With the AGM being in New Orleans this year, and as we are fast approaching the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s landfall on the Gulf Coast, Amnesty International is committed to raising awareness about the slow progress in housing recovery, as well as the demolition of public housing, and the problems of blight and homelessness in the city of New Orleans. Recent estimates of homelessness in New Orleans have ranged from nearly 10,000 individuals and families to as many as 12,000.
AI has been active in working to protect human rights in the Gulf Coast as the region rebuilds after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Initially focused on the right to housing, AI’s Rebuilding the Gulf project now focuses on promoting a broader range of human rights concerns that arise in disaster affected areas.
In an effort to raise the visibility of the human rights conditions in the region, Amnesty International’s Science for Human Rights Program has created a visual representation of the level of destruction and lack of reconstruction using aerial images taken of the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans, before and after Hurricane Katrina, and also by analyzing postal information by Census Block, again before and after Katrina hit. This information plainly shows how many people left the area and have not been able to return (or at least aren’t receiving mail any more) as well as the amount of infrastructure that was damaged, and as of 2009 when the aerial image was taken, hadn’t been repaired.
In addition to this visual representation, AI is creating a Google Earth Layer, implanting photos taken on a GPS camera from a recent AI mission to region, including stops in Gulfport, Mississippi, and New Orleans. These geo-referenced photos, along with some additional images, show the level of devastation that STILL exists to this day, as well as simultaneously demonstrating the lack of progress of reconstruction that has occurred, in particular to, the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans, Louisiana. This GE layer will be uploaded to our website soon.
Although it has been almost five years since Hurricane Katrina’s landfall, much still remains to be done to rebuild the Gulf Coast. AI believes that the best and most effective way to secure and rebuild lives is by respecting, protecting and fulfilling the human rights of those affected.
If you happen to be in New Orleans this weekend, please check out this project, and many other Science for Human Rights projects at AIUSA’s AGM.