does not include “debt relief pledges totaling $1.07 billion,” the release notes. “Of the $2.01 billion pledged, $1.28 billion (63.6 percent) was disbursed by year-end.” The release shows that the $1.28 billion was given to Haiti through four channels and it includes breakdowns of how much each channel received (1/7).

Carleene Dei, head of USAID’s mission in Haiti, told reporters in a conference call Friday that there was a “lack of understanding” about the pace at which pledges from March’s donors conference could be met, DPA/M&C reports. “A pledge is not a check,” she said. “A pledge has to be turned into legislation. Legislation has to be turned into plans. Plans have to be vetted and approved. And money has to be made available,” Dei added (1/7).

Meanwhile, U.N. agencies and aid groups “say significant progress has been made in helping Haitians recover from the earthquake that devastated their country almost one year ago. But, they acknowledge humanitarian operations fall far short of what is needed to rebuild Haitian society,” VOA News reports, adding that “international agencies have had to deal with additional disasters [since the earthquake],” including hurricanes, severe flooding and the cholera outbreak.

“Nobody can pretend that this has been a hugely successful humanitarian response,” said Paul Conneally, a spokesperson for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. “If anything, it demonstrates the limitations of humanitarian action. … The Red Cross, for instance is explaining itself in playing metropolitan roles, which it is not set up for in terms of provision of water and sanitation to the Metropolitan area of Port-au-Prince. … We are still basically in emergency phase,” he said. Conneally also noted that the organization received more than $1 billion in donations after the earthquake, which is the largest response ever in its history.

Marixie Mercado, a UNICEF spokesperson, discussed how collaboration among aid groups’ can help. “In the cholera response, for example, the case fatality rates in the camps are lower than they are elsewhere,” said Mercado. “And, I think that does have to do with having better access to sanitation, safe water and health services,” she said (Schlein, 1/7).

On Friday, Elisabeth Byrs, a spokeswoman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, defended the U.N.’s role in responding to the earthquake last January, Agence France-Presse reports. “We had to work on a kind of apocalyptic ground, a disaster. That’s why I think we did our job well with regard to the situation,” she said. “Several non governmental organisations have criticised international aid over the past year for providing too little help too slowly,” AFP writes, noting a recent report from Oxfam. 

“Byrs told journalists that the emergency response by humanitarian agencies and NGOs was ‘good and fast’ and insisted that their ‘life-saving’ work should not be underestimated after Haiti’s frail public services were virtually destroyed by the tremor in the capital Port-au-Prince. … The World Food Programme [WFP] underlined that four million Haitians were receiving food deliveries six weeks after the tremor. WFP spokeswoman Emilia Casella said there was evidence that ‘a nutritional crisis … was avoided,’ in the densely populated earthquake-hit areas” (1/7).

U.S. Officials Discuss U.S. Aid In Haiti, Country’s Disputed Elections 

In an interview with PBS’ NewsHour, Kenneth Merten, the U.S. ambassador to Haiti, said the emergency response phase is not complete yet, but reconstruction is moving forward. “We are at the one year point now, and things have been rebuilt and are being rebuilt. But it is not by any stretch of the imagination a rebuilt city yet,” Merten said. “What we are looking and hoping to help the Haitians do is to build back better, not just build back in the same problems that we had here on the 11th of January 2010,” he said. More of the interview is available in an accompanying video clip. In it, Merten elaborates on the U.S. response to the Haitian earthquake (Brown, 1/7).

A VOA News piece includes information about the U.S. response from other U.S. officials. “U.S. State Department Counselor Cheryl Mills says the job is still enormous. She told reporters that a million people remain in tents, and 9 million cubic meters of rubble still needs to be removed. She also pointed to an enduring need for jobs. The head of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Rajiv Shah, called the massive quake one of the greatest humanitarian challenges the world has ever faced. … Shah highlighted efforts to prepare the drainage system in the capital Port-au-Prince to protect against floods and hurricanes, as well as investments in agriculture, sanitation and health” (1/8).

On Saturday, the State Department released fact sheets on U.S. aid to Haiti on several topics including, health, cholera and food security (1/8).

