Saturday, September 20, 2008

Haiti Faces Long Recovery From Ike, Says Singer Wyclef Jean

Actor Matt Damon, second from left, musician Wyclef Jean, and former New Brunswick premier Frank McKenna are escorted by UN peacekeepers and police officers in Gonaives, Haiti, on Sunday. (Ramon Espinosa/Associated Press)

Haitian-born singer Wyclef Jean says he's trying to raise millions of dollars to help Haiti recover from Hurricane Ike.

Just back from a trip to Haiti with friend and supporter Matt Damon and former New Brunswick premier Frank McKenna, Jean said he found the island in a desperate situation.

"The basic needs, the immediate needs right now are water … clean water. Blankets are very important. The idea of food is very important," he told CBC News on Friday from New York.

"I was walking in water — water was up to my knees … a dead cat in the water…still body parts in the water, the entire city smelling like dead people," he said of his trip to the city of Gonaives.

Jean described people trapped on their roofs, some of whom haven't eaten for days, and world food program workers being attacked because of political unrest in Haiti.

The situation on Gonaives is particularly difficult because the poor of Haiti have cut down the trees for firewood — and without trees there is no control or absorption of flood water.

Jean said he wanted to create some awareness about Haiti after Ike had wreaked havoc.

"So me and Matt Damon, we did an event called One X One [a prominent fundraiser held in Toronto] and decided unannounced that we would go there for the weekend just to assess what was going on on the ground with Frank McKenna."

Political unrest and grinding poverty have combined to make conditions difficult on the ground in Haiti for rescue workers, he said.

"Right now, what's going on is if we had a better infrastructure, we could get helicopters in and out," he said.

Jean said he continues to try to raise money and make a difference in his homeland through his Yele Haiti Foundation, which is currently devoting resources to helping people recover from Hurricane Ike.

Damon and Jean handed out food aid during their tour of Haiti, which began in Port-au-Prince last Saturday.

Source: Cbc.Ca

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