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Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction

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The Forgotten Story of Cholera and the Upcoming Rainy Season Print
Wednesday, 16 March 2011 12:38

Although a new study today from The Lancet has brought the cholera epidemic back to the attention of the media, the story had faded from the headlines, replaced by elections, returns of former presidents (and dictators) and reconstruction projects. Many commentators have also failed to mention that the rainy season is set to begin in two weeks. One year ago, the Christian Science Monitor headlined a story,"Haiti races to house post-quake homeless before the rainy season." One year later, the story would read much the same. Although overly optimistic reports from the International Organization of Migration have noted a decrease in the number of IDPs in the camps, even their rosy estimates put the number around 800,000. It may be the case that a large number of IDPs returned to homes that had been marked either Red (needing to be destroyed) or Yellow (needing repairs). This is hardly a solution. In terms of transitional shelters, the most recent data show 43,000 of the planned 111,000 having been built. Even the most optimistic acknowledge that there will still be hundreds of thousands left without any meaningful shelter at the end of 2011, let alone in two weeks for the onset of the rainy season.

A report today in The Lancet medical journal sheds new light on the extent of the cholera epidemic and should come as a wake up call to an international community that has seemed more focused on imposing election results and impeding the constitutional return of former president Aristide than solving the crisis on the ground of inadequate shelter and an inadequate response to the cholera epidemic. The inadequate response was well documented by Mark Schuller and researchers from City University of New York and Faculte d'Ethnologie. Their report noted that:

Still using the random sample of 108 IDP camps from this summer, a team of three State University of Haiti students investigated 45 camps that lacked either water or toilets from the summer. The results show a minimum of progress: 37.6 percent instead of 40.5 percent still do not have water, and 25.8 instead of 30.3 percent of camps still do not have a toilet.

The cholera outbreak – combined with the continued lack of services – is a key factor in the rap-id depopulation of the IDP camps. According to the IOM only 810,000 remain as of January 7. One in four camps researchers visited disappeared since the last visit, eight because of IDPs’ fear of cholera, and three because of landowner pressure.

New research from Harvard Medical School and the University of California shows that the far from leveling off, the cholera epidemic could infect as many as one million Haitians:

By contrast with the UN projection of 400 000 cases of cholera from December, 2010, to December, 2011, our dynamic model of cholera, which incorporates key features of disease transmission and pathogenesis, projected more than 750 000 cases in the 9 months from March to December, 2011. Although the prevalence of cholera is decreasing in Haiti, the projections from our model suggest that this is the expected natural course of the epidemic, and should not necessarily be interpreted as indicative of successful intervention.

The estimate of 400,000, according to the study, “is essentially a guess—based on no data, and ignoring the dynamics of cholera epidemics, such as where people acquire the infection, how they gain immunity, and the role of human interventions such as water allocation or vaccination.”

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Is MINUSTAH’s Time Almost Up? Print
Tuesday, 15 March 2011 16:14

From the website of a State Representative for the (ruling) Workers’ Party in Brazil, a flier promotes a rally for “the withdrawal of troops from Haiti”.

The March 28 event will feature speakers from, among others, State Representatives for the Workers’ Party, a leading officer of the Central Unica dos Trabalhadores (CUT - the main trade union federation), and representatives of the Landless Workers’ Movement (MST) – one of the largest social movement organizatons in Latin America, and a major force in Brazilian politics -- and the Unified Black Movement, perhaps Brazil’s most influential Afro-descendant organization, among others.

The rally for Brazilian troops to leave Haiti would be the latest manifestation of what Wikileaked State Department cables have described as “a lack of domestic support for the [Peace Keeping Operation]”, and the explosion of opposition in Haiti to MINUSTAH’s ongoing presence following its suspected (with strong evidence) role in causing the cholera outbreak last year, in addition to its record of various human rights abuses.

The planned rally follows recent news that the Defense Council of South America (CDS), under the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), has decided to

form a dialogue commission composed of six countries (Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru and Colombia), whose mission will be to gather opinions of the haitian [sic] society about the Stabilization Mission in United Nations (Minustah).

