Twenty Nations Meet In Montreal To Discuss Haiti Recovery; Haitian Officials Increase Port-Au-Prince Death Toll Estimate

Officials from 20 countries are meeting in Montreal, Canada, Monday “to discuss long-term reconstruction and arrangements for a donor conference to be held in March,” the U.N. said, Bloomberg reports (Gaouette/Craze, 1/25). “U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and others will examine eventual debt forgiveness and” a strategy for rebuilding Haiti at the one-day gathering, according to Reuters (Palmer, 1/25).

At the meeting, the U.N. will “urge donor countries to fund swift cash payments to Haitians to assist recovery efforts,” the Financial Times writes. “You can’t leave a gap between humanitarian relief and reconstruction,” Helen Clark, administrator of the U.N. development program, said when discussing the need for donors to support a “cash for work” effort for 220,000 Haitians. According to the newspaper, “The $41m (€29m, £25m) programme, which is already using 6,000 Haitians, is part of a $575m ‘flash appeal,’ which at the moment is only 40 percent funded” (Jack, 1/25). “The United Nations is hoping to put hundreds of Haitians to work cleaning up their battered cities, said U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in a meeting with former president-turned U.N. special envoy Bill Clinton,” according to the Kansas City Star (1/24).

Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon said meeting participants would consider cancelling Haiti’s debt “estimated by relief groups to be just over $1 billion,” Reuters writes. “Canadian officials said the conference would not likely emerge with a total of pledged aid but rather a clearer idea of what the needs are. It also aims to decide on the date and venue for a pledging conference” (Palmer, 1/25).

Search Efforts Called Off By Haitian Government; U.S. Military Serves ‘Supporting Role’ In Aid Disbursement

After calling off search and rescue operations on Friday, the Haitian government said Sunday that Port-au-Prince’s death toll from the earthquake was 150,000, VOA News reports. “Officials said Sunday the number does not include outlying areas such as Jacmel, where many other bodies are believed to be buried under rubble,” the news service writes (1/24). The death toll estimate “doesn’t count those still under the debris, carried off by relatives or killed in the outlying quake zone,” the Associated Press/NPR reports. Haitian Communications Minister Marie-Laurence Jocelyn Lassegue said, “Nobody knows how many bodies are buried in the rubble — 200,000? 300,000? Who knows the overall death toll?” (1/24).

The U.S. and U.N. signed a two-page agreement Friday, formally giving the U.S. military a supporting role in international aid efforts in Haiti, but allowing the Americans to continue overseeing the country’s “airspace, ports and roads,” the Associated Press/Washington Post reports. U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said the agreement “formalizes the working relationship” and outlines ongoing cooperation (1/22).

On Sunday, U.S. soldiers and Brazilian U.N. troops “handed out food and water” in Port-au-Prince’s Cite Soleil slum, Reuters reports. [Lt. Gen.] Ken Keen, who is leading the U.S. military operation in Haiti, said, “The aid we have available … is being pushed out.” He added, “But the need is tremendous.”

According to the news service, “The Pan American Health Organization said there had so far been no sign of a feared outbreak of contagious disease among survivors camped out in filthy conditions in about 300 makeshift shelters across Haiti’s shattered capital, Port-au-Prince” (Frank, 1/24).

The Los Angeles Times looks at the role U.S. troops are playing in aid delivery. “The U.S. military has been in Haiti since the day after the magnitude 7.0 quake, providing much of the muscle behind getting aid into the country and out to the population. For troops here, many of them veterans of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, this is not the mission they trained for. Some critics have suggested that they are not getting enough aid to enough people fast enough. Still, it has cast the troops in a gratifying, if somewhat unfamiliar, role as peaceful warriors who save lives rather than take them” (Landsberg, 1/25).

TIME examines Keen’s role in Haiti. Keen is “[t]he No. 2 in charge of Southern Command, which controls U.S. hemispheric interests out of Miami,” the magazine writes. “Though some critics have complained that aid has been too slow to permeate this ravaged land, there is no question that it would have taken a lot longer if Keen hadn’t just happened to have been there. By midnight he’d pledged to the Haiti government – the remnants of which had snatched motorcycles and picked their way through the ruins up to the residence long after nightfall to ask for help – the full support of the U.S. military” (Newton-Small, 1/25). NPR talked to one of its correspondents covering the situation in Haiti about the challenges facing the aid effort (Hansen/Flintoff, 1/24).

Shah Heads Back To Haiti

On Saturday, Rajiv Shah, the head of USAID, traveled to Haiti with “Craig Fugate, his counterpart from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA),” Agence France-Presse reports. Shah was to “meet Haitian officials, international partners and aid groups to ‘assure assistance is being effectively coordinated on the ground,’ State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters on Friday,” the news service writes (1/22).

