Years after quake, Haitian homeless feel abandoned

Updated 11 January 2013
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Years after quake, Haitian homeless feel abandoned

Three years after Haiti was devastated by a massive earthquake, hundreds of thousands of homeless people are still at risk from crime, disease and the elements in crowded makeshift camps.
The 2010 disaster triggered a global outpouring of sympathetic rhetoric and pledges of aid for the already impoverished Caribbean nation, but residents and aid agencies complain that rebuilding and re-development has been too slow.
Around 358,000 people are still living rough in scores of camps scattered around the capital Port-au-Prince and surrounding districts, exposed to a crime wave, a cholera outbreak and — from time to time — hurricanes.
“We are without support,” complained Wisly Decimus, a former teacher who has given up trying to run classes in a tent in the Marassa camp, just outside the capital, where 5,000 people cling to life beside a dangerous river.
“We have been abandoned by the authorities. Jan. 12 will be the anniversary of three years of suffering, misery and contempt,” he spat.
Global aid agency Oxfam, one of several foreign development bodies engaged in the reconstruction effort, say progress has been made, but it is often seen as piecemeal and uncoordinated, lacking in central government direction.
“What continues to be needed is a comprehensive, realistic long-term resettlement plan led by Haitians for Haitians,” said Andrew Pugh, head of the Oxfam program in Haiti, in a statement to mark the three-year anniversary.
While Pugh hailed the “determination” of the Haitian people and the generosity of international donors, he said Haiti was let down by “decades of collective neglect and weak governance.” “Basically, it’s three steps forward and two steps back,” he said.
Rubble has been cleared since the 2010 quake, in which around a quarter-of-a-million people were killed as concrete buildings in the capital and surrounding towns shattered and slammed down on terrified residents.
At the peak of the subsequent humanitarian crisis, around 1.5 million people were homeless, so progress has been made in repairing and rebuilding thousands of homes, although much remains to be done.
And the dangers have been underlined by a series of follow-up tragedies, such as the cholera outbreak apparently triggered by sewage from a UN military base and that claimed 8,000 lives and sickened more than 635,000 people.
Many of the camps have become semi-permanent settlements, resembling the shanty towns many Haitians had already inhabited in what was already the Western hemisphere’s poorest country, and life there is grim.
“We have no choice but to live here, but it’s the worst place to bring up children. There are many rapes in the tents, and there’s child prostitution in the camps,” complained Marassa resident Danielle Orniamise.
The alleys between the tents are beaten earth, mud when tropical storms pass, churning up the earth and spreading raw sewage.
Dozens of children in tattered clothes play to pass the time. There is no school.
“You can’t imagine how we live here. There are things you cannot speak of. Talking of misery, and actually seeing it, are different things,” complained Adonik Osse, a wedding photographer living in Marassa.
On Jan. 14, camp residents plan a roadside demonstration to draw the weak Haitian state’s attention to their plight, without much hope of success.
“Vehicles drive past us and back again a few meters away, but no one notices us. But if nothing is done, one day we’ll take to the streets,” warned Jacky Narcisse as an AFP reporter visited the camp.


Unmapped roads raise risk to Southeast Asian rainforests — study

An aerial photo of a road running through an palm plantation in Dumai, Riau, Sumatra island, Indonesia. (Antara Foto/Rony Muharrman/via REUTERS/File)
Updated 21 min 6 sec ago
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Unmapped roads raise risk to Southeast Asian rainforests — study

  • Researcher Alice Hughes found that roads have penetrated areas previously considered untouched and unreachable by vehicles.
  • An average of 75 percent of roads in five countries were missing from OpenStreetMap (OSM), a mapping platform widely used by researchers and academics.

KUALA LUMPUR: Forests in parts of Southeast Asia face greater threats than previously thought because researchers often rely on data that ignores new roads, which are precursors to deforestation and development, a study shows.
The paper, published this month by the journal Biological Conservation, showed that an average of 75 percent of roads in five countries were missing from OpenStreetMap (OSM), a mapping platform widely used by researchers and academics.
“Large-scale forest clearance is preceded by the growth of road networks, which provide a stark warning for the region’s future,” the study said.
Author Alice Hughes, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, studied a total of 277,281 square kilometers by analyzing satellite images and maps showing forest loss and coverage, as well as agriculture concessions.
She found that roads have penetrated areas previously considered untouched and unreachable by vehicles.
“We are deluding ourselves that we still have large tracts of inaccessible, pristine forest, when the reality is highly-fragmented, very accessible forests,” Hughs said on Friday.
Her research examined road networks in parts of Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.
“In some parts of the region, up to 99 percent of roads on those global maps, which are used as the basis for a huge amount of further analysis, are not included,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Deforestation and development of forests in the area studied have occurred at a rapid pace since 2000, said Hughes, while maps used by researchers do not regularly update their road data.
“Most of the time these roads are just providing access to forests and up to 99 percent of deforestation is within 2.5 km of road,” she said. “They are clearly the access method.”
She added that the region urgently needs better protection and enforcement for its remaining forests.
Indonesia, which is the world’s biggest palm oil producer, introduced a forest clearing moratorium in 2011 to help reduce deforestation.
Hughes said the ban should be expanded beyond just land designated as natural, untouched primary forest to include all high biodiversity forests.
Hughes’ research methodology should be used to determine whether the same patterns exist in other parts of the world, said Christopher Martius, team leader for climate change at the Indonesia-based Center for International Forestry Research.
“It is surprising that nobody ever did that before, and it is shocking that the result shows we grossly underestimated the possible threat to tropical forests from road building,” he said by email.