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Haiti readying for storm season

Maria Bradshaw

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Earthquake-ravaged Haiti has been put in preparation mode now that the hurricane season has set in.During a live discussion on Haiti’s Reconstruction Effort, which took place on the NATION’S Facebook webpage on Thursday evening, USAID director for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Jim Coggin, explained that “much planning and preparedness was currently underway” in Haiti.Also on the panel were Publisher and CEO of the Nation Publishing Company, Vivian-Anne Gittens, and United States Embassy Chargé d’Affaires Dr Brent Hardt. Coggin was responding to a question raised about the vulnerability of the country during the rainy season.He said that specialist teams had established numerous new shelter areas near the tent cities, renovated existing shelters, pre-positioned thousands of additional shelters, food and other emergency supplies, and cleared rivers and drainage canals of all debris so that heavy rains produced by hurricanes will not cause flooding.Regarding housing, he said the plan was to construct 125 000 transition housing units in the coming months, adding that over 3 000 had been completed so far.Referring to a BBC report, a participant questioned the “slow pace” at which funding was getting into Haiti to provide for the needy.She asked: “Must the Haitians now sing for their supper? . . . Why this sudden appearance of dithering and slow pace when it comes to putting the cold cash where the hotly proclaimed promise once was?Coggin responded: “Yes, the pace at which pledged funds are flowing into Haiti might appear to be slow in comparison to what expectations were, but a very important part of this massive reconstruction effort is to “build back better” – and that naturally requires the good and reliable functioning of the Haitian government and its ability to plan and prioritise projects, consult with the Haitian populations, and be able to properly manage this enormous undertaking.”Giving a breakdown of the funds collected so far, Hardt explained that the US government through USAID, the Department of Defence and State Department had provided more than US$1 billion to Haiti and President Barack Obama had promised another US$1.15 billion. Former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton have collected more than US$36 million from American businesses and over 200 000 individuals, and over 40 countries pledged US$5.27 billion over the next two years.The NATION’s Publisher, Vivian Ann Gittens, pointed out that the bulk of funds donated to the Medianet Haiti Relief Effort from the Help Haiti Now Radiothon remained in an account in Trinidad earning interest because of the difficulty in directing those funds to Haiti as a result of the lack of infrastructure and central coordination.But she insisted that donating cash was still the most effective way to help Haiti, stating that this should be done through one of the many humanitarian organisations on the ground in that country working as part of the relief efforts.