Commitment to Haiti in question

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“Manje, manje (Food, food)!” voices cried.

The sounds of propellers roared as a small privately owned airplane flew into the Les Cayes Airport in Haiti. Hungry and desperate spectators shoved and pushed outside the wired fence as they watched rice and beans being unloaded off the airplanes.

This load of food would not be nearly enough to feed the people of this town. The small private planes were the main form of supply transport to the cities surrounding Port-au-Prince, because many roads that leave the main port city had been destroyed.

Ten miles away, in the Bamachan village, a line formed. 1,700 people, both young and old, gathered to receive the supplies of rice and beans from the recent shipment. A woman from the village stood in a pick-up truck bed as she carefully measured the portion sizes, one small handful of rice and one small handful of beans. This would only temporarily satisfy their hunger.

In response to the Haiti earthquake, billions in fundraising money has been pledged and collected, but very little has actually made its way to people. There is speculation on where the money has gone and why so little progress has been made in Haiti.

Alexander Murphy, an 18-year-old freshman majoring in biology at Cal State Fullerton, thinks that a good job has been done with the Haiti relief efforts, but feels promises have not been kept.

“We need to commit to certain promises we’ve made to Haiti,” Murphy said. “It’s not right to forget about something we have committed to.”

Haiti experienced a 7.0 earthquake Jan. 12, 2010. The Haitian government reported that over 1 million people were left homeless and another 230,000 were estimated to have been killed. There was an estimated $7.8 billion in losses reported for the country.

“Honestly, the most I can say (about Haiti) is that I haven’t heard much of anything after the first month after the earthquake,” said Erich Finkle, a 21-year-old English major. “Occasionally, someone important will come on T.V. in a commercial asking for donations. There’s a general lack of information on what the current status it.”

According to the United Nations, over 130 countries have pledged a total of $10 billion to the immediate and long-term aid of Haiti. The largest pledges come from Europe, United States, Spain, Canada, World Bank, France and Brazil.

Former president Bill Clinton, in charge of coordinating the distribution of the aid, spoke on the progress earlier this week at the annual Clinton Global Initiative meeting.

“There is a lot of money that has been promised to Haiti, but not much has been given. Almost all that has been given has been for the emergency phase. Now we’re into rebuilding … but we need the donors to come up with the money,” Clinton said.

Only 10 percent of the money pledged by the 130 countries has been collected.

In addition to these billions, fundraisers such as celebrity benefit concerts like “Hope for Haiti Now,” have collected over $61 Million. The Red Cross collected more than $465 million specifically for earthquake relief, but only $150 million of this money has been spent on food, kitchen items and shelters.

“I heard a lot about the Haiti efforts at home in Sweden when the earthquake first happened. There was lots of fundraising, T.V. spotlights, shows, people knocking on doors for donations and Swedish celebrities sent to Haiti to help,” said Sara Andersson, a Swedish exchange student. “At first lots of support was sent, but now I don’t ever hear much talk about Haiti.”

There are billions of dollars which have been raised and not all of the money has been spent, but Haitians are still going hungry and living in rubble. This is because the money which has been pledged is for the long-term projects to rebuild the infrastructure of Haiti in the years to come in a three-part plan.

Joseph Weber, a professor in the Department of Sociology, has not heard much after the initial reports on Haiti.

“I was devastated when the earthquake first happened and as time went by we’ve forgotten about the victims and I am left to wonder if they have been taken care of,” Weber said. “Initially when it happened the U.S., a great country, moved in to offer support, but now I am not quite sure”.

Haiti will elect a new president in the upcoming November 2010 elections. The new president will oversee the reconstruction of the country’s infrastructure. The first step involves rebuilding the infrastructure, including government buildings, hospitals and schools. Next, they plan to rebuild in the areas away from cities, those vulnerable to natural disaster. Finally, there are hopes to develop a plan of agriculture to make Haiti self-sufficient.

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