Amid a sea of flags and hand-made signs, hundreds gathered Saturday to call for immediate help for the people of Haiti.
“Where is the money?” they chanted.
The Haiti Solidarity Network of the North East organized the rally in front of the Haitian Consulate at 271 Madison Ave. on Sept. 25. Participants wanted to put a spotlight on the lack of aid for the struggling residents in Haiti — many who still live in slum-like “tent cities” in the aftermath of the disastrous earthquake that shook the nation more than eight months ago.
“All the money they collected on behalf of Haiti, what happened to the money?” said Ener Ve, 42.
Organizers held the protest in front of the consulate in hopes that the delegates who work in the building would hear their pleas for change.
“Many are still homeless. They live with rats, and there is not enough food, “ said Judy Reilley, a representative of HSNNE. Reilley explained that sexual assault is also an issue for women and children in camps because of the lack of proper security.
Reilley spoke to protesters about poor sanitation throughout the area. The living conditions in Port au Prince continue to deteriorate as residents are forced to navigate through mud and feces as the result of heavy rainfall, she said.
“No child of God should have to live like this,” Reilley said.
Around 11 a.m., protesters and organizers marched to Dag Hammarskjold Plaza near the United Nations to continue their call for action.
“Since the earthquake, the mission has been budgeted for $380 million from July 1 to December 31 this year, and we know that most of that money goes to pay UN personnel,” said Rev. Gene Squeo, from HSNNE. “We’re here today to say that it’s not only the Haitian government that’s mired in inaction, but that the international community is complicit with the Haitian community.”
More than $11 billion has was made available for rebuilding after the disaster, yet the people affected by it are still left to live in an unsafe environment, Squeo said.
“Indifference cannot continue. Inaction cannot continue. The people are suffering,” he said.
Organizers placed emphasis on demanding accountability from various government organizations and officials. Amadi Amajou, of the December 12 Movement and Friday Haiti Relief Coalition, non-governmental organizations that represent Africans and their human rights, spoke about misuse of funds from various donors earmarked for the Haitians.
“The French, the United States, the western European nations — all are putting in billions of dollars that support their own NGOs — not the Haitian people,” Amajou said. “We need to understand that Haiti is a victim of international imperialism and has been for a long time.”
For one protester, the situation boils down to the importance of basic human rights.
“It is not fair,” said Phenia Michel, who is originally from Haiti. For most of the protest, Michel stood under the solitude of a large Haitian flag, often chanting to rally her fellow protesters.
“All of them are human beings, and we want them to be treated like human beings. That’s all we want,” Michel said.