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Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction

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Assessing the Beginnings of Haiti’s Latest Unnatural Disaster Print
Wednesday, 31 October 2012 20:00

Relief organizations and the Haitian government are still attempting to assess the extent of the damage that Hurricane Sandy left in its wake. The Haitian government belatedly declared a month-long state of emergency yesterday. The official death toll has been raised to 54, with 21 people still unaccounted for, as the AP reported today.

As with other recent storms to hit Haiti, Sandy’s arrival in Haiti might well have been just the start of the latest disaster. Heavy rains – let alone storms – always bring an increase in cholera infections. But as the Boston Globe reports:

…money for cholera prevention is running low.

Funding from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is set to expire in February and will not be renewed, said Cate Oswald, [Partners in Health’s] director of programs in Haiti.

The impact of the storm on Haiti’s crops is also only now being assessed, and the news is worse than many had thought it would be: “More than 70% of crops - including bananas, plantains and maize - were destroyed in the south of the country, officials said,” as the BBC reported. As we noted earlier, Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe warned Reuters that “Most of the agricultural crops that were left from Hurricane Isaac were destroyed during Sandy," "so food security will be an issue."

The New York Times, Miami Herald and The Guardian have all cited the Haitian government in reporting that 200,000 people had been left homeless – or at least had their homes damaged – by the storm. Newly homeless means more people thrown into a state of vulnerability: vulnerable to cholera and other illness and disease, vulnerable to rape and gender-based violence, vulnerable to hunger, and vulnerable to forced eviction when/if these people move into displaced persons settlements.

Organizations with proven track records of doing important work in Haiti have mobilized and are raising funds to provide relief, respond to the increased risk of new cholera infections, and other lingering impacts of the latest unnatural disaster to hit Haiti. These include Partners in Health; Doctors Without Borders; the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, which advocates on behalf of IDPs and victims of rape and gender-based violence; and the Under Tents campaign which fights for the right to housing in Haiti.

 
Over 50 Dead from Hurricane Sandy in Haiti Print
Monday, 29 October 2012 15:00

"The whole south is under water," Haitian Prime Minister Lamothe told the AP this weekend. Four days of rain that saw accumulations surpass 20 inches have left over 50 dead and 20 missing throughout Haiti as floods hit the South and West departments especially hard. According to the most recent update from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 52 are reported dead, with 20 and 18 in the West and South departments, respectively. OCHA notes that over 20,000 were evacuated and 90 camps damaged.

With some 370,000 Haitians still living in camps with nothing but tattered tarps to protect themselves, the rains were especially damaging. Kristen and Wawa Chege of the Mennonite Central Committee describe the situation:

whole camps flooded as streams emerged between tents, shelters fell under the weight of sitting water, dirt floors turned to mud, and precious possessions were ruined. Efforts to raise mattresses off the ground using cinder blocks, and string clothes from wires inside their tent made little difference as the rain poured in through holes in the tent, or seeped in below the walls. As one man succinctly put it, “everything is wet”.

Agriculture

In August, tropical storm Isaac inflicted massive damage to the agricultural sector in Haiti, resulting in an estimated $242 of damages. As food prices have risen, protests against the high cost of living and against the Martelly government have proliferated. The passing of hurricane Sandy will only exacerbate the problems. As Susan Ferreira reports for Reuters:

"Most of the agricultural crops that were left from Hurricane Isaac were destroyed during Sandy," he said, "so food security will be an issue."



A rise in food prices in Haiti triggered violent demonstrations and political instability in April 2008. Jean Debalio Jean-Jacques, the Ministry of Agriculture's director for the southern department, said he worried that the massive crop loss "could aggravate the situation."

"The storm took everything away," said Jean-Jacques. "Everything the peasants had in reserve - corn, tubers - all of it was devastated. Some people had already prepared their fields for winter crops and those were devastated."

In Abricots on Haiti's southwestern tip, the community was still recovering from the effects of 2010's Hurricane Tomas and a recent dry spell when Sandy hit.