Once the information gathered by the dialogue commission, the members of the Defence Council of South America (CDS) will meet once again to determine their own decisions in the future of the Minsutah [sic] in Haiti.

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A Corps Revived? Both Presidential Candidates Want to Bring Back the Haitian Army Print
Wednesday, 09 March 2011 17:48

The AP’s Ben Fox has a story today on hopes by various former members of the Haitian army (Forces Armée de Haiti, or FADH) that the next president will reconstitute the military force. Haiti has been without an army since President Aristide disbanded it in 1994 following the results of polling that showed 62 percent in favor of the move.

Describing men who “represent nothing more than an informal movement of Haitians eager to re-establish an army - an idea that unnerves Haitians who remember times darkened by military coups, oppression and abuse,” Fox notes that both presidential candidates seem to favor reviving the army, despite its record of human rights abuses:

Presidential candidate Mirlande Manigat, a university administrator and former first lady, says that if elected, she would favor the formation of a military to protect the security of the nation. But, she stressed, it would have to honor human rights.

"Nobody would like the armed forces as they existed before," she told The Associated Press. "There's no way the old practices could be renewed in Haiti."

Martelly, who in the past has suggested he could have dictatorial tendencies as president (abolishing congress and outlawing all strikes and demonstrations in a “Fujimori-style solution”), and who openly supported the coups against Aristide, wants the Haitian army to replace MINUSTAH, which itself has committed a variety of serious rights abuses since arriving in Haiti in 2004:

Her rival, former singer Michel "Sweet Mickey" Martelly, says a new national security force could include engineers and a medical corps to respond to natural disasters. He also would like to see Haitian troops replace the U.N. force, known by the acronym MINUSTAH, that has kept order since Aristide was deposed.

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Has Haiti's Food Aid Been Shelved? Print
Wednesday, 02 March 2011 15:40

After world food prices rose to a record level in February, World Bank President Robert Zoellick commented that food prices have risen to “dangerous levels and threaten tens of millions of poor people”. The FAO warned that, “The low-income food deficit countries are on the front line of the current surge in world prices.” Haiti, which imports nearly 50 percent of its food, according to the WFP, could be especially vulnerable. Already in Haiti, an estimated 2.5-3.3 million people are food insecure. The combination of the earthquake, rising international prices, the cholera epidemic and the upcoming rainy season could push this already too large a number, even higher.

Although the effects of the rise in prices will be felt in the short term, the problem of food sovereignty is a long term one. Haiti was not always a food-deficit country; although it now imports over 80 percent of rice consumed, in 1988 it was closer to 50 percent. After the rice market was opened up, cheap imports from the US flooded the market, devastating local production capabilities and discouraging investment. Just last year, Bill Clinton publicly apologized for the policies saying, “It may have been good for some of my farmers in Arkansas, but it has not worked. It was a mistake,” adding, “I had to live everyday with the consequences of the loss of capacity to produce a rice crop in Haiti to feed those people because of what I did; nobody else.” Chief humanitarian officer of the UN John Holmes echoed this assessment, noting that, “A combination of food aid, but also cheap imports have ... resulted in a lack of investment in Haitian farming, and that has to be reversed.”

Despite these high profile endorsements for investment in agriculture, little has been done. The 2010 UN humanitarian appeal included nearly $60 million for the agricultural sector, yet despite the overall appeal being 75 percent funded, the agriculture sector was just 54 percent funded, a lower percent than 10 of the 13 sectors. In comparison to the $30 million in funding for agriculture, an astonishing $365 million was given for food aid, which predominantly comes in the form of foreign foodstuffs and has a negative effect on the productivity of local farmers. Proposals for food aid that would simultaneously give Haitian rice production a boost have been passed over so far. The UN launched a new funding drive for 2011 in December 2010 and is asking for an additional $43 million for agriculture. Thus far, only $500,000 has been funded. Despite the urgent need for investment in agriculture, which accounts for nearly 25 percent of Haiti’s GDP, the sector grew just 0.03 percent last year. It is clear that much more needs to be done to secure the investment that is needed for long term food security.

