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Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction

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Haiti’s Presidential Candidates: Not Just Wyclef and His Family Print
Wednesday, 11 August 2010 15:03

While most of the media – from news wires, papers, and TV and radio broadcasts, to entertainment and gossip programs and blogs – focused on musician Wyclef Jean’s announcement that he would run for president of Haiti, numerous other, less well-known (outside of Haiti, anyway) candidates entered the presidential race, little noticed by the press.

A Miami Herald article over the weekend described the entry of 34 candidates, who include Jacques Edouard Alexis, the Prime Minister who was ousted in 2008 during the food price spike; Jude Celestin, “founder and executive director of the government's road-building outfit, the National Center of Equipment” on the INITE ticket; former first-lady Mirlande Manigat, (the wife of former puppet president and anti-Aristide activist Leslie Manigat); and Yvon Neptune, former prime minister who was ousted from his office in the 2004 coup d’etat against President Aristide, and later imprisoned on bogus charges relating to a “massacre” (supposedly state-sanctioned) that never took place. Perhaps because the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) is continuing to arbitrarily keep Aristide’s party, Fanmi Lavalas (FL), and 14 other parties off the ballot as the November elections draw near, Neptune has announced he will run as the candidate for the Haitians for Haiti Party.

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AidWest vs. Aid Waste Print
Wednesday, 04 August 2010 15:28
There was a tremendous outpouring of goodwill in the aftermath of the earthquake, it is estimated that nearly half of all US households donated for Haiti relief. The totals are outstanding, over a billion dollars from Americans alone. Yet over 6 months since the quake, much of that money is sitting in the coffers of the largest aid organizations. As we have noted numerous times before, many aid agencies are choosing to save much of your donations for longer term projects as opposed to immediate relief. Writing for the 6 month commemoration, ABC news reported that of the $1.138 billion donated to the 23 largest charities, "At least 62.7 percent, $714.3 million, has been allocated for future Haiti relief efforts or is unassigned." Yet the situation on the ground remains dire, over a million Haitians still have only the most basic form of shelter, and even that is barely able to hold up under the increasing rain.
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CEP Bans Fanmi Lavalas from Upcoming Elections, International Community Gives Green Light Print
Friday, 30 July 2010 15:49
Today two articles report on the recent decision by Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) to exclude Fanmi Lavalas (FL) – the country’s most popular political party - from the upcoming legislative elections, in which all 99 seats in the House of Deputies and one third of the 30 member Senate are up for election.

EFE reports that while registration for the presidential elections will take place next week, the legislative elections will include 55 political parties and some 900 candidates, but not Fanmi Lavalas. Meanwhile Wadner Pierre, writing for Inter-Press Service, reports that in reaction to the CEP's decision, "one hundred Fanmi Lavalas supporters held a sit-in outside the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince." Pierre continues:
"The ambassador here is the representative of the U.S. government in Haiti," said Lionel Etienne, a former Fanmi Lavalas congressman. "We come here today to question the behaviour of the U.S. government. We're asking if they will continue to finance the exclusion of Lavalas by the CEP with Préval."
Yesterday, however, the OAS announced they will be sending an Electoral Observation Mission to Haiti, and that:
The United States and Spain made specific offers of financial assistance while other Member States and Permanent Observers pledged to support the effort through contributions in kind or financial resources towards covering its costs, which are an estimated $5.3 million.
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Dangers in IDP Camps Underscored by Deaths of Two Boys, New Report on Rapes Print
Thursday, 29 July 2010 11:15
The death of two young boys after a brief storm swept through their makeshift camps is "another reminder of the perilous conditions of an estimated 1.6 million people living under tarps and tents on dangerous ground," reports the Associated Press. A ten foot wall in the Terrain Acra camp in the Delmas neighborhood collpased onto a row of tents and tarps yesterday following what the AP described as nothing "more than an isolated squall."

