Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Disaster Assistance Urgently Needed In Haiti

Haiti has been devastated in recent weeks by Hurricanes Fay, Gustav and Ike, and tropical storm Hanna. Fay was the first to hit, on August 15, and Ike was the last, on September 7.

Partners in Health (Zanmi Lasante), a pioneering health services provider in Haiti, estimates as many as 1000 people may have perished, and more than 1 million people have been left homeless. Severe damage to food production has occurred throughout the country.

An eyewitness report from journalist Reed Lindsay on Canadian Broadcasting Commission Radio One’s The Current on September 15 said Gonaives, Haiti’s third-largest city, remained under water one week after Hanna struck.

Once again, Haiti has been devastated by natural phenomena whose human consequences are greatly magnified by the deterioration of the country’s forest cover, and the weakening and undermining of the national government by foreign powers.

Haiti’s government does not have the material resources nor the freedom of action to undertake the kind of massive hurricane preparation that saved all but a few lives in neighbouring Cuba, hit by the same storms. That’s because it has been the victim of constant interference and intervention from foreign powers that do not wish the country to prosper.

The latest chapter in this long, sad history of intervention was the overthrow of the elected government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide in February 2004. The United States, France and Canada sent soldiers to participate in that assault.

Today, a 10,000-member foreign military, police and political contingent under the sponsorship of the UN Security Council and known by its acronym, MINUSTAH, plays a preponderant role in Haiti’s internal affairs. Anne Volcy, an elderly Canadian of Haitian origin, sums up the popular view of MINUSTAH as: “They need to know that Haitians are angry to see foreign soldiers pointing weapons at them even in this hour of crisis. We need logistical help to build a country, not deadly weapons to kill people.”

The Canada Haiti Action Network (CHAN) says the response of the Canadian government to the disaster in Haiti as entirely inadequate. The government has committed $5.6 million in relief funds, plus the possible sending of the Canadian military’s Disaster Assistance Relief Team.

CHAN is campaigning for the Canadian government to substantially increase its assistance and to direct it to the Direction de la Protection Civile (Office of Civil Protection) of the Ministry of the Interior of the Haitian government.

CHAN is also appealing to the Canadian government to press international financial agencies for a speedy cancellation of Haiti’s outstanding foreign debt, in its entirety. As agencies such as the Jubilee Network have pointed out, this is an odious and illegitimate debt, and a significant barrier to social and economic development in Haiti.

CHAN encourages all those wishing to donate to disaster relief in Haiti to visit the websites of Partners in Health (Zanmi Lasante) at http://www.pih.org, or Lakou New York in collaboration with Haitian Women for Haitian Refugees at http://www.lakounewyork.com.

Source: GreenLeft.Org.Au

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