Clock ticking for humanitarian response in Haiti
The front page of France Soir carries a moving photo taken by AFP photojournalist Juan Bareto. It shows a man stepping over bodies at the city morgue in Port-au-Prince. The paper’s special envoy in Haiti says its like the country is “in the middle of a war”.
On pages 4 and 5 of The Guardian, the same AFP photo appears, showing the over-reliance of many papers on agencies for the most striking images.
The paper’s Latin America correspondent, Rory Carroll, says the few saved here and there - for instance an Estonian UN worker –“don’t change what became increasingly, brutally clear: Port-au-Prince is a tomb.”
“Almost at every turn, a nightmarish scene. A dead abandoned baby. A man with stumps for legs. A woman on an unfolded cardboard box, blooding pooling beneath.”
On the Guardian’s front page, the race against time for humanitarian aid is the focus of attention. The headline reads, “Time running out as aid fails to reach Haiti quake victims.”
Beneath, that there is a photo by Associated Press journalist, Patrick Farrell, showing a man carrying the body of a young woman with several onlookers holding hands up to their mouths in apparent shock and grief.
That same photo also appears on the front page of Le Monde which went to press yesterday afternoon. The headline: “In Haiti, death, desolation and ruins”
Special envoy Jean-Michel Caroit provides equally graphic descriptions of bodies strewn on footpaths, cries of pain and cries for help…
As for medical efforts, Dr. Sintécile Benjamin told Caroit, “I came here as a charitable worker but we have nothing, no equipment, no medication…” She was operating out of Saint-Esprit hospital in Port-au-Prince.
Elsewhere in Le Monde, an architect Patrick Culambel explains why Port-au-Prince crumbled from palaces to shanty towns and how to rebuild.
Concrete is a good building material to build fast and cheaply. But to build well with concrete, you need a basic level of expertise.The best builders have in fact left Haiti.
Culambel is a specialist of in the reconstruction of villages and President of an association called “Architect de l’Urgence” and notably worked in Indonesia after the tsunami.
He says the priority in zones at risk of catastrophes is to build low and light-weight housing that doesn’t create serious injury if it collapses.
They use a ‘cash-for-work’ principle, paying people to build their own homes, often grouping together around 50 houses in a village-type organization. One or two experts oversee the effort. Through home-owners rebuilding themselves, it creates work too and allows money to filter back into the economy, through construction.
The French Catholic paper, La Croix, says the four priorities for the humanitarian effort are:
1/ Getting the humanitarian aid on site
2/ Coordinating the help
Will aid organizations be able to communicate with one another?
The UN should assume this role, despite its weakened situation, says La Croix.
3/ Reorganizing NGOs already present
For example, MSF doctors arriving as back up should replace those who’ve been working around the clock since the earthquake.
4/ Ensuring security on site
Rioting and disorder is a distinct risk as tensions rise and food and water shortages intensify.
Haiti Liberté is a weekly Haitian newspaper published in French, Kreyòl and English and based in Brooklyn and Port-au-Prince.
A little behind on the news seeing as it went to press a couple of days ago, it nonetheless leads with the earthquake. Its editorial inside is entitled, “We do not want to be people under thumb”. It seems the editorial was drafted before the quake happened it initially focuses on Haiti’s subjugation to foreign powers.
The editorial goes on to say that the need to free Haiti of foreign influence is all the more true in light of the earthquake. “Capitalist countries who exploit Haiti’s natural resources are hypocritically going to come to our rescue,” it notes.
Disinterested aid from overseas is necessary, welcome but the paper says “we can only hope that this will not be viewed as a dream opportunity to subject us to their total domination once and for all.”
Clearly there is a deep mistrust amongst many in Haiti of the US and foreign powers in general.
“It’s down to the ordinary Haitian people now to take courage within their hands and see the country reborn after this natural cataclysm and forge a future for the country,” it concludes.
To finish, we had a quick look at an article in the Washington Post which wonders whether the earthquake will provide a chance for a fresh start in U.S.-Haiti relations.