HAITI: Tensions Put on Hold as Dominican Republic Reaches Out

Elizabeth Eames Roebling, writing for IPS news, explains hoe, despite a history of often tense relations, the first nation to render assistance to Haiti after last month’s devastating earthquake was its island neighbor, the Dominican Republic. Here are some excerpts, with the link to the full article below.
In addition to canned goods, food, water and medical teams, the DR sent to Haiti 10 of the mobile kitchens in buses which the government here uses to cook and distribute food in the poorest sections of the country. These kitchens have now served almost two million meals both in the capital Port-au-Prince and in Jimani, the main border crossing into the Dominican Republic. The meals, along with the bags of water which are given out with them, have cost this country about 2.1 million dollars. But this is only a small portion of the aid that has been given.
Much of the aid is being coordinated by FUNGLODE (Fundación Global Democracia y Desarollo) , the not-for-profit established by President Leonel Fernáandez.
Human rights violations against Haitians and their descendants, including lynchings and mass deportations of migrants, have been longstanding problems in the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola and a 380-km border with Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere. At the same time, the Dominican Republic is heavily dependent on Haitian workers, who perform an estimated 60 percent of the agricultural labour and much of the construction work.
Since the earthquake, though, average Dominicans, and their government, have turned toward Haiti with a tremendous outpouring of aid and sympathy. “The people of the DR have made a great effort to help the people of Haiti,” said Jhoselyn Ruiz, assistant to FUNGLODE’s executive director. “We are receiving donations of water, canned goods, tarpaulins and clothes in many collection centres of in all part of the country. All these donations that are received, we are coordinating taking them over by boat and truck. We try to give the most help to those who need it.”
The Dominican Republic has put six of its naval vessels at the disposal of the rescue efforts in order to help get aid to the outlying affected areas, such as Jacmel on the southern coast. The ships arrived in Jacmel carrying 100 tonnes of food, water and medical supplies, including volunteers from the Dominican Red Cross. It was the first aid the devastated southern city had received. It has also placed its southern airport at Barahona at the disposal of rescue operations. Since the main port in Port-au-Prince has been completely inoperable, much of relief supplies and volunteers must come into Haiti along the one border road, which snakes between Lago Azui and a cliff and has been subject to flooding.
At the border in Jimaní, the Dominican hospitals performed over 1,500 surgeries on wounded Haitians.
The office of the first lady has announced that 15 portable classrooms will be sent to assist in getting some Haitian children back to school. As many as 5,000 schools were destroyed in the Jan. 12 earthquake, and an estimated 1.5 million children are without classrooms. “The helicopters are leaving continuously from the airport of Higuero,” Ruiz told IPS. “The helicopters are going to Jimaní where they are coordinating the aid. Other centres are sending their own trucks. Universities, for instance, are sending their own trucks. So there is no way for us to know how much aid has come from the Dominican Republic.”
The assistance that the Dominican government alone has given is estimated at 83,000 dollars per day.
In addition, President Fernández has become an advocate for Haiti before the international community. Following a proposal by the director of the Inter-American Development Bank, Luis Alverto Moreno, that there be a “Marshall Plan” established for the development of Haiti, Fernández has stated that such a fund should be for 10 billion dollars and the reconstruction plans for 10 years.
Fernández sat in a round table here with President Rene Preval at his side, before the ministers of 76 governments.
His first proposal was that all the debts of Haiti be forgiven. Then he recommended that this fund be established with the principal and interest payments owed to the Paris Club of Paris of Western donor nations. Fernández proposed that both the interest and capital payments of the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean for the next 10 years be diverted into the fund for Haiti.
For the full article go to http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=50294

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