US leg­is­la­tors call for more in­ter­na­tional aid for Haiti

Daily Observer (Jamaica) - - NEWS -

NEW YORK, United States (CMC) — Caribbeanamer­i­can leg­is­la­tors here have called for in­ter­na­tional sup­port for Haiti, as the coun­try ob­serves the ninth an­niver­sary of the dev­as­tat­ing earthquake.

New York State Assem­bly­woman Rod­neyse Bi­chotte, the daugh­ter of Haitian im­mi­grants, and New York City Coun­cil­man Ju­maane Williams, the son of Gre­na­dian im­mi­grants, told the Caribbean Me­dia Cor­po­ra­tion on Satur­day that 2.5 mil­lion peo­ple in Haiti are still in dire need of aid.

“Haiti still needs our help,” said Bi­chotte, who rep­re­sents the 42nd Assem­bly District in Brook­lyn, adding that “the 7.0 earthquake that hit Haiti on Jan­uary 12, 2010 claimed hun­dreds of thou­sands of lives and dis­placed mil­lions”.

Since the mas­sive earthquake, Bi­chotte said Haiti has been “bat­tling the sub­se­quent cholera epi­demic and the mul­ti­tude of nat­u­ral dis­as­ters”.

But, in the midst of the strug­gle to re­build, the assem­bly­woman laments that US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has de­cided to end Tem­po­rary Pro­tec­tion Sta­tus (TPS) for over 50,000 Haitian im­mi­grants.

She noted that the de­ci­sion comes “af­ter a slew of big­oted com­ments made by Pres­i­dent Trump, dis­re­spect­ing Haiti and its peo­ple”.

“I am deeply of­fended by these words and ac­tions,” she said. “The White House’s de­ci­sion adds in­sult to in­jury with the mount­ing catas­tro­phes and dis­tress.

“I will con­tinue to speak out against the rescis­sion of TPS for Haitians and for the preser­va­tion of ba­sic hu­man rights for Haitians and all Amer­i­cans,” Bi­chotte added. “Let’s take a mo­ment of si­lence for Haiti and the peo­ple of Haiti.”

As a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the largest Haitian com­mu­nity in the United States out­side of Florida, Williams said he takes “very se­ri­ously the re­spon­si­bil­ity of con­tribut­ing to the on­go­ing mis­sion of re­mem­brance, re­cov­ery and re­build­ing.

“This is not a sen­ti­ment shared by the Trump Ad­min­is­tra­tion, which is turn­ing its back on our Haitian broth­ers and sis­ters,” said Williams, rep­re­sen­ta­tive for the pre­dom­i­nantly Caribbean 45th Coun­cil District in Brook­lyn.

He noted also that Trump, in 2017, or­dered the end of TPS, put in place af­ter the 2010 earthquake, “de­spite the on­go­ing suf­fer­ing from this earthquake and ad­di­tional mount­ing nat­u­ral dis­as­ters such as Hur­ri­cane Matthew.

“Even as the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion main­tains a travel ad­vi­sory for Haiti, it is at­tempt­ing to force Haitians out of our coun­try,” added Williams, a can­di­date for New York City Pub­lic Ad­vo­cate. “This isn’t sur­pris­ing, given that he has made vile deroga­tory com­ments about the Haitian peo­ple and the na­tion they call home.

“This ad­min­is­tra­tion has no re­gard what­so­ever for nei­ther the strength nor the strug­gles of the Haitian peo­ple,” he con­tin­ued. “I stand in sup­port of the group of peo­ple who is stand­ing up to Trump in court to pro­tect TPS and the Haitian peo­ple.

“De­spite the harm be­ing done by our Gov­ern­ment, how­ever, I know that the Amer­i­can peo­ple still recog­nise the need to ex­tend aid to our broth­ers and sis­ters in Haiti, who have done so much for our na­tion through­out its his­tory, play­ing a role in dou­bling the size of our coun­try and help­ing us to grow, and who we must re­pay,” he said.

“Our Gov­ern­ment is fac­tu­ally wrong, but our peo­ple can still act in a way that is morally right,” Williams de­clared. “I am hope­ful that we can all work to­gether in bring­ing Haiti to new heights in the year to come.”

In com­mem­o­rat­ing the an­niver­sary of the 2010 earthquake, the United Na­tions noted on Satur­day that half of the Haitian cap­i­tal, Port-auprince, was de­stroyed, 220,000 re­ported dead and 1 mil­lion res­i­dents dis­placed.

Staff at the UN Mis­sion in Haiti were also af­fected, and there were 102 UN ca­su­al­ties, in­clud­ing the Sec­re­tary­gen­eral’s Spe­cial En­voy Hédi Annabi, and his deputy, Luiz Car­los da Costa, the UN said.

“It was the ‘big­gest sin­gle loss of life in the his­tory of UN Peace­keep­ing’,” the then-pres­i­dent of the UN Staff Union, Stephen Kisam­bira, said at the time.

The UN said one of the sur­vivors was So­phie Boutaud de la Combe, cur­rently the head of com­mu­ni­ca­tions for the UN Mis­sion for Jus­tice in Haiti (MINUJUSTH), who was seven months preg­nant at the time and just a few days away from home leave.

She had been in the head­quar­ters of MINUJUSTH’S pre­de­ces­sor, the UN Sta­bi­liza­tion Mis­sion in Haiti (MINUSTAH), when the quake hit, ac­cord­ing to the UN.

It said the build­ing com­pletely col­lapsed, but Boutaud de la Combe “man­aged to es­cape through a col­lapsed wall.

“For many hours, she and her sur­viv­ing col­leagues searched through the rub­ble, look­ing for any­one still trapped un­der the build­ing,” the UN said. “Two days later, she re­luc­tantly left Haiti, a sit­u­a­tion she de­scribes as ‘a trauma’, her in­stinct be­ing to help the UN and the peo­ple of Haiti.”

The UN said Boutaud de la Combe even­tu­ally re­turned to Haiti in 2013, “happy to be able to play a part in the re­build­ing of the coun­try, and hon­our her lost col­leagues with her work”.

Nine years af­ter the earthquake, the sit­u­a­tion in Haiti is “very dif­fer­ent”, ac­cord­ing to the Haitian Gov­ern­ment.

The UN also said Boutaud de la Combe and Haiti are now much bet­ter pre­pared for sim­i­lar nat­u­ral dis­as­ters.

“A few months ago, there was an earthquake in the north of the coun­try. The State was pre­pared, and they sent their peo­ple to sup­port those af­fected, with­out MINUJUSTH in­volve­ment,” she said.

“It was not a ma­jor earthquake, but now the pop­u­la­tion knows how to re­act,” Boutaud de la Combe added. “And, most im­por­tantly, we hear reg­u­larly how im­por­tant it is to build bet­ter, to build strongly in case an earthquake would hit, not to en­dan­ger the peo­ple.”

(Photo: AP)

A woman hold­ing flow­ers stand­ing next to a cross hon­our­ing the vic­tims of the 2010 earthquake be­fore a me­mo­rial ser­vice at Ti­tanyen, a mass burial site north of Port-au-prince, Haiti, on Satur­day.

The Haitian Pres­i­den­tal Palace which was se­verely dam­aged when an earthquake hit the French-speak­ing Caribbean is­land on Jan­uary 12, 2010, killing more than 200,000 peo­ple.

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