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Haiti Should Have Final Say Over Rebuilding, Preval Says

In an interview with Reuters, Haitian President Rene Preval on Tuesday said that the U.S. State Department Human Rights report, which says corruption is “widespread in all … levels of government” in Haiti, is “arrogant” and that Haiti should have the final say in approving plans to rebuild the country after the January earthquake, the news agency reports.

Preval’s reaction to the State Department report, which was prepared before the quake and is part of a yearly batch of reports about many countries, “threatened to sour Haiti’s ties with its main relief partner as the Caribbean state’s government and foreign donors drafted a plan for the country’s recovery and long-term reconstruction,” according to the news service. “There is nothing to reject or accept. It is an arbitrary judgment to which we won’t respond,” Preval said of how the report characterized Haiti (Delva, 3/17).

On Monday, the U.S. said that four Americans had been murdered in Haiti since the quake and announced it would update guidelines for Americans traveling to Haiti after two European aid workers were kidnapped, Agence France-Presse reports. “U.S. citizens traveling to and residing in Haiti despite this warning are reminded that there remains a persistent danger of violent crime, including homicides and kidnappings,” the State Department said in a travel advice document. “Most kidnappings are criminal in nature, and the kidnappers make no distinctions of nationality, race, gender, or age. Some kidnap victims have been killed, shot, sexually assaulted, or physically abused,” the warning continued (3/16).

Ahead Of Rainy, Hurricane Seasons, Ongoing Efforts Deal With Haiti’s Homeless

Haiti and the U.N. “are poised to begin an intense public awareness campaign in the capital city, part of an urgent effort to move hundreds of thousands of people left homeless by the Jan. 12 earthquake out of harm’s way before the rain and flood season begins next month,” according to the Washington Post.

Aid workers are attempting to identify the 700,000 Haitians who have been living in tents and are then trying to determine whether they can return to their homes. As the rainy season approaches and threatens to exacerbate the spread of disease, messages will be sent through “radio, text messages, television news and even a television soap opera to drive home the point that masses of people must be relocated,” the newspaper writes (Romano, 3/17).

“The Red Cross federation says it is impossible to give all of Haiti’s earthquake survivors hurricane-proof dwellings before the storm season starts in June,” the Associated Press reports. On Tuesday, Pablo Medina, of the International Federation of the Red Cross, said aid workers would erect shelters capable of withstanding hurricanes. According to Medina, about half of Haiti’s 1.3 million homeless earthquake survivors have received tents, but those would not survive a hurricane (3/16).

In related news, the New York Times examines the challenges Haitians are experiencing as they move to rural areas, away from Port-au-Prince. “Life has come full circle for many Haitians who originally migrated to escape the grinding poverty of the countryside. Since the early 1980s, rural Haitians have moved at a steady clip to Port-au-Prince in search of schools, jobs and government services. After the earthquake, more than 600,000 returned to the countryside, according to the government, putting a serious strain on desperately poor communities that have received little emergency assistance,” the newspaper writes.

Some Haitians “have already returned to the capital seeking the international aid that is concentrated there. But if the reverse flow continues, it could undermine a primary goal of the Haitian government and the international community: to use the earthquake as a catalyst to decentralize Haiti and resuscitate its agricultural economy, said Nancy Dorsinville, a special adviser to former President Bill Clinton, the United Nations special envoy to Haiti,” the New York Times writes (Sontag, 3/16).

Other news outlets report on rape and violence against women in Haiti’s tent cities.

AP: “Women and children as young as 2, already traumatized by the loss of homes and loved ones in the Jan. 12 catastrophe, are now falling victim to rapists in the sprawling tent cities that have become home to hundreds of thousands of people. … Sexual assaults are daily occurrences in the biggest camps, aid workers say – and most attacks go unreported because of the shame, social stigma and fear of reprisals from attackers” (Faul, 3/16).

CNN: “Before the earthquake, Haiti was in the midst of implementing what the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) called an impressive five-year plan to curb violence against women and change the culture.” But Lina Abirafeh, the UNFPA gender-based violence coordinator in Haiti, “says the quake destroyed many of the services for women, such as rape counseling centers and Haiti’s Ministry for Women’s Affairs. It also took the lives of three of Haiti’s most revered female leaders.” The article also notes the efforts to protect women in the tent cities (Sidner, 3/16).