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Social Issues
Sean Penn’s Aid Organization For Haiti To Get $8.75 Million From The World Bank
March 13, 2013
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An aid organization run by Sean Penn is getting $8.75 million from the World Bank to get some 14,000 people into decent housing.

Right now, they're living on a golf course in plywood shacks because they've had nowhere to go since the quake. They're due to be moved out early next year.

In a statement, Penn's PR firm said the money will be spent on rent subsidies or new housing units.

At one point, 60,000 people lived on the golf course. And overall, in the aftermath of the quake, 1.5 million people were displaced.

That's down now to about 347,000 - which is still a lot of people.

Penn is well known for his political activism and has travelled to Haiti to push for aid money through his J/P Haitian Relief Organization.

A year ago, he was named Ambassador-at-Large for Haiti by President Michel Martelly - the first non-Haitian citizen to receive that honour.

Even before the quake, Haiti was the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere with 80% of the population living below the poverty line.

The quake caused nearly $8 billion in damages, severely hurting the economy.

As it stands, 7 out of 10 people in Haiti live on less than $2 a day, according to the International Red Cross.

That reality has been made even worse by a cholera epidemic, which started in late October of 2010.

Yesterday, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) put out an appeal for more help.

It says "a lack of money and supplies has devastated cholera treatment programs in
Haiti, leading to unnecessary deaths and increasing the risk of greater outbreaks during the upcoming rainy season."

MSF visited 30 treatment centres in Haiti and found the quality of care has declined significantly in the past year due to funding shortages.

"Some of the staff at the cholera treatment centers have not been paid for several months," said Dr. Mamady Traoré, MSF deputy medical coordinator.

"Infrastructure and equipment are worn out because they haven't been maintained and there are frequent shortages of medical supplies. As a result, hygiene precautions that are essential to limiting the spread of the disease are no longer enforced. Sometimes patients are left without treatment or must pay to obtain it. That is intolerable."

According to MSF, the mortality rate is more than 4 per cent in some treatment centres - that's four times higher than the acceptable rate.

Cholera is a waterborne disease that spreads through water contaminated with faeces.
MSF points out that it's relatively easy to treat if it's done quickly. But sometimes there are only two nurses to care for 50 patients, which is not nearly enough.

Last December, the United Nations appealed for $2.2 billion to pay for a plan to eliminate cholera by 2022.

MSF says "the plan is yet to be funded, leaving many current cholera patients without adequate treatment."

"Prevention - by improving water, sanitation, hygiene conditions and vaccinations - is obviously the long-term solution, but sufficient resources are still needed today to treat patients and prevent deaths," said Oliver Schulz, MSF head of mission in Haiti.

Aside from the big picture, officials are trying to turn the epidemic into something of a positive.

As The Guardian reports, every week an organization called Soil (Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods) "collects the human waste from 56 dry toilets built in camps for displaced earthquake victims."

It then heats the waste for at least a week in temperatures of 60C (140F) to kill any strain of cholera or bacteria, and "mixes it with chips of sugar cane bagasse, a byproduct of local rum production."

Six to nine months later, the waste is converted into soil and fertilizer which can be used to grow food and fight deforestation.

"If we can take all the poop that's making people sick right now and turn it into this really valuable resource that could be used for reforestation or for increased agricultural production, then you really take a problem and turn it into a solution" said Dr. Sasha Kramer.

Related stories

Three Years After The Massive Earthquake, People In Haiti Are Said To Be No Better Off

Haiti Left Devastated By Yet Another Disaster

Video Of The Day: Charity Ad Campaign For Haiti Puts First World Problems Into Perspective


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