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Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction

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Hospital in Mirebalais, Set to Open in 2012, Stands as Example of Aid Done Right Print
Wednesday, 11 January 2012 15:18

As the two year mark approaches, many are justifiably asking, where did the money go? With billions pledged by donors, and billions more in private donations, it is a natural question. As important as the level of disbursement is the question of where that money has gone and whether it has been spent appropriately.  Independent evaluations have shown that many NGOs were responding more to their donors than to those whom they are supposedly in Haiti to help. Last year, the United Nations Special Envoy to Haiti (OSE) released a report, “Has Aid Changed? Channeling Assistance to Haiti Before and After the Earthquake,” which analyzed whether donors “have changed the way they provide their assistance in accordance with the principle of accompaniment” which “is specifically focused on guiding international partners to transfer more resources and assets directly to Haitian public and private institutions as part of their support.”

Yet the vast majority of aid projects and donor support bypassed the Haitian government. In fact, there was less direct budget support in 2011 than there was in 2009 before the earthquake. Additionally, many aid projects were undertaken outside the purview of the government. Rather than reinforcing the government’s capabilities, these types of projects have historically undermined them.  Despite this, there are examples of aid done right; the construction of a new teaching hospital in Mirebalais by Partners in Health is one such example.

Partners in Health/Zanmi Lasante (PIH) had been in Haiti for 25 years before the earthquake and has a history of working closely with the government. Dr. Paul Farmer of PIH, writing in the introduction of the OSE report referenced earlier, stresses the importance of working with, not around Haitian institutions:

We know from our shared experiences in Haiti and elsewhere that the way aid is channelled matters a great deal, and determines its impact on the lives of the Haitian people. For example, with over 99 percent of relief funding circumventing Haitian public institutions, the already challenging task of moving from relief to recovery—which requires government leadership, above all—becomes almost impossible.

We have heard from the Haitian people time and again that creating jobs and supporting the government to ensure access to basic services are essential to restoring dignity. And we have learned that in order to make progress in these two areas we need to directly invest in Haitian people and their public and private institutions. The Haitian proverb sak vide pa kanpe—“an empty sack cannot stand”—applies here. To revitalize Haitian institutions, we must channel money through them.

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Beyond the Headlines: Is the Reduction of the IDP Population a Sign of Success? Print
Tuesday, 10 January 2012 18:13

As media coverage intensifies around the two-year anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti, there appears to be a serious effort on the part of the largest donors and aid organizations to present the relief and recovery in Haiti as an unmitigated success. One notable exception is Oxfam, which released a two-year report critical of the reconstruction effort.  The State Department, on the other hand, issued 11 separate fact sheets on the U.S. response in Haiti; none of them suggested that the U.S. had learned from its mistakes, or indeed that any mistakes had been made at all. One of the key statistics that is most frequently touted to suggest that big advances have been made is the decline in the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) living in camps.  In a State Department blog post (also published on the Huffington Post) Cheryl Mills, chief of staff to Hillary Clinton, points to the reduction of IDP numbers as a clear sign of progress:

Almost two-thirds of the estimated 1.5 million Haitians living in tent shelters after the January 2010 earthquake have left camps, many returning to houses that have undergone structural improvements or moving into temporary shelters and permanent homes.

Of course, a reduction in people living in IDP camps seems like an entirely positive development. Yet a closer look at this development reveals significant problems with both the relief and reconstruction effort and a much more tepid success story.

In March, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which tracks the IDP camp population, found that there were 680,000 people living in the camps. So by March the majority of the decrease Mills cites had already taken place. Yet what the IOM found was that many people were leaving the camps for even more precarious living situations, not for new homes or T-shelters. The IOM study shows that only seven percent indicated that an "assistance package was provided" (2.0%), "my home was repaired" (4.7%) or "transitional shelter was provided" (0.3%) as reasons for leaving IDP sites. On the other hand, "Poor conditions in the IDP site", "eviction", "high incidence of crime/insecurity in the IDP site", and "rain/hurricane" were cited by 77.9 percent of respondents. Between June 2010 and March 2011, some 230,000 people were evicted from IDP camps and more than 100,000 still face the constant threat of eviction.

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Contractor Accused of Waste in Katrina Reconstruction Lands USAID Contract in Haiti Print
Wednesday, 04 January 2012 14:39

In March 2010, the New Orleans inspector general found that a major contractor for the city’s recovery efforts, MWH Americas, had been overcharging the city. The Times-Picayune reported at the time:

The controversial engineering firm hired to manage New Orleans' massive rebuilding effort has been operating for more than two years under a dubiously awarded contract that has allowed it to overbill the city repeatedly even as the bricks-and-mortar recovery work it oversees has lagged, according to a draft report by the city's inspector general.

