Punishing rains bring Haitian life to a halt

Updated 15 November 2012
0

Punishing rains bring Haitian life to a halt

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti: The rain has tapered off and floodwaters no longer claw at houses, but the situation across much of Haiti remained grim on Tuesday following an autumn of punishing rains that have killed scores of people and that threaten to cause even more hunger across the impoverished nation.
In places such as Croix-des-Missions, on the northeastern edge of the Haitian capital, the walls of dozens of homes along a pale brown river have been broken or ripped away, exposing clothes, bedding and everything else to the repeated downpours.
Heavy rains began falling in southern Haiti even before Hurricane Sandy passed just west of the country's southern peninsula the night of Oct. 24, dropping more than 20 inches of rain within a 24-hour period.
"It took away my whole home. Now I don't have anything," said Solange Calixte, a 56-year-old mother of two whose home in Croix-des-Missions was largely destroyed by floodwaters of the nearby Gray River.
One of 21,000 people the UN says were left homeless by Sandy, Calixte was forced to move with her belongings beneath a tarp at a neighbor's home.
And the rains have kept coming. Another front soaked much of the north late last week, causing more flooding and leaving at least a dozen dead.
So far the back-to-back storms have killed up to 66 people and the crisis is likely to worsen in coming months. Humanitarian workers anticipate a food shortage brought on by the massive flooding that destroyed yam and corn fields.
The United Nations says that as much as 90 percent of Haiti's current harvest season, much of it in the south, was lost in Sandy's floods, and the next harvest season won't begin until March. The World Food Program estimates that more than 1.5 million people are now at risk of malnutrition because they were either displaced or lost crops, forcing Haitians to rely heavily on more-expensive imports.
"This means massive inflation, hunger for a lot of people and acute malnutrition," said Johan Peleman, head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Haiti. "Basically, the cushion is gone."
Soaring food costs have rattled Haiti before. In 2008 a jump in prices sparked more than a week of deadly rioting and ended in the ouster of the prime minister and his Cabinet.
The UN and Haitian government are now launching an emergency appeal to raise $ 39 million in hopes of stemming what they foresee as Haiti's next humanitarian crisis. This money is supposed to help 1.2 million people by providing shelter and food, repairing water, sanitation systems and schools.
Calixte, who sells clothes on the street for a living, had seen flood waters seep into her concrete house before. It sits at the edge of a wide river that cuts through the northern side of Haiti's capital. But Sandy did more. The storm led the caramel-colored river to claw away at the banks, and it ripped apart the home she had lived in since 1999.
The river has since receded and people can safely walk across through the water.
But Calixte said life is anything but normal.
"I'm at the mercy of other people," she said, her eyes tearing up.
In the north, just outside Cap-Haitien, night-long rains from a cold front caused a river to burst its bank Thursday night. The U.N. base in town was flooded, but the real damage was at the edge of ravine where floodwaters swept away cinderblock homes and the people inside them. City Hall asked aid groups for body bags.
The rains pounded the northern coast of the country through the night. The bodies of five children and a woman in her 30s were found in a village on the outskirts of Cap-Haitien and laid out in a tight row the next day.




The country's civil protection office counted 10 dead that morning, and added two more several days later. But officials such as the mayor of Cap-Haitien believe the toll could rise now that floodwaters are receding to reveal bodies trapped in thrashed homes.
"Every few hours they will call you and say, 'We found a body and need you to come collect the body,'" Jean Cherenfant said. "That's the way it has been happening the past few days: The bodies keep surfacing."
The government and foreign aid groups have responded by handing out hot meals but humanitarian workers fear it may be hard to find food down the road.
For some, the search for food is already underway.
"I'm waiting for the government to help me," Calixte said. "If they don't, I have to go out and beg for food."


With 10-year visa, UAE could be new land of opportunity for Indians

Routine day at Dubai International Airport. AN photo
Updated 7 min 36 sec ago
0

With 10-year visa, UAE could be new land of opportunity for Indians

  • The ruler of Dubai changed rules to allow foreign investors to fully own companies
  • The Indian banking sector is far more developed in terms of product, technology and the caliber of professionals

NEW DELHI: Indians are likely to “flood” the UAE once its recently announced residency visa rules for students and highly qualified professionals come into place, experts said Tuesday.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, vice president and the prime minister of the UAE, announced on Sunday a 10-year visa for investors, scientists, doctors, engineers, entrepreneurs and innovators, as well as their families.
 As part of the changes, students will get five-year visas and “exceptional” graduates will be eligible for a 10-year visa.  Students currently have to apply to renew their visa each year.
The ruler of Dubai also changed rules to allow foreign investors to fully own companies. So far companies have been required to have a local partner who would hold the majority stake.
 The changes are expected to kick in during the third quarter of this year.
 “The UAE has always welcomed, and always will, innovators and business leaders,” Sheikh Mohammed tweeted as he announced the new rules.
 The UAE, with its proximity to India, high salaries and low taxes, has always been a magnet for Indians. It is home to about 2.6 million Indians who make up roughly 30 percent of the country’s population, according to the Indian Embassy in Abu Dhabi. These numbers are expected to shoot up once the new rules apply.
 “Indians are always looking at new work opportunities anywhere in the world,” said Aradhana Mahna, managing director of Manya Education, a study abroad solutions provider in Delhi.  While the US and the UK have historically been avenues for Indian students looking to study abroad, the number of students applying to those countries have undergone a “sharp decline” since the election of US President Donald Trump — who made protectionist comments during his campaign days and since taking office — and since the UK decided to split with the European Union, Mahna said.
 “Dubai is close to home and that has always made it a preferred destination for Indians. Especially now with the US going down, it will be flooded by Indians,” she added.
Mukesh Bhasin, partner at Career Connect, an executive search firm that focuses on banking, financial services and the insurance sector (BFSI), agreed that the new rules would go a long way in attracting Indian talent.
 “The Indian banking sector is far more developed in terms of product, technology and the caliber of professionals,” he said. “The encouraging visa regime will lead to a lot of interest from Indian BFSI professionals toward Middle East opportunities given the already-existing tax benefits and international-quality lifestyle.”
 Since the collapse in 2008 of Lehman Brothers, most developed markets, including neighboring Singapore and Hong Kong, have cut back on the number of people they are hiring from abroad for their domestic operations. This includes a slowdown in foreign transfers for Indian employees of multinational banks, said Bhasin.