Saturday, July 10, 2010

Two million people living on the street, 600,000 homeless

Port-au-Prince, capital of Haiti.
Image via Wikipedia


Port-au-Prince (Agenzia Fides) - In Haiti, 6 months after the earthquake, there are still about 2 million people living on the streets. Approximately 1,300 emergency tents have become their permanent home. 600,000 are homeless, far from the residential areas that remain dependent on humanitarian agencies. All are struggling to survive. Children are malnourished, in need of basic hygiene and medical care. There is no electricity or potable water. A bleak picture of the situation has recently been reiterated by international agencies working on the scene of the earthquake that killed more than 230,000 Haitians. These international agencies continue to provide water and sanitation to hundreds of thousands of displaced persons.
Fides has received a note from Caritas Haiti, where Monsignor Pierre-Andre Dumas, President, along with Caritas Internationalis, explained that Caritas has reached out to more than 2.3 million people. "Caritas – says Dumas – has been able to provide water, food, emergency shelter, first aid, and the necessary aid for nearly 46.8 million USD (€37.4 million). Among them 1.5 million received food aid and close to 400,000 people benefitted from Caritas healthcare programs."
The head of the Red Cross in Haiti, Alastair Burnett, says: "What we're doing can't carry on forever. We don't have infinite resources to provide that." Burnett highlighted that hygiene is a very large problem in urban reconstruction, however it belongs outside the capacity and competence of the humanitarian aid agencies.
A report from US Senator John Kerry, President of the committee on Foreign Relations, shows a lack of leadership, disagreements between among donors, and disorganization, as the fundamental reasons why many Haitians have not yet received the aid being given. "The reconstruction remains uncertain. Rubble is still strewn all over the streets, the majority of buildings are damaged if not collapsed, and informal tent settlements—in penurious conditions—have sprouted everywhere. Emblematic of the stalled rebuilding effort is the Presidential Palace, which remains conspicuously in ruins, without any signs of scaffolding or construction," says the report from the US Senate.
Caritas is also making plans for reconstruction for the next 5 years. Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga, SDB, President of Caritas Internationalis, has drawn up a reflection entitled "New hope for Haiti six months after the earthquakes," where he requests everyone's support in the initiative to rebuild the country, as it lacks schools, homes, and much more. "Millions have been affected, many have lost family members. Schools, homes and lives need to be rebuilt. It is important not to forget about Haiti now. (CE) (Agenzia Fides 10/7/2010)

Caritas Internationalis Report

"After 6 months, many of the people who were living in tents still have nothing...many see no way out," Apostolic Nuncio in Haiti tells Fides

Six months after the earthquake that devastated Haiti on January 12, 2010, affecting much of the capital, Port-au-Prince, Fides has asked Apostolic Nuncio in Haiti, Archbishop Bishop Bernard Auza, a few questions on the current situation.

Your Excellency, what is the current situation in Haiti?
I can testify that the situation is still terrible as far as the practicability of the roads; it seems that the earthquake just happened yesterday! There is no one to carry away the debris and we can still not use certain streets in the capital. There are still no offices for some local government institutions. Many people who are living in tents still have nothing and then there are still many poor people who do not even have tents and do not see a way out.

And as for the reconstruction?
The problem of reconstruction, especially in the capital, is fundamentally linked to the composition of the Commission designed for this purpose. Initially, the international community had proposed a Commission with 17 members (10 foreigners and 7 from Haiti), but the government denied its approval. Then, another composition of the Commission was proposed, with members in equal shares (10 foreign and 10 in Haiti) and it seems that now they can finally get to work.

The President has also promised to begin the election process ...
I have spoken with President Rene Preval, and he told me that at this time, he sees 3 main political priorities for the country: first, establish an agency for reconstruction as there is still rubble in the streets; second, establish possible dates for elections in the country, most likely for late November; third, coordinate accommodations for the many displaced people still living in tents.

How is the Church working on the reconstruction?
As the Church, we are waiting for a sign from the Government in order to be able to act with all our strength. For example, some religious institutions cannot begin to rebuild the buildings or houses, because they lack a safety certificate issued by the government for that area. And that part does not depend on us. Our projects are many and the international community has helped us considerably, but there is still so much needed for our priority project.

What does this priority project consist of?
The construction of 2 national seminaries for the country. We already have things organized, but we still need a technical committee that can put this project on paper. We had also heard about the possible purchase of land in a beautiful place, but we abandoned the idea because the price was beyond our possibilities. Now we have another piece of land in sight, but we are still negotiating. In this project, we have been encouraged by the Bishops' Conferences of our brother nations who have contributed substantially, especially America and France, and this has helped to raise the spirits of all of us working to rebuild the Church in Haiti; it is like seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Our hope is to lay the first stone or offer some concrete possibility on the first anniversary of the earthquake on January 12, 2011.

What would be Your Excellency's appeal to the international community?
Simply, that everyone sees that there is still much left to do. We still need help. We thank the Bishops of Haiti, the Holy See, and the international community for supporting us in the reconstruction. The Catholic Church has this priority: the reconstruction of the churches and seminaries. (CE) (Agenzia Fides 07/10/2010)