With the Hurricane season underway, and rain a near daily occurence, improving shelter for the some 1.5 million displaced must be immediately ramped up. Thus far only about 6,000 transitional shelters have been built of a planned 125,000 and as the AP notes, of $5.3 billion pledged "less than 10 percent has been delivered. On Wednesday, the U.S. Congress passed a bill to partially fund the administration's $1.15 billion pledge to Haiti and sent it to President Barack Obama." The clearing of rubble, necessary for the construction of new shelters, is moving at a glacial pace; after 6 months, only about 2 percent of the estimated 20 million cubic yards have been cleared.
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Paul Farmer: Haitian Government Must be Strengthened Print
Wednesday, 28 July 2010 13:02
Yesterday the Congressional Black Caucus held a hearing, "Focus on Haiti: The Road to Recovery - A Six Month Review," featuring Rajiv Shah (USAID), Dr. Paul Farmer (Deputy Special Envoy to UN, Partners in Health), Loune Viaud (Zanmi Lasante), Camille Chalmers (Haitian Platform to Advocate for Alternative Development), and Ira Kurzban, Esq.(Chair, Board of Directors, Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti). To read more about the event and to see reports and issue briefs that were presented, please see the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti.

The Boston Globe reports on Paul Farmer, whose complete testimony is available at pih.org. Farmer focused on the need to strengthen the Haitian state, an issue this blog has written on previously. The Globe reports:
Too often, Farmer argued, proliferating aid agencies and foreign nations have failed to establish enduring partnerships with Haiti’s government.

“Our historical failure to do so is one of the primary reasons that trying to help the public sector now is like trying to transfuse whole blood through a small-gauge needle or, in popular parlance, to drink from a fire hose,’’ Farmer, a UN deputy special envoy for Haiti, said on Capitol Hill.

“How can there be public health and public education without a stronger government at the national and local levels?’’ Farmer said in prepared remarks.
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Ansel Herz: "How to Write About Haiti" Print
Friday, 23 July 2010 10:08
After the initial whirlwind of coverage of the earthquake the media's attention wained considerably. Last week, which marked sixth months since the quake, saw a spike in coverage as many journalists returned to Haiti for the first time since immediately after the devastating event. Independent journalist Ansel Herz, who was in Haiti for the earthquake, and has remained their since, provided a helpful list for journalists on "how to write about Haiti":
I’ve been on the ground in Port-au-Prince working as an independent journalist for the past ten months. I’m an earthquake survivor who’s seen the big-time reporters come and go. They’re doing such a stellar job and I want to help out, so I’ve written this handy guide for when they come back on the one-year anniversary of the January quake!(Cross-published on the Huffington Post, inspired by this piece in Granta.)

For starters, always use the phrase ‘the poorest country in the Western hemisphere.’ Your audience must be reminded again of Haiti’s exceptional poverty. It’s doubtful that other articles have mentioned this fact.

You are struck by the ‘resilience’ of the Haitian people. They will survive no matter how poor they are. They are stoic, they rarely complain, and so they are admirable. The best poor person is one who suffers quietly. A two-sentence quote about their misery fitting neatly into your story is all that’s needed.
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IMF Cancels Debt but New Loan Raises New Questions Print
Thursday, 22 July 2010 10:58
Yesterday the International Monetary Fund announced they were cancelling Haiti's outstanding debt of $268 million. Many countries have already cancelled bilateral debts, and other multilateral organizations such as the World Bank have also cancelled Haiti's debt. Although interest rates on the outstanding loans were zero until 2012, the IMF projected that obligations would reach nearly 3 percent of government revenue by 2014. The debt relief includes the $112 million loan made in the aftermath of the earthquake.

