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Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction

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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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Reduced Charges Against Uruguayan MINUSTAH Troops Latest Example of Lack of UN Accountability Print
Tuesday, 04 September 2012 12:13

Last week, four Uruguayan peacekeepers who were repatriated from Haiti nearly one year ago after video evidence emerged showing the assault of an 18-year old Haitian man, apparently inside the Uruguayan’s Port Salut base, were finally charged. The prosecutor, however, is charging the four soldiers with “coercion” as opposed to sexual abuse.

As AFP reported last week:

"The evidence on record does not support findings of sexual assault. The indictment concerns only the crime of coercion," said the prosecutor in the case, Enrique Rodriguez.

The Latin American nation's penal code states that coercion -- a crime punishable by three months to three years in prison -- involves the use of physical or psychological restraint to force someone to take or abstain from an action against their will.

"In this case, force was used to oblige another person to tolerate an action against their will," Rodriguez said, noting that the judge has not yet ruled in the case.      

The Uruguayan press, reporting on the charges notes that the judge, even if he finds the accused soldiers guilty, could still forgo giving prison sentences.

The case stands as just the latest example of the problems of holding the UN Peacekeeping mission in Haiti accountable for abuses, from the introduction of cholera to the sexual abuse of Haitians. Under the UN’s Status of Forces Agreement, those accused of abuse are repatriated quickly, where they face judges of their home country as opposed to local Haitian courts where they could face significantly longer and tougher sentences. In March, three Pakistani police were found guilty of rape, yet were sentenced to just one year in prison by a Pakistani military tribunal. Despite evidence implicating MINUSTAH personnel in a cover-up of the abuse, the case in local courts has stalled. In another example of injustice, over 100 Sri Lankan troops were returned to Sri Lanka in 2007 after evidence emerged of their involvement in sexual exploitation and prostitution with Haitian children and women. There is no sign that the troops have faced any form of punishment since.

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Chronicle of a Disaster Foretold? Print
Friday, 24 August 2012 12:16

The latest news from the Associated Press suggests Tropical Storm Isaac may not reach hurricane strength before hitting Haiti:

Tropical Storm Isaac strengthened slightly as it spun toward the Dominican Republic and vulnerable Haiti on Friday, threatening to bring punishing rains but unlikely to gain enough steam to strike as a hurricane.

Forecasters now expect the storm to stay below hurricane force until it's in the Gulf of Mexico, staying to the west of Tampa, Florida, where the Republican National Convention starts on Monday, though there is still an outside chance it could hit there.

In Haiti, the government and international aid groups announced plans to evacuate several thousand people from one of the settlement camps that sprang up in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake.

Isaac was expected to dump eight to 12 inches (20 to 30 centimeters) of rain on the island of Hispaniola that is shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

"That kind of rain is going to cause some life-threatening flash floods and mudslides," said Dennis Feltgen, a spokesman for the Hurricane Center in Miami.

AP’s Trenton Daniel goes on to describe the Haitian government’s emergency measures and the reactions that some Haitians had to them:

In flood-prone Haiti, where the storm's eye is likely to blow ashore late Friday, Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe urged people to avoid crossing rivers, to tape their windows, and to stay calm, saying "panic creates more problems."

Lamothe and other Haitian officials said the government had set aside about $50,000 in emergency funds and had buses and 32 boats on standby for evacuations.

But among many Haitians, the notion of disaster preparedness in a country where most people get by on about $2 a day was met with a shrug.

"We don't have houses that can bear a hurricane," said Jeanette Lauredan, who lives in a tent camp in the crowded Delmas district of Port-au-Prince.

About 400,000 people remain in settlement camps comprised of shacks and tarps in the wake of Haiti's devastating 2010 earthquake.

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Tropical Storm Isaac Heads for Haiti, Likely to Leave a Spike in Cholera in its Wake Print
Thursday, 23 August 2012 16:02

There has been much discussion in the media over the past day regarding whether Tropical Storm Isaac might rain on the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, and possibly cause delays or a cancellation. Receiving less attention is that 400,000 some people in Haiti are still living in tents, under tarps and various forms of makeshift housing – people who became internally displaced persons (IDP’s) after the 2010 earthquake, and they are also in the storm’s projected path.

Aside from the more obvious threats that flooding and strong winds could mean for IDP camps and other vulnerable communities, Isaac could also bring a spike in cholera infections. As we have pointed out before, along with countless news articles, medical reports, and NGO press releases, Haiti’s cholera infections surge with rainy weather, and tropical storms and hurricanes pose an especially ominous threat. The lack of adequate sanitation and safe drinking water in IDP camps means that drinking water sources are likely to be contaminated by waste water when flooding occurs – along with the tents, tarps, and much bedding and other possessions. And it is not just the IDPs who face increased dangers with heavy rain. As the cholera response has been scaled back, access to cholera treatment centers in rural Haiti has decreased. While flooding and mudslides pose extreme danger on their own, they can also prevent those in need from traveling to secure the care that is needed.

We wrote two weeks ago that the Haitian health ministry reported a slower rate of infection this summer, which it attributed to unusually dry weather, but that they predicted an increase in the coming months as the hurricane season begins. The Pan American Health Organization estimates that Haiti could see up to 170,000 new cases this year, which would mean an average of about 20,000 cases per month over the next five months – 5,000 more cases per month than in the previous three months. We further noted that the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs was reporting a “very weak” “capacity to respond to potential outbreaks,” such as could occur with a drenching tropical storm.

The United Nations, meanwhile, whose troops caused the epidemic in October 2010, has yet to take responsibility by taking steps to contain and control cholera.

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