Friday, December 3, 2010

We dont have snow but we do have politics...

PaP, 03rd. December

Hello from a scorching Haiti,

Ireland and Haiti have something in common this week; it’s definitely not the weather but rather that both country's political future is hanging in the balance.

On 28th November, the election took place for the next President of Haiti. A successor to Rene Preval has yet to be announced. Despite numerous allegations of vote rigging, the various organisations monitoring and observing the election seem happy with how the day proceeded and are confident that the result will be fair and valid.

The latest update put the musician Michel "Sweet Micky" Martelly and the former first lady Mirlande Manigat at 39% and 31% respectively, with the preferred candidate the previous president René Préval, Jude Celestin, on 12%.

Despite some protests, both peaceful and otherwise in the run up to polling day, the event itself passed off in relative calm. Any anger or frustration was primarily directed at the Minustah, the UN stabilisation mission that has been blamed for various problems - from heavy-handed tactics to causing the cholera outbreak that has claimed the lives of 1,800 men, women and children, since mid October.

The count is currenlty ongoing, with a final result expected on 20th December. Meanwhile the people wait with baited breath.

Haven’s operations were unfortunately affected by security concerns due to the political tensions. The UN and various embassies sent regular updates warning us of potential flashpoints.

Our projects in Gonaives and Ouanaminthe have been particularly affected. The Haven expat team were on ‘lock-down’ for three days at the end of November. This has been totally frustrating for us, as our work plans and schedules seem now to be constantly disrupted due to these pockets of violence and tension which seem to start very easily.

We also have to bear in mind the safety of our national staff when demonstrations get out of hand. If we feel that our staff is under threat or in danger, we send them home until the situation returns to normal. This results in hours and days of productivity being lost as well as putting all of the team on edge.

Not only are the team on edge but our families also. This week my wife, Sinead and I decided that Port au Prince was no longer a safe place for the family to live. Unfortunately she and my two boys Reuben and Louie, left Haiti’s capital, late last week, bound for county Cork via New York and Bornacoola, Leitrim.

Despite all of the dramatics Haven is still ploughing ahead on our Transitional Shelter projects which are funded by American Red Cross, Plan international and Oxfam America. To date we have 100 T-Shelters completed, and another 600 to go. The pressure is on big time to try and increase production to 100 units per month by the end of January.

Housing construction and upgrades continue at Gonaives, Cabaret and Ti Riviere. Last big push before a well deserved Christmas holiday. Bring on the Turkey!

Our cholera mitigation programme is on-going, distributing hygiene kits, oral rehydration sachets, and holding hygiene promotion sessions in the campsites and schools in which we are working, as well as with beneficiaries in Ouanaminthe and Gonaives.

The PAHO has estimated that a massive 400,000 lives will be lost within 12 months of the epidemic taking hold. However they also stated that the rate of deaths from the infection has now slowed to 2.3%, down from 9%.

It may be dim, but there is some light at the end of the tunnel.

Until next week!

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