President Prval is making irreversible errors

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President Préval is making irreversible errors

Paul Gustave Magloire

On January 12, the earthquake which devastated our country, Haiti, according to the estimates, have caused the death of approximately 200,000 people, have resulted in 250,000 wounded and 1,5 million new homeless people, in a country where already 72% of the population live in horrible misery.

Furthermore, the majority of the public buildings of the capital are destroyed and the surrounding suburbs are in ruin, in addition to the town of Léogane, Grand-Goâve, Petit-Goâve and Jacmel.

Furthermore, according to the geologists, the ground, which continues to shake, indicates that we still run the risk of being struck by another seism of great proportion.

Even without another cataclysm, it will require many resources and will take much time to suitably look after the casualties, to continue to extract the corpses from the debris and to start the rebuilding of the cities in ruins, before the country can finally be brought back to some degree of normalcy.

However, the mistakes being made by the government can ultimately be the cause of huge damage to the social structure of the country and furthermore be the main obstacles to allow us to one day achieve certain normality of life. As a matter of fact, these errors are nothing but the expression of the lack of courage, the irresponsibility and the absence of leadership on the part of those who are in charge.

When a country is struck by such a cataclysm and the main rumor on the streets is that the President, soon after the earthquake, sought to flee from his responsibilities and take refuge in a foreign country; it gives us many reasons to wonder what is to be expected in the days ahead, which for obvious reasons will be very difficult.

It should not be forgotten either that, in this context, neither the members of the political sector, nor those of the private sector, were called upon by the government immediately after the earthquake to join in an national effort of mobilization to save the homeland in danger.

Only buddies and friends close to the center of power received the nod. This inevitably caused any observers to reflect that the political power has become even more exclusive, and as such it is poised to make its own the expected funds of assistance, which will come from the international donors.

If such is the case, it would be a shame?

And it is exactly the reason why the givers are afraid to entrust the much needed financial assistance to this government of plunderers.

According to a press statement, from each dollar of the international assistance, only one cent may enter the coffers of those in charge of the government.

The country has never had a government which is viewed with such poor esteem and respect.

So much so that a leader of the Canado-Haitians Organizations for the Development, Eric Faustin, during the meeting about the international assistance to be provided to Haiti, held on January 25 in Canada, referring to the risks of corruption and diversion of the international assistance, declared to the Haitian delegation led by the Haitian Prime Minister, Jean-Max Bellerive: "We ask you to give us reasons to be proud and to be satisfied by taking steps to offer transparency as well as effective coordination and management of any international financial assistance".

Another official representative at the meeting, the American Secretary of State, Mrs. Hillary Clinton, after a private conversation with Canadian the Prime Minister, Mr. Harper, insisted on "the importance of the effectiveness and of the accountability in the management of the assistance funds".

The question is: Were these appeals heard?

The Failure of the Préval-Bellerive Government and their consorts

In a crisis situation created by a cataclysm like this earthquake, the actions are generally implemented in three phases: the Rescue efforts, the Rehabilitation and the Reconstruction.

In the first phase, that of the Rescue efforts, it is necessary to look after the casualties, to distribute water and food and to guarantee shelters to the population in the affected areas, by focusing in particular on the most vulnerable segments of the population such as the expectant mothers, the people with reduced mobility, the children and the elderly.

If aid measures are not implemented quickly, those who are left wounded and even those unscathed by the disaster, can quickly become victims themselves by the lack of care, by lack of food and water and by the opportunistic diseases, such as malaria and dysentery etc...

It is also necessary to give decent burials to the dead and to somehow register them in order to prevent as much as possible that the identity of the dead is not lost forever to their close relatives.

If nothing is done to mark the place of burials, this can also create legal complications in the future.

Thus, it appears that the current government failed horribly in its basic responsibilities during this first phase.

For several days, the population was abandoned and even the help that came from abroad was not coordinated.

In other instances, the authorities did not put forth even a minimum effort to record the dead, whose bodies were thrown haphazardly in common mass graves, showing total contempt and disregard for any human dignity.

Yet, some simple measures could have been taken to create an index in order to account for the missing.

Thus, before carrying the bodies to the pit, a photograph could be taken of each corpse, using a small digital camera, which can store thousands of photographs in a microfilm.

And since each photograph would be assigned a number, one could have drawn up a numbered list and blood sample of each victim could be placed next to the number of the photograph in the index.

As such, in the future, a relative who is looking for a potential victim could easily find it by consulting the index, thanks to the technique of identification by DNA.

If during the Rescue, the government had shown a minimum of ability to coordinate the rescue efforts, one would have forgotten their lack of visibility during the first days of the crisis.

This lack of visibility caused the entire nation to conclude that the government had disappeared under the rubble of the public buildings.

However, this was not the case. As a matter of fact, not much later the next day, we all saw a president who appeared on TV to the nation simply to say "I lost my palace..." How disappointing! This translates the widespread mindset of political leaders that the nation's assets, that they are supposed to manage, belong to them.

A country bare at all levels

In such a crisis, the second phase, the Rehabilitation phase can start on a parallel track to the Rescue phase.

In this phase, the effort is put on the rehabilitation of the systems and the wide-area networks such as the re-establishment of the drinking water networks, the system and the delivery of electricity, the public transport system, which will require the clearing of the main roads and the re-establishment of the telecommunication services, telephone and the Internet as well as the other public communication services, such as radios and televisions.

In the case concerning Haiti, it is also necessary to restore the secondary roads as well, in order to especially facilitate the resumption of the distribution means for the agricultural goods for the benefit of the population.

In addition, it is also necessary to create even temporary jobs to provide the unscathed and affected survivors the means of providing for their needs and the means of getting out of this lethargic condition and the means of coping with the psychological shocks created by cataclysm.

