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Wyclef: Help needed to evacuate people from Port-Au-Prince

By News | Last updated: Jan 19, 2010 - 1:55:37 PM

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Viola Plummer of the New York-based December 12th Movement is greeted by Wyclef Jean the day before his press conference. The musician held a private meeting as he returned from Haiti.
NEW YORK ( - Haitian born musician and Grammy Award-winning songwriter Wyclef Jean told a packed room of reporters during a press conference here that he was asked by the president of the devastated Caribbean nation to help with a plan to evacuate at least two million Haitians out of Port-au-Prince.

“What I am calling for is not the usual response to housing a population displaced by a natural disaster. What I am calling for is a plan that takes into account the nature of the population of a city which has grown in recent years mainly because of people coming from all over the country to seek a better life. We are proposing that instead of creating tent cities in the vicinity of Port-au-Prince that instead the emphasis should be on creating tent cities disbursed around the country in order to facilitate people evacuating from the capital to the communities they came from or where they still have family,” Wyclef Jean told reporters at a Jan. 18 media session at a New York hotel.

The popular rapper told the press that his charitable foundation Yele Haiti was focusing on getting emergency supplies to Haiti and getting those supplies distributed safely to those in need, along with a communications plan with a corporate partner Trilogy International.

“I want to also address the accusations against both me and the organization,” Mr. Jean said.

“Accusations have been made about me and Yele. My dad told me we will always be challenged when you are doing good. I started Yele with my own funds so that it would be seen as a non-governmental organization on the ground and we could be effective. Have we made mistakes? Yes. Did I use Yele funds for personal gain? No. Yele's books are open and transparent and we have been given a clean bill of health by an external auditor every year since we started,” Wyclef told the press.

Wyclef Jean greets Student Minister Abdul Hafeez Muhammad of Muhammad Mosque No. 7 in New York. Photos: Lem Peterkin/The Final Call
“In all our relief work we are guided by both President (Rene) Perval and Prime Min. Bellerive on the Haitian side, and the White House and the military on the U.S. side,” he added. Mr. Jean then turned the press conference over to Yele Haiti's president, Hugh Locke, who was inundated with continuing questions about the foundation's alleged financial problems.

A media report raised questions about Yele's financial accounting and raised questions about some rent and fees that the foundation disclosed. The foundation has reportedly raised $2 million for the earthquake crisis primarily through telephone text messaging that allows for donations. After the press conference CNN reported experts said the problem was timely fi ling of tax forms.

“The press appeared to be more interested in the financial issues of Yele than the needs of the Haitian people,” said Abdul Akbar Muhammad, of the Nation of Islam, who attended the press conference. “The press should be raising these questions with every charitable group that will be raising money for the Haitian earthquake victims,” Mr. Muhammad said.