In Grand Goave, Relief Efforts Frustrate Haitian Neighborhood Leaders + audio

Published today by Inter-Press Service. Listen to the audio at Free Speech Radio News here.

GRAND GOAVE, Jan 28, 2010 (IPS) – Two gray 23-million-dollar hovercrafts sitting in the middle of a sandy tropical beach look like they are from another world. A pair of 15-foot-wide propeller fans sticks out from the back of each behemoth.

Along the narrow dirt road to this seaside town’s centre, families live under blankets stretched over sticks.

A tent city occupies the town’s main square, surrounded by crumbling buildings. Joseph Jean-Pierre Salam, the mayor of Grand Goave, about 15 kilometres west of Port-au-Prince, estimated that some 70 percent of the city’s important structures fell during the 7.0 earthquake that struck Haiti on Jan. 12.

“They have made many promises, but we don’t see the action yet,” Salam said, referring to the international community. “We have a lot of people suffering. There is an expectation that help will come.”

Little food and water has been distributed by the dozens U.S. troops milling about the beach since the earthquake, according to local leaders.

“I went there to talk to them,” said Jean-Jacob Renee, an English teacher. “They said they are there to set up some tents for themselves, but they did not come with food or water – anything for the people.”

He said the only aid the military brought to Grand Goave was distributed by Catholic Relief Services, an international NGO. “When they are in the town, we don’t know. We don’t have their phone number,” he said. “Nobody has helped us.”

U.S. military personnel on the beach were busy unloading construction material and heavy equipment from cargo boats. Senior Chief Petty Officer Steve Krutky told IPS his disaster recovery team cleared a rockslide out of the road and worked to repair local orphanages run by evangelical missions.

The U.S. military did not respond to IPS requests for further clarification of the Navy’s role in Grand Goave.

An analysis by the Associated Press on Wednesday found that 33 cents of every dollar towards emergency aid in Haiti goes to military aid, more than three times the nine cents spent on food.

Residents of Grand Goave said there is a network of seven neighbourhood leaders for each section of the city that has not been tapped in the relief effort. Friends are pooling resources to purchase rice when possible, but family after family living outside the rubble of their homes told IPS they have received no assistance.

The roof of Rinvil Jean Weldy’s modest one-story brick house is broken off, resting at an angle on top of a kitchen table covered in dust. The rear wall crumbled, spilling onto the cracked ground. His wife remains at a nearby hospital nursing an injury from the quake.

“We need a tent, we need food and water, all the normal things,” Weldy said, pointing at his sons, who were hammering together scraps of wood to build the frame of a tent. “To the U.N., I say, I need help now.”

Weldy has been expecting compensation from the U.N. since Nov. 10, when he and numerous witnesses say part of a bullet fired by U.N. peacekeeping troops hit his shoulder. Four days before the earthquake, the U.N. said an internal investigation into the incident cleared the soldiers of any wrongdoing.

Witnesses told IPS the troops fired into the ground in an attempt to control a curious crowd, not into the air, as the U.N. maintains.

The U.N. peacekeepers are roundly dismissed by many Haitians as a source for relief in the country. “We have been living with the U.N. for many years, but now we see them very little,” Mayor Salam said matter-of-factly.

In Leogane, on the route back from Grand Goave to Port-Au-Prince, 500 families from a tent city in a field lined up in an orderly queue to receive food packages, in contrast to chaotic aid dispersals seen in Port-Au-Prince. Individuals walked into a clearing to grab a box each time a young Haitian man called out numbers through a megaphone.

“For us, it was very important to do this without military,” said Dolores Rescheleit, an aid worker with a German NGO called Arche Nova that provided the food. “Because the people in the camp are very strong. When you give the responsibility to the people in the camp, they will do it better than we will with the military.”

A committee of Haitians, with sub-committees to handle security, hygiene, and aid distribution, is governing the camp without problems, Rescheleit said. Women smiled as they walked back to their tents, balancing boxes of food on their heads.

I spoke to the New York Times Lede blog yesterday about what I’ve seen in Haiti over the past few days – chaotic food distributions, pros and cons of the US military’s presence, and the politics surrounding the question of former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s return. I’m disappointed that their writers went for the most sensational angle and highlighted the first subject, leaving the others in separate, less prominent audio embeds.

I have footage of Grand Goave, Cite Soleil and so much more, to share too – if I can sort some technical issues out. Point me towards specific instructions on a reliable way to export videos from Final Cut Pro into a format suitable for viewing on YouTube and the web if you know where I can find them.

6 thoughts on “In Grand Goave, Relief Efforts Frustrate Haitian Neighborhood Leaders + audio”

  1. Ansel,

    The format you need for a YouTube video is mp3. I’m not familiar with Final Cut Pro, but can’t you output from the program to an mp3 format?

    Another restriction for a YouTube video is that the video can only be 10 minutes long, unless maybe you are a premium member or you get permission (don’t know for sure how).

    But is you upload the video to Google Video, there is no restriction (I believe) on the length of the video.

    If you are having problems compressing a video or don’t have time, let me know and I can have my brother David do it. He works in Final Cut Pro for his job as a Technical Editor and Broadcast Engineer.

    On a personal note, any word about how the people in Fond des Blancs fared? I did some research online and figured they were ok because I read this story:

    St. Boniface is located in Fond-des-Blancs. Of course, that doesn’t mean that people from Fond-des-Blancs who were in PAP were not effected… but still encouraging news. My Mom and Dad are both from Fond-des-Blancs. Some relatives still there.

    Take care of yourself.

  2. Just a thought about YouTube upload of long videos. Of course, you can always section off a video into different parts if it is too long.

    Here is an interesting find:
    Convert Your Video Files for Upload to YouTube – Free

    1. Thanks Chantal, all of this is helpful. I worked out a solution involving a free program called Mpegstreamclip last night, hopefully it will last. I haven’t been to Fond-des-Blancs, so I don’t really know the situation there…

  3. Ansel, you can do it in final cut. Just export using ‘quicktime conversion’ and export as a medium or high quality MP4. Youtube will take this format.

  4. I have just finished reading your piece on IPS (23feb10) and watching the prop-job on CNN, featuring CHF/USAID “transitional shelters” NOT!

    Who IS in charge there? CEPR makes clear that it is not the Obama Administration or the USAID. “Shelter Cluster” and SPHERE standards for “transitional shelter” are a joke. One huff and one puff and run for your life!
    Light a stove in one? If you have a death wish!!!!!!!

    SIMPLE (Structural Insulated Metal Panel Living Environments) from ShelterUS
    provide “emergency”, “transitional” and “permanent” shelter in a series of deliveries, with no discards and proven record of surviving typhoon, earthquake, fire and flood.

    Who out there is listening? I cannot get a single shout-out from the NGOs.
    Go to on monday. Its a start. Check it out.

    Thanks for your courageous and accrurate reporting. I will be passing The Word.

    Alan Scouten

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