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Sunday, March 13, 2011

On the Ground in Haiti (Reflections on Sunday 3/13 - Day One)

We made it. On the ground in PaP. "Fuck Babylon!" are the first discernable words I hear from outside the airport fence. (basic translation: Fuck the police). Clearly there are some underlying tensions here, but so far, I like everyone I meet.

Ritha's contact waited for us with his truck. He wasted no time voicing his views "You know the saying, hell is paved with good intentions?--Haiti." Don't misunderstand, this man loves Haiti like no other. He could be in the States with his son, a recent law school grad, but the pull of home will never subside. This just comes from years of back and forth, building, destroying and rebuilding. It's an understandable sentiment.

I was surprised by some of his views. He likes Sweet Mickey, but questions the usefulness of the elections post-quake. He advocates an interim council to rebuild key aspects of the nation, and developing "university town" hospital and university and let the rest grow organically. I suppose it's better than relocating IDPs in the desert with no food and no job.

In the evening we sat by the shade of backyard trees, meeting with our partners in IJDH. The news is that Airistide will come back Thursday. It may complicate things but it's worth it to be here. The suggestion for our focus is to gather information on Government and NGO roles in and getting their responses on IDPs/tent camps. In particular, our main area of concern is forced evictions of IDPs with no adequate alternative for housing.

We were also able to get a candid sit down with an impassioned Haitian attorney, though he darted between our conversation and the hooting and hollering of a sizeable debate in the front of the lot -- either to quiet them or partake in the excitement, I can't be sure.  He shed light on his primary concern and our third main focus: the need to involve the Haitian government, to hold them responsible, for deliberations on the housing issues here.  Despite NGO efforts here, successful coordinated efforts are going to require government involvement at some level.

Fortunately we have an upcoming meeting with the CCCM "cluster" of NGOs who we can direct these inquiries to, and meetings lined up with other orgs and Haitian Ministries later in the week.

Between the pending elections, the rumors of Airistide's return, and the upcoming meetings, this is a hell of a week to be in Haiti. Glad to be here. Cheers.

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