Now this same company accused of wrongdoing in New Orleans has landed a USAID contract for work in Haiti. And it's not the first time this has happened. MWH announced on December 21 that it had received a $2.8 million contract to conduct a feasibility study for port infrastructure in northern Haiti (the contract was signed on September 23). The company’s release goes on:

The $2.8 million contract will include a market demand and project finance structure study, economic feasibility analysis, and the preparation of a detailed technical study including geotechnical, environmental assessment, operational performance, water supply system, emergency response, access roads and institutional and regulatory assessment. The project is expected to be complete in May 2012.

The awarding of the contract to Colorado-based MWH, despite a record of waste and abuse, is consistent with other contracts awarded by USAID in the aftermath of the January 2010 earthquake. Overall, USAID has awarded over $300 million in contracts, with only 0.02 percent going directly to Haitian firms. The largest contractor is Chemonics, a company with a long record of waste and abuse in Afghanistan and which was criticized by the USAID inspector general last year for its work in Haiti. MWH Global, the parent company of MWH Americas, spent over $675,000 dollars on lobbying expenses in 2011, according to OpenSecrets.org, although it was below the $1.2 million spent in 2010.

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Will New Factory Jobs Offer Wages and Conditions that "Will Allow Haitians to Feel Proud"? Print
Thursday, 22 December 2011 12:35

A recent report by Haiti Grassroots Watch examines Haiti’s much trumpeted apparel manufacturing, planned for significant expansion with the new Caracol Industrial Park, which is “being built with 124 million dollars of U.S. taxpayer funds, and another 55 million dollars from the Inter-American Development Bank.” At the park’s groundbreaking ceremony last month, Haitian President Michel Martelly said "Haiti is open for business,"  and "This model of investment will allow Haitians to feel proud.” Reuters reported that “Martelly said the park could eventually provide jobs for 65,000 workers, which would increase Haiti's garment industry workforce by more than 200 percent.”

But among HGW’s key findings are that:

  • Haitian workers earn less today than they did under the Duvalier dictatorship.

  • Over one-half the average daily wage is used up to pay for lunch and transportation costs to and from work.

HGW’s investigative reporters interviewed a factory worker named Evelyn Pierre-Paul, who

hasn't been able to save up a year's rent yet. Twenty-three months after the catastrophe that killed hundreds of thousands, she and her children are still living under a tent in one of the capital's hundreds of squalid refugee camps.

Pierre-Paul's average daily take-home wage is actually more than Haiti's minimum factory wage of 150 gourdes, or 3.75 dollars, a day. She earns about 236 gourdes, or 5.90 dollars a day. But that doesn't cover even one-quarter of what would be considered a family's most basic expenses.

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"UN Must Pay for Disaster It Caused in Haiti – and Stop Lying About It" - Mark Weisbrot in The Guardian Print
Tuesday, 20 December 2011 14:30
Yesterday, the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) released a statement calling on MINUSTAH to take responsibility for the cholera outbreak in Haiti that has already killed over 7,000. In the release, CEPR co-director Mark Weisbrot says, "This is a case of criminal negligence, and the UN, if it is to continue to be worthy of the respect of people around the world, must own up to the fact that it caused this problem." Today, Weisbrot writes in The Guardian (UK):

If an international agency brought a deadly disease to New York City that killed more people than the 9/11 attacks, what would be the consequences?  Could they simply brush it off and have nobody hold them accountable for the damages?  The answer is obviously "no," and the same would be true for most of the countries in this hemisphere.  But so far, it looks like they can get away with it in Haiti.

For some reason the “international community” thinks that it can get away with anything in Haiti.  More than 7,000 Haitians have been killed since October of 2010 by the deadly cholera bacteria that UN troops brought to Haiti.  More than 500,000 have been infected, and the disease – which Haiti has not had in more than a century – is now endemic to the country and will be killing people there for many years to come.

Last week, UN officials once again denied  responsibility for the disaster, and even lied publicly about the available scientific research – some of which was included in the UN’s own report on the epidemic. On Thursday Nigel Fisher, the UN’s Deputy Special Representative for MINUSTAH said, "The cholera strain we have in Haiti is the same as the one they have in Latin America and Africa. They all derive from Bangladesh in the 1960s so they are all an Asian strain.

