[News] In Grand Goave, Relief Efforts Frustrate Haitian Neighborhood Leaders

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Fri Jan 29 11:03:23 EST 2010

In Grand Goave, Relief Efforts Frustrate Haitian Neighborhood Leaders 28Jan2010

Published today 
Inter-Press Service. Listen to the audio at Free 
Speech Radio News 


GRAND GOAVE, Jan 28, 2010 (IPS) – Two gray 
23-million-dollar hovercrafts sitting in the 
middle of a sandy tropical beach look like they 
are from another world. A pair of 15-foot-wide 
propeller fans sticks out from the back of each behemoth.

Along the narrow dirt road to this seaside town’s 
centre, families live under blankets stretched over sticks.

A tent city occupies the town’s main square, 
surrounded by crumbling buildings. Joseph 
Jean-Pierre Salam, the mayor of Grand Goave, 
about 15 kilometres west of Port-au-Prince, 
estimated that some 70 percent of the city’s 
important structures fell during the 7.0 
earthquake that struck Haiti on Jan. 12.

“They have made many promises, but we don’t see 
the action yet,” Salam said, referring to the 
international community. “We have a lot of people 
suffering. There is an expectation that help will come.”

Little food and water has been distributed by the 
dozens U.S. troops milling about the beach since 
the earthquake, according to local leaders.

“I went there to talk to them,” said Jean-Jacob 
Renee, an English teacher. “They said they are 
there to set up some tents for themselves, but 
they did not come with food or water – anything for the people.”

He said the only aid the military brought to 
Grand Goave was distributed by Catholic Relief 
Services, an international NGO. “When they are in 
the town, we don’t know. We don’t have their 
phone number,” he said. “Nobody has helped us.”

U.S. military personnel on the beach were busy 
unloading construction material and heavy 
equipment from cargo boats. Senior Chief Petty 
Officer Steve Krutky told IPS his disaster 
recovery team cleared a rockslide out of the road 
and worked to repair local orphanages run by evangelical missions.

The U.S. military did not respond to IPS requests 
for further clarification of the Navy’s role in Grand Goave.

An analysis by the Associated Press on Wednesday 
found that 33 cents of every dollar towards 
emergency aid in Haiti goes to military aid, more 
than three times the nine cents spent on food.

Residents of Grand Goave said there is a network 
of seven neighbourhood leaders for each section 
of the city that has not been tapped in the 
relief effort. Friends are pooling resources to 
purchase rice when possible, but family after 
family living outside the rubble of their homes 
told IPS they have received no assistance.

The roof of Rinvil Jean Weldy’s modest one-story 
brick house is broken off, resting at an angle on 
top of a kitchen table covered in dust. The rear 
wall crumbled, spilling onto the cracked ground. 
His wife remains at a nearby hospital nursing an injury from the quake.

“We need a tent, we need food and water, all the 
normal things,” Weldy said, pointing at his sons, 
who were hammering together scraps of wood to 
build the frame of a tent. “To the U.N., I say, I need help now.”

Weldy has been expecting compensation from the 
U.N. since Nov. 10, when he and numerous 
witnesses say part of a bullet fired by U.N. 
peacekeeping troops hit his shoulder. Four days 
before the earthquake, the U.N. said an internal 
investigation into the incident cleared the soldiers of any wrongdoing.

told IPS the troops fired into the ground in an 
attempt to control a curious crowd, not into the air, as the U.N. maintains.

The U.N. peacekeepers are roundly dismissed by 
many Haitians as a source for relief in the 
country. “We have been living with the U.N. for 
many years, but now we see them very little,” 
Mayor Salam said matter-of-factly.

In Leogane, on the route back from Grand Goave to 
Port-Au-Prince, 500 families from a tent city in 
a field lined up in an orderly queue to receive 
food packages, in contrast to chaotic aid 
dispersals seen in Port-Au-Prince. Individuals 
walked into a clearing to grab a box each time a 
young Haitian man called out numbers through a megaphone.

“For us, it was very important to do this without 
military,” said Dolores Rescheleit, an aid worker 
with a German NGO called Arche Nova that provided 
the food. “Because the people in the camp are 
very strong. When you give the responsibility to 
the people in the camp, they will do it better than we will with the military.”

A committee of Haitians, with sub-committees to 
handle security, hygiene, and aid distribution, 
is governing the camp without problems, 
Rescheleit said. Women smiled as they walked back 
to their tents, balancing boxes of food on their heads.

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