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Heavy Rains Hit Tent Camps In Haiti

Heavy rains hit earthquake survivors in tent camps in Port-au-Prince on Thursday, “bringing a warning of fresh misery to come for the 1 million people living on the streets,” Reuters reports. “While the rain could wash away some of the dust from the hundreds of collapsed structures in the stricken city, it could also worsen a fierce blight of mosquitoes,” according to Reuters, which reports that Haiti is struggling to get all the earthquake survivors out of make-shift tents and into more substantial shelters (Loney, 2/11).

The Los Angeles Times also looks at the possible impact of the upcoming rainy season. “Next month or in April, a punishing rainy season is certain to arrive, bringing with it the daily downpours that swamp this downtrodden capital city. Then will come the hurricane season, which last year delivered a series of deadly storms,” the newspaper writes.

“These tent villages could easily become disaster zones, said Alberto Wilde, country director for CHF International, an aid group specializing in shelter issues. With many of the city’s drainage canals and ravines blocked with the rubble of collapsed buildings, concern is deepening that the rains will result in deadly flash floods. ‘Our fear is not that people are going to get wet when the rains come,’ Wilde said. ‘Our fear is that they will get swept away. We are running against time,'” the newspaper reports.

According to the Los Angeles Times, “Disease is another likelihood when the skies open, with the downpours sure to leave the camps a fetid morass of mud and human waste. Most of the camps lack sufficient latrines and could easily become breeding grounds for malaria, cholera and other deadly illnesses, medical experts say” (Rubin, 2/10).

Death Toll Numbers Unclear; Food Aid Not Reaching Elderly Survivors

“Haiti issued wildly conflicting death tolls for the Jan. 12 earthquake yesterday, adding to the confusion about how many people died – and to suspicion that nobody really knows,” the Associated Press/Boston Globe writes in an article examining the official death toll and reporting on the different numbers cited by Haitian government officials on Wednesday.

“A day after Marie-Laurence Jocelyn Lassegue, communications minister, raised the official death toll to 230,000 … Later yesterday, the ministry said that because of a typo, the number should have read 170,000. Even that didn’t clear things up. … There is no doubt that the death toll – whatever it is – is one of the highest in a modern disaster,” according to the news service.

“No foreign government or independent agency has issued its own death toll. Many agencies that usually help estimate casualty numbers say they are too busy assisting the living to keep track of the dead. And the Joint Task Force in charge of the relief effort – foreign governments and militaries, U.N. agencies, and Haitian government officials – quotes only the government death toll.” Number variances in death tolls are “common” in “major disasters,” the news service adds.

“In Haiti’s case, however, where the very institutions responsible for compiling information were themselves devastated, reaching a death toll is particularly difficult,” according to the AP/Boston Globe (Faul, 2/11).

In a second article, the AP/Washington Post examines how the elderly are getting by since the earthquake. The article focuses on residents driven out of the collapsed Asile Commune nursing home in Port-au-Prince.

“Shortly after the quake, every one of the home’s residents was begging for water and none had gotten medical care. Some still asked for water Wednesday, but [Eline Darisma, a caregiver] quickly got his daughter to bring small bags of potable water. He said they now get water to bathe and cook from cisterns. Venezuelan doctors have treated them so council nurses can visit daily now, Darisma said. Still, despite visits by aid groups, long-term help has not materialized.” Darisma also said there old people have to go on one meal a day and there’s only enough for two more days (Faul, 2/11).

In related news, Afro examines concerns about how the earthquake could affect Haiti’s HIV/AIDS population. “After decades of progress in staving off the tide of HIV/AIDS in Haiti, health advocates are concerned about regression – in the wake of the powerful Jan. 12 earthquake that devastated Port-au-Prince, the infrastructure used to combat the disease no longer exists,” according to the publication. The article features quotes from Charles King, CEO of Housing Works, a U.S. organization that combats AIDS and homelessness. King traveled to Haiti after the earthquake (Barnette, 2/10).

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