AP reports at least eight deaths from tropical storm Issac in Haiti. Over 30 groups working on Haiti have set up the Under Tents campaign in working to ensure housing.
The groups state that many of Haiti’s problems are not “natural disasters,” but are the result of policies that become increasingly glaring as Haiti faces more storms this season. Among the groups in the campaign:
Claude Fignole, via Patricia Brooks, Country director at ActionAid Haiti, who witnessed the storm from Port-au-Prince Fignole said today: “Tropical storm Isaac is not the only cause of disruption in Haiti. One in five Haitians right now is at risk of forced eviction. Many of these evicted families who ended up homeless are now bracing the terror of another storm season. The Haitian government must put a stop to all forced evictions and designate land for permanent housing so families do not have to face inadequate shelter during fierce storms like Isaac.”
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Alexis Erkert, in Haiti, speaks English, French, Kreyol. Erkert is with the group Other Worlds. She today: “Tropical Storm Isaac underscores the urgency of resolving Haiti’s housing crisis. Lack of safe and affordable housing is one of Haiti’s most pressing social needs, and yet long-term solutions for displaced people have been shockingly absent from disaster response and development plans. What will it take to convince the Haitian government and international community that Haitians need houses? A growing housing rights movement in Haiti is calling for affordable, dignified housing. The international community has a responsibility to rally in support of this call.”
Despite the international community’s vow to learn from past mistakes and ‘build Haiti back better,’ little has changed for Haiti’s poor. Rural communities in Haiti’s South Eastern mountains were cut off due to mudslides from Tropical Storm Isaac, and displacement camps, still home to nearly 400,000 earthquake victims, were devastated by Isaac’s 60 mile-an-hour winds and rain. Seven people reportedly lost their lives in the storm, but it will be days before the full impact is known.
Melinda Miles, speaks English and Kreyol. Miles is with TransAfrica/Let Haiti Live. She said today: “Until now, efforts to relocate homeless earthquake victims have focused on moving people out of highly trafficked areas and parks, a strategy to get them out of sight and out of mind. It is shameful that the plight of the most vulnerable Haitians can be so easily ignored until a storm threatens to make them visible again.”
Nicole Phillips, speaks English and French. Phillips is an attorney with the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti. She said today: “The Haitian people will continue to disproportionately suffer from natural and unnatural disasters until the international community’s policies and practices that make the country particularly vulnerable to environmental stresses are changed.”
Haitians’ extreme vulnerability to natural disasters like tropical storms and earthquakes is a result of international aid, trade, debt and governance policies over many decades that crippled Haiti’s economy and prevented its government from providing basic public services, including disaster prevention and relief. According to Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, the government’s emergency plan for Isaac for its population of 10 million people consisted of $50,000 in emergency funds, buses and 32 boats for evacuations. Edmond Mulet, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations in Haiti, admitted after the 2010 earthquake that, ‘the international community is co-responsible for [the] weakness of Haitian institutions and the Haitian state.’ The policies also generated vulnerability by forcing Haitian farmers off their land and into overcrowded cities that offered little employment or safe housing.