U.S. Lawmakers Reach Trade Deal To Help Haiti; News Outlets Examine Health Care, Housing

“Top U.S. lawmakers said on Wednesday they have reached a bipartisan deal to help Haiti rebuild its earthquake-shattered economy by opening the U.S. market to more Haitian clothing and textiles,” Reuters reports. The deal would almost triple “the amount of certain Haitian knit and woven clothing products that qualify for U.S. duty-free treatment.” 

Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee, said, “Today’s legislation responds to the clear call to action Americans heard in the wake of the devastating earthquake in Haiti.” The legislation would also “build on earlier U.S. legislation that sped up tax benefits for donations to Haiti, Representative Dave Camp, the top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, said” (Palmer, 4/28).

Several articles examined the ongoing health and aid situation on the ground in Haiti.

The Miami Herald: “More than three months since the American Red Cross raised hundreds of millions to aid Haiti … the organization says it has spent about a quarter of the money. But after consuming $106 million in the first 60 days, the Red Cross in the past month has tapped just $5 million more and has come under fire for what critics call anemic spending. Other aid groups, members of Congress, bloggers and even a former board member are among the growing chorus asking what the Red Cross is doing with such a massive amount of money raised in such a short time.” The article includes information about how the Red Cross says it spent the money, such as providing assistance to “2 million people, [giving] tarps and other supplies to 450,000 and distribut[ing] almost 24 million gallons of water,” and its long-term strategy (Robles, 4/27).

As part of its “Project Jacmel” series, the Globe and Mail looks at the shortage of health workers equipped to deal with Haitians who lost limbs in the January earthquake. “Haiti’s national dearth of rehabilitation and physiotherapists – there are only about 12 in the country – has set off alarms among teams of foreign medical experts … Neither specialties are viewed in high esteem in Haiti, yet an estimated 4,000 to 6,000 people who lost limbs in January’s debilitating earthquake are in need of physiotherapy and rehab as they struggle to cope with deformities that will affect them for life. That includes a critical mass of victims who survived with spinal cord injuries in the quake and are newly paralyzed from the waist down” (Leeder, 4/28). 

The housing situation also continues to present challenges. “Across the Port-au-Prince region, Haitian and international officials are confronting the tricky task of balancing the needs of more than a million homeless with the urge of many others to resume a more normal life months after much of the capital and its outskirts were flattened by the Jan. 12 quake,” the Los Angeles Times writes. “Tensions are rising. Students blocked traffic the other day as part of a demonstration demanding a resumption of classes. Someone set fire this month to a tent and slashed two giant drinking-water receptacles” (Ellingwood, 4/29).

The New York Times looks at the situation on one “devastated” street. “Avenue Poupelard provides a less encouraging picture of the reach of aid, services and information than that found in official situation reports. Tucked into encampments too small to have attracted the nongovernmental groups operating in the big tent cities, many on Avenue Poupelard increasingly feel that they are on their own.” The newspaper continues: “With the large-scale food distribution winding down, many families are subsisting on rice bought from street vendors. But several women said the free food was never easy to get, anyway; the man dispensing ration cards on Avenue Poupelard demanded sex or money in exchange” (Sontag, 4/27).

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