For Immediate Release
Haiti Earthquake One Month On: Oxfam says ‘Still A Mountain to Climb’ in Haiti
International agency Oxfam warns today a Herculean
effort is still needed if public health in Haiti is not to deteriorate.
Time is pressing as there are only six weeks before the start of the
The agency said there have been enormous and successful efforts in
getting clean water and food to people since the quake hit exactly a
month ago. To date, Oxfam has provided assistance to about 100,000
people and continues to scale up operations, planning to reach at least
500,000 people by the end of July.
But the same progress must now be made in tackling poor sanitation and the aid agency says a surge in effort is needed from the international community, the UN and aid agencies in advance of the rainy season, due in April.
The organization fears that cases of diarrhea and other water-borne
diseases could spread given the combination of poor drainage, a limited
number of latrines and crowded living conditions.
Oxfam has so far installed latrines at 11 key sites and many more
are planned. Public health teams are also working with communities to
reduce the risk of disease by rubbish-clearing and awareness-raising.
But there is still a long way to go.
“Thanks to the generous public and political response the aid effort
has rapidly expanded to meet people’s needs but there is still a
mountain to climb.
“We now need a surge in effort to improve sanitation facilities for
people in Haiti. Let us not kid ourselves that this is going to be
easy, it requires a Herculean humanitarian effort from all quarters.
“Around 230,000 people lost their lives on January 12. It is our
priority to make sure that we don’t let that number grow,” said Marcel
Stoessel, Head of Oxfam in Haiti.
The temporary camps where people have congregated are fast-becoming
over-crowded slums and need upgrading to allow easy access to basic
services. More ditches need to be dug to improve the drainage in the
crowded camps before the rains begin. Oxfam also fears for the safety
of people who have moved to areas that are at risk from land and
mudslides because of the upcoming rains.
The Government has plans to resettle people but it still needs to
clarify whether there is government land available or if it needs to
confiscate private land instead.
It also needs to ensure that people are not forced to move away from their communities,
that new camps are safe and that there is a plan in place to ensure
that camps do not becoming dumping grounds outside the city. These
decisions need to be taken quickly.
The huge logistical challenges facing the aid effort –
communications, transport, loss of key staff, destroyed physical and
political infrastructure – are slowly being overcome but bottlenecks
While the coordination of the aid effort is going well, Oxfam said
it still needs to be improved. Hundreds of agencies now in Haiti –
estimates vary from 500 to 900 – are playing their part in the response
and the UN has made great strides in coordinating the aid effort but
along with the Government it needs to provide stronger leadership.
As more than 75 per cent of Haiti’s capital needs to be rebuilt,
reconstruction will take many years and needs the full support of the
international community, Oxfam said. The Government needs to elaborate
on its reconstruction vision as the many rumours about its plans are
causing a sense of anxiety amongst those who have lost their homes.
"Whatever the vision of the Haitian government is, it should ensure
that a newly built Haiti does not recreate the injustices and
inequalities of the past.
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“The country’s reconstruction ought to be led by Haitians for Haitians,”
Stoessel said. “With more than 80 per cent below the poverty line
before the earthquake, the needs of Haiti’s poor must be central.”
Though the focus of the aid effort centers around the capital, where
the majority of needs are, there is a growing concern about conditions
in the countryside where nearly 500,000 people have fled. Vigilance is
needed to ensure that their needs do not fall off the radar and support
must be provided to those hosting them.
For more information or to arrange interviews contact:
Ian Bray on UK mobile +44 (0)7721 461 339
In the UK:
Zahra Akkerhuys on +44 (0)1865 472359 or +44 (0)7525 901932
In New York:
Louis Belanger on +1 (917) 224 0834
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Oxfam International is a confederation of 13 like-minded organizations working together and with partners and allies around the world to bring about lasting change. Oxfam works directly with communities and that seeks to influence the powerful to ensure that poor people can improve their lives and livelihoods and have a say in decisions that affect them.