"We'll have famine in the coming days," said Abricots Mayor Kechner Toussaint. "It's an agricultural disaster."

Ferreira adds that humanitarian workers are concerned because stocks of supplies have not been replenished since tropical storm Isaac.

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Sae-A’s “Risky” Play in Haiti Print
Tuesday, 23 October 2012 16:04

As both Clintons and a coterie of celebrities and foreign investors flew into northern Haiti yesterday, some took the opportunity to praise Sae-A, the giant Korean garment manufacturer that opened a factory in the new Caracol industrial park. Hillary Clinton, for one, told reporters:

And I too want to thank Sae-A, because Sae-A took a decision that was something of a risk, never having worked in Haiti before, after a tremendous natural disaster that was so devastating. But they brought their expertise and they brought their commitment. And Chairman Kim, we thank you for everything that you and the leadership of Sae-A is doing.

But Sae-A’s decision to set up shop in Caracol could hardly be described as risky, as almost the entire cost of the project was borne by other actors. The New York Times, in an in-depth July investigation into the new park, reported that the land was provided free of charge by the Haitian government, the physical infrastructure was provided by the Inter-American Development Bank for around $100 million, and the United States government chipped in $124 million for  infrastructure, energy and housing services. The industrial park tenants are also granted significant tax-exemptions, and will only have to pay docking fees, which are estimated to be just $17,500 a year, hardly a boon to Haiti’s coffers. Sae-A, which reported over $1.1 billion in export business last year, committed to spending just $39.2 million on the factory. 

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Two Years After the Outbreak of Cholera in Haiti, Access to Clean Water and Sanitation is Desperately Needed Print
Tuesday, 23 October 2012 11:50

A press statement [PDF] released today, co-signed by CEPR and a number of other organizations, states:

On the second anniversary of the outbreak of the cholera epidemic in Haiti, human rights groups, faith-based organizations, policy institutes, and humanitarian organizations renew their call for the United Nations and U.S. government to help Haiti install the clean water and sanitation infrastructure necessary to control the ongoing epidemic.

The cholera epidemic in Haiti has received less U.S. attention during the presidential campaign season, but it remains a critical problem for this Caribbean neighbor that is not being adequately addressed and is undermining broader aid efforts.  Last month, 260 new cholera cases were reported daily, and 2-3 children died a day.  Since the epidemic broke out in October 2010, 7,564 Haitians have reportedly died from cholera and some 600,000 persons (6% of the Haitian population) have been infected. The number is undoubtedly much higher, as cases in more remote areas are often unreported. As the World Health Organization has stated, those without access to safe drinking water, proper sanitation, and hygiene constitute the majority of cholera cases.

Two years after the epidemic started, not enough action has been taken to assist the Government of Haiti in acquiring essential water and sanitation infrastructure.  A regional coalition that includes the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization is developing a plan with the Government of Haiti to build water and sanitation systems that will cost $2.2 billion. Despite this encouraging progress, the plan still needs to be finalized and funded before implementation can begin.

The U.N. especially has a legal and moral responsibility to play a leadership role in helping end the epidemic.  Independent scientific studies have established that cholera was brought to Haiti by troops from the U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) and that the waste disposal practices at the U.N. base allowed the bacteria to contaminate Haiti’s largest river system.  The undersigned groups call on the U.N. to commit long-term resources to work with the Government of Haiti to build water and sanitation systems that are critical to halting the continued spread of the disease.

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Cholera: Two Years On, and the UN Has Yet to Take Responsibility Print
Monday, 22 October 2012 16:45

It has now been over two years since the first cholera death in Haiti after more than a century. Over 7,500 people in Haiti have died from the disease so far, and over 600,000 have been sickened. While there has been a drop in cholera cases in 2012 over 2011, Oliver Schulz, Doctors Without Borders’ Head of Mission in Haiti says, “We continue to see an average of 250 new cases each week in our facilities, but this is still a high number.”

