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One Month After the 7.0 Earthquake, Haitians Ready to Move On

February 18, 2010

One Month After the 7.0 Earthquake, Haitians Ready to Move On

by Wadner Pierre.JPG

By Wadner Pierre
first published on:www.haitianalysis.com
The men and women of Haiti are strong and ready to show the world that they can rebuild their country. The US corporate media has broadcast many images of the earthquake that destroyed Port-au-Prince and a great part of southeastern Haiti. Contrary to what many of these images convey, most Haitians have not fallen into desperation or abandoned their dignity. During my recent trip to my country I observed people moving forward valiantly.

Entering the capital from the Dominican Republic, at Croix-Des-Bouquets, I saw residents gathered to discuses solution to their many problems which include dealing with NGO bureaucracy which has proven to be a heavy burden on top of all the others they have carried since the earthquake. Haitians have had to reply on themselves to secure their basic needs.

Haitians have had to rely on themselves to secure their basic needs. They walk for miles on foot to retrieve meager rations of water while USAID employees are seen using up to three SUVs to transport six people. Haitians scrounge up materials to put together makeshift tents while, next to them, in a US military compound, soldiers have more tents than they can use. Haitians, the lucky ones, used candles to light their tents while the US soldiers in the compound cheered the Superbowl that was shown on a big screen TV.

It took three days for a local Haitian leader to register his community for World Food Program (WFP) assistance. This is an incredibly long time considering everything he had going for him. He had access to an SUV. He is fluent in three languages and well connected with foreigners. His community (of three thousand people) is located only ten minutes away from where the WFP is based.

Ninety percent of Cite Soleil, located at five minutes from the air port, has yet to receive any humanitarian assistance. Jameson Lavalas, a four-month baby was dying from a skin disease. His mother did not have any means to take of care her baby. Two friends who made this trip with me took Jameson and his mother to a U.S. military compound where medical personnel are stationed.

Petite Place Cazeau, a community located at ten minutes from the airport, has received some attention from Qatar - a partner of USAID - but most of its people have been sleeping in makeshift tents. A California-based non-profit organization, What If Foundation, partnering with Sainte Claire’s Rectory fed 1500 people the week before the earthquake. The number of people doubled, and then tripled after the earthquake. Margaret Trost, the founder of What if foundation explained:
"We have been doing our best to respond to the immediate need of the people in the Sainte Claire’s community, but the number of people who are in search of food and water is far greater than what we are able to provide for. Many people are walking miles to the St. Claire's rectory for a meal. I'm grateful that we're able to serve over 3,000 meals a day, but my heart breaks for all the people who go day after day without any food."

Lavarice Gaudin who represents the What If Foundation in Haiti since after the death of Father Jean-Juste, the cofounder, said “People have come to me to get some money to pay bus fare to return to their native towns. I do not have enough to give everybody.”

Since the earthquake, Gaudin has worked in Leogane, Cite Soleil and other communities.
In Leogane, near the epicenter of the earthquake southwest of Port-au-Prince, Mr. Gaudin deplored the lack of leadership shown by the Haitian government. He was hardly the only one doing so. Nobody seems to think that there is a functioning government in Haiti.

With three U.S. ships off shore, and countless U.S helicopters, tanks, SUVs and Hummers on the streets of Port-Au-Prince, nobody doubts that Haiti is under U.S control. The airport and customs have been controlled by the U.S soldiers since the earthquake, and also the ruins of the National Palace. The National Police are on the job but have as little food and water as everyone else.

Thanks to a group of firefighters working with France Urgence Humanitaire that arrived a week after the earthquake, Leogane residents have access to purified water. However, most of them still have to walk and carry their water rations for miles. Almost all of this community has been destroyed.

Cuban doctors are praised as saviors in Leogane as they are in Carrefour and Gressier. The Cuban doctors have helped thousands of people since the earthquake. Unfortunately, many newborns delivered by the Cubans are dying due to lack of care.

Ketlene, a community organizer said ”No one from the government says a word to us. We simply see a lot of Canadian soldiers, but we do not know what they are doing. We really do not want soldiers. We need help, people who can rebuild our city.”

In a message to the nation, President Preval said little about the delivery of humanitarian aid, and focused on continuing projects that halted after the earthquake. Some of those projects have been “ongoing” since Hurricane Jeanne struck Gonaives several years ago. Unsurprisingly, most people disregarded Preval’s message and continue to wonder what is going on with the distribution of aid - especially with their country now swarming with 20 000 U.S. troops, nearly 2000 Canadian troops, helicopters, and U.S. armored vehicles that patrol the streets of Port-Au-Prince.

“We are not at war. Why all these troops?” asked Thonas, a father of three.

Questions abound about the true intentions of the US government. Why so many troops and so few doctors and nurses? Why are elected Haitian governments always bypassed and deprived of support while dictatorships – the most recent being that of Gerard Latortue – generously funded? As time passes, the true objectives of the aid effort will made clear.

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