Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Current Situation in Haiti

(Photos: Top - one of the transitional shelters our team is building for families in Haiti who lost their homes in the earthquake; Bottom: Mother and child protected from the elements by only some sticks and tarps. Thousands and thousands in Haiti are struggling to get shelter from the elements.)

The situation in Haiti continues to be a struggle for the hundreds of thousands of people who are homeless and virtually the entire population who was traumatized. It will get worse when the rains start in earnest in May. There could be major public health problems, especially in places like Leogone which is south-west of Port-au-Prince and is 50% flood-prone. I was in a camp there last week that already had 6 inches of standing water in it. I inspected a latrine with the Austrian Red Cross. They were constructed with deep pits but the rains filled them up to where they are only about a foot below the hole in the latrine. Human waste and water, combined with compromised hygiene, is an impending threat to loss of human life.

Efforts are being made to get people out of flood-prone areas to "de-congestion camps," which are basically settlements outside of Port-au-Prince but on land that is open and not prone to floods. The problem is that people will move there in anticipation of handouts. As soon as the handouts subside, they will move back to Port-au-Prince. So what people really need are jobs to act as a magnet to get them out of Port-au-Prince. (The government estimates that roughly 1.3 M people need to be moved out. There simply is not enough room with all the rubble.

It is important, therefore, that ARC and other humanitarian organizations seek out partnerships with industries for job creations. For it is only in so doing that we can reverse rural-urban migration. In the process, we must seek to accompany Haitians toward a new economy, toward a “green,” environmentally exemplary, model of development. This horrific crisis can be transformed, like a phoenix rising from the ashes. A deforested land with an impoverished people can become a beacon on the hill for the world to see.

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