Amid Spotty Aid, Groups Try Hiring Haitians For Cash In Haiti, relief organizations are still struggling to get food, water and other aid to earthquake survivors. But some food and other necessities are available on the streets of Port-au-Prince — if survivors can afford it. That has led some aid groups to shift gears and pay people for clean-up work, so they can buy what they need.
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Amid Spotty Aid, Groups Try Hiring Haitians For Cash

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Amid Spotty Aid, Groups Try Hiring Haitians For Cash

Amid Spotty Aid, Groups Try Hiring Haitians For Cash

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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GUY RAZ, host:

Now, there is food available on the streets and in the markets of Port-au-Prince, but only to those who can afford it.

As NPR's David Schaper reports, that's led some aid groups to shift gears a bit and pay people for cleanup work so they can buy what they need to survive.

DAVID SCHAPER: I'm standing in an area called Rue Prolongee, just outside of Port-au-Prince. It's an area just devastated by the earthquake. The survivors here have set up a shantytown of sorts, where they've used sheets and blankets and boards and whatever they could find to create shelter.

The organization Oxfam has begun hiring some of these people, giving them brooms and shovels to help clean up the area. Not only does it make it more sanitary, but it also provides them with a little bit of income, when otherwise they have nothing.

Ms. LUNIDE FRANCILLON: (Foreign language spoken)

SCHAPER: Lunide Francillon is one of a handful of women sweeping up and shoveling trash and small pieces of debris into rusty wheelbarrows. She says she needs money badly. Francillon and her six children are left with next to nothing. With no job, she has no way to feed and clothe her family.

The situation for many like Francillon is increasingly desperate. Food aid comes inconsistently at best, and even when food is delivered, not everyone in camps like this is able to get something to eat. Francillon says she hopes to be paid for her work, but adds she would be doing this sweeping, cleaning and picking up anyway because it needs to be done. The encampment of improvised tents and shelters that is now home to close to 1,000 earthquake survivors in very tight quarters is becoming filthy and smelly.

Alex Yiannopoulos is emergency food security coordinator for the relief organization Oxfam. He says while the clean-up work sounds menial, it's quite important.

Mr. ALEX YIANNOPOULOS (Emergency Food Security Coordinator, Oxfam): There's a lot of waste products, rubbish, because people have nowhere to throw their rubbish; there's no one else taking that responsibility. It's basically to make sure the environment's clean to reduce disease risk.

SCHAPER: Proper waste disposal can help control rats, mice and insects, which often spread disease, and is critical to ensuring the long-term health and safety of earthquake survivors.

Yiannopoulos adds that paying the survivors to do this work puts money into their hands, empowering them to buy food when they want, rather than waiting for inconsistent deliveries, because he says there is food available at local outdoor markets; it's just that many people can't afford it, as food prices have soared since the quake.

Mr. YIANNOPOULOS: People are getting what we call minimum wage here, which is about three to $5. So that's enough to feed a family for the day and have a bit of money on the side.

SCHAPER: That small daily wage is also enough, Yiannopoulos says, to help kick-start a moribund local economy, as even before the earthquake, he says the unemployment rate in this neighborhood was around 80 percent.

Mr. YIANNOPOULOS: We're not only looking at the now and present. We're also looking at four years down the road and further. So these activities have to be linked into our longer-term effort. And we're trying to be very creative about making sure there's an overlap between our immediate response and our more longer-term programs.

SCHAPER: Yiannopoulos says the organization wants to make sure that people have jobs, incomes and a more sustainable future.

Mr. YIANNOPOULOS: People have more priority than food. You have to look at water, you have to look at shelter, and you have to look at the basic hygiene conditions and ensuring that people have a life that is - with dignity.

SCHAPER: Only 100 or so earthquake survivors were hired in this cash-for-work program initially, but Yiannopoulos says with the help of local partners, the program is adding more people every day. In the days and weeks ahead, he says Oxfam hopes to eventually support 5,000 workers in and around the Haitian capital, and other relief organizations are launching similar cash-for-work programs as well.

David Schaper, NPR News, Port-au-Prince.

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