“The Obama administration said Friday it might be able to support tossing out the results of Haiti’s disputed presidential election if that is the course called for in a soon-to-be released international review,” the Miami Herald reports. “Mills, said the agency is awaiting the findings from a team of election experts convened by the Organization of American States to examine vote tallies. Should the panel call for canceling the elections and scheduling a do-over, Mills said ‘we obviously would be interested to understand how they came to those conclusions, would want to review whether or not those conclusions … we thought we, too, could support,'” the article reports (Clark/Charles, 1/7).

Miami Herald Examines Criticisms Of Earthquake Aid

“More than 200 nonprofit groups and governments around the world rushed to Haiti’s aid after the Jan. 12 quake. But the absence of construction cranes and stalled progress on major projects such as hospitals and schools has many people wondering: Where did all that money go? The short answer: Keeping people alive,” the Miami Herald writes. “It went to employing Haitians in short-term low-paying jobs, providing tents and tarps, and supplying food for four months. It paid for amputations, vaccinations of a million people and rubble removal. But Haitians, watchdog groups and other critics complain that much of the money raised went toward foreigners’ salaries, expensive vehicles or sits in the bank waiting for projects to get moving,” the newspaper reports in story examining why some are criticizing aid spending since the quake.

The article includes quotes from: Karl Jean-Louis, who runs HaitiAidWatchdog.org; Nigel Fisher, the U.N.’s chief humanitarian officer in Haiti; Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive; Thomas Adams, the State Department’s Haiti coordinator; Carleene Dei, Haiti mission director for USAID; Ben Smilowitz, executive director of the Disaster Accountability Project; Amy Parodi, a spokeswoman for World Vision; Julie Sell, a Red Cross spokeswoman; and local Haitians (Robles, 1/9).

UNICEF Report Highlights Situation For Children In Haiti Since The Earthquake

Almost one year after the earthquake in Haiti, 380,000 children are still living in tent camps and continue to suffer from the effects of the disaster, according to a report (.pdf) from UNICEF, released on Thursday, My Sinchew reports. “Chronic malnutrition affects one in three under five year-olds, despite emergency efforts to help 102,000 infants and their mothers with nutrition last year. Water and hygiene conditions were already battered and on the decline, with only about a fifth of people having access to basic sanitation facilities by 2006, 29 percent less than in 1990, according to the agency,” the news service writes. The report also said that after the quake, two million Haitian children were immunized against diseases such as diphtheria, measles and polio (1/7).

“UNICEF provided more than 11,300 latrines serving over 800,000 people. Every day, over 600 latrines are desludged as part of ongoing efforts to maintain safe sanitation standards. … Some 360,000 insecticide-treated bed nets were distributed to over 163,000 households in the malaria-endemic southern coastal regions,” the U.N. News Centre writes, citing information from the report.

“We have seen results in the past year, but significant gaps remain and much more must be done,” Francoise Gruloos-Ackermans, UNICEF’s representative in Haiti, said. “Haiti poses huge institutional and systemic issues that predated the earthquake, and that require more than an emergency response to resolve,” she said. According to Gruloos-Ackermans, four million children in Haiti still face inequitable access to water, sanitation, health care, and protection from disease (1/7). In a press release, UNICEF outlines its plans for the future in Haiti (1/6).

News Outlets Look At Cholera, Sanitation In Haiti

PRI’s The World interviews Peter Hotez, a vaccine development expert at the George Washington University, about the upcoming cholera vaccine campaign in Haiti, which is scheduled to begin in April (Clark, 1/7). PRI’s The World also reports on how cholera victims’ bodies are handled in Haiti. It profiles Rochefort Saint-Louis, whose “official title is cholera coordinator for western Haiti, but basically he collects bodies. He locates them, disinfects them, seals them in plastic body bags, and trucks them to a designated burial ground. The point is to minimize the spread of cholera” (Sharp, 1/7).

“A year after the earthquake, with more than one million people still living in miserable conditions in camps, waste treatment and clean drinking water have shot to the top of the priority list as the three-month old cholera epidemic continues to claim lives at an alarming rate,” Postmedia News/Montreal Gazette reports. “Known by its French acronym, DINEPA, is the first national body to establish and regulate water and sanitation in the country. With 70 percent of Haiti’s nine million people without access to clean water, more than 80 percent of them without a toilet, and not one waste treatment site in the country, the directorate has plenty of work to do,” the news service writes in a story examining the water and sanitation situation in the country (Montgomery, 1/8).

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