Doctors Without Borders notes that

Reduced international funding is limiting the response of the humanitarian agencies working in the areas of medical care and providing access to clean water and sanitation.

“This year, MSF had to keep most of our CTCs open throughout the year because cholera  is far from being controlled. The measures to prevent and treat cholera are still not enough,” lamented Schulz.

In fact, the response capability of the Ministry of Health remains extremely low two years after the onset of the epidemic. As a result, during the most recent peak last May, MSF treated more than 70 percent of the total number of patients registered in Port-au-Prince.

Despite the overwhelming evidence pointing to UN (MINUSTAH) troops as the cause of the disease outbreak, the UN has refused to accept responsibility. Notably, its own report on the origins of the epidemic attempted to place blame on Haiti’s poor sanitation and water infrastructure, rather than UN negligence. But BBC now reports that one of the authors of that report, Daniele Lantagne, is much more convinced that UN behavior is responsible:

The 2011 UN report - co-signed by [Lantagne] - acknowledged that inadequate toilets in the Nepalese UN camp in the mountain town of Mirabalais [sic] could have leaked the cholera bacterium into the nearby Meye River which flows into the country's main waterways.

But the report stressed that the outbreak "was not the fault" of any "group or individual".

The Panel of Experts added that the subsequent spread of the disease across Haiti was due to many factors - including the country's deeply inadequate water supply and almost non-existent sewage disposal systems.

Now, Dr Lantagne says the new genome data (in addition to other evidence) has changed her view since she had co-authored the UN report which effectively said no-one was to blame.

 

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Celebrities and Foreign Officials Tout Caracol, While Report Finds 95% of Factories Fail to Pay Minimum Wage Print
Monday, 22 October 2012 16:23

Hillary and Bill Clinton arrived in Haiti today with a delegation of foreign investors and celebrities to showcase the Caracol industrial park, “the centerpiece of the U.S. effort to help the country recover from the 2010 earthquake,” reports Trenton Daniel for the AP.  Government officials and international partners have touted the park’s potential to create thousands of jobs, but there have been a host of criticisms on social, environmental and labor issues. Speaking with the AP, sociologist Alex Dupuy notes:

"This is not a strategy that is meant to provide Haiti with any measure of sustainable development ... The only reason those industries come to Haiti is because the country has the lowest wages in the region," Dupuy said.

Sae-A will pay employees Haiti's minimum wage, which is $5 a day. Workers will be eligible for bonuses based on performance.

Reports from the ground indicate that the factory is not complying with the minimum wage law, however. Etant Dupain, writing on the Let Haiti Live website, notes:

Before the official inauguration, several thousand employees have been working in the Caracol park for the last three months at a wage of 150 gourdes ($3.75 US) a day. Since October 1st, the new minimum wage law has gone into effect, with the government setting the minimum at 300 gourdes a day. Despite this, the managers of the factory operating at Caracol aren't respecting the new official minimum wage.

The new minimum wage would be 200 gourdes, with piece rate employees earning 300. Caracol would be far from the only factory in Haiti not adequately compensating their employees. The most recent Better Work Haiti report, released last week, found that 21 of 22 factories covered in their analysis (Caracol is not covered yet) were non-compliant with minimum wage laws. This refers to the old minimum wage. Better Work is a joint program of the International Labor Organization, International Finance Corporation and the U.S. Department of Labor. Of course, whether employees are earning $3 or $5 a day, it is still far below what the AFL-CIO’s Solidarity Center determined to be a “living wage” for workers in the garment industry.

 

 
The Development-Industrial Complex in Haiti Print
Friday, 19 October 2012 11:08

CEPR Research Associate Jake Johnston writes for AlterNet this week:

Over the past few decades, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has seen its staff level drop significantly at the same time as the amount of money under its discretion has rapidly increased. Over this time, USAID has stepped up its reliance on for-profit contractors to fill the void. The result, as Hillary Clinton stated in her confirmation hearing (USAID is part of the State Department), is that USAID has “turned into more of a contracting agency than an operational agency with the ability to deliver.”