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CEP: The Case of the Disappearing Names Print
Monday, 21 February 2011 13:32

As we – unlike the major U.S. media – have noted in previous posts (here, here and here), an ongoing political scandal has emerged in Haiti following revelations that, contrary to statements by CEP spokesperson Richardson Dumel, only four of eight CEP members appear to have signed the official statement regarding the Council’s determinations regarding a second round. This would mean that, legally, the CEP did not actually reach an official decision, and that preparations for a second round of elections between two candidates are illegitimate.

In the wake of legal challenges against Dumel that would require him to prove the authenticity of the document he cited in making public pronouncements regarding the second round -- and following our February 9 blog post noting that the CEP had not by then posted anything on its website regarding the supposed decision on the runoff -- we noticed with surprise last week when the CEP actually did post a press release on its site affirming its decision regarding the second round. More surprising was that the statement was followed by the names of all eight CEP members, including the four "dissenters": Ginette Chérubin, Jean-Pierre Toussaint Thélève, Jacques Belzin, and Ribel Pierre.

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In Haiti, Controversy over Election Continues; In U.S., Media Goes Silent Print
Tuesday, 15 February 2011 09:39

As we have pointed out previously, the English language media has all but ignored the news that – as reported by Haitian newspaper Le Nouvelliste – four CEP members may never have signed the document affirming the Council’s decision regarding the second round of elections. Given the major media's neglect in covering this story, one could be forgiven for thinking that the second round is a foregone conclusion, however in Haiti the controversy is very much still alive.

Last week, according to L'Agence Haitien de Presse (AHP), two presidential candidates, Jean Henry Ceant and Yves Cristalin filed a legal challenge that would require Richardson Dumel (the CEP spokesperson) to prove the authenticity of the document he read with the final results on February 3. After failing to come to court, on Friday the police were sent to bring him in. According to AHP, however, he has yet to present the evidence that was asked of him.

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Hundreds of Thousands of IDP's Likely to Still Be in Camps by 2012 Print
Monday, 14 February 2011 15:54

Although much of the recent press coverage of Haiti has focused on the election, there remain serious humanitarian concerns that have yet to be adequately addressed. A cholera epidemic continues to spread across Haiti, now accounting for some 4,000 deaths. Meanwhile, according to the International Organization of Migration (IOM), some 800,000 people remain in tarpaulin camps. Let Haiti Live reported in January that the 800,000 number was actually overly optimistic, writing:

The decrease in camps or spontaneous settlements of homeless earthquake survivors in reality reflects a very sad fact. Despite humanitarian efforts, an entire year and billions of dollars spent, many Haitians still find camps unsuitable for life. Despite the humanitarian efforts and the international attention, Haitians would rather displace themselves again than stay in camps that are ostensibly receiving services from the humanitarian community.  The only way a second displacement can be considered a success is perhaps because it releases the IOM of its responsibility for the livelihoods and living conditions of the estimated 700,000 former camp residents.

Over the weekend, IOM tempered their success, reporting that:

"Hundreds of thousands of Haitians are likely still to be living in displacement camps by the end of 2011," Luca Dall'Oglio, IOM Haiti's Chief of Mission warned.

Numbers of displaced people living in camps had fallen from an estimated high of 1.5 million in July 2010 to 810,000 in January 2011. However, after a year of storms, cholera and political unrest, those remaining in camps are the most vulnerable of Haiti's earthquake victims, with no alternative but to stay where they are.

"Furthermore, many of those who have already left camps may not have found a lasting housing solution, living instead with friends and family, or in tents in their neighbourhoods," Dall'Oglio added.

It seems the IOM is finally acknowledging that a reduction in the IDP population alone is not a true indicator of success. Yet despite the dire situation, IOM points out that:

The warning comes as many partner agencies of IOM working on camp management are phasing out their operations. Facing increasing cost constraints and funding shortfalls, their departure is leading to a growing gap in capacity to provide services for those remaining in camps.

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House Financial Services Committee Planning to Conduct Oversight of Haiti Reconstruction Print
Friday, 11 February 2011 15:03
A press release from Rep. Maxine Waters’ office late yesterday states that the House Financial Services Committee adopted, “without opposition by a voice vote” an amendment offered by Waters and Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) “to conduct oversight over the situation in Haiti.”

