Worlddesk

March 1, 2010
Humanitarian disaster continues unabated in Haiti

A boy in Cite Soleil carries water. Photo: UN on Flickr

Survivors of the Haitian earthquake need quick solutions that may not come in time for the punishing rainy season that starts in May. They now face the looming threat of disease, misery in makeshift tent camps and a lack of adequate food and water.

Despite all the pledges of rebuilding, there are some basic realities: poor people will suffer and some will die.

Reports from the field show that relief agencies are pushing to make things better, with a deadline from the weather that is almost impossible to meet. Partners in Health, one prominent relief organization, reports that it has to shift priorities “to long-term care and helping the hundreds of thousands of people who urgently need shelter, water, sanitation, and food.

We hear the same concerns from journalists and from relief organizations all around Haiti. The Miami Herald reported on Feb. 24:

The stench of human waste permeates the air around the crude shelters made of sticks and sheets…There are nowhere near enough toilets — portables, latrines or any other kind — for the tens of thousands living in the camps in and around Port-au-Prince.

The squalid conditions have government and relief workers worried about a potential outbreak of deadly diseases, such as diarrhea, spread by unsanitary conditions. And relief agencies scrambling to install toilets are still figuring out how to later dispose of their waste.

Sad to say, but as many people have noted all along, Haiti cannot be handled simply by relief and rescue through normal means. Haiti needs international concerted crisis management –- and Haitians must be empowered to choose the leaders who will allow real, humane, no-nonsense, incorruptible change. Is that happening?

Partners in Health reported this: “With cities destroyed and major roadways and ports obstructed or damaged, food is becoming increasingly scarce and expensive. The price of staples, like rice, oil, and beans, has risen dramatically. ‘Prices have skyrocketed – doubling and in some cases tripling,’ says Jesula Pierre, a PIH logistics coordinator currently working in Haiti’s Central Plateau.”

With its Haitian partner, the organization is pushing to plant fallow farmland and ratchet up farm yields. But each organization operating in Haiti can only do a small part to save as many people as possible.
It’s not enough. The list of problems goes on.

This is also from the Miami Herald:

Relief workers blame the shortage of toilets in part on having to deal with more urgent problems — like keeping people alive — immediately after the Jan. 12 earthquake…

But now, more than five weeks after the quake, the dangers of inadequate sanitation could amount to the most pressing public health issue.

At best, many Haitians had neither clean water or sanitation before the earthquake. They deserved help even before the earth shook.

Much more suffering is likely when the rains fall.

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Comments

6 comments

#6

The American Red Cross, and other organizations, is accepting donations for the poor people of Haiti.

#5

Thank you world focus for keeping our eyes and hopefully or wallets focused on the poor people of Haiti. Here is a link to the American red cross for those who are moved to give a little.
http://american.redcross.org/site/PageServer?pagename=ntld_main&cvridirect=true

#4

Haitis problems are so deep, that it takes a catastrophe to call it to our attention.
As someone who has been to Haiti prior to the earthquake, I will say what I havent heard on the news:
That a few families dominate the island excluding the masses from a free-education to keep them “down”
Thats is ruled by light-skinned, or whites…….
That it is an ecological nightmare because there are no trees (used for cooking fuel) and since the soil is rich in lime, when the rains come and erosion occurs, the lime goes into the sea and eradictaes fish.
That there are way too many people, in such a manner that this nation cannot support the masses….you can blame that on the heavy catholic church influence which wants their flock to breed no matter the destitution involved !!!

#3

Perhaps we need a conference in South Florida which brings together experts from around the world to discuss emergency housing, urgent food distribution with agriculture strategies and the re-eningeering of infrastructure for Haiti. Six weeks out, a review of the challenges, the most practical solutions and how to get to the point of meaningful relief on the ground is in order.

#2

What is happening to all the aid and money that was raised in the USA for the Haitian people?????
IF the Haitians are not getting - WHO IS???

#1

We have computers as small as cell phones, space-age technology to detect black holes in the depths of the cosmos, but we still can’t help our brothers and sisters from going hungry and living in poverty. It is sad and shameful.

Peter Eisner is an editorial consultant with Worldfocus and a 30-year veteran of international news. He has been an editor and foreign correspondent at The Washington Post, Newsday and The Associated Press. He co-authored “The Italian Letter,” which details fraudulent intelligence leading up to the Iraq War. He was founder and president of Newscom, an international online news service, and speaks Spanish and Portuguese.

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