To be sure, there are efforts are underway to slowly fix this. In the meantime, the status quo reigns, with perhaps nowhere serving as a better example of the pitfalls than Haiti. Since the devastating earthquake in January 2010, USAID has awarded some $450 million in contracts – with 70 percent of them going to DC-area contractors, the so-called “beltway bandits”. The largest USAID contractor in Haiti (and the world, for that matter), Chemonics has received some $177 million of this total. With such a large amount of resources going to one company, you might expect there to be vigilant oversight and strict guidelines. Unfortunately, you would be mistaken.

The USAID Inspector General released a report last week that shines some much-needed light onto the operations of USAID’s largest contractor. The report looks at the $53 million dollar Haiti Recovery Initiative run by Chemonics, the follow-up program to a $39 million program that began right after the quake. Among the findings in the audit: projects were “not on track”, the monitoring and evaluation system was weak and arbitrary, there was a lack of community involvement in project planning and they failed to get the appropriate environmental approvals before undertaking potentially damaging projects. This isn’t the first time Chemonics has been criticized for their work in Haiti . The same Inspector General found a host of similar problems with the original $39 million contract the year before, yet USAID turned around and gave Chemonics another $50 million anyway.

The same process had already played out before in Afghanistan. After USAID awarded a $100 million contract to Chemonics for work in the agricultural sector of Afghanistan, a 2005 Government Accountability Office report found significant problems with the program. Yet despite the documented problems, just like in Haiti, the next year USAID turned around and gave the same contractor another $100 million. The Inspector General also found numerous problems with that program.

To read the rest, click here.

 

 
Public Support Grows for Threatened Human Rights Attorney Mario Joseph Print
Wednesday, 17 October 2012 12:14

Haiti’s leading human rights attorney Mario Joseph has been the subject of death threats and police surveillance and harassment in the past several months, along with other lawyers. As the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) reports, Joseph, IJDH Managing Attorney and the director of its Haitian affiliate Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) has received as many as 3-4 death threats a day, while police in vehicles with tinted windows have monitored the BAI office in Port-au-Prince and harassed and searched people leaving. Threats against BAI and Mario have also been spray painted on walls nearby.  While IJDH notes that Joseph has been the targets of threats in the past, it says “the current intimidation appears more organized, more persistent and more closely linked to the Haitian government than previous incidents.”

U.S. Congressman John Conyers (D – MI), the Ranking Member on the House Judiciary Committee, condemned the threats this week, saying:

“As a long-time supporter of Haiti in the United States Congress, I am concerned by recent reports that suggest that Haitian attorneys and human rights advocates, including prominent attorney Mario Joesph of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), are being targeted with political intimidation and threats of physical harm as a result of their legal representation of politically vulnerable individuals and groups," said Conyers.

"The ability of an attorney to provide legal assistance free of harassment to any client is a critically important component of a well-functioning justice system. All necessary steps should be taken to protect these attorneys and advocates, who help ensure that all Haitians have equitable access to justice and due process. My office has contacted the State Department to express my concern about these recent reports."

As the Miami Herald reported earlier this month, Joseph and other lawyers may be the targets of political persecution by the Martelly government. Chief Prosecutor of Port-au-Prince Jean Renel Sénatus claims Haiti's Justice Minister Jean Renel Sanon fired him after he refused to issue an arrest warrant for Joseph and 35 other “political opponents.” The Herald also reported that

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Forced Evictions Remain Constant Threat as Permanent Housing Solutions Lag Print
Friday, 12 October 2012 14:09

Nearly three years after the earthquake of January 2010, durable housing solutions remain nonexistent while tens of thousands remain at risk of forced evictions. According to the International Organization for Migration, there are currently 369,000 individuals residing in 541 official IDP camps throughout Haiti. Yet over 20 percent of the remaining individuals are in constant risk of eviction. Fortunately, camp residents are organizing to fight back. Public Radio International’s The World reports:

Enter Patrice Florvilus. After the earthquake, the attorney formed an organization that represents residents of tent camps who’ve been threatened with eviction.

