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Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction

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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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Haitian Prime Minister: Cholera Under Control Print
Wednesday, 26 September 2012 15:46

In an interview following his meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe told Reuters that cholera is “really under control.”  Well, that certainly depends on your definition of under control. Since tropical storm Isaac swept across Haiti last month, some 83 Haitians have reportedly died from cholera and this is almost certainly an understatement, as the surveillance system has become increasingly unreliable. Over the same time, more than 8,200 Haitians have been sickened. Since April of this year, when the rainy season began, 514 have died and over 63,000 have been sickened by cholera.

As for the government’s response, according to the United Nations, “national capacity to respond to potential outbreaks, especially during the rainy season, remains very weak.” From May to June this year, just as the rainy season was beginning, three cholera treatment centers and 13 cholera treatment units were closed down, leaving just 17 and 61 left open, respectively. This is down from 38 and 205 last August. Additionally, as CCO Haiti pointed out last month, “many public health workers in the Cholera Treatment Center (CTCs) have not received salaries for several months and there are reports of strikes by front line medical staff to redress this situation. This is a serious issue negatively affecting the effectiveness of the cholera response and it needs to be urgently addressed.”

Of course, this is not entirely the government’s fault. Most of the cholera response bypassed the government entirely and now, as NGOs pull out of the field, the government has been left to pick up the slack without adequate resources. Nevertheless, to the hundreds of Haitians falling ill every day with cholera, Prime Minister Lamothe’s assertion must ring especially hollow.

Update 9/27: The post has been updated to reflect newly posted data on cholera deaths and cases.

 
USAID Says More than 9% of Funds Going to Local Groups. Really? Print
Wednesday, 26 September 2012 15:08

This past weekend, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah said that by 2015 the goal is to have 30 percent of aid funds going to local groups. This is in line with the goals put forth in the USAID Forward reform agenda, which aims to reach this target agency-wide by 2015. Shah also made a surprising announcement regarding local procurement in Haiti, as reported in the Miami Herald:

Before the January 2010 earthquake, Shah said less than 9 percent of USAID money was going to Haitian organizations. “We’re over the pre-earthquake level now,’’ said Shah during an interview with The Miami Herald. He wasn’t more specific.

As we have noted numerous times before, according to the available data, it appears that far less than 10 percent of USAID funds have gone directly to local organizations. A review of data on USAID contracts for work in Haiti from the Federal Procurement Database System reveals that just 1.3 percent of USAID funds have gone directly to Haitian companies, as can be seen in Table I.

Table I: USAID Contracts by Recipient Location
alt

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UN Secretary General Recommends Creating Timeline for MINUSTAH Withdrawal Print
Friday, 14 September 2012 16:20

In his mandated report on MINUSTAH, the United Nations Secretary General for the first time outlines the creation of a timetable for withdrawal of MINUSTAH personnel from Haiti. UNSG Ban Ki-moon writes:

The plan foresees a narrowing of the Mission’s activities to a core set of mandated tasks that are achievable within a reasonable time frame (envisioned to be a period of between four and five years for planning purposes) aimed at consolidating stabilization gains to a point beyond which the presence of a large peacekeeping operation will no longer be required. The Mission will work with the Government, civil society, the United Nations country team and international partners to agree on a transition compact that will set out a limited number of stabilization benchmarks that will serve as key indicators of progress in the stabilization process.

Calling for a concrete timetable for progressive withdrawal of the foreign contingents is a small, but important first step.   Last year’s authorization of MINUSTAH [PDF] lacked any details on withdrawal and instead mandated that, “future adjustments to its force configuration should be based on the overall security situation on the ground.” Ban Ki-moon is now recommending creating a “transition compact” with the Haitian government that would have specific benchmarks on the road to withdrawal. The main benchmark for reducing the number of MINUSTAH personnel would be sufficient strengthening of the Haitian National Police, while other “benchmarks will evaluate the maturity of key rule of law oversight and accountability mechanisms.”

These benchmarks have yet to be drawn up, however, and so the plan could be overly optimistic in terms of its drawdown timetable. Growth and reform of the police has been a key benchmark for MINUSTAH’s mission completion all along, yet eight years after MINUSTAH began, “the country’s still limited police force cannot guarantee the security needed to protect citizens, enforce the law and underpin political stability,” according to the International Crisis Group. (It is notable that the UNSG’s four-five year timeline is compatible with the five-year extension called for by the International Crisis Group, which it recommends in order to, as it puts it, ensure “a third peaceful handover of democratic power …at the end of the Martelly presidency,” and “the completion of the second five-year police development plan.”)

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