PORT-AU-PRINCE – Two months after the earthquake that devastated this capital, Haiti has made some progress in a number of pressing matters, such as food distribution and provisional shelters for the homeless, but full reconstruction still seems a long way off.
“We have to do more and to do it better,” said the man in charge of coordinating food assistance since the disaster, Michel Chancy, who is also the secretary of state for animal production at the Agriculture Ministry.
After pointing out the need for more efficient efforts at this stage of recovery, the official said that right now 3 million people still need food assistance, as Haiti’s National Food Security Committee, or CSNA, warned on Friday.
He said that the government has launched two operations for distributing food donations with the help of the World Food Program.
Last week it began distributing 12,000 tons of rice among 3 million people affected by the quake who need it most urgently, the official said, adding that another operation has set out to feed 330,000 of the most vulnerable families.
The operations for distributing food assistance following the Jan. 12, magnitude-7.0 earthquake that caused the death of some 217,000 people, are currently benefiting hospitals, orphanages and people accepted into homes in the interior, a number estimated at some 600,000 people, he said.
Chancy expressed thanks for “the generosity” of the international community after the quake, but lamented the problems of coordinating aid distribution, which he blamed not only on the scant means available following the temblor, but also on the run-down infrastructure of the impoverished country before it struck.
He said that the next important steps to be taken will be chiefly in “programs for creating jobs in agriculture and rural infrastructure” to boost local production.
By the same token, he is pushing for an increase in the proportion of local products included in food assistance so as to step up Haitian production.
As for the distribution of tents to the 1.2 million people without shelter, the official estimated that it is “progressing slowly, but significant progress is being made.”
According to available figures, some 120,000 tents have been handed out, and the further delivery of tens of thousands more is expected.
Experts fear, however, that shelters like these cannot stand up to the powerful storms of the looming spring rainy season.
Some 900 improvised camps have been installed around the country in regions hit by the temblor, according to different estimates.
According to United Nations officials, homeless people in Port-au-Prince are expected to be sent to five camps on the outskirts of the capital.
The camps are designed to protect women and the weakest people and to facilitate aid distribution.
Michel Chancy said that negotiations continue between the government and landowners so that the project can be finalized.
One sign of change in Haiti’s situation two months after the earthquake is the withdrawal of 11,000 of the 20,000 U.S. troops stationed in the Caribbean country a
fter the catastrophe.
The evacuation was enabled by “reorganization of the contingents to fit the needs of their humanitarian activities and to provide the disaster response that the Haitian government requested,” the U.S. Embassy here said.
Meanwhile, the additional contingents that the U.N. Security Council authorized for the United Nations Stabilization Mission for Haiti, or Minustah, should be ready soon, the acting-chief of the force, Edmond Mulet, said in New York.
Haitian political parties have meanwhile resumed their debates and are holding legislative elections, postponed because of the tragedy, while presidential elections are planned for later this year.
Nonetheless, opinion is divided on the feasibility of having elections in the midst of the difficult social and humanitarian situation the nation is going through.