“Our strategy is to stop evictions by making landlords follow the law, which can mean a lengthy legal process. And that’s what the landlord wants to avoid,” Florvilus said.

It doesn’t always work, but a legal defeat can sometimes turn into a de facto victory. In one case, the mayor of Delmas ordered families off government land. A court upheld the eviction order. But then the mayor backed off — locals say because of organized opposition.

But activists have faced many difficulties, including intimidation and jail time. Meena Jagannath reported last month on the case of David Oxygène, an activist who was imprisoned for over two months. He was arrested during one of his group’s weekly protests against the Martelly government calling for improved social policies, including adequate housing.

More recently, a protest organized by camp residents to protest the lack of adequate housing was cancelled following threatening phone calls and other forms of intimidation. GlobalPost reports:

She [Alexis Erkart of Other Worlds] says fear and fatigue run high in the camps, and residents are consistently faced with the prospect of forced evictions, but have nowhere else to go.

Erkert told GlobalPost yesterday via email that yesterday’s protest was being organized by a number of camps, but that “a number of camp residents reported receiving threatening phone calls and thugs coming to the camps telling people not to participate in the protest. There was enough fear that they decided to hold off.”



“More and more camps are evicted with no housing plan in place, without viable options for the future,” said Erkert. “They have no access to the government, and limited access to the media. It makes me deeply sad that today they were stripped of one of the only means available to them to make their voices heard.”
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Inspector General Finds Lack of Oversight of Chemonics…Again Print
Monday, 01 October 2012 16:17

The USAID Inspector General (OIG) released an audit this weekend of Chemonics’ Haiti Recovery Initiative II program (HRI-II), funded by USAID. HRI-II, the successor to the HRI program which began right after the earthquake, aims to “help Haiti strengthen its economy and public institutions in the three strategic development corridors of Port-au-Prince, Saint-Marc, and Cap-Haitien,” according to the OIG. But, as the Associated Press reports today:

A newly released audit says the largest U.S. contractor working to stabilize Haiti after the 2010 earthquake is “not on track” to compete its assignments on schedule, has a weak monitoring system and is not adequately involving community members.

The audit is the second since the earthquake to find significant problems with Chemonics’ work in Haiti. The AP reported in December 2010:

And an audit this fall by USAID's Inspector General found that more than 70 percent of the funds given to the two largest U.S. contractors for a cash for work project in Haiti was spent on equipment and materials. As a result, just 8,000 Haitians a day were being hired by June, instead of the planned 25,000 a day, according to the IG.

Nevertheless, Chemonics has been the largest single recipient of post-earthquake funding from USAID. For the two HRI programs, Chemonics has received $103.8 million. This same process played out in Afghanistan, where despite consistently failing to produce results, Chemonics continued to receive hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts.

Weak Monitoring and Evaluation

One consistent pattern that has clearly emerged in the aftermath of the earthquake is the lack of oversight of contractors by USAID. As we have described before, after years of hollowing out USAID, it has “turned into more of a contracting agency than an operational agency with the ability to deliver,” in the words of Hillary Clinton. In turn, much of the monitoring and evaluation is actually the responsibility of the contractor itself. USAID’s contract with Chemonics contains numerous reporting requirements, yet allows the contractor to fulfill most of them without any oversight. Chemonics is required to keep an “activity database,” but the contract notes that Chemonics is responsible “for ensuring that the database contains accurate, complete, and up-to-date information.” Additionally, the contract states that USAID and Chemonics “are expected to jointly develop a system of processes and tools for the monitoring and evaluation of the country program.”

As the newly released audit finds however, both the database and the evaluation tools were poorly implemented and “made it difficult to measure the program’s impact,” as well as contributed to delays which have made the program “not on track to complete all activities.”

 

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