On January 12, Haiti was hit hard by a disastrous earthquake, which damaged its capital Port-au-Prince and surroundings. Approximately three million people are dependent on medical assistance, shelter, water, food and sanitation, and corpse management. The most current estimations put the loss of life at an estimated 50.000 individuals.
This terrible earthquake has shown us the vulnerability of human life, but also that the current catastrophic circumstances are to a big extent man-made as well as nature-made. Haiti’s history of brutal colonial exploitation by the US since 1915, systematic postcolonial oppression, punitive international trade relations and status of protracted forgotten crisis, has contributed to the horror faced by Haitians today.
The coordination of relief programmes and the long term rebuilding of the Haiti should be the responsibility of the United Nations. We would like to commend the UN agencies for their fast and effective response, but want to emphasize that humanitarian assistance should never be mixed with military purposes and should never be provided by personnel in combat uniforms.
Building forth on the current UN efforts on providing gender sensitive relief aid, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom wants to urge UN Member States and Agencies to develop their efforts on:
1) The specific role and involvement of women in the provision of relief aid;
2) The participation of women in the planning and decision making of rehabilitation and development efforts and;
3) Disaster risk reduction and disaster preparedness projects in the rehabilitation and development phase.
The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom would like to make the following recommendations to UN Member States and Agencies involved with the current distribution of relief aid in Haiti:
- Increase the role played by the main UN bodies involved (OCHA, UNHCR, WFP, UNICEF) in the coordination of humanitarian efforts;
- Link relief, rehabilitation and development to democratic political institution building, with a focus on increasing the representation of women;
- Focus on disaster risk reduction and disaster preparedness projects with a leading role for women, as they are the most vulnerable;
- Increase the establishment of food and cash-for-work programmes with a specific gender focus;
- Ensure the protection of women in the current break-down of rule of law, in a similar manner as UNICEF ensures the protection of children.
Our thoughts and good wishes go to all the children, women and men in Haiti.