Heavy Rains Leave 13 Dead in Haiti; NCC Plans for 'Long Term' Response

Heavy rains over the weekend left 13 dead and hundreds of shelters flooded in southern Haiti, a report from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said.

The floods also left three people missing and forced the evacuation of 3,428 others.

Jean-Yves Placide, regional president of the Haitian National Red Cross Society, said the effects of the flood were exacerbated by the "poor state of the sewers."

"In some places the waters rose to ceiling level in people's houses," Placide told Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN). "The situation will be really worrying if it continues to rain."

"The sun is out now, but the storm clouds come and go," he added.

The U.N. estimates that around 1.3 million survivors of the Jan. 12 quake are living in spontaneous settlements throughout the country, with only 40 percent of them having received plastic tarps for shelters.

Sanitation also continues to be a pressing need for survivors, especially as the raining season approaches. The U.N. reports that only 13 percent of survivors have access to latrines, despite work being done by 26 organizations.

Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive, meanwhile, recently denounced the exclusion of the Haitian government in handling the large amounts of foreign aid that has swept into the country since the tragedy.

"We don't know who has given money to NGO's (nongovernmental organizations) and how much money have they given. ... At the moment, we can't do any coordination or have any coherent policies for giving to the population," he said, according to Reuters.

Bellerive's remarks came as European Union (EU) foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton visited the country for the first time on Wednesday to speak about reconstruction plans.

"One of the issues that all governments have to tackle is making sure there is a system in place to ensure that the aid reaches the people it's intended for," Ashton said according to Reuters. "We will work with them (the government) to try and make sure that that happens."

The National Council of Churches (NCC), meanwhile, has scheduled a meeting on April 6 to begin planning for its "long term engagement with the renewal and recovery of the people and nation of Haiti," a statement from the group said.

"This meeting is the first step in a listening process that will involve all the constituencies, in particular, our Haitian brothers and sisters," an invitation letter to the ecumenical officers of the group's 36 member communions read. "We expect that this process will result in the identification of the work we can do together and the resources we can bring to the projects we identify."

Preliminary work the NCC plans to accomplish prior to the meeting include identifying the needs of the Haitian communities in the U.S., with particular attention to persons who came to the communities as earthquake refugees; consulting with religious leaders in Haiti to learn how they envision a response to needs; and caring for the spiritual and emotional needs of Haitian religious leaders who have lived through the disaster.

The group's General Secretary, the Rev. Michael Kinnamon, noted that the meeting is taking place as the impact of the 8.8 earthquake in Chile is still being evaluated.

"Certainly all of us feel a need to respond to tragedies wherever they occur," Kinnamon said. "Our hearts sometimes compel us to rush in and duplicate efforts in ways that are not always helpful. We intend this meeting on Haiti to help us create a model for ways we can use all our resources in the most helpful and constructive ways, wherever there is need."

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