In response to criticisms about aid delivery, Shah said, “The scale of the destruction and the human consequence … is just unparalleled … We’re never going to meet the need as quickly as we’d like. … We’re going to be here providing the support for a long time,” according to a Reuters article, which reports on how search and rescue efforts have shifted to focus on helping earthquake survivors. “Survivors said they were still struggling to get food, with scant deliveries of aid. …  Fruits and vegetables appeared plentiful in street stalls, but people said they had little cash to buy them and prices were much higher than before the quake” (Bigg/Frank, 1/24).

In an effort to prevent a worsening health crises, “officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization and U.S. Agency for International Development [over the weekend] established a public-health surveillance system to begin tracking emerging health threats in some of several hundred makeshift camps that are housing the homeless,” the Miami Herald reports. “Working with Haiti’s Ministry of Health, the groups have identified 31 hospitals and large clinics that will collect and report data to the CDC. Among the diseases they will monitor are dengue fever, malaria, pneumonia, typhoid fever and outbreaks of diarrhea, which could point to more serious illnesses,” according to the newspaper (Clark/Charles, 1/24).

Articles Examine Life, Relief Efforts, Health After The Quake

  • USA Today examines how children are faring in the quake’s aftermath. “In the devastation that is now Haiti, the heaviest blow is falling on the weakest: children. Already poor, underfed and underschooled, tens of thousands of Haiti’s children now face the cruelest catastrophe … They are hungry, bleeding and afraid – of the present and of the future,” the newspaper writes. The article looks at relief efforts and how children have been affected by the natural disaster. “The destruction presents an enormous challenge for UNICEF and other relief groups that focus on children, as they confront both the immediate crisis and the question of who will care for the children in the future. … Nearly two weeks after the earthquake, children continue to arrive at hospitals gravely injured, with serious infections and broken bones. Few have had medical care, and many are suffering without painkillers. Many children have been in pain for so long they have stopped crying” (Leinwand et al., 1/25).
  • CNN looks into relief efforts in some of Haiti’s more remote areas. “In outlying areas … the biggest fear is people will be forgotten. [Willio Sainvil, a spokesperson for a community aid organization] says aid agencies have visited the city center, but few have received help in the townships and villages of Leogane province, lined with sugarcane groves, banana trees and now, mangled chunks of concrete that used to be homes, offices, schools and clinics. … In Leogane, at the epicenter of the massive quake, about 85 percent of the town may have been destroyed” (Basu, 1/25).
  • The New York Times writes about concerns over what to do with amputees and other people who have been treated for quake-related injuries, but have no where to go. “Nearly two weeks after the [earthquake], the immediate health crisis, which involved treating the injuries of people who were crushed by collapsing buildings and amputating damaged limbs, has begun to settle into a new phase. This one is perhaps even more daunting: caring for thousands of post-operation trauma patients who are ready to leave the hospitals, but lack homes or families to go to. Many will require prosthetic limbs, frequent wound cleanings, bandage changes and months of rehabilitation,” according to the New York Times. “As officials warn of possible outbreaks of infectious diseases from unsanitary conditions in hundreds of makeshift camps of people made homeless by the earthquake, they are also wondering where to send patients who have been treated for their injuries but require follow-up care” (Rivera, 1/24).
  • The Boston Globe examines how the earthquake affected Partners in Health and how the organization has responded the situation. “With 10 hospitals and deep roots in Haiti, Boston-based Partners in Health has became one of the pillars of the worldwide response to the Jan. 12 earthquake. This sudden prominence has forced the nonprofit to grow at warp speed, as it raised an astounding $25 million in just the first week. … As enviable as this sudden expansion might seem, Partners in Health never aspired to become the go-to organization after the quake. As its Boston staffers constantly reminded a visiting reporter last week, Partners in Health is not a disaster relief organization. Still, the money and visibility have positioned Partners in Health to be a leading player in the country’s recovery, helping Haitians rebuild their shattered health system” (Smith/Smith, 1/24).
  • The Miami Herald reports on the ongoing and evolving health threats that have emerged since the earthquake. “The settlements have become open depositories of human waste. … Dr. [Andre Vulcain of the University Of Miami Miller School of Medicine] worries about dysentery and diarrhea lurking in the camps. Other public-health doctors warn that the open dumping of human waste will nurture E. coli. The untreated water could lead to an outbreak of typhoid.” The newspaper continues, “The British-based Malaria Risk Index, which already had listed Haiti as one of the world’s most vulnerable nations, has now upped the odds that the mosquito-borne disease (as well as dengue fever) will add to Haiti’s great miseries. The lack of a substantial rain has postponed that particular catastrophe” (Grimm, 1/24).

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