In Haiti, Deep Skepticism About a U.N. Rescue Plan
By Jessica Desvarieux / Port-au-Prince Saturday, Apr. 03, 2010
Earthquake survivors walk in a street with debris in downtown Port-au-Prince.
A simple turn of the radio dial, and news of the reconstruction plan dominates Haiti’s airwaves. At the U.N. donor conference on Wednesday, the international community pledged more than $5 billion dollars to support Haiti for the next 18 months and almost $10 billion for the next five years. These are enormous figures aimed at transforming the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, which has become even more dire after the catacylsmic Jan. 12 earthquake. But as crucial as the donor news was, many Haitians made homeless by the temblor, like Patrick Nordeuse, 43, have simply tuned out. "I used to listen to the radio after the earthquake, but it would just depress me when I saw nothing was being done," says Nordeuse.
It’s been more than two and a half months since the earthquake shook every fiber of Haitian society. I was here on a trip from the U.S. to visit my family when it hit and have stayed for most of the aftermath. But when I look at the streets of Port-au -Prince, the catastrophe still seems so much closer in time, as if it has just happened. Monstrous piles of rubble still hold the remains of thousands of earthquake victims. Haitians drift with no purpose during the day, returning to insecure shelters at night. (See the end of the search for Haiti’s last lost American.)
Haitians have waited patiently during the planning phase for reconstructing this Caribbean nation. And now plans reveal that a joint commission between Haitian authorities and the international community, co-chaired by Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive and former U.S. President Bill Clinton, will manage the funds. When I revealed the news to a family member, she jokingly said, "They’re giving the money to the state! Good, I work for the state." It is a very serious joke. Haitians are concerned that aid money will not trickle down to the people but instead be used by the government to take care of its own. (See pictures of the destruction wrought by the Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti.)
"If it’s Haitian people taking care of the money, they will only take care of their clan," says Osnel Smythe, 37, a security guard who earns a decent wage of about $200 a month. "The international community could put $8 billion into Haiti and nothing will work correctly." This was exemplified with reports after the earthquake of government-affiliated community leaders selling coupons for food aid intended to be free. Haiti is one of the 10 most corrupt countries in the world, according to Transparency International’s world index of corruption. The government has yet to earn the trust of the people. It cannot simply be placed at the helm, expecting citizens to believe in it.
"We Haitians live in the belly of the beast," says another man made homeless by the quake who wanted to remain anonymous. "You have to be in the belly to understand the system. The people outside don’t understand." Despite this record, the international community has decided to switch gears. Instead of funneling aid through non-governmental organizations, they say they will not bypass the bureaucracy of Port-au-Prince, hoping to strengthen it. Clinton recently called on all NGOs to "work ourselves out of a job" and make the Haitian government more self-sufficient. (See the top 10 deadliest earthquakes.)
Plans for self-sufficiency include boosting the economy, by focusing on agriculture and tourism development. There are plans to expand roadways and increase transportation capabilities with the addition of two more international airports. Clinton also says Haiti should be transformed into a wireless country with Internet access throughout. But the feeling at large in Port-au-Prince itself is that, with the Haitian government in charge, all the talk of development is a distant dream, hardly a possible reality for citizens living in makeshift tents awaiting the rainy season. (See how to help the Haiti earthquake victims.)
To be fair, the Haitian government has committed itself to transparency and Prime Minster Jean-Max Bellerive has agreed to the idea of posting financial documents online. But as Nordeuse sees it, the Haitian government is in a lose-lose situation. If the government succeeds, the international community will get the glory and if it fails the Haitian government will be blamed for corruption. Says Nordeuse, "Clinton has placed Bellerive in front to follow him, but Bellerive is the one who is going to take the fall when it goes wrong."
Trusteeship Proposed by Senator Dodd Is a Misguided Response and Misunderstanding of the Haitian Plight
By Jacob François (about the author)
For OpEdNews: Jacob François – Writer
HAITI UNDER THE TRUSTEESHIP OF THE UNITED NATIONS IS AN OXYMORON AND AN INSULT TO HAITIANS. THE UN HAS NOT HAD A HISTORY OF DEVELOPING ANY COUNTRY IN IT’S NEARLY 70 YEARS OF EXISTENCE.
In the aftermath of the earthquake of January 12, 2010, The United Nations was as discombobulated as the Preval-Bellerive administration. The international community, led by The United States, was not any better in coordinating the help needed as well. My intention here is not to blame the United States, who is not responsible for helping the Haitian people, but as a means to highlight the flaws existing in Senator Dodd’s contention.
