Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Help Haitians to Help Themselves, Morning Star Online

 Tom Mellen, Morning Star Online
January 15, 2010
A woman walks past bodies recently excavated from the rubble in Port-au-Prince

A woman walks past bodies recently excavated from the rubble in Port-au-Prince

A coalition of US-based social justice groups has called on international donors to ensure that relief efforts in devastated Haiti respect the human dignity of all Haitians.

The international Red Cross now estimates that 45,000 to 50,000 people were killed in Tuesday’s earthquake, based on information from the Haitian Red Cross and government officials.

Governments and government agencies have so far pledged about �245 million worth of aid.

Over 20 countries in Europe, Asia and the Americas, as well as the UN and private charities, have been sending planeloads of food, water, tents, blankets, water-purification gear, helicopters and heavy equipment for removing debris.

On Thursday, progressive US organisations including the Centre for Constitutional Rights and the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) called on donors not to repeat the mistakes of previous relief efforts in Haiti that were “unco-ordinated, unpredictable and lacked community participation, often leading to increased suffering.”

Delays in the distribution of food, water and other supplies to survivors have served to intensify desperation.

The UN World Food Programme has reported that its warehouses in Port-au-Prince have been looted, sparking calls from some quarters for increased “security measures.”

As five thousand US troops began to arrive, the justice coalition called on all those involved in relief efforts to “ensure that assistance is given in a way that strengthens Haitians’ fundamental rights to food, water, and health.”

IJDH director Brian Concannon emphasised that the magnitude of the catastrophe is not entirely a result of natural disaster but rather “a history of deliberate impoverishment and disempowerment of the Haitian people through a series of misguided polices.”

Mr Concannon has called on countries contributing aid and rescue teams to ensure that Haitian citizens participate in decision-making “at each level of the aid and development process.”

He warned that a lack of donor accountability and “continued aid volatility will only guarantee even greater suffering.”

Loune Viaud, who directs planning and operations at the Zanmi Lasante free clinic in Cange, agreed.

“It is critical that the underlying goal of improving human rights drives the distribution of every dollar of aid given to Haiti,” Mr Viaud declared.

He contended that the only way to avoid escalation of this crisis is “for international aid to take a long-term view and strive to rebuild a stronger Haiti – one that includes a government that can ensure the basic human rights of all Haitians and a nation that is empowered to demand those rights.”

Meanwhile, a White House spokesman slammed a Christian extremist on Thursday following his televised remark that Haiti has been cursed.

The day after the earthquake, TV evangelist Pat Robertson said that Haiti has been “cursed” because of what he called a “pact with the devil.”

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said: “It never ceases to amaze me that, in times of amazing human suffering, somebody says something that can be so utterly stupid.”

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