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Sean Penn sees Haiti relief shortfalls

Efforts to help Haiti recover from last year's devastating earthquake are being hampered by a lack of cooperation and communication between international aid groups, Hollywood star Sean Penn said Tuesday.

The two-time Oscar winner co-founded the Jenkins-Penn Haiti Relief Organization (J/P HRO) in the wake of the Jan. 12, 2010 disaster that killed a government-estimated 316,000 people and destroyed most of the capital of Port-au-Prince and surrounding cities. He has personally taken part in projects and even testified in Washington about the situation in the hard hit Caribbean country.

"There's far too much duplication, far too little communication," between organizations, Penn told reporters at a hotel in Vienna, the Austrian capital, when asked how he would rate the international relief effort.

While every organization he's come across has "extremely dedicated people," there are "competing cultures in the international relief world" with one focused on emergency relief and the other on sustainable development, he added later.

"These have to work with each other against the problem of poverty and not against each other in competition for donors," he said. "It's one of the basic embarrassments and failures in the aid community."

Penn added that Haitians were still experiencing "enormous trauma" and that he's approached every day by people who, first and foremost, want jobs.

He referred to the media as potentially the most powerful humanitarian organization of all and urged continued coverage of the earthquake's aftermath.

"I think we have an opportunity to keep Haiti from being the old kind of headline and give the opportunity to be the new kind," Penn said.

Tuesday evening, Penn was slated to have dinner with Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann, Agriculture Minister Nikolaus Berlakovich and other members of the Alpine republic's political, business and media communities.

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Online:

http://jphro.org/