Haitian Prime Minister Jean Bellerive has said in a meeting with the head of a major church-backed aid group that elections planned for this year will take place, and that putting them off is not an option - writes Greg Jackson.
Bellerive gave his undertaking in a meeting with John Nduna, the General Secretary of the emergency aid and development group, the ACT Alliance, who visited the prime minister in his office earlier in March.
Nduna said in an interview after that meeting that Bellerive made it clear the Haitian government would inform people of the election date in due time, but there was no doubt that the election would be held.
The ACT Alliance formally launches today (24 March 2010) after an amalgamation at the beginning of 2010 of two church-backed humanitarian agencies. It is one of an estimated 5,000 non-governmental agencies offering assistance in Haiti since a magnitude 7.0 earthquake hit the country on 12 January.
About 230,000 people died because of the quake that wrecked the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, and injured tens of thousands of others, whilst leaving about 1.3 million people homeless.
Nduna's talks with Prime Minister Bellerive covered the role of the government in rebuilding, how NGOs such as ACT fit in with relief and rebuilding efforts, and the need for cohesion of intent among NGOs.
Bellerive told the ACT head that 450 NGOs registered with the Haitian government had been operating in the country but that currently there are about 5000 NGOs carrying out relief work.
"He was very clear that the unregistered groups were not going to be able to walk into his door and demand assistance," Nduna said.
The ACT official disclosed after his interview with Bellerive that homeless people he had met in camps in Haiti during his fact-finding visit had told him they knew nothing about the forthcoming election.
During his meeting with the prime minister, Nduna expressed his concern about people's access to land, while Bellerive said that on the issue of the resettlement of displaced people, he was aware camp conditions had been bad.
Nduna pointed out to Bellerive that if some of the most vulnerable groups were not moved before the rainy season and the hurricane season, people would die. The prime minister told Nduna that the Haitian government was looking at moving some of the most vulnerable people to safer locations.
Bellerive explained that 70 members of his staff had died in the earthquake, and that other government departments had experienced similarly high levels of loss. Despite this, he added, efforts to reassert control are underway, though he expressed regret that the Haitian government lacked financial resources to carry out its work properly.
This is an edited version of a story Greg Jackson wrote originally for the ACT Alliance.
ACT Alliance: www.actalliance.org
[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]