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Desperation mounts as 400,000 set to move to temporary villages

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2010-01-22

The Haitian government said Thursday 400,000 survivors would be moved to new villages to be built outside the ravaged coastal city. The World Bank is considering debt forgiveness for five years.

Haiti’s government and aid workers are turning to the mammoth task of feeding and sheltering hundreds of thousands of earthquake survivors still living in the capital’s rubble-strewn streets and filthy tent cities. Aid and food is moving into Port-au-Prince, but many still lack basic necessities 10 days after the magnitude 7 quake battered the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country and killed up to 200,000 people.

A Tale of Two Haitis

“It’s a ‘Tale of Two Haitis', really,” said Nathan King, FRANCE24 special correspondent in Port-au-Prince. “There were some shops open, a bank branch open, and we saw a market where people were selling things, including food. Then you’ve got the other Haiti, where there are hundreds of thousands of people who have lost their homes and their livelihoods and are building tents anywhere they can. The desperation is continuing to mount.”

As many as 1.5 million Haitians were made homeless by the Jan. 12 earthquake that rocked the small Caribbean country and devastated its capital of Port-au-Prince.

The government said on Thursday 400,000 survivors would be moved to new villages to be built outside the ravaged coastal city, where the homeless huddle, cook and sleep amid decaying corpses and mounds of garbage.

Interior Minister Paul Antoine Bien-Aime said the first wave would move 100,000 refugees to tent villages of 10,000 each near the northern town of Croix Des Bouquets.

Aid mobilisation improving, but far from adequate

A consistent problem plaguing the nation is that it lacks the infrastructure to organise the distribution of aid – due both to pre-existing problems and the collapse of services after the quake.

King said that the aid resources have begun to budge a bit, but not enough. “It depends on where you are, and it’s a little sporadic. People here are overwhelmed with the aid rushing in, the UN presence, people on the streets, builders trying to knock down buildings, which are precarious. We’ve got police trying to get back on the streets. It takes two hours to get anywhere. Aid is getting out, but people have not taken down those SOS signs. People often aren’t able to get to distribution points before the aid runs out.”

Port-au-Prince tries to resume normal life

One beacon of hope is that Haiti’s main port, a potential hub for the international campaign to feed this quake-devastated nation, was to open partially Friday. Haitian officials expect that once the port is open, many Haitians will attempt to flee to other parts of the island, or perhaps to another country altogether.

Date created : 2010-01-22


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