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Haiti’s newsreel: reconstruction efforts

The latest earthquake that hit Haiti on August 14, 2021, has caused a reevaluation of environmental issues afflicting the nation and caused a more nuanced view when addressing how relief efforts should be directed. In a report released by the Interministerial Committee for Regional Planning, Comité interministériel pour l’aménagement du territoire (CIAT), the manner in which earthquake affected the nation should not be reduced to the devastating effect in coastal areas that have received most of the attention of the media. Though the Departments of Nippes, South and Grand’Anse have been affected, other municipalities were also badly hit. There are the mountainous parts of the municipalities such as Corail, Pestel, and Camp-Perrin as well as the completely mountain municipalities of Arnaud, L’Asile, Maniche for example that have also been severely affected. The extensive damage to coastal towns has been widely publicized, but significant damage (landslides and destruction) affected the areas closest to the Enriquillo fault. One major difference between the 2010 and 2021 earthquakes was the size of the affected population and the area in question. While the latest earthquake occurred in a sparsely populated area, 12km Northeast of Saint Louis du Sud, the 2010 one occurred in the densely populated metropolitan area of more than 5million people and reaching an area 200km squared. Nevertheless, important lessons can be drawn from the 2010 earthquake to create recommendations for dealing with the after effects.

For starters, the reconstruction effort must be commensurate with the level of damage to be managed, making sure that national and international budgets are drawn in such a way that each recognized problem be addressed effectively and where possible on a large scale. Secondly, there must be open communication with the local residents so that they are aware of the government’s strategies and plans to avoid instances where there are higher expectations from the people than what the government can provide. Though it is necessary to help the poor and the vulnerable, it is equally important to help the middle class and small business owners who are also affected. Providing loans at low interest rates, preferably through credit unions can go a long way to help these people jump start their businesses. Policies undertaken must be such that they avoid creating dependency that cannot be satisfied nor sustained in the intermediate and long terms. One key recommendation is to include locals in their reconstruction efforts instead of bringing in heavy machinery to clear the debris to quickly rebuild; use of local workers would generate much needed income for the local populations. It is strongly advised not to create camps or groupings of any kind and instead, to help people in their homes and at institutions providing post disaster aid and support. Relocating victims to camps only help create new unstable dwellings that may not be safe in the long run. While detailing recommendations and roadmap for reconstruction, by addressing how to evaluate the level of damage both of homes and institutions, it is important to prioritize help, first addressing homes, institutions such as schools and hospitals and finally the security apparatus, the key long term goals is avoiding situations now that cannot be resolved in the future such as camps that may not be closed because people would still have no place to live. Since most of the casualties occurred in building with public space, or building used largely by groups of people, it will be important to make sure building plans are inspected to make sure they are structurally sound and fit, and finally, under the auspices of the Urbayitu project, the towns of Cayes and Jérémie will be newly planned.

In other news, the human rights network, RNDDH released a 28-page report in which it detailed the conclusion of their investigation into the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, This report which came two months after the assassination of the president at his residence in Pelerin 7, on July 7, 2021, and attempts to shed light on the role of the president’s security detail and a supposed US$100,000 bribe to the security detail to look the other way. According to the network, despite the level of extensive planning and coordination of the mission aimed at the arrest and subsequent assassination of the president, the plans would not have gone smoothly without the full support and implication of those entrusted with the responsibility of protecting the first family. It turned out as soon as the first shots were fired, the president frantically got on the phone to call the interim Police Commissioner, Léon Charles, the security coordinator of the General Security Unit of the National Palace (USGPN), the divisional commissioner Jean Laguel Civil as well as the head of the USGPN, the Commissioner Dimitri Hérard. Though all these people were contacted by Jovenel Moïse. They all promised to send him reinforcements right away. However, reinforcements never came, because the two men, respectively coordinators of the general security of the president and chief official of the USGPN, were collaborating with the assassins. According to RNDDH, the macabre plan succeeded because the intellectual and material mastermind of the assassination attempt could count on the support of the head of presidential security Jean Laguel Civil who was responsible for bribing agents assigned to protect the president in order to allow a smooth entry of the commando into the Moïse residence. Mr. Civil had in his possession approximately US$100,000. Principal Inspector Paul Eddy Amazan and Police Commissioner Pierre Osman Léandre, themselves chief officials of the USP and the Cat Team, were no longer responsible for the security detail of the late Jovenel Moïse, after the President relieved them of their duty and entrusted his confidence and security to the very people who betrayed him, thus disrupting the work of the USP and the Cat Team.

Finally, the national police have established a 5-member committee to oversee the coordination of aid to reach the victims of the earthquake, and speaking of earthquake, the Haitian community in New York City, more precisely Brooklyn have been hit with another bad news, that of the passing of Bishop Guy A. Sansariq, last Saturday, a week from the earthquake. Initially from Jeremie, where he was born on October 6, 1934, Bishop Sansariq briefly worked as a priest at the Cathedral in Les Cayes before moving to the Bahamas. From the Bahamas, the Bishops’ extensive work was outside of his homeland, in Rome, Canada and finally New York where he made most of his impact as a champion of immigrant and Haitian rights. After serving the Sacred Heart parish in Cambria Heights, for over two decades, he went on to shepherd the St. Jerome Church in Flatbush. He was appointed diocesan coordinator of the Haitian Apostolate, and in 1987 he was selected by the U.S. bishops to head the National Haitian Apostolate. Bishop Sansariq’s involvements with the community include publishing a quarterly newsletter on Haitian matters concerning the Church, conducting a pastoral institute in Creole that attracts 90 students annually and organizing an annual convention of the Haitian Apostolate, and coordinating an annual retreat for priests and a yearly youth congress. He is also a co-founder of Haitian Americans United for Progress, HAUP, a social service agency.

Dela Harlley

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