WHO Urges Medical Aid Agencies To Remain In Haiti As Health Care System Is Rebuilt

On Wednesday, the WHO “urged medical aid agencies to stay in Haiti as long as possible while health care is rebuilt following last month’s devastating earthquake,” Agence France-Presse reports. Henriette Chamouillet, the WHO’s representative in Haiti, said the agency would like its largest partners to continue aid for “at least six months” and that it would take several months for hospitals with the least amount of damage to open. She said, “It’s absolutely necessary because we have to replace the hospitals which won’t work” (2/17).

On Tuesday, “WHO reported that there has been no rise in infectious diseases one month on from the disaster, with the finding based on epidemiological surveillance carried out by 52 sites across the Caribbean island nation,” U.N. News Centre reports (2/17).

A related Miami Herald article examines the possibilities after international medical assistance winds down. “The World Health Organization said that up to 1,000 physicians from around the world descended on Haiti in the weeks that followed. … But as the quake dust settles and many exhausted surgeons leave for the comforts of home, it remains unclear what will become of the patients who have nowhere to go to recover – and not enough doctors to change their bandages or teach them to walk with one leg” (Robles, 2/17).

The Associated Press/New York Times examines how the Haitian government’s delays on shelter aid poses challenges for the rebuilding effort while earthquake survivors have moved on despite the lack of coordination. “These shanty towns are redrawing the map of the capital, filling open fields with new versions of the joyful life and harsh crime and abuse that always marked existence in the slums – with an extra helping of disease, hunger and misery brought on by the Jan. 12 disaster,” the news service writes (2/18).

France Announces Support Package; E-mail Calls For Better U.N. Relief Coordination; IFAD Grant To Address Agriculture

In related news, French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Tuesday announced a 326 million euros ($447 million) support package, which includes 56 million euros of debt cancellation, new funding of 100 million euros to be provided over two years and 65 million euros that will be given through the EU, Reuters reports. “The French presidency said in a statement French assistance would include the supply of 1,000 tents and 16,000 tarpaulins to shelter 200,000 homeless people during Haiti’s rainy season … France also will provide 10 experts to work with Haiti’s Prime Minister and his staff on the recovery effort for two years. Other experts will undertake short-term missions,” the news service writes (Fletcher, 2/17).

Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports on a “confidential e-mail,” in which John Holmes, head of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, “scolded his lieutenants for failing to adequately manage the relief effort in Haiti, saying that an uneven response in the month after the devastating Jan. 12 earthquake has undercut confidence in the United Nations’ ability to deliver vital assistance.”

According to the newspaper, while the e-mail “acknowledged that the international relief community has ‘achieved a great deal in Haiti,'” it “provides a rare and highly critical internal assessment of the massive U.N.-led relief effort, portrays an organization that is straining to set up enough shelters, latrines and other vital services for Haiti’s displaced population. It also warns that a failure of the U.N. system to improve relief assistance, particularly as the country faces the onset of heavy rains, could result in political unrest and mass demonstrations.”

Delays in non-food aid, such as shelter and sanitation, are the most serious, according to Holmes. “Holmes urged relief coordinators to step up their efforts, noting that Haiti will face heavy storms in the upcoming hurricane season. ‘This is a major test for all of us and we cannot afford to fail,’ he wrote. ‘So I ask you all to take a fresh hard look at what you are able to do in the key area, and pursue a much more aggressive approach to meeting the needs'” (Lynch, 2/17).

At the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) governing council meeting in Rome on Wednesday, Haiti received a $2.3 million aid grant to boost food security and create jobs, the Mail & Guardian reports. “At a side meeting with Haitian Agriculture Minister Joanas Gue, IFAD representatives presented a framework to alleviate the country’s outstanding debt to the fund,” the newspaper writes.

Haiti’s IFAD debt, which is estimated at around $58 million and could climb to $78 million while the loans are still active, Kanayo Nwanze, IFAD’s president, said, adding, “In collaboration with the FAO [Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations], we have extended our 2008 post-food-crisis programme for the distribution of seeds and farming tools, thereby preparing about 15,000 rural households for the planting season that begins in March.”

In a meeting with senior IFAD leaders, “Gue highlighted food security as a huge concern in the aftermath of the earthquake … Gue expressed Haiti’s desire for more debt relief and presented a plan for his country’s agricultural development,” the newspaper writes. Josefina Stubbs, IFAD’s director for Latin America and the Caribbean, said that migration to rural areas from Port-au-Prince was a challenge for aid efforts, but that it was also an opportunity to scale up rural farming in Haiti (Mataboge, 2/18).

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