Waters states:

“I am pleased that my colleagues agreed to conduct oversight over the dire economic situation facing the people of Haiti and the efforts of international donors to rebuild the country.  Unfortunately, one year after Haiti’s tragic earthquake, the country is still devastated.  More than 800,000 displaced people are still living in tent camps, and the conditions in many of these camps are appalling.  A cholera epidemic has spread across the country.  Mountains of rubble are piled in the streets, and there is a critical need for food, clean water and sanitation facilities.  Meanwhile, little if any of the money that was pledged by international donors has reached the people of Haiti,”

The release notes further that

Following last year’s earthquake, an international donors’ conference was convened to raise funds for Haiti’s reconstruction.  World governments and international organizations pledged $9 billion to rebuild Haiti.  The World Bank pledged $399 million, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) pledged $170 million, and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) pledged $2.2 billion.  Within the House of Representatives, the Financial Services Committee has oversight responsibilities over the IMF, the World Bank, and the IDB.

“Effective oversight is critical if the billions pledged by the IMF, the World Bank and other international donors are to be disbursed in a timely manner and used effectively to improve the lives of the Haitian people,” said Congresswoman Waters.

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Washington Can’t Block Aristide’s Return or Deny Haiti’s Sovereignty - Mark Weisbrot in The Guardian Print
Friday, 11 February 2011 11:32
CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot has an op-ed in The Guardian (UK) today, that appears both online and in the print edition.

Please note the figures listed here on political violence, as there has been a lot of misreporting on this in the press. He writes, in the longer, online version:

In 1915, the US Marines invaded Haiti, occupying the country until 1934. US officials rewrote the Haitian constitution, and when the Haitian national assembly refused to ratify it, they dissolved the assembly. They then held a "referendum" in which about 5% of the electorate voted and approved the new constitution – which conveniently changed Haitian law to allow foreigners to own land – with 99.9% voting for approval.

The situation today is remarkably similar. The country is occupied, and although the occupying troops wear blue helmets, everyone knows that Washington calls the shots. On 28 November an election was held in which the country's most popular political party was excluded; but still the results of the first round of the election were not quite right. The OAS – under direction from Washington – then changed the results to eliminate the government's candidate from the second round. To force the government to accept the OAS rewrite of the results, Haiti was threatened with a cutoff of aid flows – and, according to multiple sources, President Préval was threatened with being forcibly flown out of the country – as happened to President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004.

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Media Ignores Whether CEP Actually Made a Decision on the Runoff or Not Print
Wednesday, 09 February 2011 15:04

Save for a few brief mentions (New York Times, Associated Press), the major English language media has all but ignored the news that – as reported by Haitian newspaper Le Nouvelliste – four CEP members may never have signed the document affirming the Council’s decision regarding the second round of elections. This is despite the fact that one of the four, Ginette Chérubin, released a public statement to the media (available here in English and here in French), and that she revealed – with his permission – that CEP Vice President Jean-Pierre Toussaint Thélève did not sign either. Le Nouvelliste reported that the two other CEP members who did not sign were Treasurer Jacques Belzin and member Ribel Pierre.

As we noted on Monday, the implications of this are far from trivial. In the opinions of some legal experts, such as the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, the even split within the CEP would mean that there was in fact no decision taken. As IJDH notes

Article 8 of the CEP’s bylaws requires that the Council’s decisions be made by an “absolute majority of its members.”  Therefore, a valid decision regarding the run-off would require five votes.

It appears that the only basis for earlier reports of a CEP “decision” on a second round was the Thursday morning statement by CEP spokesperson Richardson Dumel. It is unclear why the words of a CEP member such as Chérubin should not be given, if not equal weight to Dumel’s, more serious consideration in the media than to be reported as mere hearsay. Since Chérubin identified Toussaint Thélève as another who did not sign, presumably the press could contact him for more information – not to mention Jacques Belzin and Ribel Pierre, to confirm the reports that they are the other non-signers.

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