Case in point, my home in Haiti was located on 11 Ruelle Boisson, less than 2 miles away from the White House, collapsed on January 12, 2010. My sister was killed along with 2 of her sons plus a faith sister who was present to help in the home. My brothers, with their bare hands were able to remove the bodies under the rubble, but the debris from the house blocked the streets we lived on.
I went to Haiti on January 23, in the hope providing medical help to the surrounding areas. I was able to get through with the doctors; unfortunately we were not able to help everyone or clearing the street. To this day, the population only 2 miles away from the White House does not have a road to circulate on.
We do not need the guns that the UN has in Haiti; we need tractors, cranes, bulldozers, trucks, jackhammers etc. It is a dangerous proposition to further empower the UN to be in Haiti.
No Senator Dodd. Trusteeship under the UN leadership is a losing proposition for the Haitian people and you should not confuse that with the demand for help exhibited by hungry Haitians as a means to taking over of Haiti. You do not allow the "man on the street policies" voiced by down and out citizens in the US to dictate how the country will be run….and that should not be the case for Haiti either.
Senator Dodd, we have tens of thousands of Haitians who are as educated as you are and more educated than many members of the US congress, your trusteeship idea is an insult to Haitians who have been fighting to live in dignity for centuries.
What government around the world can function with a budget of less than $2 billion to take care of 10 million people? That’s a measly $200 per head expense combined?
The UN has $600 million with staff of about 10 thousands for a $60,000 per capita expense and fails more lamentably in Haiti as the Haitian government without adequate resources.
We want to highlight for Senator Dodd the clear priorities that Haiti should focus on right now.
. Elections should be held in Haiti to replace the current government; Haitians living abroad should be able to run at every level
.A massive investment over 3 to 5 years at most for the reconstruction and revitalization of the total economy of Haiti:
• $ 5 billion to help the Haitian people to rebuild their livelihoods
• $ 2 billion to build the private sector
• $ 1 billion for electrical installations of a total of 1500 megawatts at least
• $ 1.5 billion to build the various local government and administrative complex in the country’s 10 departments
• $ 1 billion for the telephone communication system, a system capable of delivering atleast1 million landlines / fixed
• $ 3 billion for the construction of 5,000 km / Roads, connectors, sewers, facilities for the collection of garbage
• $ 1 billion for 1 international airport in each of our departments
• $ 1 billion for the agricultural sector
• $ 2 billion for education sector
• $ 2.5 billion for economic development
• $ 700 million for heavy machinery
We would solicit the help of the Senator to get a loan allocated to Haiti in the amount of $20 billion which would be backed up by a combination of revenue bonds generated by the new infrastructure and direct investment of the Haitian Diaspora in Haiti.
If nothing else is done, help Haiti in laying out 5,000 kilometers of roads, 1,500 megawatts of electricity and a telephone plant with at least 1 million lines. If you built it they will come. These 3 requests are capable of putting Haiti on the road to recovery.They are the foundation, which if implemented swiftly and correctly, will go a long way towards helping Haiti accomplish its long-term recovery goals.
Jacob Francois, MBA
The last one found alive
Haitian quake survivor tells of being trapped for 27 days
Jacqui Goddard, The Sunday Telegraph
Michael Kastenbaum, Reuters
For the past 10 weeks, Evans Monsignac has struggled to understand how and why he is still alive. So remarkable is his survival, at times it has been easier for him to think he must in fact be dead.
Severely malnourished, dehydrated, deeply traumatized and with festering wounds, the frail slum-dweller emerged after 27 days trapped in the ruins of Haiti’s earthquake, confounding doctors and defying medical logic. It is believed to be the longest anyone has endured such an ordeal.
Now recovering in a U.S. hospital, he has spoken for the first time of his horrific ordeal, sharing haunting memories that until now have been locked away in his head.
"I still don’t understand how I’m here," he admitted, his skeletal body resting limply in an intensive-care bed at Tampa General Hospital.
"I was resigned to death. But God gave me life. The fact that I’m alive today isn’t because of me, it’s because of the grace of God. It’s a miracle."
The 27-year-old father of two was the last person found alive under the debris after an earthquake levelled Port-au-Prince on Jan 12. His relatives say simply someone, they do not know who, came across him while working through the rubble on Feb. 8 and rushed him, delusional and rambling, to an emergency clinic.
Even his name was a mystery, recorded by medics as Evans Monsigrace, Evans Muncie and Evan Ocinia. A plastic hospital bracelet on his bony left wrist spells it out correctly now.
Countering speculation he must have had access to food and clean water, he shook his head.
