Saturday, November 8, 2008

Haiti reeling from four recent hurricanes

Attention, new administration! A humanitarian emergency awaits you in the Caribbean -- Haiti's hurricane trauma continues.... from the Guardian (UK): When four huge storms struck this summer, one after another in the space of 30 days, Haiti never stood a chance. Each time the sky darkened and drops began to fall, it took just hours for torrential downpours to soften hillsides into sludge and send mounds of slick, wet earth crashing into homes. Survivors scrambled on to roofs and watched helplessly as others perished in one of the Caribbean's worst disasters of recent years. The four tropical storms, ending with September's Hurricane Ike, turned Haiti into a wasteland.

Nearly 800 people died, about 60% of the country's harvest was destroyed and entire cities were rendered desolate and uninhabitable. Life in the western hemisphere's poorest country went from grim to desperate. Weeks later, the floodwaters have receded and the dead are buried, but millions of cubic feet of mud remains, rendering cities such as Gonaives sticky, squelching versions of Pompeii.

Relief agencies such as ActionAid have mobilised to help Haitians salvage and rebuild. But international donors, distracted by the credit crunch, have stumped up less than a third of the UN's requested $108m. At the current rate of clean-up, it will be almost three years before the mud and debris is cleared.

"When there are no longer any dead on the streets, people tend to forget," President Rene Preval recently told reporters. "Attention has shifted to the (US) elections and the sub-prime crisis. These things are important to you, but we ask that you not forget us."…

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