gonaives.jpg

Early last month, back to back to back hurricanes devastated Haiti–the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. As always happens when a natural disaster strikes a developing country, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs issues an flash appeal to which member states pledge funds for humanitarian relief and reconstruction. The problem, though, is that member states sometimes pledge funds, but are slow to actually deliver. Alternatively, member states simply do not respond to the appeal at all. This latter seem be happening in Haiti. So far, only 40% of the $107 million appeal has been pledged. According to the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes, this is not going to cut it.

“Even that 40 per cent is nowhere near enough of what we’re going to need for the next six months or so for people in Gonaives, and Gonaives is not the only place affected by any stretch of the imagination,” Mr. Holmes said on his return from a two-day visit to Haiti, which was hammered by four successive storms in as many weeks from mid-August to mid-September…

Gonaives, the hardest-hit city, is still a “dramatic and grim site” even six weeks after the last hurricane hit, said Mr. Holmes. Some 30,000 people are still taking refuge in city shelters, which are very often ill-equipped schools, and some of those who have gone back to their homes are camping on roofs and in courtyards.

There is a large new lake just outside Gonaives, which did not exist before and now covers the bridge and roads leading to the city, and living conditions have been made even more difficult by huge amounts of mud and stagnant water.

“If urgent action is not taken on the disaster risk reduction front, then we’re simply going to see more tragedies in the future,” warned Mr. Holmes.

If you are interested in helping out, Yele Haiti (Wyclef Jean’s NGO), and the World Food Program have established a Haiti Storm Relief Fund. Still, there is a limit to what NGOs can do. Member states need to step up.

(Photo of Gonaives after Hurricane Hanna. From Flickr. Photo credit to Logan Abassi (MINUSTAH) )

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