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Need For Shelter In Haiti; Avoiding Disease Outbreaks; Presidential Election

USAID Director Rajiv Shah “says shelter and rubble removal are immediate priorities in the reconstruction efforts in earthquake-devastated Haiti,” VOA News reports. Shah briefed the House Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere Thursday, and also “said between 300,000 and 400,000 units of shelter are needed. He said aid workers are trying to provide about 135,000 transitional structures right now.”

“The aid chief says one of the most significant challenges has been trying to coordinate across the broad range of donors, non-governmental organizations and investors, as well as the Haitian government,” the news service reports (7/29).

According to an America.gov story, the subcommittee “is evaluating the U.S. disaster response and whether efforts are moving quickly enough for” Haiti, the hemisphere’s poorest nation (Kellerhals, 7/29). A webcast of the hearing is available on the subcommittee’s website (7/29).

Despite Tent Camps’ Conditions, Large Disease Outbreaks Have Been Limited, NewsHour Blog Reports

PBS NewsHour’s “The Rundown” blog reports that “not a single large outbreak [of disease] has occurred,” in Haiti even though “the tent camps of Port-au-Prince have all the makings of disease breeding grounds; thousands of people living in temporary shelters, in very close contact, completely reliant on aid for clean water and sanitation services.” The “victory” has been “heralded” by Haiti’s president, prime ministers and non-governmental organizations. While there have been “cases of malaria, dengue fever, and other illnesses endemic to the region, and an outcrop of typhoid cases [which] required an intervention in one of the camps,” there’s been no “widespread outbreak of any of the highly contagious illnesses like measles, diphtheria and water-borne conditions like diarrheal disease, which can be especially deadly to children,” according to the blog.

The post notes that the “massive effort” to keep diseases at bay has come with “an equally strenuous price tag. USAID estimates it will cost a total of about $1.2 billion this year to provide necessary services to the camps,” and Oxfam is spending $160,000 a month for 47 camps, and $42,000 a month “just to empty latrines.” The article includes comments from representatives of International Medical Corps, Oxfam and USAID (Miller, 7/29).

Economist Examines Role Of Haiti’s Election In Reconstruction

“Haiti needs an effective and legitimate government if is to rebuild itself,” the Economist writes, in advance of Haiti’s presidential election this year, which the magazine says “will eventually be as important as giving food, shelter and jobs to the 1.5m people made homeless by January’s earthquake.” After more than $5 billion in aid was pledged to Haiti in March, “relations between the government have become increasingly strained … The scale of destruction was so great that foreigners may have expected too much of the recovery,” according to the magazine. 

The Economist also examines complaints by Haitian officials that donors focused too much on camps, rather than rebuilding the government, and challenges with housing because “very little Haitian land has clear title” (7/29).

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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.