Haiti Earthquake Recovery Needs More Help, US Congressional Panel Told
Though great strides have been made since the deadly earthquake in Haiti, immediate problems continue to confront the relief and recovery process that threaten their success, the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF) told a key congressional subcommittee.
“The title of this hearing, ‘The Crisis in Haiti: Are We Moving Fast Enough?,’ poses a question that has a simple and easy answer: ‘No,’ we are not moving fast enough,”says Jimmy Jean-Louis, the actor and spokesperson for PADF’s recovery efforts in Haiti. “Too many Haitians continue to live in despicable conditions with little hope of moving to recovery in the foreseeable future.”
Speaking before the House Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, Jimmy Jean-Louis emphasized that more than 1.2 million Haitians live in make-shift camps that are unsafe, unsanitary and unsustainable. Indeed, many live under plastic and even bed sheets.
In addition to these camps, he urged the donors to give increased attention to the most vulnerable – children, victims of violence and trafficking in persons.
“The human rights abuses and violence against women and children have surpassed the crisis point,” he says. “Building roads and bridges are critical to Haiti’s future, but they should not be at the expense of the tens of thousands of young boys and girls who are the country’s future.”
Despite these and other immense problems, Jimmy Jean-Louis thanked the United States and other supporters who are working on solutions.
“I say we are fortunate to have a neighbor that is willing to help out the most disadvantaged during a crisis,” he told the panel. “Haitians will remember the generous support, acts of kindness and prayers on their behalf.”
Asked by the House Subcommittee as to what is working well, Jean-Louis testified that a little-known program that inspects homes to see if they are safe for occupancy to is making a difference.
During the past three months, trained engineers working with PADF have inspected more than 53,000 homes and other buildings in the capital area to determine whether they may be occupied.
Called “tagging,” the engineers place a “green” tag on a safe building; a “yellow” tag indicates it is useable but requires some repair; and a “red” tag states the building must be repaired or demolished before it can be used. PADF is working with the Haitian government and displaced communities to develop training, manuals and prototypes for safe repairs.
“This is a critical step in moving people from the deplorable conditions of the displacement camps to homes that are deemed accessible and safe,” he told the Subcommittee.