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Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction

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Former Dictator Lives the Good Life, as Haitian Government has “Deliberately Stalled” Investigation Print
Wednesday, 18 January 2012 16:39

In a front page Washington Post article, William Booth reports on the luxurious lifestyle that former dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier has been living since his return to Haiti last year. Although officially on house arrest, Booth reports that Duvalier “dines with his many admirers at the chic bistros of Petionville” and last week for the two year anniversary of the earthquake “Duvalier drove himself — with a police escort — to the government’s memorial ceremony to mark the second anniversary of Haiti’s cataclysmic earthquake. The audience, which included Haiti’s President Michel Martelly, his prime minister and former president Bill Clinton, rose to greet him.” (Journalists on the scene noted that both Martelly and Clinton also shook Duvalier’s hand.)

Duvalier’s presence at the ceremony in Titanyen was particularly troubling because, as Susana Ferreira pointed out in an article for TIME:

Titanyen, located north of Port-au-Prince, has been used as a body dumping ground for decades. It's where the Tonton Macoutes, the feared militia of the 1957-86 Duvalier family dictatorship, buried many of its estimated 30,000 victims.

Booth reports that Duvalier’s attorney believes all charges will be dropped, “He will be cleared of all charges. It is almost finished now; the judge is typing up the order to throw it all out,” Reynold Georges told Booth. This should come as little surprise given that President Martelly has consistently voiced his support for amnesty for the former dictator, telling Booth “It is part of the past. We need to learn our lessons and move forward.” Additionally, as Booth points out, “Martelly’s government includes many officials with ties to Duvalier’s government.” The AP’s Trenton Daniel reported in October that:

Now, a former minister and ambassador under the regime is serving as a close adviser to Martelly. And at least five high-ranking members of the administration, including the new prime minister, are the children of senior dictatorship officials.

Miguel Vivanco, the Americas director of Human Rights Watch said when Duvalier returned a year ago, that "Duvalier's return to Haiti should be for one purpose only: to face justice. Under the presidency of Duvalier and his Tonton Macoutes, thousands were killed and tortured, and hundreds of thousands of Haitians fled into exile. His time to be held accountable is long overdue." Amnesty International issued a statement this week calling on the Haitian government to prosecute Duvalier.  Amnesty’s statement is even more forceful, placing blame directly on Martelly and his administration for delaying the prosecution:

“The authorities haven’t made a serious effort to look into past events that afflicted a generation of Haitians with torture, enforced disappearance, extrajudicial executions, arbitrary arrests and other serious human rights violations.”



“The investigation seems to have deliberately stalled by changing Public Prosecutors multiple times,” said Javier Zúñiga.

“It has become evident that in Haiti, the independence of the judiciary is just a mirage.”
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Ten Things Cheryl Mills May Prefer You Not Know About Haiti Today Print
Thursday, 12 January 2012 18:49

In the weeks prior to the 2nd anniversary of Haiti’s January 12, 2010 earthquake, an unprecedented U.S. State Department public relations offensive has unfolded. On December 28 the U.S. State Department released 11 fact sheets, celebrating the achievements of the U.S. humanitarian and development assistance in Haiti in areas ranging from shelter to food security.  To make sure the message got through to journalists, on January 6th the U.S. government partnered up with UN entities and held a joint press teleconference on Haiti to discuss the “amazing” work done removing rubble and providing clean water and shelter to those made homeless by the quake.

The effort continued with an op-ed by Cheryl Mills, Counselor and Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that appeared on January 9thin the Huffington Post.  The piece was then sent out widely by the State Department public affairs office. Finally, on the day of the anniversary, additional op-eds were published by Rajiv Shah, the head of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Mark Feierstein, Assistant Administrator, Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean at USAID.  Shah and Feierstein appeared to have received the same memo: their talking points were strikingly similar and the two articles had nearly the same titles “Haiti Is on the Move” and “Haiti ‘a country undeniably on the move’”.

Clearly, there is heightened concern – within the U.S. foreign policy machine – about the perception of U.S. efforts in Haiti, given the increased press scrutiny generated by the 2nd quake anniversary commemorations.  A lot of money has been spent - $2.2 billion by the US alone according to their fact sheet on funding - and it’s important to show some results after two years.  And, apparently, there are plenty of results on display, as Cheryl Mills has emphasized in her piece, which rolls out ten impressive-sounding achievements.  But are these achievements real, and – if they are – do they really represent significant steps forward?   Let’s try to go beyond the hype by taking a closer look at Cheryl Mills’ article “Haiti – Two Years Post-Earthquake: What You May Not Know,” and providing the reader with a few additional facts that Mills and the U.S. State Department may prefer you not know: 

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Two Years Later: Media Assess the State of Reconstruction in Haiti Print
Thursday, 12 January 2012 12:51

There have been a host of assessments in the media over the past week examining the state of recovery in Haiti two years after the earthquake. All of these present a mixed review, usually noting early on, as this one from Reuters’ Kevin Gray and Joseph Guyler Delva does, that “More than a half a million people still live in a critical situation in crowded tent camps, many without running water or electricity.” Gray and Guyler Delva also mention that “throngs of Haitians line the streets every day in a jarring reminder that 70 percent of the population is either unemployed or underemployed.”

Reuters goes on:

"It's been two years and I'm still here in the camps," said Jerome Mezil, a 28-year-old who lives in the Sainte-Therese tent camp in the capital's Petionville district.

Some tent camp dwellers say they fear life outside the camps will be even tougher.

Indeed, this echoes what respondents told the International Organization for Migration last year regarding their decision to leave camps: "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. These answers contradict claims by the Washington Post that “most were pulled away [from tent cities] by programs that gave them rent subsidies or assistance to repair a home.”

While some headlines seemed to present an almost rosy view of things two years later, the Miami Herald’s assessment begins

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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

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