The initial tendency, quite naturally, is that a sizable portion of the population of the affected areas will flee towards the not-affected areas in search of shelters and means of survival.

Unfortunately, they will arrive in these areas that are themselves deprived of adequate means to accommodate them. Therefore, if concrete actions are not adopted to reinforce these areas, the situation will degenerate quickly and it is the social fabric of these areas that will be affected as well. Support measures must be targeted especially towards food requirements, housing, towards the support for the children and the patients.

In a country like ours where the networks and the systems of the urban environment exist at a rudimentary level, the rehabilitation effort is quite simply generally equivalent to the rebuilding effort

The rebuilding must start immediately

Considering the extent of the disaster, the government is seeking to encourage the displacement of the population of Port-au-Prince towards the provinces, a movement which had already begun in a spontaneous way. But, once again, according to information gathered, the authorities were unable to set up an assistance system to reasonably encourage those who seek to leave the capital Port-au-Prince, which was already too concentrated.

In the north, for example, families, who hurried to board transportation buses from Port-au-Prince, arrived in cities that they had never visited before and where they do not have any family ties. This situation took the local leaders of the provinces by surprise, and unprepared without the adequate resources to deal with the situation.

The list of the mistakes of this kind by those in charge of our government is too long for anyone to cite them all. Thus, it is clear that, besides the catastrophe, the country faces another major problem, which is the incompetence of those in charge.

Nevertheless, if the construction phase starts without delay, by stressing the administrative decentralization of the capital, we are likely to avoid other grave and irreversible mistakes.

Within the stage of rebuilding or construction of the systems, especially if the intensity of the disaster implies the destruction of the public buildings and a great number of private houses, the phase of rebuilding will generally take time and financial outlays that, in certain cases like that of Haiti, inevitably exceed the national capacity by far. This resource gap will worsen, more especially since the aid delay could cause the mass displacement of the population, in the search of means of survival, towards the neighboring areas that are not affected.

Regardless, we need a minimum plan and the necessary funding for launching this plan.

Thus, a few days before the Haitian delegation, led by Haitian the Prime Minister, was scheduled to meet with the international donors in Canada, I had issued a proposal, which I took care of sending specifically to Mr. Bellerive.

It was about a summary for a quick decentralization plan consisting of 4 national programs that could potentially be implemented within 15 to 30 days, with a budget of approximately 300 million dollars.

The first portion of $30 million would be allocated to fund a reforestation project in the mountains.

This fund would be used to immediately launch the programs of community reforestation by creating tens of thousands of jobs in the sprouting of nurseries and the activities of seeding.

This part of this program would be used for immediate employment of the members of this population that has already migrated to the provinces.

The second portion of $60 million would be dedicated to the universal education of children of schooling age. This would be important in order to start to give as quickly as possible a semblance of normality to the children of this newly settled population.

This would keep them occupied, while instructing them by giving them this education, which is promised to them by the constitution of 1987. And in the process, tens of thousands of young college graduates would be recruited and would become involved as teachers to these children.

Thousands of fathers and mothers in the diverse municipalities throughout the country would likely find an assignment in activities associated to this vast education program of our children.

The third portion of $90 million would go towards the creation of a fund that would train and finance entrepreneurs of the country and the Diaspora who want to establish small and medium businesses of production and of service in the cities of the provinces.

As such those that have migrated from Port-au-Prince will not be forced to depend solely on the central capital for their resources and the multiple services which they will eventually need.

And the fourth and last portion of $120 million would be invested in the basic infrastructures and in support of our municipalities, such as the reinforcing of the government administrative system, the secondary roads, the first aid services, the collection of garbage and others...

With these programs, people, who took part in the spontaneous exodus to flee the capital, could ultimately find a favorable environment to sustain them in the provinces.

The Haitian people deserve a better government

The city of Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital, is built on a great fault which starts from Pétion-Ville, to end in Tiburon, the most southern point of the country.

In 1751 and 1771, Port-au-Prince was completely destroyed by seism.

The director of the Office of the Mines and Energy of Haiti, the engineer Dieuseul Anglade, confirmed this information.

He added that the minor jolts, which continue, should be of great concern.

"They generally announce seism of stronger intensity", he warns.

This point of view is shared by the geologist, Patrick Charles, who is a former professor of the Institute of Geology Engineering of Havana.

With regards to such threats, urgent preventive measures must be adopted.

Therefore, the administrative decentralization of the country is vital for the population.

And in the effort of rebuilding, standards and procedures, that take into account the potential seismic dangers, will have to be developed and implemented without fail with great rigidity.

We must understand that the current government that speaks of its ability to deal with the rebuilding of the city of Port-au-Prince and its surroundings is, at the very least, the same government which took several months unable to react in an appropriate manner to the distress of a hundred of families who had their children engulfed in the collapse of a school in Pétion-Ville.

Yes, minus some faces in the picture, it is exactly the same government.

They are the same magicians who succeeded also to cause the disappearance of the US$197 Million of emergency funds, without any restraint or hesitation or scruple.

Thus, if it is this same government that shall remain in power to manage the consequences of this cataclysm, God help us. And if by any kind of misfortune a new cataclysm arrives, the consequences will be even more serious for the population.

In this fragile turning point of our history, more than ever, the incompetence, the lack of political will as well as the lack of respect for the assets of the state cannot be tolerated any more. Haiti cannot die. A word to the wise: Enough is Enough!

Paul Gustave Magloire

Former Interior Minister of Haïti

President of MORN

Paul G. Magloire, March 29 2010, 1:20 AM

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I have never seen so many meetings being held before on behalf of one country. And yes, I am talking about Haiti... read more >
Tiba, 29-Mar-10 8:19 am


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