"But the UN’s own report stated definitively that this was not true: "Overall, this basic bacteriological information indicates the Haitian isolates were similar to the Vibrio cholerae strains currently circulating in South Asia and parts of Africa, and not to strains isolated in the Gulf of Mexico [or] those found in other parts of Latin America ...”

So according to the UN’s own research, Fisher was lying.  The UN’s denials of its responsibility for introducing cholera in Haiti are analogous to the dishonesty of “climate change deniers.”  The evidence for the origin of the epidemic is overwhelming.


To read the rest of the article, click here. To see the article on the original website, click here.
 
Emergency and Transitional Shelter Provision Flawed, New Evaluation Shows Print
Tuesday, 13 December 2011 11:32

An independent evaluation of shelter provision released last week by Estudios Proyectos y Planificación S.A., under commission of the International Federation of the Red Cross, provides perhaps the first systematic evaluation of the provision of shelter since the earthquake nearly two years ago. The report, while acknowledging the tremendous constraints in post-earthquake Haiti and pointing to some notable successes, is highly critical of the overall effort on the part of the international community despite the fact that “money was not an issue for the shelter response.”

The report focuses on the Shelter Cluster, which took the lead in providing emergency and then interim shelter solutions in Haiti, finding that affected populations and Haitian institutions were excluded from the process and a rigid, singular focus on transitional shelters (T-shelters) hindered the ability to develop a comprehensive housing solution.

Meetings were most often conducted in English and access was restricted inside the UN Log base leading to “a barrier between the international response system and the Haitian institutions.” One government official states that, “[o]ur ideas were not taken too much into consideration. Some said it is because we didn’t have the capacity [to actively participate in the cluster’s decisions] (…) Perhaps we were weak but we were there and tried, but they [shelter agencies] wouldn’t listen to us.”

The evaluation found that “a more participatory strategy would have been desirable to better address the affected population’s needs and plans and to seek collaboration with them, to allow a more self-driven response and to reduce the burden on the humanitarian actors.”

“Affected people were not consulted nor their capacities considered, the response was what those with the [foreign] money decided,” one interviewee told the evaluation team.

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MINUSTAH by the Numbers Print
Thursday, 08 December 2011 14:19

The United Nations Peacekeeping operation in Haiti, MINUSTAH by its French acronym, has been the target of recent popular protests and a source of controversy because of its role in re-introducing cholera to Haiti, the sexual assault of a young Haitian man and other past abuses. On November 3, 2011 the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti and Bureau des Avocats Internationaux filed a legal complaint on behalf of over 5,000 cholera victims seeking damages from the United Nations. The UN has so far not responded or given a timetable for a response.

Here is MINUSTAH, by the numbers:

Percent of worldwide UN peacekeepers that are in Haiti, despite it not being a war zone: 12.5

Number of MINUSTAH troops (military and police) currently in Haiti: 12,552

Rank in size among the 16 UN peacekeeping operations worldwide: 3

Rank in size of Darfur and the Democratic Republic of Congo, respectively: 1, 2

Percent of Haiti’s annual government expenditures to which MINUSTAH’s budget is equivalent: 50

Percent of Haiti’s GDP to which MINUSTAH’s budget is equivalent: 10.7

Total estimated cost of MINUSTAH since the earthquake: $1,556,461,550

Percent of UN peacekeeping operations worldwide funded by the United States: 27

Percent the U.S. has disbursed out of its $1.15 billion pledge at the March 2010 donor conference: 18.8

Percent of the U.S.’ contributions to MINUSTAH since the earthquake that this represents: 41

Factor by which MINUSTAH’s budget exceeds the amount of funds the UN’s cholera appeal has raised: 8

Percent of MINUSTAH’s budget it would take to fully fund the UN’s cholera appeal: 1.7

Number of days operating expenses it would take to fund a cholera vaccination campaign that would cover the entire country: 18

Percent of a single day’s MINUSTAH budget that the cholera vaccination pilot program will use over its multiple-week lifespan: 40

Minimum number of people killed from cholera in Haiti since October 2010: 6,908

Number of people killed by homicide in Haiti in 2010: 689

Number of people, per 10 million (roughly the population of Haiti), killed by homicide in Brazil, the largest troop contributor to MINUSTAH: 2,270

Number of cholera victims who filed a claim with the UN seeking damages: 5,000

Number of cholera victims: 513,997

Rate per minute that Haitians were falling ill with cholera in July 2011: 1

Amount by which MINUSTAH’s budget exceeds the UN’s 2012 humanitarian appeal for Haiti: $562,517,100

