Friday, January 29, 2010

HAITI: Local Leaders Shut Out Of Military-Run Relief Efforts

HAITI: Local Leaders Shut Out Of Military-Run Relief Efforts

By Ansel Herz

GRAND GOAVE Jan 28 (IPS) - Two gray 23-million-dollar
hovercrafts sitting in the middle of a sandy tropical beach look
like they are from another world. A pair of 15-foot-wide
propeller fans sticks out from the back of each behemoth.

Along the narrow dirt road to this seaside towns centre
families live under blankets stretched over sticks.

A tent city occupies the towns main square surrounded by
crumbling buildings. Joseph Jean-Pierre Salam the mayor of
Grand Goave about 15 kilometres west of Port-au-Prince
estimated that some 70 percent of the citys important structures
fell during the 7.0 earthquake that struck Haiti on Jan. 12.

They have made many promises but we dont see the action
yet Salam said referring to the international community. We
have a lot of people suffering. There is an expectation that help
will come.

Little food and water has been distributed by the dozens U.S.
troops milling about the beach since the earthquake according
to local leaders.

I went there to talk to them said Jean-Jacob Renee an
English teacher. They said they are there to set up some tents
for themselves but they did not come with food or water -
anything for the people.

He said the only aid the military brought to Grand Goave was
distributed by Catholic Relief Services an international NGO.
When they are in the town we dont know. We dont have their
phone number he said. Nobody has helped us.

U.S. military personnel on the beach were busy unloading
construction material and heavy equipment from cargo boats.
Senior Chief Petty Officer Steve Krutky told IPS his disaster
recovery team cleared a rockslide out of the road and worked to
repair local orphanages run by evangelical missions.

The U.S. military did not respond to IPS requests for further
clarification of the Navys role in Grand Goave.

An analysis by the Associated Press on Wednesday found that 33
cents of every dollar towards emergency aid in Haiti goes to
military aid more than three times the nine cents spent on food.

Residents of Grand Goave said there is a network of seven
neighbourhood leaders for each section of the city that has not
been tapped in the relief effort. Friends are pooling resources
to purchase rice when possible but family after family living
outside the rubble of their homes told IPS they have received no

The roof of Rinvil Jean Weldys modest one-story brick house is
broken off resting at an angle on top of a kitchen table
covered in dust. The rear wall crumbled spilling onto the
cracked ground. His wife remains at a nearby hospital nursing an
injury from the quake.

We need a tent we need food and water all the normal
things Weldy said pointing at his sons who were hammering
together scraps of wood to build the frame of a tent. To the
U.N. I say I need help now.

Weldy has been expecting compensation from the U.N. since Nov.
10 when he and numerous witnesses say part of a bullet fired by
U.N. peacekeeping troops hit his shoulder. Four days before the
earthquake the U.N. said an internal investigation into the
incident cleared the soldiers of any wrongdoing.

Witnesses told IPS the troops fired into the ground in an
attempt to control a curious crowd not into the air as the
U.N. maintains.

The U.N. peacekeepers are roundly dismissed by many Haitians as
a source for relief in the country. We have been living with
the U.N. for many years but now we see them very little Mayor
Salam said matter-of-factly.

In Leogane on the route back from Grand Goave to
Port-Au-Prince 500 families from a tent city in a field lined
up in an orderly queue to receive food packages in contrast to
chaotic aid dispersals seen in Port-Au-Prince. Individuals walked
into a clearing to grab a box each time a young Haitian man
called out numbers through a megaphone.

For us it was very important to do this without military
said Dolores Rescheleit an aid worker with a German NGO called
Arche Nova that provided the food. Because the people in the
camp are very strong. When you give the responsibility to the
people in the camp they will do it better than we will with the

A committee of Haitians with sub-committees to handle
security hygiene and aid distribution is governing the camp
without problems Rescheleit said. Women smiled as they walked
back to their tents balancing boxes of food on their heads.


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