Haiti President Renée Préval said Wednesday the country needs sturdy tents and paying jobs immediately to avert a longterm catastrophe, and U.S. health officials said they are working to improve sanitation and prevent disease in the hundreds of squalid encampments where nearly one million homeless now live.
“Help the people with tents. Create employment so people can buy food in the country. That is what’s most important,” Préval said at a press conference with Organization of American States Secretary General José Miguel Insulza.
Préval said reconstruction “will not happen today or tomorrow,” and that the country must not rush to rebuild in haphazard fashion. “There are no miracle solutions,” he said.
Meantime, Haitians are clearing the debris for themselves — some 5,000 on $4-a-day wages plus food rations offered by the United Nations Development Program. In Delmas Wednesday morning, Haitians working in 10-member teams could be seen sweeping up debris, their faces covered in masks against the stench of rotting bodies still trapped in rubbled buildings. In Tabarre, near the airport, Haitians were at work digging latrines at a shantytown-style shelter site the government on Monday designated a displaced persons camp.
President Préval pleaded for the international community to send 200,000 family-sized tents and 36 million food rations to feed an estimated 1.5 million people — the survivors of the Jan. 12 7.0 earthquake that killed an estimated 200,000 people. Haiti’s government Monday also designated two camps for displaced persons in Port-au-Prince: The one on the road to Tabarre, the other at Croix des Bouquets. A third site is planned for the quake shattered zone of Leogane, west of the capital. (Miami Herald)