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from The Human Impact:

The future of “building back better”: houses, schools, and political transformation too?

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Disaster recovery experts and scholars alike seem to agree on at least one thing: disaster-recovery efforts should concentrate not only on restoring affected communities to pre-disaster levels, but should focus on “building back better” by linking immediate relief with long-term recovery and development.

Some go even further by suggesting that disasters can become an opportunity not  just to “build back better”, but to bring about political transformation by ending conflicts and improving governance in post-disaster settings.

“The aspiration to build back better – to use the opportunity of a disaster response to leave societies improved, not just restored – is self-evidently common sense: after all, who would want to build back worse, or simply reinstate conditions of inequality, poverty and vulnerability if the chance for something better was at hand?”, said Lilianne Fan in her paper “Disasters as opportunity? Building back better in Aceh, Myanmar and Haiti.

The first step is to rebuild homes, schools and hospitals to withstand nature and protect their occupants better when the next disaster strikes. But aside from reconstructing buildings, a disaster response could also present an opportunity to improve people’s lives in other ways.

from Photographers' Blog:

Family, soccer and God

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by Rickey Rogers

It was around the time that Brazil was beginning construction projects to host the 2014 World Cup four years ago, that a massive earthquake devastated Haiti's capital. The quake killed over 200,000 people and left few Haitians unaffected in some way. That disaster, coupled with the attraction of a World Cup country and the fact that Brazilians were already familiar to Haitians as UN peacekeepers patrolling their streets, initiated a new route south for migrants trying to escape the difficult situation. That route starts in Haiti passing overland to the Dominican Republic, by plane to Ecuador or Peru, and overland to the Peru-Brazil border where even today there are hundreds of Haitians awaiting visas.

Photographer Bruno Kelly was on an assignment to photograph the dozen or so Haitians working at the Arena Amazonia stadium in Brazil's Amazonian capital, Manaus, when he met immigrant Milice Norassaint. Milice's story touched Bruno, and they became friends as Bruno photographed him at work and in his daily life. Bruno asked Milice for his wife's phone back in Haiti, and Bruno gave it to colleague Marie Arago in Port-au-Prince.

from Photographers' Blog:

Stateless in their own country

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La Romana, Dominican Republic

By Ricardo Rojas

"I have no country. What will become of me?" said Dominican-born Blemi Igsema, 27, standing with relatives outside the family's wooden shack in Batey La Higuera, near La Romana, the heart of the Dominican Republic's sugar cane industry.

Blemi’s grandparents were Haitian immigrants who came to cut sugar cane decades ago.

from Photographers' Blog:

Voodoo alive and well

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Souvenance, Haiti

By Marie Arago

There is much beauty in Haiti. There are mountains, the countryside, the sea and beaches, but what I find most beautiful is the culture of this country. There are many elements that contribute to Haiti's rich culture and Voodoo (also spelled Vodou and Voudou) is definitely one of them.

This past week I spent three days documenting the annual Voodoo festival at Souvenance, a small village outside of Gonaives. Souvenance was formed by escaped and freed slaves from Dahomey (present day Benin) about two hundred years ago. During this week at Souvenance all of the Rada Iwa, or Voodoo spirits of Dahomey origin, are honored through different ceremonies, song and dance.

from Photographers' Blog:

Fashion forward Haiti

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Port-au-Prince, Haiti

By Swoan Parker

For anyone who loves fashion, an announcement of Fashion Week brings to mind runways in New York, Paris, and Milan, but never Haiti.  So when my editor requested that I cover Haiti’s first Fashion Week, I was pretty intrigued.

I immediately began researching Haitian designers who live and produce their creations on the island.  I first contacted Michel Chataigne, who I learned was very accomplished in his own right, having shown internationally and with his ready-to-wear lines already selling in major U.S. stores.

from The Human Impact:

Storm Isaac puts spotlight on Haiti’s homeless

BOGOTA (AlertNet) - Couples strolling through parks and squares now empty of makeshift tents, crowds enjoying football matches and voodoo and hip hop summer festivals, rubble-free streets.

These were signs of normality that I saw during a trip to Haiti last week, returning to the Caribbean nation two and a half years after a massive earthquake flattened the capital Port-au-Prince.

from Photographers' Blog:

Fishing to survive in Cité Soleil

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By Swoan Parker

“I’m living in a bad place and didn’t want to get involved in any bad things”, is what 27-year-old Wilkens Sinar told me. His neighborhood, Cité Soleil, is one of the poorest and most dangerous slums in Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and just 500 miles from the United States. This densely populated area located near the capital of Port-au-Prince houses families who mostly migrated from the countryside in search of work. Unable to afford the rents in most of the capital, they have no other choice but to settle here where powerful gangs operate rampantly.

As I walked through the endless maze of shanty homes built of pieces of concrete or junk metal latched together, the smell of raw sewage permeated the air. I found myself at the seacoast where small boats were docked and fishermen were either setting off or returning with their catch of mostly small crabs and fish.

from The Human Impact:

Director hopes Haiti cholera film will pressure UN

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An American filmmaker is hoping to use the power of viral video to raise awareness about Haiti’s cholera epidemic in much the same way the surprise Internet sensation Kony 2012 got the world talking about the plight of child soldiers under Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony.

If David Darg’s award-winning documentary, “Baseball in the time of Cholera”, gets even a fraction of the 100 million hits the Kony video received, there could soon be a lot more people demanding action on Haiti’s epidemic.

from The Human Impact:

Rape hotline a lifeline for Haitian women

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BOGOTA (TrustLaw) - A 24-hour hotline for survivors of sexual assaults and rape is proving a lifeline for Haitian women and girls, in a country known for its high levels of sexual violence.

Thousands of woman and girls are sexually abused and raped every year in the Caribbean nation.

from Photographers' Blog:

Dream of gold

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By Swoan Parker

Gold in Haiti should no longer be just a dream. Even before prospective mining begins in the country's northern hills, the realization of it all could be little more than one month away. Without investing millions and weighing only 52 kg (114 pounds), 21-year-old Linouse Desravines, the country’s only judoka to qualify for the London 2012 Olympics, is all it might take for Haiti to acquire gold.

Being a fan of the martial arts with secret fantasies of being a Ninja when I was a young child, I wanted to meet the country’s only athlete who is also female and would represent them in judo.  I made a few calls and was put in touch with coaches Ulrick Louis-Charles and Andres Ramos Franco, both former Olympians at the 1992 Barcelona Games. Louis-Charles returned to the Games more recently as coach in Beijing.

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