Yesterday, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that 900,000 earthquake survivors in Port-au-Prince are receiving fresh water every day—a significant proportion of the city’s residents, to be sure. However, for a city with a pre-quake population of more than 2.5 million residents, less than half of its people are being served. To put this figure in perspective, more than 3 million Haitian are affected by the quake. More than 230,000 died, many were medically evacuated, and close to half a million fled the city. Approximately 1.2 million are displaced and living in more than 600 displaced persons camps.
Lack of coordination is still obstructing efficient distribution of aid, and hundreds of thousands are being relocated “not to help them, [but] to ‘cleanse’ the area for development.”
In crowded shelters, diseases like malnutrition, diarrhea, respiratory illnesses, and one case of typhoid have been documented. Health experts fear that other diseases like dengue, tuberculosis, malaria, tetanus, and measles, among others, will break out. The lack of sanitation infrastructure is also appalling: only 5% of toilet needs are met. The situation will most certainly get worse with the coming rains. Only 10,000 of the 200,000 requested emergency tent shelters have arrived.
Contrary to most news reports, conditions in the camps are worse, not better. There are reports of hospitals charging for services, and customs officials are allegedly charging fees for bringing in aid supplies. Misery and anger at the slow pace of relief is omnipresent. A new estimate projects that the final death toll may reach one million, double the previous prediction.
Residents in Port-au-Prince’s worst slum Cite Soleil have basically received little else outside our water drops, and demonstrated their displeasure at the scandals revolving around aid by marching last week: instead of distributing relief rations, government leaders are hoarding food and selling it back to the people at above market prices.
One protestor said: “I am hungry, I am dying of hunger. (Mayor) Lydie Parent keeps the rice and doesn’t give us anything.”
Dearing, Stephanie. “Where have all the Haitian Donations Gone?” Digital Journal. <http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/287653>. Last accessed 17 Feb. 2010.
Lendman, Stephen. “Haiti is Open for Business,” 16 Feb. 2010. <http://mostlywater.org/haiti_open_business>. Last accessed 17 Feb. 2010.