Congresswoman Waters reviews some of the plastic being used to shelter Haitians who have been left homeless by the earthquake. The Congresswoman remains concerned that unless all survivors are given access to sturdy, safe, and weatherized shelter, the upcoming rainy season will spread disease and further expose survivors to the elements.
Haiti Debt Relief Bill Passes the House
From Port-au-Prince to the Capitol to the White House, Congresswoman Maxine Waters Continues to Lead Efforts to Help Haiti Recover and Rebuild
The House of Representatives passed the Debt Relief for Earthquake Recovery in Haiti Act (H.R. 4573), authored by Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), last night. This legislation directs the United States to seek the cancellation of Haiti's debts to the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and other multilateral development institutions. The Senate is expected to adopt the Congresswoman's bill this week, clearing the way for President Obama to sign it into law.
Congresswoman Waters explained, "The work of USAID, the UN, and the many nonprofit organizations in Haiti is to be commended. However, I fear that unless we act immediately to secure thousands of stable, weatherized housing units, the rainy and hurricane season will compound the misery currently being felt by so many Haitians.
"During my recent trip to Haiti, I was able to review various materials used to construct housing units that can provide adequate protection from the elements. The technology is available, and I believe the will to keep Haitians dry and healthy during this time of extreme hardship exists, but we need the resources and organizational capacity to get the tents delivered, distributed, and set up immediately. Rains have already begun to fall on Haiti, and forecasters are predicting this could be a very active hurricane season. Without secure housing for all Haitians, disease will spread and cause further death and despair in a country already reeling.
"I was encouraged to learn that United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visited Haiti today and stressed the need for continued financial contributions. He reiterated that the U.N. is committed to building more housing in advance of the hurricane season.
"I'm continuing to call attention to this issue, and I am working to secure medication to distribute in the camps and cleansing products for communal areas such as food distribution sites and latrines to further prevent the spread of disease."
The above statement was followed by:
"I am pleased that my bill to cancel Haiti's debt held by multilateral development institutions is set to become law. Debt relief is essential for Haiti's future. However, we must also keep in mind the immediate needs of survivors who, without adequate shelter, will be further subjected to the elements and to disease during the upcoming rainy season. I applaud the efforts of our government, military, and charitable organizations for the assistance they have provided thus far, and I will be doing everything in my power to continue to work with them to alleviate the suffering and attend to the basic needs of the Haitian people."
Having returned from Haiti earlier this week--her second trip there since the earthquake in January--the Congresswoman continues to sound the alarm about the need to urgently provide more shelter to the hundreds of thousands of Haitians whose homes were destroyed. Many Haitians are living outdoors in makeshift camps, and the upcoming rainy season is putting them at greater risk of flooding and disease. The Congresswoman has repeatedly called on the international community to deliver and distribute durable tents to Haitians and has raised the issue with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and other officials.
"My second trip to Haiti since the earthquake only reaffirms what I've long known--the situation for hundreds of thousands of homeless Haitians is going to rapidly deteriorate when the heavy rains and hurricanes soon begin," said Congresswoman Waters. "Malaria, typhoid, scabies and other highly infectious and deadly diseases are going to spread like wildfire unless a comprehensive plan is implemented to acquire thousands more durable shelter units and set them up safely, sustainably, and immediately."
During her trip to Haiti last weekend, Congresswoman Waters:
- Met with the U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Kenneth Merten, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Ambassador Lou Luck, who is coordinating on-the-ground humanitarian efforts, and the UN Coordinator for Humanitarian Relief;
- Brought food and supplies to CitÅ½ Soleil, the poorest neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, an area where residents have received little or no assistance from relief groups since the earthquake;
- Reviewed a food distribution operation in PÅ½tionville led by a non-governmental organization;
- Toured a large camp that is housing approximately 12,000 survivors and was taken by locals to a camp unknown to relief workers where 700 people live. After Congresswoman Waters alerted USAID of the camp's presence, USAID entered the camp into its database so it could be evaluated and will receive relief supplies moving forward;
- Discussed contracting opportunities for local workers with 150 Haitian business leaders and the USAID Contracting Officer, and reviewed some of the "jobs for cash" programs currently under way;
- Visited a temporary shelter demonstration site, showcasing different forms of shelter;
- Attended a "cluster" meeting at Bo-Jeux Parc where recovery and response efforts are coordinated and saw an army-grade medical tent she secured during her previous visit to Haiti being used by medical care providers to deliver babies; and
- Brought a U.S. seismologist to the country to study aftershocks and share information with Haitians about the potential for future disasters and what can be done to prevent widespread devastation.
"What really resonated with me during this trip was the stark reality of just how long it will take Haiti to recover and rebuild," said Congresswoman Waters. "Many areas of Port-au-Prince are still not being regularly serviced by relief workers--and some camps are subsisting completely on their own. The coordination and organizational efforts are clearly under way, but I am well aware that it remains a work-in-progress. Much more must be done to provide all Haitians with food and clean water, secure shelter, and economic livelihood."
Congresswoman Waters was among a select group of Members of Congress at an event yesterday at the White House with President Obama and Haitian President RenÅ½ Prevâ€¡l, having been invited in recognition of her leadership on assistance for Haiti. Also attending were representatives of non-governmental organizations and foundations involved in the relief effort, Haitian-American community leaders and members of Urban Search and Rescue teams from Los Angeles and other cities.