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Storms Devastate Haiti

POSTED: September 12, 2008, 12:00 am

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After four consecutive storms the Republic of Haiti is in a state of emergency as the island nation has been devastated. Hit by Tropical Storm Hanna and Hurricanes Fay, Gustav and Ike, residents of the poor Caribbean nation are confronting the loss of life and property. While international relief efforts gear up, the Haitian government is facing the near impossible task of aiding its citizens as roads have been washed away and bridges collapsed.

The Interior Department of the Government of Haiti reported on September 7, the storms left 172 dead, 27 people missing, 99 injured, 71,000 living in shelter and 86,537 households affected.

Black organizations are calling upon their members to support Haiti during this time of need. Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.  has issued a call to its members to write Members of Congress urging their support of H.R. 522  sponsored by Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FLA). The bill calls for granting temporary protected status to Haitian immigrants. The national service sorority is also calling on its members to encourage support for the “Jubilee Act,”  H.R. 2634 that advocates the cancellation of debt owed to the United States by poor nations such as Haiti.

The Institute for the Black World 21st Century, led by Dr. Ron Daniels, has also activated its Haiti Relief Fund where the public can make tax deductible donations.

The International Red Cross (ICRC) has stepped up efforts to aid victims of the storms that devastated the tiny Caribbean island. The ICRC is on the ground in Haiti and is working with the Haitian Red Cross to offer assistance to victims, including caring for children separated from their parents and identifying the dead. The ICRC has also provided supplies to about 300 families that have been displaced and are now in temporary shelters.

The United Nations has also issued an appeal for Haiti. The $108 million effort will provide humanitarian and early recovery assistance to the country over the next six months. The UN reports that up to 800,000 people, or 10 percent of Haiti’s population, is in need of assistance. The organization estimates that 70,000 people are living in temporary shelters and nearly all of the country’s agricultural land has been flooded, meaning the entire current harvest has been lost or damaged beyond saving. The UN’s World Food Programme is coordinating relief efforts but is hampered by the inability to transport supplies on the ground as roads and bridges have been damaged. Currently food supplies are being sent in by air and sea. So far, 282 metric tons of food has been delivered to Haiti.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has doubled the amount of aid to Haiti from $10 million the agency announced on September 8 to $19.5 million as conditions worsen in the country. The additional aid includes $7 million in support to the UN World Food Programme and $2.5 million for international disaster assistance, including relief supplies, health programs, temporary shelter and other urgent aid. Other nations, such as Japan which has announced it is providing emergency relief supplies, are beginning to determine how they will provide support to Haiti.

The Republic of Haiti is on the western part of the island of Hispaniola, 50 miles east of Cuba; a land mass it shares with the Dominican Republic. Its capital is Port-au-Prince and it is home to some 8 million residents, 95 percent of whom are of African Descent. The official language is Creole/French. The United States is the main trading partner of Haiti. The country holds special significance for the Diaspora as it was the first independent Black led nation in the world, having gained its sovereignty as a result of a successful slave rebellion that was led by Toussaint Louverture, a former slave.

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