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News Outlets Examine Haitian Rebuilding Effort Six Months After Major Quake

“Six months to the day since a magnitude-7.0 earthquake leveled 60% of [Port-Au-Prince’s] buildings and killed 230,000 people, there are few visible signs of improvement,” USA Today reports. “Frustration is high among Haitians and aid groups who say they see halting and haphazard progress toward recovery. The Haitian government – responsible for the cleanup but still reeling after the loss of most of its buildings and many of its workers – and the aid groups blame each other for the lack of progress,” according to the newspaper.

Despite earlier fears, there have been no major outbreaks of waterborne or other diseases, USA Today writes, noting several other indicators of progress in the rebuilding effort, including government-established transitional housing sites. But earthquake survivors continue to face challenges, according to the article, which outlines the major issues in the rebuilding effort. “Right after the earthquake, hopes were high to rebuild a new Haiti, one better than before with a better-functioning government, up-to-date infrastructure and technology, and strengthened industry to provide better jobs for its people,” the newspaper writes. “Today, that talk is muted” (Arnesen/Bello, 7/12).

Ahead of the six month anniversary, NPR’s Talk of the Nation examines the reconstruction effort featuring a discussion with Paul Weisenfeld, USAID’s coordinator of the Haiti task force team; New York Times reporter Deborah Sontag, who has been reporting from Haiti; and Andrea Koppel, the director of communication for the Red Cross.

In response to a question about whether U.S. funds were being spent appropriately, Weisenfeld said: “There’s never 100 percent certainty for accounting for resources in a disaster context, but we have been very aggressive about having our inspector general on the ground with us. We intend to embed a full-time, large staff of inspector generals there who can do concurrent auditing of our programs. The General Accounting Office of the Congress has just launched an audit program, and we really welcome that because we find that information and feedback from those groups helps us improve programming and ensure not only not just transparency – but better use of resources and accountability for the American taxpayer.”

The piece focuses on additional aspects of the rebuilding effort, such as housing, government accountability and aid delivery (Conan, 7/8).

Humanitarian Aid, Health Care

Reuters AlertNet “scoured reports by aid agencies” to get a sense of the humanitarian situation on the ground.

On the health front, although major disease outbreaks have not materialized, children’s health is threatened because of inadequate living conditions, according to Save the Children. “Diarrhoea, malaria and other water- and sanitation-related illnesses, all major killers of children in the developing world, threaten the lives of children, especially those under five years of age,” Save the Children said.

The news service cites a recent Red Cross report highlighting the need for improved sanitation. It also looks at the situation with food aid, noting that the U.N. “World Food Programme (WFP) has phased out general distributions of food” and now provides daily meals for more than 650,000 “school-age children.” WFP also provides nutritional and food supplements for about 500,000 children under age 5 and women who are pregnant or nursing.

The article also notes a recent Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) report, which among other things, highlights Haitians’ frustration over the lack of progress in housing (Dmitracova, 7/12).

The MSF report, which outlines its response to the earthquake, says that access to health care has improved, “but the everyday situation remains precarious for thousands of Haitians nearly six months after a devastating earthquake struck the country,” CNN’s blog “The Chart” reports. “The country is in need of permanent structures to deliver health care, says Dr. Hans van Dillen, a head of mission for MSF. 60 percent of the country’s hospitals collapsed during the earthquake and many health care workers were killed, injured or fled the country, according to the report. So far, doctors and nurses have been providing medical care out of tents and other semi-permanent facilities while the Ministry of Health works to rebuild the country’s medical infrastructure” (Gann, 7/8).

Meanwhile, the charity Architecture for Health In Vulnerable Environments (ARCHIVE) launched a campaign Monday “calling on architects, engineers, health experts and the general public to submit low-tech housing designs that could reduce the transmission of [tuberculosis] in Haiti,” Reuters AlertNet reports.

“Organisations such as WHO, the World Bank all admit that health and housing are the two main challenges facing the country,” said Peter Williams, founder and executive director of ARCHIVE, which “says something as simple as using the right materials for walls, floors and roofs can do much to improve ventilation and combat the spread of tuberculosis in a country with the highest rate of TB in the Americas” (Dmitracova, 7/12). 

In related news, Agence France-Presse looks at the controversies and potential complications that have arisen with food aid programs in Haiti.

“In June thousands protested against a four-million-dollar seed donation by giant multinational Monsanto which sparked debate over the quake-hit nation’s aid policies and agricultural future. It highlighted the bitter divisions among all sides involved in Haiti’s rural development and the battle to feed the swelling ranks of hungry, estimated by the International Fund for Agricultural Development to be around three million people or almost a third of the population,” AFP writes.

The article looks at USAID’s $126 million WINNER program, which “respects traditional farming,” but also aims to “increase productivity and ‘double’ profits.” USAID’s Christopher Abrams said the programs wants to increase incomes so that farmers and non-farmers can buy food. “Programs like WINNER make peasants leave traditional farming for conventional and industrial farming, but that’s not what we want,” said Jean Baptiste Chavannes on behalf of the National Peasant Movement of Papaye Congress (MPNKP). The piece includes comments by a Haitian government official and people with knowledge of local farming (Speri, 7/10). 

U.S. Human-Trafficking Czar Visits Haiti

The Miami Herald reports that U.S. human-trafficking czar, Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, recently visited Haiti and discussed the need to maintain efforts to prevent the exploitation of children and adults. “CdeBaca met with Haitian officials from the ministry of social affairs as well as Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive,” according to the newspaper.

“Child slavery, especially restaveks, is a big problem, but it’s not the only problem,” he said. “The fact that Haiti ratified the U.N. protocol that protects people from all forms of modern slavery was a big step, an encouraging step,” according to CdeBaca. “Now the hard work needs to start: rescuing victims and prosecuting abusive bosses” (Charles, 7/9). 

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