Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Random News Generator- Haiti

We were updating Haiti about a month ago, noting that maybe half the rubble from the earthquake of two years ago has been cleared, basic living conditions remain difficult to obtain, aid has about dried up with recovery efforts slowing accordingly, and that many Haitians are opting not to wait around and to try and rebuild their lives anywhere else that will have them.

As Haiti comes up on the RNG, two days prior to the second anniversary of the quake, that's all still true.

In the meantime, another group in the country, Partners in Health, believes they've located the origin of the cholera epidemic that struck the country a few months later and is only now showing signs of subsiding; their report in the American Journal of Tropical Hygiene and Medicine is here (though it's a pay-per-view). They've traced the origin to the Meye River, where the water was contaminated by raw sewage from a group of Nepali peacekeepers from the UN. The researchers think an unnamed 28-year-old man known in the village as the "moun fou"- crazy person- was the first victim; he had mental problems that had gone untreated. Those mental problems led him to eschew the clean water his family had access to in order to drink from the Latem River, which is fed into by the Meye. After he died, the people who handled his body became sick themselves, and the epidemic took off from there.

Despite this, the researchers note that the river is still used by many families, and that if it wasn't him, it would have been someone else.

Meanwhile, any promises of actually rebuilding anything, for now, ring hollow in the ears of the locals, half a million of whom still live in camps and many more of whom can't even say that. The various plans to move people into real housing have been haphazard, half-assed, leaderless, uncoordinated, bogged down in political bickering, overambitious, underfunded, or a combination of several of those things. What meager arrangements and shantytowns that have resulted are increasingly regarded by the locals as the homes that they're just going to be ending up with.

The presidential palace sits pretty much like it did when it fell in during the quake. It's rather fitting that political bickering be part of the problem. The bickering started after a contentious election brought in Michel Martelly as president; after he won election in April 2011, the musician formerly known as "Sweet Micky" overstepped authority to a degree that turned the legislature against him. They've been acting to obstruct his progress since then, and questions have been raised about Martelly's citizenship. Haiti doesn't recognize dual citizenship, and opponents charge Martelly with being an American, which would disqualify him from office.

UNICEF is still in Haiti; here's a donation link if you're inclined to keep things moving, though be advised that you may not even be able to help that way; about half the donation money hasn't even been distributed yet, much of the governmental money was never given in the first place, and the locals are beginning to question whether the rest of us are actually serious or if the donations were just to make us feel better about ourselves.

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