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Letter from Camille Chalmers, PAPDA

January 2010

Recently, Grassroots International received an email from our partner Camille Chalmers of the Haitian Platform to Advocate Alternative Development (PAPDA). It is translated below.

PAPDA is a coalition of nine Haitian popular and non-governmental organizations which work with the Haitian popular movement to develop alternatives to the neo-liberal model of economic globalization, and has been a leading advocate of debt cancellation, food sovereignty and sustainable development. When the Haitian government moved to privatize certain industries, PAPDA worked with the unions and the business community to create strategies that would improve production and minimize cost without privatization. The coalition has worked with the agricultural sector to devise ways of producing and selling indigenous Haitian crops and protecting Haitian farmers from cheap imported grains, especially rice. Camille’s analysis below exposes the dangers of this type of privatization and warns that it needs to be avoided as Haiti rebuilds. This could not be more timely as the IMF — as a response to the earthquake — is pushing more loans (and debt) on Haiti with a string of devastating conditions.   Camille also lays out the kind of aid that is needed in the long run to rebuild the infrastructure of Haiti in a way that benefits the island’s people.

Translation of correspondence from Camille Chambers (PAPDA)
January 15, 2010

Communication has been very difficult.   I would like to inform you that my partner, children, and I are alive. My house and everything we had were totally destroyed, and personally the most serious [loss} is that my wife’s mother died in the catastrophe.    The situation is dramatic. Three million homeless. An entire country crying. Over 100,000 dead. Hundreds of thousands injured and dead bodies everywhere. The entire population is sleeping in the streets and waiting for replies to their pleas and more blows…   The response from the State is very weak, almost absent. The 9,000 UN troops are not doing anything to help people. The majority of people have been without medical assistance for 48 hours because the largest hospitals in the capital were also damaged and are not functional. Firefighters are also completely powerless because their stations are buried and they are overwhelmed by the scale of the catastrophe.    In such extreme cases there are three important elements:  

  • Coordinated emergency assistance
  • Rehabilitation
  • Structural solidarity

 1)      Drinking water, food, clothing, temporary shelter, basic medical supplies. Treat the wounded in make-shift hospitals that would hopefully be established in all the neighborhoods. Get people out from underneath the remains of buildings. Fight epidemics and the risk of epidemics and disease due to the presence of piles of corpses.

2)       Credible mechanisms for coordination, a crisis committee for scientific assessment and monitoring of the situation, and coordination of aid and its distribution with intelligence and transparency to ensure that victims receive help as quickly as possible. Be in permanent communication with the population about instructions as to what to do.

3)       Rehabilitation: recover and repair communications and all infrastructure, especially transportation within and between cities.   4)       Structural solidarity: activities and investments that will allow people to rebuild their lives in better conditions. It is time for a great wave of solidarity brigades with the people of Haiti different from the misery and characteristic aggression represented by MINUSTAH (the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti). Instead, we need a broad movement of solidarity between peoples that makes it possible to:  

a)       Overcome illiteracy (45% of the population)

b)       Build an effective public school system that is free and that respects the history, culture, and ecosystem of our country

c)       Overcome the environmental crisis and rebuild Haiti’s 30 watersheds with the massive participation of young people and international volunteers

d)       Construct a new public health system which brings together modern and traditional medicine and offers quality, affordable primary services to 100% of the population to overcome child mortality, malnutrition, and maternal mortality (currently 630 women per 100,000 live births)

e)       Reconstruct a new city based on different logic: humane and balanced urbanization, respect for workers and the real wealth creators, privileging public transportation, parks that maximize our biodiversity, scientific research, urban agriculture, handicrafts and the popular arts.

f)         Construct food sovereignty based on comprehensive agrarian reform, prioritizing agricultural investments that respect ecosystems, biodiversity, and the needs and culture of the majority.

g)       Destroy the dependency ties with Washington, the European Union, and other forms of imperialism. Abandon policies issued by different versions of the Washington Consensus. Cut ties with the International Financial Institutions and their plans: structural adjustment, the Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper, Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers, Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative, and Post-Conflict Countries.

h)       Expel MINUSTAH and build people to people solidarity brigades.    



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