Number of MINUSTAH personnel who were repatriated this year after a cell phone video emerged showing troops sexually assaulting a young Haitian man: 5

Number of successful prosecutions against over 100 MINUSTAH troops repatriated to Sri Lanka after allegations of involvement in child prostitution surfaced in 2007: 0

Number of standing claims commissions set up by the UN under Status of Forces Agreements so that local population may have means of redress from peacekeepers, historically: 0

Years MINUSTAH has been in Haiti: 7

Shortfall in trained national police officers that are supposed to take over for MINUSTAH: 10,000

Rank among Haiti’s top donors, including governments, that MINUSTAH would be if its budget went towards relief and reconstruction efforts: 3

Date on which cholera was discovered: October 21, 2010

Date the head of MINUSTAH was reported saying it was “really unfair” to accuse the UN of bringing cholera to Haiti: November 22, 2010

Distance, in miles, from the Nepalese MINUSTAH base to the location of the first reported case of cholera: .1

Date on which scientific paper confirmed that Haitian and Nepalese samples of cholera were "almost identical": August 23, 2011

Days since the cholera outbreak it has taken for the UN to accept responsibility: 413 (and counting)

Date on which MINUSTAH’s mandate was extended through 2012: October 14, 2011

Percent of Haitians in a recent survey who said they wanted MINUSTAH gone within a year: 65

Read more...

 

 
Blacklisted Contractor Continues Receiving Government Money Through Haiti Contracts Print
Friday, 02 December 2011 15:06

CEPR research assistant and HRRW contributor Jake Johnston writes in The Hill's Congress Blog today:

Following the devastating earthquake in Haiti on January 12, 2010, the U.S. launched an unprecedented relief effort, eventually totaling over one billion dollars. But the lead agency in the immediate aftermath was not the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), as is typically the case when our nation provides humanitarian assistance, but the military.  Just after the earthquake, the U.S. had over 20,000 troops in Haiti. Of the $1.1 billion in humanitarian funding from the U.S. in 2010, nearly half was channeled to the Department of Defense.

As has been the case in Iraq and Afghanistan, relief efforts have relied heavily on contractors, a number of which have a history of waste, fraud and abuse. An analysis of federal contracts has revealed that Kuwait-based Agility Logistics (formerly PWC Logistics) -- currently under indictment for overcharging the U.S. military by up to $1 billion -- has benefited from over $16 million in funding awarded in the aftermath of the earthquake.

With so much on the line, the U.S government, across the board, must step up its oversight of contractors to ensure taxpayer dollars are not wasted on companies with poor track records.

Agility has been barred from receiving government contracts since November 2009, when a federal grand jury indicted the company for overcharging the U.S. military on $8 billion in contracts to supply food for troops in Iraq, Kuwait and Jordan. Agility was accused of “intentionally failing to purchase less expensive food items, knowingly manipulating and inflating prices, and receiving product rebates and discounts that it did not pass on to the government as required.” The prospect of additional charges still exists.

In November 2009 Agility was added to the U.S.’s Excluded Party List System (EPLS), which prevents them from procuring contracts from any government agency. The EPLS designation has been extended to over 125 related organizations as the investigation has continued; all of them have been indefinitely barred.

Despite the blacklist designation Agility was able to secure government funding for work in Haiti through a joint venture. An analysis of the Federal Procurement Data System shows that Contingency Response Services LLC (CRS) has received over $16 million in government funding from the Department of the Navy since the earthquake.  The particularly bland sounding Contingency Response Services consists of three defense contractor giants -- Dyncorp, Parsons and Agility Logistics (then PWC logistics).

Read the rest here. The full version with more background on the other partners in CRS is available here.

 
With Poor Track Records For-Profit Development Companies Team Up to Fight Reform Print
Thursday, 01 December 2011 16:02

This is the final part of a series of posts analyzing USAID's increasing reliance on contractors and how this has affected efforts to provide greater oversight, implement procurement reform and improve the efficacy of U.S. aid. Part one is available here, part two here.

As was discussed in the previous post, the lack of oversight of large USAID contractors makes tracking the percent of funds disbursed to local subcontractors nearly impossible, yet this is not the only reason for increased transparency. It is also justified given that many of these contractors have previously been found to have performed their missions inadequately. Without increased efforts to monitor their actions, the likelihood of increased waste, fraud and abuse is only heightened. In addition to their work in Haiti, Chemonics has received hundreds of millions of dollars for activities in Afghanistan, including a $153 million contract in 2003 to improve the agricultural sector.  In 2005, the GAO found that Chemonics had failed to "address a key program objective", and that "consequently, during its first 15 months, the project’s progress in strengthening Afghanistan`s market chain was limited."

