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WFP Has Reached 600,000 Haitians With Food Voucher Plan

On Thursday, a food distribution voucher campaign that launched last Sunday, “hit all 16 fixed distribution points around the capital” of Port-au-Prince, CNN reports. “So far, 600,000 people affected by the devastating January 12 earthquake have been able to collect food under this plan, said Marcus Prior, spokesman for the United Nations World Food Programme [WFP]. ‘We’re encouraged by the way the system is working to get food out into the city to those in need, but still have a long way to go,’ Prior said” (Basu, 2/5).

Even though the distribution of food to earthquake survivors has improved, it has “not stopped badly needed food aid from falling into the hands of black-market sellers,” Reuters reports. “In one Port-au-Prince neighborhood where 12,000 people live in tents made of bedsheets in a valley below their collapsed hillside slum, vendors at makeshift stands sell cups of rice from food-aid bags for about 22 gourdes (55 cents) each.” Prior said, “It is too early to say how much ends up on the black market. We never like to see it happen. The object of this scale-up is far-reaching to help stabilize the food situation in the city.” The article also looks at why food aid ends up on the black market (Rosenberg, 2/4).

Meanwhile, former President Bill Clinton plans to travel to Haiti Friday after being tapped to oversee the aid effort, CNN’s “Political Ticker” reports. “I will return to Port-au-Prince for the second time since the disaster to unload supplies and talk to Haitian officials to ensure assistance continues to be effective, coordinated, and sustained in the weeks and months to come,” he said (2/4).

“On the eve of Friday’s meeting by G7 finance ministers in Iqaluit, Canada, 94 members of the House of Representatives sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner that also called for ‘the provision of assistance to Haiti in the form of grants so that the country does not accumulate additional debts,'” Inter Press Service reports in an article about efforts that aim to get the international community to cancel Haiti’s debt.

“That call was echoed by a several non-governmental organisations (NGOs), including Oxfam, Jubilee USA, and Avaaz, which said they plan to deliver hundreds of thousands of individual signatures on petitions appealing for debt cancellation from across the world to this weekend’s ministerial meeting” (Lobe, 2/4).

In related news, Reuters examines the World Bank’s role in Haiti’s reconstruction. “The Haiti Situation Room at the World Bank contains materials assembled by thousands of volunteers from 103 organizations including universities, government and private aid agencies, and companies helping the earthquake-devastated nation. The software specialists, scientists and technicians from around the world have joined disaster experts and urban planners at the World Bank, the poverty-fighting institution that will … play a major role in helping Haiti recover” (Wroughton, 2/4).

Plight Of Haiti’s Children Examined

“The recent arrest of U.S. missionaries for allegedly trying to smuggle children out of Haiti has shed light on a longstanding issue that appears to be escalating after last month’s earthquake: Many children in orphanages here aren’t orphans at all, but have been given up by their desperately poor families,” the Wall Street Journal writes in a story about children in Haiti.

“Before last month, Haiti already had 380,000 children in orphanages. That was certain to grow in the aftermath of the Jan. 12 quake, which wiped out what little most people here had. In the past few weeks, some orphanages say they have seen relatives hoisting children over the walls and running away. … The plight of Haiti’s children raises difficult questions for child advocacy groups, which must grapple with moral trade-offs made more difficult by the recent quake. One issue is how few children are actual, rather than ‘economic,’ orphans,” the newspaper writes (Gauthier-Villars et al., 2/3).

NPR also looks at the issue with a focus on “the widespread acceptance – and legality – of the restavek system, in which parents give their children away as a means of coping with devastating poverty.” According to NPR, “Haiti has long been a source of adults and children who are trafficked for domestic servitude, agriculture and construction work, and prostitution. And the problem is compounded because Haiti has no laws to prevent it, according to the State Department’s 2009 Trafficking in Persons Report.” The article reports on the risks of child trafficking after natural disasters and gives details about efforts to improve the situation (Tedford, 2/4).

“Despite the constant urging of human rights organizations, Haiti’s government has made little progress toward protecting its children from exploitation or neglect,” the Miami Herald reports. “By its own account, the government inspected only half of the country’s documented orphanages – and no one can say how many orphanages work off the books. The situation is sure to worsen. Thousands more children were left homeless or lost parents in the earthquake, while the country’s feeble safety net was left in tatters,” according to the newspaper. The article looks into the lack of regulation and oversight in Haiti’s orphanages and other related issues (Hiaasen et al., 2/4).

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