Keep Haiti in the headlines, advocates urge

Some of the most vulnerable Haitians have been overlooked during the distribution of aid because they have not relocated to official camps in earthquake-stricken areas of the country. (CNS/Bob Roller)

Headlines in the media about the Haitian earthquake have fallen to a trickle now that the disaster is more than three months in the past. But that doesn’t mean it should be forgotten, advocates working on Haitian relief efforts believe.

Several concerns about the lack of involvement of Haitians in recovery efforts as well as the falloff in media coverage of the disaster were aired by representatives of Jesuit Refugee Service/USA and the TransAfrica Forum during an April 28 program at the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington.

The concerns have arisen as plans are being made for housing hundreds of thousands of Haitians left homeless by the Jan. 12 quake as well as for rebuilding the wide swath of the impoverished country that remains decimated, said Nora Rasman, a program associate at TransAfrica Forum.

Among the concerns Rasman cited: planning meetings being carried out by the United States and the United Nations that are conducted in English, with minutes kept in English. Haitians in attendance understand the English-only proceedings, Rasman said, but would better get a grasp on the discussions if they would be translated into Creole, the language of Haitians.

Shaina Aber, associate advocacy director at Jesuit Refugee Service/USA, said her agency works to empower women to have an equal voice in the governance of the seven camps with an estimated 23,000 residents that the agency coordinates.

“We want to ensure that women have a voice in the camps, in security, in government, in planning for the future,” she told an audience of more than 100.

The distribution of food and shelter supplies only to people in “official” camps also was mentioned by both women. While there are several hundred camps where aid is distributed, there are thousands more unofficial ones on street corners and in neighborhoods where the most vulnerable –- the elderly, pregnant women and children -– remain and are bypassed by aid workers.

As for the media, Joia Jefferson Nuri, TransAfrica Forum’s chief of staff, suggested the Haitian story can pick up steam as long as American political leaders talk about it. She urged the audience to contact legislators to remind them to keep talking about Haiti to anyone and everyone.

Writing and calling media outlets will help, Nuri said, but unless people of more prominence keep the issue before the public, the Haitian earthquake story will fade further into history.

One Response

  1. Do the language and representation problems have anything to do with the stockpile of Ringer’s lactate that is being withheld from refugee assistance, as was reported on Fox News last night (Fri., 11/20/2010) by the Rev. Franklin Graham? Is there any best way to ensure these cholera drugs will get to the people who need them? Through CRS or another Catholic organization?

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