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Progress report on Haiti

In his latest report on the ‘Stabilization Mission in Haiti’, the Secretary-General of the United Nations speaks of the “considerable strides” made in the country since the earthquake of January 2010.

These include the peaceful transition of power from one democratically elected president to another for the first time in Haiti’s history and a security situation which remains “relatively calm”. Security in the country will continue to be bolstered by the ongoing presence of 12,000 UN troops for at least another year, until October 2012. However, the report also acknowledges the “significant humanitarian challenges” which lie ahead, particularly concerning the huge community of displaced people who remain dependent on assistance for their everyday survival.

As of June 2011, around 634,000 Haitians were still living in just over 1,000 camps. Though 73,000 transitional shelters had been constructed (of the planned 116,000) and the number of people living in the camps has continued to decline, the rate at which this number is being reduced has significantly slowed. Since March, only 47,000 persons were reported to have left camp sites. Work is underway to provide more of the displaced with sustainable houses. But the report notes how the majority of the money pledged by international donors has so far yet to be spent. 1.74 billion dollars was donated for the period 2010/2011 towards recovery and reconstruction efforts, but only 38 per cent of this sum has been disbursed.

Some of the delay has been caused by the lack of a functioning government in Haiti. However, since the report was issued, the lower house of Parliament has approved the President’s third nomination of Garry Conille for prime minister. Mr Conille, a doctor who served as an aide to former US President Bill Clinton in his role as special UN envoy to Haiti, must still be approved by the Senate. But once that happens, a new Haitian government can finally be formed. This should help to speed up reconstruction projects, such as the 30 million-dollar programme to relocate people from 6 camps in Port-au-Prince to 16 priority neighbourhoods which was recently approved by the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission.

The Secretary General’s report also expressed concern about the number of non-governmental agencies pulling out of Haiti because of reduced donor funding and the negative impact this could have on cholera prevention efforts. Though mortality rates have declined since the start of the epidemic (from 5.6 per cent of all cases to 1.4 per cent in August 2011), with any decline in water services and sanitation provided to the camps, this trend could reverse. Nevertheless, the government continues to respond to spikes in cholera cases in conjunction with humanitarian agencies and as of July 2011, there were 34 cholera treatment centres, 189 treatment units and 858 oral rehydration points throughout the country.

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