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Friday, January 11, 2013

A camp is neither house nor home ─ Haiti, Syria, foreign callousness

Syria l
eft Haiti right 
Self-serving aid, interference ─ the essence of harm
Editing, brief comment by 
Carolyn Bennett

That which deliberately impedes independence creates interminable dependence and hostility

SYRIANS in camps for the homeless

Amid floods in Syria, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is having a hard time dealing with non-stop rain and wind [more than 200 tents have collapsed France24’s editor notes].

The ground absorbs no rainwater so camps flood quickly. Some families have water 40 centimeters (16 inches, one and a quarter feet) deep in their tents and they must move somewhere else. Perhaps to another camp, then another and another.

“Families have to take shelter in the camp’s schools; though slightly raised from the ground and more resistant than the tents, they are made of zinc and not very stable.

Camps visited in recent days reportedly built by the government of Bahrain had a capacity of 2,500 to 3,000 people.

Quoted under the pseudonym Abou Firas, France24 aired the story of a Syrian who was helping other families in the camps and reporting on conditions:

The weather has paralyzed daily life in the camp. No one leaves their tent unless they have to.

We have less contact with each other than before so we are feeling more and more isolated. 

Members of the Syrian opposition don’t answer my calls anymore.

…I’ve been able to get hold of phone numbers of some members of the [foreign-supported] National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces [the new united front of the Syrian opposition] who are in Jordan. I called them a few days ago. At the start, they got back to me. But they don’t answer my calls anymore.

We feel like everyone has abandoned us.

After Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s speech over the weekend, Press TV reported again this week that in the unrest that began in mid-March 2011, many people, including large numbers of security personnel, have died in the violence and “several international human rights organizations have accused foreign-sponsored militants of committing war crimes in Syria.”

Also the Syrian government repeatedly has said the chaos in Syria “is being orchestrated from outside the country.”

That which deliberately, continually impedes independence 

 creates interminable, debilitating dependence and hostility

HAITIANS in camps for the homeless

Three years after the devastating January 12, 2010, earthquake in Haiti left an estimated 300,000 people dead, more than 1.5 million people homeless and a cholera epidemic brought by international U.N. troops that left almost 8,000 people dead and more than half a million sick -- and despite pledges of billions of dollars in international aid -- rebuilding has barely started and almost 400,000 people languish in camps.

The Democracy Now news program today spoke with author and former Associated Press correspondent in Haiti (2007-2011) Jonathan Katz. He said the critical problem in Haiti is one associated with foreign aid all over the world:

Donor countries avoid local governments, they avoid local institutions, they fund through their own agencies, their own NGOs, their own military personnel; thus weakening institutions.

This means local institutions already weakened when faced with a disaster such as the earthquake have a very, very hard time responding on their own.

Foreigners rush in cash or otherwise descend and “a lot of the money is spent in the wake of the natural disaster, Katz said. A lot of money is literally burned off for jet fuel or spent on hotel rooms for aid workers and officials.

Even things that are bought and ultimately got into the hands of people in Haiti ─  for example, donations of money to an organization specializing in providing tarps for shelter and bags of rice for people to eat ─ afterward left Haitians with a tarp and an empty bag of rice.

What is striking time and again, Katz said, is “a lack of permanence and durability.”

Sources and notes


“Syria lambasts West’s response to Bashar al-Assad’s plan ─ Syria has taken a swipe at the West for rejecting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s proposed plan for ending the ongoing violence in the country,” January 9, 2013, http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2013/01/09/282604/syria-raps-west-for-rejecting-assads-bid/

 “Floods and misery for Syrian refugees” (January 10, 2013, JORDANIE)

France24 quotes Abou Firas (not his real name), former shopkeeper in Deraa, southwestern Syrian city and starting point of the 2011 uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.  Abou Firas has been living “at Zaatari with ten members of his family since the end of August.”

“Three Years after the Quake, How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster,”
January 11, 2013, http://www.democracynow.org/2013/1/11/three_years_after_the_quake_how

Jonathan Katz is author of The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster.


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