Hurricane Katrina survivors still live in misery

14 May, 2007: Hurricane Katrina lashed New Orleans in August 2005 but its survivors are still struggling with financial hardships and health problems. African-Americans seem to be the hardest hit.

According to a survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, more than half of the 1,504 people surveyed after the disaster said they had money problems because of the hurricane and the resulting floods. In all, 17% said they had lost a job or had to take a lower-paying job.

The study covered a period from September 2006 to November 2006.

In all, 81% of those covered by the survey said their economic or physical well-being had deteriorated. More than a third said they lost access to health care, 17% said their health had declined, and 16% said they had mental health problems.

Almost a quarter said their marriages had broken up, their relationships had failed, or they were drinking more since the August 2005 hurricane.

The long-standing racial friction in New Orleans became a cause for public debate when floods set off by Hurricane Katrina displaced numerous African-American families. Many see the neglect of the area by federal and state governments and lack of evacuation plans as a racial issue, because African-Americans tended to live in areas at risk of flooding.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation survey, the disparities remain. Drew Altman, president of the Foundation, said in an interview: “Anywhere we looked in the survey, in the stories people told us and in the data, we found the racial divide was confirmed, underscored.”

Across the city of New Orleans, 56% of African-Americans said their housing costs went up substantially since the storm, while 42% of whites complained of similar problems.

While 46% of African-Americans surveyed said they were unemployed or employed in jobs that did not pay enough, 17% of whites said the same thing.

In the hard-hit Orleans parish, where more than half of residents are African-American, twice as many African-Americans as whites reported that their lives continued to be disrupted by Hurricane Katrina. Over half of the parish’s African-Americans said they have been treated worse and given fewer opportunities than whites in the rebuilding process.

Only 11% of all those surveyed were considering leaving New Orleans.

While 86% worried that the rebuilt levees will not be strong enough to withstand another hurricane, less than 10% thought the government officials were prepared to deal with the next big hurricane.

In 2006, the non-profit research organization Rand Corporation had estimated that fewer than 200,000 people were living in New Orleans, compared to 485,000 in 2000. Residents were evacuated to cities around the United States and many of them have never returned.



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