Haiti Advocates Tell US Govt. No Time for Complacency

A coalition of non-profits have urged the U.S. government to redouble its efforts in ensuring that reconstruction work in Haiti continues and at a swifter pace.

The Haiti Advocacy Working Group (HAWG), which include more than two dozen non-profit and humanitarian organizations, staged a three day meeting last week with members of Congress, Haitian and Haitian Diaspora partners in the U.S., the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. Department of State to address issues of land and housing rights, gender-based violence, camp conditions, and other matters that continue to be serious issues for recovering residents of Haiti.

Two years after the 7.0 earthquake that killed over 316,000 people, progress in reconstruction remains painfully slow, according to HAWG member Church World Service (CWS). Over half a million Haitians still remain in temporary camps and $500 million in U.S. funds remains unspent.

"Haiti's reconstruction process will only be a success when the Haitian government and
international donors begin to listen to the real needs of the Haitian people," said Pierre DouDou,
National Coordinator of RENHASSA (Network for Food Sovereignty and Food Security) in a statement. "Expert farmers must be involved in the reconstruction. Women's groups. Poor people living in the camps. Only then will we start to see sustainable results."

Jasmine Huggins, CWS senior advocacy officer for Haiti, told members of Congress during the meetings that it's not time to focus on the blame game, as some representatives have done.

"While it is vital to analyze what can be learned from the past and how aid delivery to those in need can be improved, now is not the time to try to cast blame," she said.

Along with hunger and malnutrition, the matter of safety, especially for women, has become a serious issue for those living in the encampments.

"This week, Haitian partners told us that women still in camps and those evicted from them urgently require safe and secure housing so that their risk of sexual violence can be minimized as quickly as possible," said Huggins, who noted that the issue of sexual violence has been compounded by lack of food and employment, as hungry women feel forced to sell sex for money in order to support their families and themselves.

About $3 billion in worldwide aid has been raised to assist Haiti following the 2010 disaster, which crippled what was already the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere.

The Haiti Advocacy Week meetings, held Jan. 23-25 in Washington, D.C., were staged just two weeks after the quake's anniversary on Jan. 12.

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