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HAITI
Catastrophe worsens humanitarian crisis
Latinamerica Press
10/18/2016
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Aftermath of hurricane Matthew worsens the situation of the poorest country in the continent and puts it on the edge of a new collapse.

The spread of cholera and hunger threaten Haiti again. This Caribbean nation of 10.9 million people had not yet recovered from the earthquake that devastated the country in  January 2010, when on Oct. 4 hurricane Matthew inflicted widespread destruction , with the heaviest damage occurring in the southwest region of the country.

The Civil Protection Agency calculates that Matthew, which reached a category 4 with winds recording up to 260 km per hour, left a death toll of more than 1,000 and over 750,000 seriously damaged, added to which is the threat of a new cholera outbreak.

Interim President Jocelerme Privert declared three days of mourning and warned that the country runs the risk of suffering through a “real famine.” Also, the United Nations (UN) called on the international community to donate US$119 million to help those affected, and to provide food, drinking water and shelter to those in need.

The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon made a call on the international community “to show solidarity and generosity and to work together to provide an effective solution to this emergency.”

The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) pointed out that over 1.4 million people are in need of some form of assistance. Also, some 300 schools were totally and partially affected.

“As of today at least 100,000 children will not experience the joy, safety and stimulus that being in school provides,” said Jean Metenier, deputy representative in Haiti of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). “We need to do whatever is needed for the children to return to class as soon as possible. Hurricane Matthew ripped away their schools, their homes and their school books; it should not take away their hopes as well.”

The risk of a new cholera outbreak has set off the alarms. The priority for authorities is to reach those localities that are most affected in order to prevent the propagation of cholera that caused the deaths of 10,000 people after the 2010 earthquake. Around 30,000 cases of cholera were registered between January and September of this year according to figures of the World Health Organization.

Political crisis
The catastrophe takes place in the midst of a political crisis that has not made possible the election of the new president to replace Michel Martelly (2011-2016), who according to the Constitution ended his mandate on Feb. 7. He was temporarily replaced by Privert.

In the first round, which was held on Oct. 25, 2015, the candidates who received the most votes were Jovenel Moïse, of the Haitian Tèt Kale Party (Bald Heads), of former president Martelly, who got 33 percent of the votes, followed by Jude Celestin, of the Alternative League for Progress and the Haitian Empowerment, with 25 percent of the vote.

However, the runoff that was initially scheduled for Dec. 27, 2015, was postponed three times due to fraud accusations made by the opposition. Finally, the elections were invalidated on June 5 and new presidential and legislative elections were scheduled for Oct. 9. Besides Moïse and Celestin, other 22 candidates vie for the presidency. A runoff has been scheduled for Jan. 8, 2017 in case none of the presidential tickets obtain more than 50 percent of the vote.

After the weather-related disaster, Haiti´s Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) announced on Oct. 5 that the elections would be temporarily suspended because there are no conditions to carry out the voting process.

In a statement, the CEP informed that “the destruction of road infrastructure, the parallel mobilization of Haitian police personnel in the context of new emergency conditions, interrupted their deployment and the mobilization of election material convoys. Many public schools in the south of the peninsula designated as voting facilities are now being used, in some instances, as temporary shelters. In other cases, [the schools] have been drastically damaged or cannot be used as they lost their roofs due to the force of the hurricane.”

According to United Nations figures, 50 percent of the population of Haiti lives in poverty and 20 percent in extreme poverty; 62,600 displaced persons have been living in provisional camps since the 2010 earthquake, and half-a-million people are highly exposed to natural disasters. —Latinamerica Press.


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