Despite this, Chemonics received a contract in 2006 for $102 million. Once again, the USAID Inspector General found significant problems with the program:

Chemonics reported results for all eight indicators for the first year of the program. However, the audit identified that for two of the eight indicators, reported results fell considerably short of intended results. Targets had not been established for the other six indicators making it difficult to tell how well the project was proceeding. In addition, Chemonics did not have documentation to adequately support reported results for six indicators. In two of the six cases, the support was inadequate, while in four cases there was no support at all. For example, Chemonics had inadequate support for the reported result that 1,719 individuals had received short-term agricultural training, and no support for the reported result that project activities had generated an economic value in excess of $59 million. In addition, the audit found that a major program activity—the Mazar foods initiative—was behind schedule. This $40 million initiative to cultivate 10,000 hectares for a commercial farm was not finalized in time to take advantage of the summer planting season as initially planned.

The Inspector General has also found problems with Chemonics’ performance in Haiti. The AP reported at the time of the report:

And an audit this fall by US AID'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.

Additionally, the IG noted that Chemonics was using cash-for-work programs to remove rubble from private lots, contrary to USAID policy. The report states:

[T]he audit team observed workers removing rubble from the lots of private residences next to two of the four Chemonics rubble removal sites visited during the audit. Chemonics officials later confirmed that it was clearing the residential lots in conjunction with a road renovation project. USAID program officials confirmed that there are no formal procedures for selecting private homes for clearance, that private homes do not meet USAID/OTI’s site selection criteria, and that the implementing partner had not notified USAID/OTI of the exceptions.

The most egregious part of the IG report, however, is that Chemonics and Development Alternatives International (DAI), another for-profit development firm, were operating in Haiti with no oversight. The IG report found that USAID/OTI had not conducted financial reviews of their implementing partners, concluding that “Although DAI and Chemonics were also expending millions of dollars rapidly on CFW [cash-for-work] programs in a high-risk environment, USAID/OTI had not yet performed these internal control reviews.”

The fact that these internal controls were not applied is especially troubling given information in the contract that Chemonics was operating under at the time. Specifically, the contract required that detailed financial information be provided.

Read more...

 

 
Investigation Finds Evidence of Violations of Union Rights in Garment Industry Print
Wednesday, 30 November 2011 15:41

On the same day as a high profile event laying the corner stone of “one of the largest and most modern” industrial parks in the Caribbean, an investigation by Better Work Haiti found "evidence of violations of freedom of association" at other Haitian textile factories. Alison Macgregor of the Montreal Gazette reports:

Gildan Activewear Inc. has ordered its Haitian subcontractor to reinstate four workers after an independent investigation concluded they were illegally fired in September because of their involvement with a local union.

The union members worked for the Genesis S.A. factory near the Portau-Prince [sic] airport. The tax-exempt plant, owned by the powerful Apaid family, produces almost exclusively for Gildan. The investigation found there was "evidence of violations of freedom of association" at the factory, Peter Iliopoulos, Gildan's senior vice-president (public and corporate affairs) said in an interview Tuesday.

[It is also worth noting that the workers’ reinstatement follows pressure from the International Labor Rights Forum, United Students Against Sweatshops, Workers Rights Consortium and other labor solidarity groups.]

Until this past September there was only one union in the Haitian garment sector, and none in Port-au-Prince. In September, the Sendika Ouvriye Takstil ak Abiman (SOTA) union was formed as a sector wide movement. On September 16, SOTA obtained registration from the Haitian Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, yet as the Better Work investigation states:

Between 23 and 30 September 2011, six members of the Executive Committee of a new trade union formed by workers in the garment sector in Haiti (SOTA) were terminated by three factories in Port-au-Prince.


In each case, Better Work found that the “employer has not provided sufficient information to counter the allegations of anti-union discrimination”. The report suggests the re-hiring of those fired with back pay and concludes:

There is strong circumstantial evidence to demonstrate that the officers of the SOTA trade union were terminated based on their trade union affiliation. The fact that 6 out of 7 officers of the SOTA union were fired by three employers within two weeks of the registration of the union with the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs strongly suggests an effort by employers to undermine the new union, and to curtail its growth before it had the opportunity to expand its membership.

With the garment industry heavily promoted by the Haitian government and international donors, it will be imperative to ensure that worker’s rights are respected and strengthened.

Read more...

 

 
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