President Elect speaks at National Press Club

Haitian President Elect, Michel Martelly, gave a Press Conference in Washington, DC this morning. Martelly emphasized three major priorities of his incoming administration: free education, moving people out of tents, and agricultural development.

ActionAid had a chance to ask the President Elect a question on behalf of our grassroots partners on the ground in Haiti. Here is the dialogue from that conversation.

ActionAid: “Hello, President Elect. I am Elise Young with ActionAid…We work very closely with grassroots groups, women’s groups on the ground in Haiti. Right now, those groups have not been as big a part of the reconstruction process. It’s been hard for them to access the IHRC and UN cluster meetings. As President, how could you help ensure a stronger voice for civil society, grassroots and their participation in the reconstruction, especially in getting into longer-term housing?”

Martelly: “I must say that we will prioritize programs, special programs, especially for the woman. As in housing, we have identified the woman as the pillar in the family. In Haiti, at 4 in the morning, you will see people in the street, but they are women carrying their load on their head, walking miles and miles to the market. They are the ones who spend days at the market. They are the ones who when they get back to home around 5 o’clock, take care of the kids and their husbands. So, we need to give government programs to (accompagner) empower them in the society…particularly the woman.”

Watch a clip from the press conference at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Javtdez00So.

ActionAid Haiti and our Haitian partners have these thoughts to share on the incoming administration.

Jean Claude Fignole, ActionAid Haiti Country Director, said:

“Haiti’s next government has a choice to drag their heels like those before them or take the bull by the horns and do whatever is necessary to get Haiti’s reconstruction back on track.   Their first priority must be the million plus people still living under canvas or in shacks with little hope of moving on a year after the quake.

“Aid agencies have the money and the means to help re-build Haiti’s homes.  But until the government frees up the land needed, we are forced to spend donations on replacing tents and other piecemeal measures designed to help people get by in overcrowded camps. The new government can end this impasse.

 “We are urging the government to immediately invest in a nationwide system of land reform by redistributing multiple plots of land to poor communities and provide much needed social housing to those in desperate need of a home”.

 Jean Robert Pierre, Community Organizations of the Port-au-Prince Metropolitan Zone (COZPAM) General Coordinator, said:

“We cannot think about rebuilding Haiti without solving the land and housing problem. The next government of Haiti must take the necessary measures to provide decent housing for victims of the earthquake of January 12, 2010, including those still living in tents and other makeshift shelters in camps. It must also provide plots to peasants, living mainly from agriculture, to enhance local agricultural production and ensure food sovereignty of the country. ”

Saintilme Marie Charles Juste Luce, Mariani camp resident, said:

 “It’s really urgent that we leave the tents. They are seriously degraded and continue to expose us to all sorts of dangers, especially us women and our daughters. The situation becomes even worse with the rainy season. The rains of recent days, for example, forced us to spend whole nights standing. You can imagine the plight of pregnant women, nursing mothers, the elderly and the disabled.”

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