Blog Archives

Haiti 2 Years Later: Measured Progress & Hope

Today marks the two year anniversary of the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12, 2010. On that day, hundreds of thousands of Haitians lost their lives and were injured while millions became homeless when the 7.0 earthquake hit Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.  Two years later, they are still struggling to rebuild their country and get back to normal, everyday life.

The international community, including the UN, has been integral in the recovery, relief and rebuilding process that still continues today.  Over the last week, many journalists and commentators have looked at the current situation on the ground in Haiti. Our national office, UNA-USA, has added to this dialogue via our online magazine, The InterDependent, which you can read here to learn more.

While Haiti has made great strides in the past two years, an emphasis needs to be put on moving Haitians from camps to permanent residences. According to the International Organization for Migration (IMO) report released in July 2011, nearly 500,000 people are still living in 800 camp sites in earthquake-affected areas of Haiti after two years.

A system has been created by the Haitian government as well as aid groups to offer a $500 voucher to camp occupants that can find permanent residences with access to water and marked safe to live in by the government. The voucher is valued at the average year’s rent in Haiti and will allow tenants to get back on their feet once again. The only stipulation that applies is that camp occupants must destroy their old tent as stated by the IMO.

In an effort to fully recover, Haiti is moving towards its transition phase to concentrate on reconstruction, debris removal, and the creation of jobs. Rebeca Grynspan, the Associate Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) believes that,

“It has been a major challenge since that we know that Haiti still needs a combination of humanitarian support… but slowly the emphasis and allocation of resources is shifting towards recovery and reconstruction.”

With that being said, UNDP is responsible for creating 300,000 temporary jobs thus allowing 60,000 Haitian families the opportunity to rebuild their livelihoods. “This is the largest job creation programme we have in the world… 90 percent of the labour force employed in the execution of UNDP projects is Haitian,” Grynspan said.

The recovery phase will take many years, but numerous results have already been observed on the ground over the past 12 months: 50 percent of the debris removed, more than 300,000 jobs created, 60 percent of TB patients cured, 400 hectares of land reforested and 2,000 metres of gabion walls erected, according to the UNDP.

See the video below detailing more of the progress made by Haitians supported by UNDP.

While there is so much more work to be done, progress is being made and will continue to be made, with national Haitian institutions, the UN, other international NGOs, and the United States working collectively to develop a plan for a more vibrant Haitian economy. Check out Huffington Post’s top ten successes of Haiti in the past two years to see the continuous efforts that need to be made and share with us the programs/successes/visions you have for the future of Haiti.

-Alyson R.

V-Day Comes to Boston

It was a full house at the V-Day Spotlight Boston 2011: Violence Against Women and Girls of Post-Earthquake Haiti event Friday, March 18th. Sunny skies and teasing summer temperatures did not deter the dozens of guests who turned out to learn how we can join the movement against gender-based violence in Haiti. The event was sponsored by the Women’s Forum@UNA-GB and the Center for Women’s Health and Human Rights (CWHHR) at Suffolk University and aimed to highlight the increasing sexual violence against women in Haiti and raise awareness, funds, and local support to stop the rising trend.

The event was inspired by V-Day, a global activist movement to end violence against women and girls. Since its creation in 1998 V-Day has been a catalyst that promotes creative events to increase awareness, raise money and revitalize the spirit of existing anti-violence organizations (watch a great new video about V-Day’s work and mission here). In addition, each year V-Day spotlights a particular group of women who are experiencing violence with the goal of raising awareness and funds to put a worldwide media spotlight on this area. In 2011, V-Day’s Spotlight Campaign is on the Women and Girls of Haiti and calls attention to the high levels of violence against women and girls of Haiti and the increased rates of sexual violence since the devastating earthquake that of January 2010.

