Haiti: Six Months Later

July 13, 2010

There seems to have been a flurry of media reports about Haiti commemorating the 6th month anniversary of the earthquake.

The general picture is one in which only a small fraction of the millions of dollars donated by the general public and charity organizations has been converted into concrete assistance for the people of Haiti.

The best and most in-depth of these reports is by Amy Goodman for Democracy Now. She explains how despite $11 billion of aid promised Haitians have only seen 10 percent of this.

David Muirof ABC news reports that there is still 25 million cubic tones of rubble in the streets of Port-au-Prince and that only 10,000 new shelters have found their way to the 1.7 million homeless, less than 10% of that required.

According an article on Haitian-Truth.org one of the causes for the delays in the flow of aid are the Customs Authorities who are rumored to be charging extortionate import taxes on medical and building supplies donated by non-registered charities.

In his interview with Amy Goodman, Patrick Elie, former Secretary of State for Public Security in Haiti, claims that the part of the %10 that has been spent was used to fund the US military security operation immediately after the disaster.

He believes that without vigilance on the part of Haiti and its international friends, what he calls the ‘Grand-Scale Vultures’ of mercenary military corporations – such as Haliburton, Blackwater, DynCorp – will siphon off the aid revenue.

On a positive note he discusses the revival of neighborhood committees who have been taking care of public security and organization. There has emerged a federation of neighborhood committees that could form the basis for a new form of collective organization and politics in Haiti.

“We are a people who can fend for ourselves” he says. “We have a vision of where we want to go. So we do need friends but we don’t need people to think for us, or to pity us. That is probably the attitude that’s playing a part in the aid not being forthcoming. Our friends, if they are friends, should trust us.”

Amy Goodman also interviews Beverly Bell at Camp Corail, a refugee built between two killing fields from the Duvalier and post-Aristide era seven miles outside Port-au-Prince, in one of the hottest and most exposed areas of the country with no natural shelter. The site is inhabited by 13,ooo families displaced from makeshift camps in the capital –  many forcibly evicted by the Haitian police and MINUSTAH forces –  with no transportation back to the city where the only meagre food and medical aid is still available. Rape has become a serious problem in the camps underling the necessity for secure and permanent housing. Food aid and water aid are being discontinued in many of the camps after Haitian businessmen claimed that their profits are being undercut. There is as yet no clear government plan for the rebuilding of Haiti.

One resident from Camp Corail explains how at a meeting with the representative of the NGO’s responsible for managing the camp refused to listen to any of their concerns and he told that they were living better now than they were in Port-au-Prince. Residents of the camps believe that the aid is still in the hands of the major NGO’s who have said nothing about the situation and the that President Preval is powerless to do anything about this.

Despite the desperate need for adequate housing for the vast majority of Haitians and the running dry of food and water aid, several new free enterprise zones have been created since the earthquake as part of Bill Clinton’s plans for Haitian ‘reconstruction’. Some of these are being built directly in the refugee camps.

Bell outlines an alternative plan for the reconstruction of Haiti that is not yet being heard by the international community.

I recently gave an interview with Kirsten Cooke on London Fields Radio about the Tele Geto project in light of the past and current situation in Haiti. The interview also gives a general back story to the project.

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