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Unsettling report from Port-au-Prince

Haiti Rescue Effort Targets Wealthy, Ignores Poor

Report from a Canadian in Haiti via the Canada Haiti Action Network list-serve:

(Port-au-Prince, 15 January) Rescue efforts were stalled today in Port-au-Prince with foreign rescue workers overwhelmed and unprepared to deal with impoverished people. Crews arrived with neither vehicles, nor gas, nor translators, nor guides.  

Thus far, the rescue teams cluster at the high profile and safer walled sites and were literally afraid to enter the barrios. They gravitated to the sites where they had secure compounds and big buildings. Meanwhile, the neighbourhoods where the damage appears to be much wider, and anywhere there were loose crowds, they avoided. In the large sites, and in the nice neighbourhoods, and where the press can be found, there would be teams from every country imaginable. Dogs and extraction units with more arriving, yet with 90% or more of them just sitting around; meanwhile, in the poor neighbourhoods, awash in rubble, there was not a foreigner is sight.

News crews are looking for the story of desperate Haitians that are in hysterics. When in reality it is more often the Haitians that are acting calmly while the international community, the elite and politicians have melted down over the issue, and none seem to have the remotest idea what is going on.

One case in point: the American embassy officials and the bulk of USAID, (of which more than 90% have been evacuated) have been frantic on the radio, shuttling everyone to and fro in a type of panic. Tears and adrenaline... and yet the streets in their neighbourhoods and to the embassy were clear. They were gone the first day. The offices and halls of USAID and Embassies were empty, not even administration present. Meanwhile, they would not even authorize gas to the Haitian employees so they could go out and help the rescue crews.

There's so much to say. But the bottom line is that all this mad redundancy is going on while no one is doing anything for the population that you are hearing about in newspaper and TV."

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