The Boston 2011 Spotlight evening began with refreshments and was followed by a brief PowerPoint presentation by Rachel DiBella, lead project coordinator at the Victim Rights Law Center and member of both the Women’s Forum and the CWHHR. Her presentation focused on informing the audience of the past and present state of Haiti, the staggering surge in violence since the earthquake, and the nearly nonexistent judicial reprimand.

Following the presentation, guests heard from two incredibly knowledgeable and experienced panelists Carline Desire and Brian Concannon. Desire, Executive Director of The Association of Haitian Women in Boston (AFAB) spoke about the history of the Haitian women’s movement and gave listeners an insider’s glimpse into the lives and circumstances of many Haitian women’s lives. She outlined the many reasons women are at risk to violence and also why often cases of rape are not reported. Desire closed her discussion with words of hope and  emphasized the importance of supporting grassroots organizations in Haiti, United States aid and fair policies toward Haiti and also changing the ways we socialize our children concerning the treatment of others.

Next, Concannon, Director at The Insti­tute for Jus­tice & Democ­racy in Haiti (IJDH) spoke giving the audience an insider judicial perspective on the legal processes, or lack there of, in Haiti. He assured the importance of speaking with our representatives in the United States about the importance of international aid within the budgets. He also told listeners about the current efforts, by his organization and others, to bring these women justice. There is much work to be done but progress is made through the strength of the voices of us all. For example, IJDH’s submission to the UN Universal Periodic Review of Haiti keeps the global community up to date on the strengths and shortcomings on the ground in Haiti and tomorrow, March 25th, IJDH along with 3 other organizations will testify before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in Washington, DC on the crisis of this violence in Haiti.  They will underscore the constant threat of sexual violence faced by women and girls in Haiti’s displacement camps and the need for immediate implementation response.

All funds raised through the event were used to support a revolutionary national program in Haiti lead by a coalition of women activists, including longtime V-Day activist Elvire Eugene, in order to ensure a lasting impact on the ground and support the V-Day program which will establish three safe houses. Each house will have also have an office of legal assistance for survivors of violence. In addition, the campaign is working towards the construction of four legal assistance offices and will provide advocacy support for 19 community based organizations throughout the country doing anti-violence work.

A huge thank you goes out to all who joined us for this event and another thank you to V-Day whose 2011 Spotlight Campaign ensures that thousands of women and men throughout the world will be exposed to the issues facing women and girls in the devastated region.

Remember it is not too late to help! There are many opportunities to be active here in Boston! Check out Karen Ansara’s Blog to stay updated on issues in Haiti, attend Wheelock’s innovative event this Monday to help us gain perspective on the conditions in Haiti, DONATEeducate yourself, speak out and be a part of the movement!

-Katie

News Round-Up: Week of January 17th

President Hu Visits the U.S.

Credit: New York Times

Chinese President Hu Jintao is wrapping up his state visit to the United States with a brief stop in Chicago to meet with American and Chinese businessmen. His trip to the U.S. marks a new chapter in China-U.S. diplomacy.

President Hu was the guest of honor at a State Dinner hosted by President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama on Wednesday, January 19th at the White House. President Obama and President Hu stressed the two nations’ common interests, including potential for increased economic cooperation and the benefits of U.S.-China ties.

The two leaders also reached consensus on many important issues, including military relations, Iran, Sudan, space technology, and high-level exchanges. However, President Obama and President Hu soft-pedaled on longstanding issues that divide them, such as China’s human rights records and diplomatic dealings, China’s currency policy, and the nuclear ambitions of North Korea.

A day after the State Dinner, President Hu delivered an address in Washington in which he renounced “hegemony” and “expansionism.” President Hu also held a Capitol Hill meeting on Thursday, January 20th with Senate leaders from both parties, including Majority Leader Harry Reid.

According to China’s vice foreign minister, President Hu’s visit to Washington “proved to be successful.”

An Unexpected Visitor

Credit: berlinonnews.com

Haiti’s former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier made a surprise return to Port-au-Prince on Sunday, January 16th, after being in exile for 25 years. His return added strain to an already complicated political atmosphere in Haiti brought on by the nation’s chaotic and inconclusive November 28th elections.

