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Haiti: An anniversary in pain
January 12, 2011

Haiti: An anniversary in pain
A displaced child living in Automeca camp, one of thousands who may be forced to seek shelter elsewhere. Since the earthquake, hundreds of thousands of displaced people have lived in makeshift camps. Today, many of these people are facing eviction from their flimsy shelters as landowners move to force them from the land. (Christian Fuchs - Jesuit Refugee Service/USA)
The political crisis also affects the social landscape in Haiti, as the further weakened Haitian state becomes increasingly incapable of providing a concrete response to such pressing problems such as the relocation of about one million displaced people, satisfaction of their basic needs, removal of debris and the fight against the cholera epidemic.

By Edson Wooldy Louidor
Jesuit Refugee Service, Latin America and the Caribbean

(Port au Prince) January 12, 2011 – One year ago a massive earthquake devastated Haiti, claiming the lives of more than 300,000 people. Today, Haitians mark the first anniversary of the tragedy in pain, caused not only by the sad memory of the victims of the tragedy, but also by the slow pace of recovery and the acute political crisis facing the country.

Since the earthquake, hundreds of thousands of displaced people have lived in makeshift camps. Today, many of these people are facing eviction from their flimsy shelters as landowners move to force them from the land. "Where do we go? What do we do?" asks one moved from Automeca camp, located in the Delmas 33 area of Port au Prince.

"We met with representatives of the Ministry of Interior and Delegates from more than 20 NGOs on January 7, but there was no concrete decision [as to what we could do next]," said a representative of displaced people living in Henfrasa field, also located in Delmas 33.

While the displaced are increasingly threatened with expulsion by land owners, the Haitian authorities remain indifferent to their plight, despite the recommendation made to the Haitian government November 18, 2010 by the Human Rights Commission that they  "adopt a moratorium on expulsions from camps of the internally displaced."

Meanwhile, Haiti has plunged into an acute political crisis resulting from controversy over the  presidential and legislative elections of November 28, 2010. On that day, twelve of the nineteen presidential candidates called for an annulment of the elections due to what they said was fraud and irregularities committed in favor of the government-supported candidate Jude Celestin. Further charges made by various candidates have mired the process of selecting a new government.

In response to this crisis, Haitian President René Garcia Préval requested the Organization of American States (OAS) to conduct a technical evaluation of electoral process. The report's findings are expected soon, but nothing guarantees that Haitian political actors will accept the findings of the OAS report. It is unlikely the political crisis will be resolved by the time the current president is scheduled to depart office on February 7.

The political crisis also affects the social landscape in Haiti, as the further weakened Haitian state becomes increasingly incapable of providing a concrete response to such pressing problems such as the relocation of about one million displaced people, satisfaction of their basic needs, removal of debris and the fight against the cholera epidemic.

The insecurity and violence caused by the political crisis also the thwarts the efforts of humanitarian organizations to provide better care for the affected population, who lack basic social services such as health, education, potable water, electricity and sanitation.

Pope Benedict XVI wrote directly top the people of Haiti in a message read by Cardinal Robert Sarah during a commemorative Mass held in Haiti today.

"I hope that the Haitian people will become the main actors in their own present and future, also with the support of international aid which has already demonstrated great generosity with economic support and volunteers coming from all parts of the world," the Pope said.



Press Contact Information
Mr Christian Fuchs
communications@jrsusa.org
202-462-0400 ext. 5946