Monday, July 12, 2010

Haiti's Misery Fades Into Background Noise

Just as many commentators expected, the misery in Haiti has dropped off the radar after six months following the devastating earthquake that killed more than 230,000 people in Port au Prince and the surrounding area. Attention has moved on to the next crisis.

Much of the region remains impassible because of rubble and debris. A fraction of the debris has been carted away, and an even smaller percentage was carted to sanitary landfills. The blame game is making the situation even worse, with aid groups not coordinating efforts and the government is ineffectual:
"It's an emergency response still," says Mary Kate MacIsaac, a spokeswoman in Haiti for the Christian relief group World Vision. "We are still meeting the basic needs of people in these camps ... but it's not sustainable. We need to transition into the recovery or the long-term goal."

Frustration is high among Haitians and aid groups who say they see halting and haphazard progress toward recovery.

The Haitian government — responsible for the cleanup but still reeling after the loss of most of its buildings and many of its workers — and the aid groups blame each other for the lack of progress.

"There is no global view or plan of action to date from the government," says Pierre Tripon, mission director for the French aid group Action Against Hunger. "There is no agenda with priorities. No cohesion in the projects being done. If people don't share the information on what projects are being done, we're headed for a catastrophe, and we are already at our limit."

Minister Felix Longchamp, secretary-general to the president, says that despite the millions of dollars pledged to help Haiti, the funds are going through international aid organizations, which are not coordinating efforts. "I am deeply frustrated with how things are going now," he says.
The country is struggling to get by, despite concerns over how the rainy season would make the situation worse. Housing remains in short supply, as does proper sanitation and water access. Aid groups are doing much to fill the gaps, but the Haitian government could barely get by before the quake and is doing even worse now.

Still, disease outbreaks have been largely prevented, and that's a good thing considering the poor conditions that the Haitians are dealing with.

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