A day after Duvalier’s mysterious reappearance, human rights groups demanded that Haiti arrest Duvalier, nicknamed “Baby Doc,” for “crimes against humanity.” Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said Duvalier, 59, should be brought to trial for the killings and torture of thousands of opponents at the hands of the Tonton Macoutes militia during his 15 years in power.

On Tuesday, January 18th, Duvalier was briefly taken into police custody and questioned over accusations that he stole millions of dollars from the treasury during his reign. After about four hours, he was released. He could still face eventual arrest and a trial.

Duvalier did not board his scheduled flight out of Haiti on Thursday, January 20th and remains in the country as a free man.

The ex-dictator was forced into French exile in 1986 following a popular uprising against his government, which was widely believed to be brutal and corrupt.

Turmoil in Tunisia

Protests continue in Tunisia, despite a three-day period of national mourning for those who died during the month-long uprising that overthrew long-time President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Credit: AFP

Although the interim government that took over when President Ben Ali fled the country in January offered major concessions, thousands of Tunisians are now demanding the dissolution of this new political entity; they are angry that several prominent members of former President Ben Ali’s government (the Constitutional Democratic Rally) have been included in the transitional cabinet, which met for the first time in Tunis on Thursday.

The protests that began in December 2010 are believed to have started over unemployment, inflation, rumors of corruption, lack of freedom of speech, and the President’s conspicuous displays of wealth. According to the United Nations, about 100 people died during the upheaval that swept across the north African country.

The interim government is currently preparing for new presidential elections and to speed up political reforms.

A Country Divided

Credit: NASA

Southern Sudan is heading for a split. 99% of the people who participated in Southern Sudan’s week-long Referendum have opted for independence with the north. Just 1.4% of people have voted for continued unity with the north.

The counting will be finished on January 31st, and the final results will be reported on February 14th. If the result is confirmed, the new country is set to formally declare its independence on July 9th.

President Omar al-Bashir has said he will accept the result of the vote, which was held after years of war.

Sargent Shriver

Credit: Los Angeles Times

On Tuesday, January 18, Robert Sargent Shriver passed away at the age of 95. Mr. Shriver’s passion was civic life, and he fully devoted himself to honoring public service with his life’s work. Mr. Shriver, a brother-in-law of President John Kennedy, was the first director of the Peace Corps, serving in that post from 1961 to 1966, architect of Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty, US ambassador to France, vice presidential nominee and candidate for president. He was awarded the President Medal of Freedom in 1994.

His legacy of service to this country and the world will always be remembered.

One Year Later: The 35 seconds that changed everything


Today marks the One Year Anniversary of the devastating earthquake in Haiti.  The quake leveled the capital city of Port-au-Prince and claimed over 250,000 lives, and left an estimated 1.5 million people homeless, in just 35 seconds. In the year since the quake, the road to recovery has been slow.  It is estimated that only five percent of the rubble in the capital city of Port-au-Prince has been cleared.  In October 2010, the outbreak of cholera resulted in over 2,500 more deaths. People continue to live in makeshift housing made out of tarps or tents provided by aid organizations.

As we honor the memories of those who lost their lives in the catastrophe, we  also need to acknowledge and support the work that is ongoing.  The United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH, is one of the most significant UN presence in Haiti. There are over 9,000 military and 3,000 police in Haiti, from dozens of countries throughout the international community.


Local Events in the Boston Community:
Haitian Diaspora organizations, advocacy organizations, and NGOs throughout the Boston area are holding events throughout the week.

•    Remembering Haiti: One Year after the Earthquake

Join Mayor Thomas M. Menino and the Haitian Community for an Evening of Remembrance and Reflection.

Date: Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Time: 5:00-8:00 pm

Location: The Strand Theatre, 543 Columbia Road, Dorchester, MA

Learn more and download an event flyer here.

