Monday, September 27, 2010

Sandra Felicien Quake Survivor: It's Like Screaming Into the Wind

Nine months after the devastating earthquake, many are criticizing the slow pace of relief for Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) in Haiti. UN & NGOs' standards for response for hurricanes and disasters are pitifully inadequate for the scope of the humanitarian crisis. The bureaucrats appear to be oblivious to the suffering.

The Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti released a highly critical report which shows the immensity of the humanitarian crisis on the ground last week titled, "We've Been Forgotten": Conditions in Haiti's Displacement Camps Eight Months After the Earthquake.

According to the report: 75% of families had someone go an entire day without eating in the past week; 44% of families primarily drank untreated water; 78% of families lived without enclosed shelter; and 48% had been threatened with forced eviction. There have been increased protests demanding a solution to the lack of adequate housing.

U.S. and France bureaucrats Hillary Clinton and Bernard Kouchner point to the growing misery and dissatisfaction of Haitian earthquake victims as "impatience." In their estimation, the cries of distress are a sign of "unrealistic" expectations and ignorance of the "immensity of the disaster." At the meeting, "US and France scolded displaced Haitians and other whiners."

Evidently, the slow pace of recovery doesn't trouble Secretary Clinton as much as the lack of appreciation being shown by homeless Haitians for the "people who are working so hard" to help them.

The remarks were made at a meeting with Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, where the three signed two memoranda of understanding: one to set up an industrial zone to create 10,000 jobs and the other to finance the rebuilding of the main hospital in Port-au-Prince.

Bellerive aired "his concerns about the pace and size of what we are doing today." He added that "impatience is increasing," with the need to show results right away in Haiti.

The Haitian premier called for a solution to be offered within three months for at least half of Haitians who have lost their homes, and who are doing their best to survive in temporary shelters.

Some 125,000 Haitian families were put up in the emergency camps following the January 12 earthquake. The 7.0 magnitude earthquake killed 250,000 people.

Over this summer and the past weekend there was mass suffering as fierce storms buffeted the island. There were 5 killed, 55 hurt, 2000 tents destroyed during Friday's storm in Port-au-Prince. Some photos from the storm damage are here and here.

Camp dwellers are fighting the elements and exposed to further disaster from storms and hurricanes and the attending mud slides and risk from diseases. They are also endangered from the high risk of further earthquake activity at any time and the attending aftershocks.

Those killed by the storm on Friday included two young girls and a 93-year-old woman who lived in close quarters with the tens of thousands of people left homeless by the powerful January 12 quake. According to this story, in July, a baby and mother were struck by lightning in Camp Corail and the baby died.

These are death camps where only the strong are expected to survive. Survival of the fittest.

While the rebuilding of the Port-au-Prince main hospital is an important priority, the other main concern should not be building sweatshops, rather it should be tackling the critical humanitarian need for shelter for the over 1.3 million homeless people in 1,300 camps.

In spite of the dangers the people face, the United States and France warned Monday against the growing impatience with the slow pace of recovery.
Hillary Clinton said, "Those who expect progress immediately are unrealistic and doing a disservice to the many people who are working so hard."

[Bernard] Kouchner said that "It's because they have no idea of the immensity of the disaster."

[...] Yet, it may be the foreign ministers who are unaware of the immensity of the disaster on the ground for the millions of Haitians still homeless nearly 9 months after the earthquake.
Although "Two recent protest marches have sought to make the homeless a central issue in the upcoming presidential campaign," a New York Times article reports: the tent camp residents are too "miserable, weary and in many cases fighting eviction [...] to have the energy to become a vocal force."

What has gained traction, the article reports, are the posting of poignant letters from camp dwellers who are suffering in the aftermath of the earthquake. The letters have poured in to complaint boxes installed by the International Organization for Migration, which said they "did not expect to tap directly into a well of pent-up emotions." The organization got 700 letters in three days from their first boxes.

Ms. Saint Hilaire, 33: "To all the members of concerned organizations, I thank you first for feeling our pain, I note that you have taken on almost all our problems and some of our greatest needs."

She then "explained that she had lost her husband and her livelihood to the Jan. 12 earthquake and now found herself hungry, stressed and stranded in a camp annex without a school, a health clinic, a marketplace or any activity at all."

“Please — do something!” she wrote from Tent J2, Block 7, Sector 3, her new address.

"“We don’t want to die of hunger and also we want to send our children to school. I give glory to God that I am still alive — but I would like to stay that way!”

Marie Jean Jean: “I feel discouraged, I don’t sleep comfortably, I gave birth six months ago, the baby died, I have six other children, they don’t have a father, I don’t have work, my tarp is torn, the rain panics me, my house was crushed, I don’t have money to feed my family, I would really love it if you would help me.”

Other Haitians write: “Living under a tent is not favorable neither to me nor to my children” and “We would appreciate your assistance in obtaining a future as one does not appear to be on our horizon.”

Paul Wilbert - Camp: Boulos: Need: House. Demand: $1,250. Project: Build house. Thank you.”

Sandra Felicien - Camp Corail 3: We are so powerless, It is like we are bobbing along on the waves of the ocean, waiting to be saved. Sept. 14. Today we feel fed up with the bad treatment in Block 7. Have you forgotten about us out here in the desert? You don’t understand us. You don’t know that an empty bag can’t stand. A hungry dog can’t play. Other tent camps have health clinics or schools or at least something to do, Why don’t we have such things? Aren’t we people, too?”

“I don’t know why I keep writing,” she said. “To this point they have not responded. It’s like screaming into the wind.”


Anonymous said...

The IOM has found a clever way to deal with the growing pent up frustration and despair brewing in the death camps: give them pen and paper and let them HOLLER in the wind.

Anonymous said...

The UN shelter cluster gives them 1-2 tarps and a couple of sticks and call it mission accomplished in term of shelter coverage. The UN food program gave them 1-2 bag of rice for the year and call it mission accomplished too.

Meanwhile, MINUSTAH military strength stands at 8, 940 troops and a police component of up to 4, 931 police.

For anyone who still don't know what WAR on the POOR looks like, look no further than HAITI.

Anonymous said...

A slight correction. Please replace the last paragraph with this one:

For anyone who is interested in finding out what WAR on POVERTY looks like, look no further than HAITI.

Anonymous said...


As part of the WAR on POVERTY, let's not forget the maximum security prisons currently being built throughout HAITI. Courtesy of Canada.

Anonymous said...


13,000.00+ UN military troops and police , military tanks with 50 mm machine guns, automatic weapons, riot gears, maximum security prisons etc. are needed to keep homeless, defenseless, hungry Haitians secured in poverty and primed for economic and sexual exploitation.

thezenhaitian said...

The myth that homeless, defenseless and traumatized Haitian earthquake survivors are dangerous and violence prone is advantageous to the international community precisely because of the huge profits involved. They get to practice their war games at the expense of a ravaged and destroyed Haiti, while ostensibly providing "security."

Many international firms, UN, NGOs and mercenary security firms receive "hazard" or "danger" pay on top of their regular salaries for serving in a "high-risk" and high-violence area of the world which could be from 25% or more on top of their pay each day.

Gilles said...

Has Bill Clinton even spent a single night in the Haiti he is responsible for? I don't think so. He thinks its too dangerous for him.

thezenhaitian said...

Probably not... Reportedly, Bill Clinton is stepping down as co-head of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC). This was announced by Congressman John Conyers (DMich.), the House Judiciary Committee Chairman at the recent 40th Annual Congressional Black Caucus Legislative Conference in held in DC. There is a rumor circulating that the Black Caucus will replace him.

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