Earthquake in Haiti: A fallen city, a fleeing population, a new crisis

Monday, February 8, 2010 – Globe and Mail

PAPAYE, HAITI — The Rosier family was always close. Just not this close.

Twenty-five people – parents, grandparents, children, nephews, cousins and in-laws – have been living in the family patriarch’s farmhouse in Haiti’s Plateau Central for close to a month.

Standing outside, hacking his palm trees to pieces to build shacks for his growing household, patriarch Ilson Rosier smiles and shrugs.

“They’re family – of course I have to take them in. We’ll do what we can.”

But his seven children and their families now sharing cooking, washing and living space are starting to worry how they’ll make ends meet.

The Rosier brood is among the hundreds of thousands who have fled devastated Port-au-Prince to seek refuge in the provinces.

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In deathly devout Haiti, the spirits go unserved

Saturday, February 6, 2010 – Globe and Mail

PORT-AU-PRINCE — The cemetery reeks of death. Dozens of tombstones are overturned. Crypts have been upended, inverted and emptied of their macabre contents. It would look centuries old were it not for the bright blue paint bouncing sunlight off the broken gravestones.

The overpowering smell comes from the far side of the labyrinthine cemetery, where a plot near the street has been excavated and filled with corpses. More than 2,000 of them.

The plan is to pave over the spot and turn it into a memorial to those killed in the earthquake. But for now it’s simply a mass grave, holding corpses covered with pale dirt and concrete dust.

“Next Ghede will be wild,” says voodoo priest Menahem Laurent, referring to a holiday in early November similar to the Latin American Day of the Dead. “There will be so many ghosts.”

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Americans charged with kidnapping in Haiti

Friday, February 5, 2010 – Globe and Mail
With a report from the Associated Press

PORT-AU-PRINCE — Ten American Baptists face charges of child abduction and criminal association after trying to take 33 Haitian children across the border into the Dominican Republic without the government’s permission.

The group members, accused of flouting Haiti’s child-protection laws when the country is at its most vulnerable, were led out of a closed-door courtroom session yesterday afternoon, through a crush of reporters and onlookers and into police vehicles waiting to escort them back to the makeshift jail cells where they have spent the past week.

The Haitian government has imposed a moratorium on international adoptions following the earthquake, fearing that in the ensuing chaos the risk of child-trafficking, already a mounting problem in Haiti, would increase.

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With no food and no hope, parents sent their kids away with U.S. Baptists – and they say they would do it again

Thursday, February 4, 2010 – Globe and Mail

CALEBASSE, HAITI — This is the town that sent its children away.

Its subsistence vegetable plots are all but destroyed; its buildings reduced to debris. If it was poor before the earthquake, it is desperately so now.

And the parents of Calebasse say they were just trying to do what was best for the kids they can no longer feed when they gave them to a group of American Baptists arrested for trying to spirit the 33 children across the border.

Many of them say they would try the same thing again.

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In post-quake Haiti, rebuilding an education system that was already broken

Wednesday, February 3, 2010 – Globe and Mail

PORT-AU-PRINCE — Their classrooms are rubble. So are their houses – scattered around Port-au-Prince, most of them are living “sous les belles étoiles.” Many of their professors are missing or dead.

But in the fissured remains of their university, these would-be teachers are planning a revolution. They sit at desks, taking scribbled notes as their rapid-fire ideas overlap one another over the sounds of 400 families living in tents outside, and one lone, loud rooster by the window. As Haiti’s already inadequate education system lies in ruins – and with it, one of the country’s best shots at sustainable development – these upstart students are among those who hope to reinvent what it means to learn in Haiti.

“We don’t just want to rebuild. We want to begin over again,” says Michel Fresner, a first-year education student at the Centre Formation d’Education Fondemontal.

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Quake left a security nightmare in its wake

Wednesday, February 3, 2010 – Globe and Mail

PORT-AU-PRINCE — It’s a strange sight on a traffic-choked downtown street across from a park that has become a crowded tent city: several dozen young men locked behind the wrought-iron bars of a rectangular, birdcage-like structure outside a police station.