At the same time, however, the IMF extended a loan of $60 milllion to Haiti. It is highly concessionary, with no interest until end 2011, and a five and half year grace period. However, while the World Bank and IDB have offered money to Haiti in the form of grants, the IMF continues to use business as usual. Jubilee USA, who have long advocated for debt relief, released a statement that reads:
“The IMF is taking two steps forward and one step back. This is a precedent-setting moment as the IMF has agreed to use internal resources to cancel the debt of a country facing extraordinary need. But, unfortunately, this good news is undermined by the IMF’s new loan. The role of the IMF in Haiti has been long criticized, and this new loan could set Haiti on the wrong path toward a new cycle of debt. The IMF must go further by using its new Post-Catastrophe Trust Fund to provide assistance on grant terms and ensure that this comes without harmful conditions,” says [Eric] LeCompte [Executive Director of Jubilee USA Network].
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Haiti: From Bad to Worse, Because of Policy Decisions Print
Wednesday, 21 July 2010 16:56
Mark Schuller, who has written extensively on the role of NGO's in Haiti, and who has been providing invaluable information on the ground since the earthquake, writes today about missed opportunities and the immense challenges that remain. Despite goodwill and a sense of unity after the earthquake, more recently the old divisions in Haiti have resurfaced. On a topic we have written about previously, Schuller writes:
Yesterday the CEP, the Provisional Elections Commission, reiterated a decision made in 2009 to exclude Fanmi Lavalas, the party of exiled president Aristide, from this year's legislative elections that were originally scheduled earlier this year but postponed. Although not to the extent of giving out medals, the UN proclaimed last year's elections that also excluded Fanmi Lavalas and where almost no one voted, a success.
Meanwhile, the gaps between rich and poor have only become starker. While hundreds of thousands are fighting for cash-for-work jobs:
Haiti's educated middle class, Diaspora, and foreign consultant zoom by in new air-conditioned cars, some making as much as $1000 per day. Some foreign aid workers even stayed at the "Love Boat" - a U.N. ship costing $112,500 per day, or the price of 100 "T-shelters."
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France Isn't Paying Back What it Owes Haiti After All: The Question is, Why Not? Print
Friday, 16 July 2010 15:40
Media reports that France would pay back an historic debt – essentially a ransom that it demanded in order for Haiti to have international diplomatic and economic recognition – in order to aid Haiti’s earthquake recovery were revealed to be a hoax. Embarrassed by the reports, which came out as France enjoyed its national holiday of Bastille Day, the French government has said it is looking into legal action against the perpetrators.

But the question should be why doesn't France make this restitution? In the Twenty First Century, it is difficult to argue that this is a legitimate debt that Haiti owed France, rather than economic punishment for Haiti's achievement of liberty. Imagine if all of Europe had shunned the newly born United States of America in 1784 upon its successful revolution, and that Britain had demanded an exorbitant sum from the US in order for it to have diplomatic recognition and be able to trade with other nations. Imagine if the sum were so large, and the U.S. were so damaged by the war, that it did not finish paying off Britain until 122 years later – which is how long it took Haiti to finally make its last payment.
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Locally Sourced Food Aid Could Stimulate Rural Economy, Help those in Need Print
Friday, 16 July 2010 11:16
Etienne Peterschmitt of the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) warned today that "funding shortfalls for farmers is hampering efforts to boost food production." The UN's flash funding appeal is 66 percent funded, but the agricultural sector is at just 50 percent, a $29 million shortfall. In addition, the Haitian government's development plan calls for over $700 million for the agricultural sector, yet donor countries have failed to live up to their pledges thus far.

Over the last few decades Haiti has gone from being nearly self-sufficient in food and agricultural production to a country that must import over 50 percent of their food. The result of economic and trade policies that have devastated Haitian production; policies that former President Clinton recently apologized for. President Preval has called for large food distributions to be halted because of the distortions it can cause in the local market. For instance, the most recent Famine Early Warnings System Network price update shows that local rice is close to 20 percent cheaper than prior to the earthquake. Karen Ashmore of the Lambi Fund of Haiti told the Chronicle of Philanthropy recently:
“Food aid has its place in an emergency,” says Ms. Ashmore. “But it’s not a sustainable solution because it puts the local people out of business.”
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