•    Remember, Reflect, Respond: Haiti One Year Later


Staff and volunteers with Partners in Health invite you to join them to remember those who lost their lives in the Haitian earthquake and honor those unsung heroes who have worked tirelessly to rebuild Haiti.

Date: Friday, January 14, 2011
Time: 6:00-7:30 pm
Location: John Hancock Hall, Back Bay Events Center
 180 Berkeley Street, Boston, MA
Learn more and RSVP here.

•    A round-up of events can be found online at the Boston Haitian Reporter.  Additional information and updates on the election returns, ongoing challenges, and progress made in Haiti can be found here on Karen Ansara’s blog, one of our partners at the Boston Foundation.

Be sure to check that these events are still taking place during this snow weather! If you are unable to get out, there are still things that you can do from home!

CARE is sponsoring the Upload Hope campaign where you can upload a 35 second video message of hope and support for Haiti.  You can find more information here.

In New York, the Secretary-General will conduct a solemn wreath-laying ceremony beginning at 4:45 pm.  The ceremonies can be followed via videolink through UN webcast.

There are many ways to help in Haiti.  Learn more here. Also, stay tuned to the UN Dispatch throughout this week to read their series of posts on progress in Haiti.  Read today’s post here.

Continue the conversation and work on how to support and strengthen Haiti in 2011!

-Alex.

UN Continues Working Tirelessly in Haiti

While it may not have maintained dominant coverage on the 24-hour news networks, the United Nations’ relief efforts in Haiti remain in full force.

Just over six months after the 7.0 earthquake that rocked the Caribbean nation in January 2010, destroying the country’s infrastructure and killing an estimated 230,000 people, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) announced July 27 that the UN is hoping to reach an additional 500,000 children in the ravaged nation in a second round of emergency immunization.

The 7.0 earthquake hit the Caribbean nation on January 12, 2010.

Among the illnesses being vaccinated against are diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, measles, rubella, and polio. Haiti is considered by UNICEF as one of the nations where children are at the highest risk for contracting of these dangerous diseases.

In addition to providing health care, UNICEF and its partner organizations are providing water to 1.2 million people and food to an estimated 550,000 children and women.

The United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) also recently announced on July 22 that they have assessed more than double their initial target of 100,000 buildings in Haiti for structural damage. With the help of the World Bank and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery, the United Nations have been working closely with the Haitian government in the recovery and rebuilding process.

The destruction caused by the disaster continues to dominate Haiti's landscape.

These announcements come on the heels of international football superstar and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Lionel Messi’s visit to Haiti, during which the reigning FIFA World Player of the Year visited a homeless camp and attended UNICEF meetings. In addition, the Barcelona player met with troops from his native Argentina serving the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).

Argentine football superstar and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Lionel Messi meets with children in Haiti.

Additionally, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), recently launched “A Book for a Child in Haiti,” collecting French-language books in an effort to jumpstart the educational system for “internally displaced persons (IDPs)” in Haiti.  The program is also working to forge relationships between Haitian and French schoolchildren.

However, in spite of all the efforts, there is still much work to be done. Over 800,000 Haitians are living in tents with no access to clean water or sanitary conditions. Almost 500,000 buildings have been deemed unlivable and still need to be removed, and education and health facilities have yet to sufficiently recover from the disaster. UNICEF reports that over 1,200,000 children are being exposed to exploitation and abuse amidst the disorder and turmoil.

The UN’s World Food Program (WFP) is spearheading the expansive relief effort, providing food, agricultural support, and both short- and long-term solutions to the island nation. This work is even more critical with hurricane season fast approaching and threatening the already fragile Haitian infrastructure.

Show your support and Help Haiti Rebuild by donating to the WFP’s Haitian relief efforts and stay informed by visiting their Haiti Emergency website.

-Patrick

There is work left to be done in the rebuilding process in Haiti.