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Haiti: 500,000 people still in refugee camps

Translated Friday 13 January 2012, by Elaine Scott and reviewed by Bill Scoble

Two years after the earthquake, 515,000 people are still living in camps in Haiti. However, on Tuesday, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) stressed that the situation is in the process of improving but funds are lacking to get the island out of this difficult situation.

“Since the peak of 1.5 million people in July 2010, the number of people living in camps has dropped dramatically by 66% to 515,819”, stated the spokesperson for the UN agency, Jumbe Omari Jumbe, who specified that these people were living across 707 sites.

Lack of funds

Despite this decrease, funds are still needed to help Haiti confront the housing crisis, which already existed on the island when the quake hit. If the numerous Haitians manage to be rehoused, the IOM fear that the accommodation will not correspond to all security regulations, especially if they are constructed hastily. “Haiti still has to confront a significant amount of humanitarian issues, with nearly 520,000 (people) still living in camps. Funds are absolutely necessary”, stated Elisabeth Byrs, the spokesperson for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

180,000 Euros for 2012

The UN agency estimates that nearly 180 thousand Euros are needed for 2012. These funds will contribute to the reconstruction of the country, which has also been hit by a cholera epidemic since the end of 2010, and which has infected more than 520,000 people and caused nearly 7,000 deaths.

Feedback Comment sent by a reader of l’Humanité, appended to the original article.

- translated by Henry Crapo

On the 12th of January 2010 a violent earthquake struck Haiti: 250,000 dead, and a million and a half other distressed people were obliged to live crowded into whatever structures they could piece together for shelter.

At the Conference of Donors organized in New York, the nations promised large amounts of money to help Haiti. One speaks much less of the aid provided by Cuba, beginning 12 years earlier, during the hurricanes George and Mitch of 1998.

Since that date, 6094 heath professionals have worked, even in the most distant corners of Haiti, 625 young Haitians have obtained their diplomas from l’Ecole Latino-Américaine de médecine de La Havane, 50,000 Haitians have regained their sight thanks to operations [1] carried out, without cost to the patients, in Opération Miracle, and 158,000 illiterate adults have learned to read and write, using the method Yo Si Puedo [2].

During the earthquake, the 416 Cubans positioned across the land played a decisive role in the immediate relief to victims, and received backup from all components of the Cuban solidarity organization: the Brigade Henry Reeve, specializing in natural catastrophes, l’Ecole Latino-Américaine de Médecine represented by the young Haitians, and doctors from 26 other nations, trained in Cuba. The Cuban medical brigade came to number some 1,700 collaborators, who showed their professionalism in what was their fifth such intervention following an earthquake.

The arrival of cholera in October gave rise to a new challenge: to stop the diffusion of a disease that kills in 48 hours if medical attention is not provided. In this race against the clock, the experience of the Cuban Brigade in zones of difficult access led to the creation of the Active Research Brigades: these little teams reached, often on foot, the most distant regions of extreme risk, to treat the sick and to provide sanitary education for the population. This method was officially recognized by the Haitian authorities and by the World Health Organization and the Panamerican Health Organization as being the most effective form of combat against the infection. The statistics confirm this, since the Cuban Brigade obtained the lowest mortality rate with respect to cholera.

Specialist in natural catastrophes, Cuba confirms its expertise in earthquake response: its experience permitted it to adapt itself to a new adversary, the cholera.

The efficacy of the Cuban Medical Brigade is already recognized in southern nations: Venezuela and Brazil already participate in the financing of these operations of solidarity.

A first European nation, Norway, also participates in this financing.

Today, the situation in Haiti remains very serious. Cholera has infected 500,000 persons, and has claimed more than 7,000 victims. It remains a major problem, in that 85% of the population in the zones at risk have no access to safe drinking water. The educational work undertaken by the Active Research Teams should be continued and intensified, in order to avoid a resurgence of the epidemic. The method of work exists, and has shown its merits, but finds its limits in sources of financing. It is clear that the present aid can not be maintained at its present levels. It is thus desirable that the Norwegian example of cooperation be rapidly imitated by other European states.

[1for cataracts

[2"Yes, I can"

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