Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Public Forums in Canada Air Concerns Over Earthquake Relief in Haiti

By Roger Annis, Canada Haiti Action Network

Vancouver residents had a unique opportunity on October 5 to hear firsthand about the ongoing humanitarian tragedy in Haiti. Attorney Nicole Phillips of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) spoke at two public forums in the city that day. The theme of the talks was, “Haiti, Human Rights and the International Community.”

Twenty five people attended an afternoon forum at the University of British Columbia that was sponsored by the Liu Institute for Global Issues. In the evening, forty people heard Phillips speak at a forum sponsored by Haiti Solidarity BC. She was joined on a panel at the evening forum by Dr. Luma Maxo, a Haitian doctor working with Partners In Health in Haiti.

Phillips’ explained the findings of a new study co-authored by the IJDH that examines conditions for the survivors of the January 12 earthquake. Entitled, “We’ve Been Forgotten”: Conditions in Haiti’s Displacement Camps Eight Months After the Earthquake, the 45-page study is uniquely important because its findings are based on interviews with 52 families living in six survivor camps in July. The study also draws lessons from the broader experiences of aid and human rights organizations. It is co-authored by the LAMP for Haiti Foundation and the University of San Francisco School of Law’s Center for Law and Globe Justice.

Dr. Maxo of Partners In Health described the history of PIH in Haiti and how it was able to move rapidly into the earthquake zone to provide lifesaving services. The agency is part of a post-earthquake effort shared with Haiti’s Ministry of Health and the government of Cuba to build a stable, national health delivery system.

The new study’s findings are deeply troubling, revealing an inadequate, or failed, international relief effort in Haiti. Phillips said the international community must step up its aid and support to Haiti, and it must adopt the rights-based approach advocated by the authors.

She reported that in July, ninety four percent of the families interviewed had at least one member abstain from food in the preceding week; forty six per cent had all members miss one day of food. Nine per cent had received no food aid at all in the preceding 30 days.

Forty four per cent of the families were drinking untreated water, primarily, a fact all the more chilling in light of the cholera outbreak in mid-October that now poses a deadly threat to the entire country.

Only 69 per cent of families had access to latrines or pit toilets, and more than half of families felt that toilet facilities were unclean or unsafe.

Seventy eight per cent of the families were living under tarps, only half had bedding materials, and only nine per cent had mosquito netting.

The same families had been interviewed by IJDH staff and volunteers back in February. At that time, three quarters had received some aid since the earthquake. In July, only nineteen per cent had received aid in the preceding thirty days.

Phillips also spoke on the political and human rights dimension of the earthquake relief and recovery effort. The IJDH is deeply critical of the national elections scheduled in Haiti for November 28 because of the arbitrary exclusion of political parties, including Haiti’s largest, Fanmi Lavalas, by the country’s electoral commission. The UN Security Council as well as the United States, Canada and France are backing the election.

The study’s conclusions will be presented to hearings of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (OAS) in Washington DC during the week of October 25. Earlier, the study’s findings were presented to a meeting of the Congressional Black Caucus in Washington.

Members of the Canada Haiti Action Network in Vancouver are preparing to mail the study to each of the 312 members of the Canadian Parliament. A cover letter will demand that the delivery of earthquake aid to Haiti from the Canadian government switch from a trickle to a flow. The letter will also demand that Canada withdraw its financial and political support to the flawed election.

Roger Annis is a coordinator of Haiti Solidarity BC, the Vancouver affiliate of the Canada Haiti Action Network.

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