Haiti 2010 Earthquake Response

Haiti’s new peril: hurricane season

Haiti after Hurricane Ike (Radio Nederland Wereldomroep)

June 1 was the start of the Atlantic hurricane season, and experts at NOAA are predicting three to seven major hurricanes.  But, nearly five months after the January 12 earthquake, hundreds of thousands of Haitians are living in fraying tents while the Haitian government continues to work on emergency and evacuation plans.

Dr. Jean Pape, one of the country’s most prominent public health experts, estimates that only 1 percent of the masses stuck in dangerous flood zones have been relocated. – CBS News

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), “the biggest challenge” in building shelters is “a lack of available land on which to build.”  Much of the land suitable for relocation has been in the hands of a few powerful individuals.  But, that problem reportedly was resolved in late March.  During a visit to Haiti, former U.S. President Bill Clinton told the Miami Herald that Haiti’s President, René Préval, had signed an executive order giving the government the right of eminent domain.

Still, OCHA reports that obtaining needed land and receiving necessary supplies will take “many more months.”  At this point, one is tempted to add…”if ever.”

Earth bag construction offered as a solution to Haiti’s shelter woes

A group of college students and engineering professionals from Maryland has departed for Haiti, where they plan to show homeless Haitians how to build sturdy, storm-resistant structures from “earth bags” – polypropylene bags filled with earth from the local area – or even crushed rubble (Washington Post).  Depending on what is available in the area, thatch, bamboo or a tarp can be used for a roof, and plasters, stucco or barbed wire holds the bags together. Read more…

Haiti’s rescuers stricken by illness and trauma

Those who volunteered to respond to the Haiti earthquake deserve thanks, not only for donating their time, but for the risks they endured.  According to the CDC, seven emergency responders have returned from Haiti with malaria, a disease with long-term effects. But, psychological trauma appears to be more common.  A field update posted at InsideNGO describes the impacts on the staff of one NGO working in Haiti.

Staff are frequently requesting mental health services following mandatory debriefing session.  A majority of workers are also reporting physical symptoms of stress including significant chest pains, nightmares, flashbacks, and disassociation. Read more…

People of Haiti left out of recovery planning process

One would expect that the United States, which proclaims itself a friend of democracy everywhere, would insist that the world community give the Haitian people a voice in the development of post-earthquake recovery plans.  Instead, the planning process has been exclusive, with input confined to a handful of wealthy and powerful Haitians and international aid organizations. Read more…

Haitian experience a study in disaster resilience

In an op-ed for the Miami Herald, Vinod Thomas, Director-General of the World Bank’s Independent Evaluation Group, offers life-saving advice to other nations:  Make critical installations and relief networks disaster -resistant.

In Haiti, Chile and elsewhere before, potable water could not be provided to victims in reasonable time, and emergency medical facilities dropped off-line just when needed most. The ability to take early action in critical care also has a cascading impact on the whole recovery process. Had basic connectivity to emergency medical care and water, for example, continued in Haiti and Chile (or in other previous catastrophes), reconstruction would have been that much easier. Read more…

President Obama meets with President Rene Preval

In a press conference at the White House today, U.S. President Barack Obama and Haiti’s president, Rene Preval, thanked the volunteers, troops and donors who responded to the January 12 earthquake.  But, more needs to be done, said Obama, to prevent a second disaster in the form of spring rains that threaten Haiti’s 1.3 million homeless.

Read more…

What Haiti needs for a successful recovery

In recent discussions of plans for Haiti’s post-earthquake recovery, a critical element has been missing:  participation by the primary stakeholders, the Haitian people.  Monika Kalra Varma, director of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Human Rights, and Loune Viaud, director of strategic planning and operations at Zanmi Lasante/Partners in Health in Haiti, say the fact that Haitians have never had a seat at the table explains why past and present aid efforts have seldom been successful. Read more…

Outbreak of malaria threatens Haiti’s homeless


Photo:  Tess Williams/Oxfam (Flickr/cc)

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports eleven cases of the malaria strain P. falciparum among aid workers and Haitian residents.

“Displaced persons living outdoors or in temporary shelters and thousands of emergency responders in Haiti is at substantial risk for malaria”, said the CDC.

Read more…

How good, really, was the international response?

Above, Haitians seek cover under bedsheets and tarps.  Photo by Oxfam [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

Over the weekend, drenching rains arrived in Haiti ahead of the expected start of the spring rainy season. But, only 30 percent of the million or so left homeless by the January 12 earthquake have received promised tarps or tents to provide even the most minimal protection from expected torrents. Read more…

U.N. troops ignored cries for help

Cries for help from people digging for survivors in collapsed buildings were drowned out by the roar of heavy-duty engines as the [U.N.] troops plowed through Port-au-Prince without stopping to join rescue efforts, much less lead them.

Read more…

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