"No," he said emphatically. No one else was involved in his epic struggle for survival: just himself and God. He was pinned by concrete slabs, saw nobody and heard only the screams of the dying.
"I had no contact with anybody. None. Nobody bought me anything," he insisted.
The appalling reality, he said, is he survived by sipping sewage that oozed underneath the rubble of the marketplace where he was buried, a place where sanitation was lacking even before the earthquake.
"It was trickling past where I was lying. I felt it under my body," he said. He shifted his right arm weakly on the bed, turning his empty palm upward and forming a scoop, to demonstrate how he collected and drank the foul liquid.
Even before the earthquake, life had been a struggle for Mr. Monsignac, a dirt-poor market vendor who scratched a living selling rice and cooking oil.
On the day disaster struck, he had woken at 5 a.m. at his home in the Portail St. Joseph slum, where he lived with his mother Jeanne Edmond Monsignac, his wife Gerline, 20, daughter Keline and son Michael, both aged four. Then he caught a bus to La Saline marketplace, where he set up under an awning.
"As soon as I finished selling the last batch of rice the earthquake happened. Suddenly things were just flying all over and flattening me," he recalled.
"I said ‘Oh Lord, I’m dying.’ I tried to turn to the right, but I was pinned down by rock. I tried to turn to the left, I was pinned down with rock."
Looking up, he saw a slab of debris thundering toward him as buildings collapsed.
"A piece of concrete was falling to my face but then it was like someone came and pulled it back. I don’t know if it was God, if it was a snake," he said, referring to the Haitian voodoo snake spirits.
"This piece just stopped above me. But still I couldn’t move. I heard so many screams all over, people screaming loudly. I just lifted up my eyes and prayed because I couldn’t understand what was going on."
The exact details of what happened over the next 27 days remain a mystery, registering as only a blur in Mr. Monsignac’s traumatized mind as he drifted in and out of consciousness inside his precariously formed tomb, losing all concept of time.
"I’m lying on my back. I was so scared because if I turn one way I will get hurt and if I turn another way I get hurt. If I move it will bring death. So I lay straight," he said.
"I didn’t think of anything, just death. I could smell death from others — there were a lot of people under the rubble with me, but the screaming was one day only. Then it was quiet … it was dark all the time. Every time I came out of consciousness I prayed, I prayed that God would rescue me, give me life.
He recalls nothing of his rescue, of feeling the sunlight on his face for the first time in nearly a month as he was finally discovered and taken first to a Salvation Army medical centre, then to a field hospital run by the University of Miami before being treated aboard the U.S. hospital ship and flown to Tampa.
"The only thing I can remember is thinking ‘I’m free, I’m not dying,’" he said.
He is still stick thin — he weighed just 88 pounds when he was admitted, having shed 59 pounds during his ordeal. His bones bulge below his papery brown skin, his right forearm bears deep red sores, and his fingernails are stained with dried blood from scratching at them.
Despite being severely dehydrated when found, his survival without any damage to his kidneys is considered remarkable.
"He calls himself a miracle? He’s right," said Dr. David Smith, medical director of Tampa General’s burns centre, where Mr. Monsignac has undergone skin grafts on his wounds. He is also receiving painkillers through an intravenous line and drugs to deal with gastro-intestinal troubles, including diarrhea and cramping.
"We don’t know what happened during those 27 days but his story isn’t unbelievable," the doctor added.
Mr. Monsignac likes chocolate milk and had just nibbled a piece of toast and a boiled egg, but has mostly been rejecting food, despite special menus rustled up by a Haitian cook in the hospital kitchens. He is still "desperately malnourished," said his doctor. "His major problem is nutrition.
"If he was from the U.S., we would put a tube down his nose to feed him, but in Haitian culture if they have a tube like that it implies that they are going to die. When he first came in, we put 12 tubes in him in eight hours and he pulled them all out."
"The problem with these patients is they are all terrified," Dr. Smith explained.
"They have had a horrific experience. When Evans arrived he was convinced that his mother had sold him to white slave traders and he was going to be a slave for the rest of his life. He didn’t see us as medical people trying to help him."
Mr. Monsignac has weeks of treatment ahead, but fantasizes about rejoining his family and starting life afresh.
When The Sunday Telegraph found them living under tarpaulins in a ruined factory, they were overjoyed to hear the details of his recovery.
"He wants to see his family but I want him to stay until he gets strong," his mother said.
They had given up hope of his survival, and only learned he had been rescued from a phone call from friends.
Marie Monsignac, his elder sister, said, "We were happy because we didn’t know if he had died."