The police say the men are looters, caught in the act. An officer gestures over his shoulder to rolls of fabric, building materials and dusty electronics.

A prison it’s not. But for now, and for no one knows how long, that’s where the alleged looters will stay.

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Help still slow to reach some victims

Monday, February 1, 2010 – Globe and Mail

PORT-AU-PRINCE — Marnity Buisson stands, arms akimbo, on pebbled dirt between stacks of bedsheets and a ravine that’s become an open sewer and fly-infested garbage pit.

This is her turf. The house she grew up in is reduced to bits of stone and concrete; her neighbourhood is in smithereens.

In an attempt to take control of the area where she has spent all her life, the 22-year-old joined a seven-member committee struck to oversee the welfare of 75 families living under tarps and sleeping on the ground in this Martissant alley.

In tent cities, refugee camps, mattress-filled streets and courtyards-turned-living rooms across Port-au-Prince, survivors are forming their own organizing committees to provide advocacy, security and co-ordination. Some of them have issued sporadic press releases, following their federal government’s lead in holding news conferences.

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Baptist group accused of child-trafficking in Haiti

Monday, February 1, 2010 – Globe and Mail

PORT-AU-PRINCE — At least 10 of the 33 Haitian children a group of American Baptists tried to take across the border into the Dominican Republic have parents, says the group taking care of them while the Haitian government investigates an alleged case of child trafficking.

Ten Americans are in custody and set to appear in Port-au-Prince court this morning, accused by the Haitian government of trying to take the children out of the country without proper documentation.

Aid groups have warned against hasty adoptions or transfers of vulnerable children in the wake of the earthquake that devastated Haiti’s infrastructure.

The church organizing the transfer of the children says the group had only the best of intentions, that it wanted to put the children in a Dominican Republic orphanage and that it was sure all the children were parentless.

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UN revamps Haiti’s aid system

Anna Mehler Paperny
Globe and Mail Update
Saturday, January 30, 2010

New distribution program prioritizes women with families in effort to stop chaotic stampedes over food convoys

Port-au-Prince — The United Nations is revamping its aid mission in Haiti after two weeks of chaotic stampedes to reach disorganized food convoys.

The new system, which starts this weekend, will set up 16 fixed aid sites across Port-au-Prince, each of which aims to give rice to 10,000 people a day – about 1.1 million people a week in a metropolitan area of about 4 million.

“[At first] we had to do everything we could, to put as much food out to as many people as possible, as quickly as possible,“ said World Food Program spokesman Marcus Prior.

“But instead of using mobile, quick-and-dirty methods, we need a more organized response.”

It’s aid agencies’ attempt to come to terms with what Mr. Prior described as “the most complex situation we’ve ever faced” – a staggering need in a dense urban area whose infrastructure has been wiped out entirely. Humanitarian workers are used to providing aid to less dense, more rural spaces. In the crush of a devastated, tightly packed city, the logistics are entirely different.

“As part of the operation, we need to have more stable and robust distribution methods in place.”

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Quake has rendered Haiti’s government powerless

Anna Mehler Paperny
Saturday, January 30, 2010 – Globe and Mail


As more decisions need to be made about how to rebuild country, it’s becoming clear just how crippled and dependent Haiti’s government has become

Port-au-Prince — Improvised stages under mango trees on the outskirts of a ruined capital are never the most dignified of locations, as far as post-disaster government press conferences go.

But a disagreement over tents and a couple of awkward moments at the Haitian government’s daily press briefings last week highlighted what’s going to become, increasingly, a bone of contention as recovery efforts continue in the wake of the biggest quake to hit Haiti in centuries.

Tents, President René Préval told the assembled crowd, are the single thing the country needs most now – 200,000 of them, to be exact. And quickly.

But the man who spoke directly after him wasn’t so sure.

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