PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Before the earthquake, the rain and hurricane seasons were viewed with trepidation in Haiti, but with thousands living in flimsy shelters, fears have escalated. The rainy season is expected to begin in early April, with the hurricane season two months later, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). “If a hurricane hits Haiti head on, the loss of life will be severe and every temporary housing camp will be wiped out,” Cameron Sinclair, co-founder of nonprofit design and building group Architecture for Humanity, wrote in a blog that was reported by Reuters. Margareta Wahlstrom, U.N. special representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction in Geneva, agrees with Sinclair's prognosis, considering Port-Au-Prince receives an average of 230 millimeters of rain and sometimes as much as 50 millimeters in two hours during the height of the rainy season in May, according to Reuters. “Port-au-Prince is built on vulnerable small slopes and mountains. With the rains, these slopes start softening up and cause mudslides like we have seen in the past, causing schools to collapse and more deaths,” she told Reuters. The proof, experts say, was in 2008, when several storms tore through the country, causing extensive damage and killing more than 800, according to Reuters. The storms also left a million homeless or in need of major help, as Haiti is susceptible to landslides and powerful currents because of the major deforestation that has left the hills without trees. The major reason for the deforestation is that Haitians use wood as a fuel source. “We have a huge challenge in terms of just providing emergency shelter – something that we feel that if we put all of our weight behind, as we are doing right now, we will be able (to do),” said Kristen Knutson, a spokeswoman for the U.N. office that is coordinating the international relief effort, in a telephone interview from Haiti with Reuters. Knutson said international aid groups are using plastic materials to build shelters, which would be a step up from the cloth and wood used by many of the displaced, but it's not the answer to long-term housing, according to Reuters.
Sierra Leoneans donate to Haiti earthquake victims
Sierra Leonean musician and producer, Jimmy B, wrote a song for Haiti and performed it at a concert that raised money that will be donated to the relief efforts to help the earthquake victims, according to the Voice of America (VOA). The concert in the city of Freetown featured 20 artists who sang for free, including rapper Emmerson and Liberian singer Miatta Fambuleh. The concert, which took place in one of the world's poorest countries, raised US$8,500 – not bad considering tickets were less than US$3, according to VOA. The donation comes on the heels of Sierra Leonean President Ernest Bai Koroma's US$100,000 donation on behalf of his country on Jan. 20. “We organized this benefit concert, the first reason is for the Haitian people to know that regardless of the fact that we stand alongside them on the human development index, that poverty is not an excuse for us not to empathize with their situation,” Naasu Fofana, the event's organizer, told VOA. The concert's proceeds will be given to two charities: One Dome At A Time, which builds inexpensive homes that are resistant to earthquakes and hurricanes, and Lamp for Haiti, which provides medical services in one of the poorest slums in Port-Au-Prince, according to VOA.
Senators ask Western Union, MoneyGram to decrease fees
U.S. Sens. John Kerry and Evan Bayh have requested that Western Union Co. and MoneyGram International get rid of or decrease fees on money transfers to Haiti through June, according to Bloomberg. Kerry, who heads the Foreign Relations Committee, and Bayh, a representative of the Banking Committee, said putting a hold on the fees, which are about 7% to 9%, would be very beneficial to the country's recovery efforts, according to Bloomberg. After the natural disaster, the companies decreased the fees, but not enough, according to Kerry, who represents Massachusetts, and Bayh, who represents Indiana. “While we appreciate your initial efforts, the need for a longer commitment is great because for many Haitians, remittances will act as a lifeline,” the two Democrats wrote in a letter that was published by Bloomberg. “With your help, Haitian Americans who sacrifice to send remittances will see more of that money reach their families in Haiti who are in desperate need.” Earlier this month, the Inter-American Development Bank claimed it would cost as much as US$13.9 billion to rebuild the shattered nation, according to Bloomberg. Dilip Ratha, a World Bank economist, wrote on his Web site that Haiti gets between US$1.5 billion and US$1.8 billion in remittances annually.