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G7 Forgives Haiti’s Bilateral Loans To Support Aid Effort

At a press conference on Saturday, “Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said he and his G-7 colleagues would forgive bilateral loans extended to poverty-stricken Haiti, which estimates it could have lost 200,000 residents in the major earthquake that hit last month,” Dow Jones Newswires reports. Flaherty also said Haiti’s multilateral debt should be nullified as soon as possible (Thiruvengadam, 2/6).

Ahead of the G7 announcement, the Obama administration on Friday declared its support for “international debt relief for Haiti to aid rebuilding efforts,” The Hill’s “Blog Briefing Room” reports. “The earthquake in Haiti was a catastrophic setback to the Haitian people who are now facing tremendous emergency humanitarian and reconstruction needs, and meeting Haiti’s financing needs will require a massive multilateral effort,” said Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner in a statement. “Today, we are voicing our support for what Haiti needs and deserves – comprehensive multilateral debt relief” (Fabian, 2/5).

Also Saturday, “Colonel Gregory Kane, the U.S. Joint Task Force Haiti operations officer, said U.S. involvement in the earthquake-shattered country would last as long as their presence was required,” Agence France-Presse reports. “We are in Haiti as long as needed and are welcomed by the government of Haiti,” he said, adding that the military component could last between 45 and 50 days, “if you follow historical trends.”

The article also looks at the U.S. effort to supply food aid at 16 points around Port-au-Prince. “But with Haitians increasingly angry that a massive international aid effort is not succeeding in reaching them, Kane said supply chains were gradually improving. At Haiti’s wrecked port, where the off-angle tilt of gantry cranes still attest to the violence of the January 12 quake, Kane said the flow of goods was now beating pre-quake levels. On Friday the port dealt with the equivalent of 750 20-foot containers, a pittance for major ports, but as much as 15 times more cargo than before the earthquake. Much of it was food aid, he said,” AFP reports (Beatty, 2/7).

Despite improvements, a major protest broke out in the Petionville neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Reuters reports. “It reflected still simmering anger among survivors over problems in the massive international relief effort,” the news service writes. “Banging on plastic buckets and waving branches and palm fronds, the protesters surged past piles of earthquake rubble – and a woman bathing by the side of the road – to the city hall in Petionville, where they accused Mayor Lydie Parent of hoarding aid” (Vega, 2/8).

Also, the Associated Press reports that the U.N. has said it would stop sending free medicine to Haiti if Haitian hospitals charge patients for treatment. “U.N. officials said beginning immediately, any hospital found levying fees for medicine will be cut off. But the U.N. would consider continuing to supply non-governmental groups working at private hospitals with drugs if those groups can make a convincing case that none of their patients are being charged,” the news service writes.

“U.N. officials told The Associated Press that about a dozen hospitals – both public and private – have begun charging patients for medicine. The officials said they could not immediately provide the names of the hospitals but said they were in several parts of the country, including Port-au-Prince. ‘The money is huge,’ said Christophe Rerat of the Pan American Health Organization, the U.N. health agency in the region. He said about $1 million worth of drugs have been sent from U.N. warehouses alone to Haitian hospitals in the past three weeks.”

According to Rerat, donations are paying for Haitian Health ministry employees’ salaries. “A member of the Haitian government commission created to deal with the medical crisis, Dr. Jean Hugues Henry, said he had no knowledge of any hospitals charging for services or medicine,” AP reports (Pajak/Dodds, 2/9).

New Outlets Examine Food Distribution; Current, Future Health Concerns

AOL News examines the food distribution plan in Haiti: “The WFP spent 18 days planning the distribution that began this week. Working with eight major partners, including Save the Children and World Vision International, the UN selected 16 distribution points in and around Port-au-Prince. The distribution points are mostly schoolyards or churches with a defendable perimeter. … In reality, community representatives are supposed to make field assessments of populations in camps by working with knowledgeable insiders to determine who is genuinely at need. But this is one of the most difficult challenges of food distribution in any refugee camp, especially so in an urban environment, with one million newly homeless” (Troutman, 2/7).

The Canadian Press looks into concerns about the approaching rainy season. “The rainy season in Haiti is deadly even in a good year. Now, in a devastated capital city, the early spring rains threaten to cause landslides and bring about health problems in the makeshift camps where more than 500,000 people are living,” according to the news service. Mario Nicoleau, an engineer with USAID’s office in Haiti, said, “There will be health concerns.” Nicoleau added, “The risks will be enormous, and it is difficult to contemplate the unforeseen consequences,” Canadian Press reports (Dodds, 2/8).

The New York Times examines the earthquake’s effect on the country’s tuberculosis control efforts. “In normal times, Haiti sees about 30,000 new cases of tuberculosis each year. Among infectious diseases, it is the country’s second most common killer, after AIDS, according to the World Health Organization,” the newspaper reports. “The situation has gone from bad to worse because the earthquake set off a dangerous diaspora. Most of the sanatorium’s several hundred surviving patients fled and are now living in the densely packed tent cities where experts say they are probably spreading the disease. Most of these patients have also stopped taking their daily regimen of pills, thereby heightening the chance that there will be an outbreak of a strain resistant to treatment, experts say,” according to the New York Times (Urbina, 2/5).

The Wall Street Journal reports on efforts to accommodate the large number of new amputees in Haiti. “Even before the quake, Haiti’s underfunded health-care system lacked resources for people who lost limbs in car accidents or to infections. The situation was complicated by a government that offered little support for the disabled, and a culture in which some people regarded the disabled bad luck because of the economic burden they represented,” according to the newspaper. “Healing Hands is among many organizations and private doctors that are attempting to create, virtually from scratch, a system to treat amputees, who need urgent care now and maintenance for decades. The immediate need is for crutches and exercise therapy that will keep remaining muscles functioning. Artificial limbs, once fitted, need to be changed every three to five years, and every six months for growing children,” the newspaper reports (Dugan, 2/8).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.