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Haitian President Asks For Better Aid Coordination, Tents, Jobs

Haitian President Rene Preval said the country is in need of sturdy tents and jobs to prevent an ongoing crisis, the Miami Herald reports. At a press conference, Preval said, “Help the people with tents. Create employment so people can buy food in the country. That is what’s most important.” He also announced that he is postponing legislative elections, which were scheduled for Feb. 28. “Preval said it is impossible to hold elections because voting equipment remains buried in rubble, and experts from the U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), who were supposed to provide technical assistance, died in the quake,” the newspaper writes (Charles/Wyss, 1/27).

Preval also appealed for aid to be better coordinated, Xinhua/CriEnglish.com reports. He said, “I am not in a position to criticize anybody, not in the least people who have come here to help me … What I am saying is, what everybody is saying is, that we need a better coordination.” Preval also noted that the country’s National Equipment Company (NEC) had removed “170,000 dead from the streets” and that the NEC was “clearing the roadways to facilitate traffic” (1/28).

“[R]epresentatives from the U.N., the U.S., the Haitian government and private aid groups met Wednesday” to address the issue of food distribution, according to the Canadian Press. “Afterward, Donal Reilly of Catholic Relief Services said they decided to divide Port-au-Prince into zones, designating a major aid agency to be responsible for delivering food to each sector.”

The news service writes: “Food distribution thus far has often been marked by poor co-ordination, vast gaps in coverage, and desperate, unruly lines of needy people in which young men at times shoved aside the women and weak and took their food” (Fox, 1/28).

Kenneth Merten, the U.S. ambassador to Haiti, said the supply of food was not the issue; instead, he said, problems with infrastructure and the food distribution process were to blame, Foreign Policy’s blog, “The Cable,” reports. “The amount of food we have is sufficient; the issue is getting it out to people in a form they can most easily use and eat and getting it to certain distribution points in sufficient numbers,” Merten said, adding that the anger among Haitians because of distribution problems “is understandable; it’s unfortunate” (Rogin, 1/27).

The Associated Press/Washington Post examines the distribution of food aid in Haiti. “Food remains scarce for many of the neediest survivors despite the efforts of the United Nations, the U.S. military and dozens of international aid groups. Relief experts say the scale of this disaster and Haiti’s poor infrastructure are presenting unprecedented challenges, but Haitian leaders complain coordination has been poor” (Sequera/Fox, 1/28). PBS’ NewsHour also looks at food, shelter and other disaster relief assistance (Suarez, 1/27).

Some U.S. military and Haitian officials acknowledged Wednesday that relief coordination was improving and that food aid was becoming more available, Agence France-Presse reports. U.S. Army Captain Maurice Green said, “It’s getting better everyday.” He added, “Coordination between us and USAID and other agencies will improve day-by-day – and as coordination improves, so will conditions” for food distribution. The news service writes that “truckloads of supplies from USAID … were transferred to Haitian pick-up trucks to be taken to smaller distribution sites.”

Jean France, the mayor of a town 10 miles east of Port-au-Prince, said, “The people are frustrated for sure … now they are seeing hope, because they can see we are getting them food” (Ogle, 1/27).

In related news, “An Associated Press review of U.S. government earthquake relief spending shows only 1 cent of each U.S. tax dollar spent on quake relief is going in the form of cash to the Haitian government,” the AP/BusinessWeek writes. “Less than two weeks after President Obama announced an initial $100 million for Haiti earthquake relief, U.S. government spending on the disaster has tripled to $317 million at latest count. That’s just over $1 each from everyone in the United States” (Mendoza, 1/27).

World Economic
Forum Addresses Haiti

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, aid to Haiti was a “focus Thursday” as world leaders arrived, TIME reports. “The forum is appealing to its wealthy corporate members to pitch in aid, and especially to invest for the long term in Haiti after the earthquake,” the magazine writes (Moore, 1/28).

In a speech that was added to the forum after the Jan. 12 earthquake, former President Bill Clinton “urged business leaders to provide urgent aid and to also take advantage of long-term investment opportunities that could help lift the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation out of poverty,” MarketWatch writes (Watts, 1/28).

Clinton also spoke about the immediate needs, according to Reuters. “There are serious unmet food and water needs. Part of it is the distribution system does not exist,” he said. “Right now we need cash more than anything else,” Clinton said (1/28).

News Outlets Examine U.S. Response, Conditions On The Ground

  • Stars and Stripes examines how the U.S. military has contributed to relief efforts in Haiti. “It was days before the U.S. troops began arriving en masse, bringing with them an industrial operational capability and a logistical structure that turned a disjointed system into one capable of caring for thousands of victims. The sudden change, experts say, highlights just how critical military capabilities are in such massive relief missions,” according to the publication (McCloskey/Schogol, 1/27).
  • The Washington Post looks at conditions facing women and children since the earthquake hit. “About 37,000 pregnant women affected by the earthquake are in desperate need of food, clean drinking water and access to health care, said Franck Geneus, who directs health programs in Haiti for CARE … As many as 10,000 of the women could give birth in the next month,” according to the newspaper. “Still, even with security, it has been difficult for most women and children to get help. At an aid point in downtown Port-au-Prince near the collapsed presidential palace, throngs of men crowded around a doorway and fought with one other while Haitian police beat them back with sticks and batons” (Labbe-DeBose).
  • The Los Angeles Times examines the tent cities that are springing up to shelter Haitians who lost their homes in the earthquake. The Daihatsu camp is a “patchwork of homemade tents that are so close together as to appear to be an unbroken quilt, lightly billowing in hues of whites and blues and reds and yellows,” the Los Angeles Times writes. “Since the earthquake, an estimated 500,000 people have moved into such camps in and around Port-au-Prince. About 50 of the sites were designated by the government after the disaster, but the vast majority are like Daihatsu – spontaneously created by individuals who had no place else to stay but the streets” (Landsberg, 1/27).
  • TIME examines how the earthquake has left children vulnerable. “The quake that has killed 150,000 people has left thousands of children orphaned, and vulnerable to being preyed upon by child traffickers and Haiti’s shameful tradition of keeping child slaves known as restaveks. … Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive on Tuesday expressed the fear that amid the clamor to airlift Haitian orphans out of the devastated country to waiting adoptive parents in the U.S. and Europe, others are being trafficked” (Padgett/Ghosh, 1/27).
  • “As so many medical teams stream into Haiti, PAHO [Pan American Health Organization] is trying to stay on top of where everyone is and what the needs are for the patients and the facilities. At this point in the relief effort, the need for emergency surgical care has declined significantly, said PAHO’s deputy director, physician Jon Andrus,” USA Today writes in a story about how Haiti’s medical needs have changed since the immediate aftermath of the quake. Though Andrus said there are “fewer traumatic injuries, fractures, wounds and burns, and internal injuries,” the newspaper writes that “[c]ases of tetanus have been reported, as well as suspected cases of measles. An outbreak would be another major challenge to doctors here” (Miller et al., 1/28).

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