Last Friday marked the 8th anniversary of the devastating earthquake that shook Haiti at its core, claiming in its wake some 300,000 lives and enormous material destruction, the effects of which are still being felt today. The somber anniversary was marked by wreath laying ceremony at the memorial site at Saint Christophe, north of the capital, Port-au-Prince. President Jovenel Moïse, accompanied by his wife, First Lady Martine Moïse, and Prime Minister Jack Guy Lafontant, laid the wreath on the memorial, exhorting his fellow countrymen to keep the memory of the departed, whose death unfortunately was untimely, in their minds, with the takeaway that future generations take seriously the implications of building new structures within correct specifications. He noted that the willy-nilly erection of structures without regard for the engineering and architectural feasibility is the main cause of death for most of the victims of the quake. On his tweeter account the President wrote that the “fight for a more resilient Haiti will be the best tribute to these victims”. Also present at the ceremony were the Senate President and the President of the House of Deputies, Joseph Lambert and Gary Bodeau respectively and the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Haiti (FAdH) Jodel Lessage and other government officials and dignitaries. The date, January 12 has been declared “a day of national reflection and awareness about Haiti’s vulnerability to risk and natural disasters” by a presidential decree dated January 6, 2017.
On the same occasion, the UN’s International Organization for Migration, l’Organisation Internationale pour les migrations (OIM), and the entity responsible for housing and public buildings, l’Unité de construction de logements et de bâtiments publics (UCLBP) in a public statement have provided some statistics that show that there are still problems stemming from the earthquake and any reconstruction efforts are far from covering what was once lost. According to the organizations, 17,000 of the 37,000 plus displaced people still live in some 12 camps located in areas that are minimally or highly prone to flooding or landslides. More than 36,000 displaced people in 25 camps will remain there in 2018 due to lack of resources to relocate them to permanent shelter. Some 37,600 people, about 9,255 households are still displaced in 26 camps located in the metropolitan area and the Palmes region (in the communes of Léogâne and Gressier in the south. Seven out of every ten (71%) of the people displaced are women and children who, according to the OIM are among the “most vulnerable in the country given their poor socio-economic status, likelihood on being victims of violence and exploitation, lack of access to potable water and adequate sanitation, as well as their exposure to natural disasters, due to the precarious homes they live in, which are essentially tents and shacks.
Furthermore, OIM fears that the lack of funding is leading to a massive reduction in the number of partner organizations working to provide a sustainable and durable solution to the displaced people, either through relocation or integration into camps in their own neighborhoods. They fear that the delay in funding does not become permanent to the point where resources are no longer allocated for this prolonged crisis while the solutions thus implemented have proven effective. They hope this year will see the rest of the victims finally permanently housed. Initially, the quake displaced some 1.5million people into 1,555 camps and destroyed some 300,000 homes. Today, 97 percent of the people initially displaced have left the camps but most of them found themselves in new illegal and shabbily build communities such as Canaan in the north of Port-au-Prince.
Meanwhile, the commemoration of the anniversary of the earthquake also marks the occasion to lay the first stone for the construction of the new National Palace. The Palace, which was built in 1918 by the Haitian Architect, Georges Baussan, sustained major damage during the 2010 earthquake and the new one to be built is expected to replicate the original architecture but will be a modern version of the original, dotted with new technology and security.
In other news, four (4) alleged perpetrators have been arrested during a police sting operation, on Monday for the assassination death of Father Joseph Simoly, who was shot dead on Thursday, December 21, 2017 in Petionville. They are Jonathan Servil, Jean Louis Julmer, Jocelin Philogenè and Jean Louis Pierre. They have been charged with possession of illegal firearm and gangbanging, according to the police during a press conference yesterday. The arrested perpetrators have been linked to other assassinations, notably that of the Police Inspector, Chibly Jeune and Frédérick Viaud on April 2nd in Delmas 95 and July 5, 2017 in Delmas 93 respectively. During the police operation, two motorcycles and a .38 caliber firearm were retrieved.
A boat carrying some 851 pounds of marijuana, with a street value of more than $2million and 13 gallons of petrol has being intercepted during a police sting in Holland Bay, Jamaica. The illicit cargo was supposed to be sailing to Haiti but for the bad weather, according to St. Thomas Police, which prevented them from leaving port. One man was arrested but his identity has not been revealed to the press, pending further investigations. Dominican authorities are also becoming very interested in stopping Haitian products from making it into their country. Last October, they seized 223 bags of garlic coming from Haiti. This new operation netted over 5,500pounds of garlic, which was being brought into the Dominican Republic through Dajabón.