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Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction

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MINUSTAH Continues to Prioritize Security Over Relief Print
Wednesday, 02 June 2010 12:55
We – along with aid and relief groups on the ground in Haiti - have argued before that in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake an over-emphasis on security concerns severely hampered relief efforts. US defense secretary Robert Gates cited "security concerns" for preventing air drops of humanitarian aid, while Doctors Without Borders warned that "hundreds could die" after one of their supply planes was delayed for 48 hours because the US military was not prioritizing humanitarian aid at the Port-au-Prince airport. CEPR co-director Mark Weisbrot noted on January 20 that despite the warning about security:
Lieutenant General PK Keen, deputy commander of the US Southern Command, reports that there is less violence in Haiti now than there was before the earthquake hit. Dr Evan Lyon, of Partners in Health, a medical aid group famous for its heroic efforts in Haiti, referred to "misinformation and rumours … and racism" concerning security issues.

“We've been circulating throughout the city until 2:00 and 3:00 in the morning every night, evacuating patients, moving materials. There's no UN guards. There's no US military presence. There's no Haitian police presence. And there's also no violence. There is no insecurity.”
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As Hurricane Season Begins, Inadequate Preparation Could Lead to Another Catastrophe Print
Tuesday, 01 June 2010 10:33
Today is the official beginning of the Hurricane season in the Caribbean, and there are a number of stories from over the weekend warning of another serious catastrophe given the conditions on the ground in Haiti. As we pointed out last week, experts are forecasting an above average hurricane season, with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicting up to 23 named tropical storms. AP reminds us that "Tropical Storm Jeanne killed nearly 3,000 people in 2004, and a series of 2008 storms killed 800 — mostly in the country's central region north of Port-au-Prince." Both the AP and the Miami Herald point out that only a very small portion of the displaced have been relocated from flood prone areas. From the AP:
Dr. Jean Pape, one of the country's most prominent public health experts, estimates that only 1 percent of the masses stuck in dangerous flood zones have been relocated.
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World Bank Cancels Haiti's Debt, IMF Yet to Do the Same Print
Friday, 28 May 2010 14:14
The World Bank announced today that they have cancelled the remaining $36 million in debt owed by Haiti. The Bank said that the cancellation was "made possible by contributions from Belgium, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, The Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland." The decision comes nearly one month after the United States passed a law directing the "Secretary of the Treasury to instruct the U.S. Executive Directors at the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF)" to completely cancel Haiti's debt.

The International Monetary Fund, however, has yet to cancel Haiti's debt. According to IMF figures, Haiti's debt to the Fund stands at $282 million. Although interest rates on outstanding loans are zero until 2012, the IMF projects that obligation will reach nearly 3 percent of government revenue by 2014. This includes the $114 million loan the Fund approved for Haiti after the earthquake. In contrast, the World Bank has made $479 million available to Haiti in the form of grants.

Given that the US congress is pushing the treasury secretary to cancel Haiti's debt, and that the US treasury continues to hold an effective veto over the IMF, one may wonder why it is taking the IMF so long to grant debt relief to Haiti.
 
Remittances Are Key to Haiti's Economy, and There's 55,000 More Haitians Ready to Start Sending Them Back, But... Print
Thursday, 27 May 2010 09:54
MSNBC ran a segment yesterday on the 55,000 Haitians who had been approved prior to the earthquake to come to the United States. Now, with many - including the family of North Miami Mayor Andre Pierre - living in makeshift camps, they are being denied entry to the US because of immigration quotas. As Steve Forester of IJDH explains, the MSNBC report would have been strengthened by discussing the positive impact these immigrants could have on Haiti through increased remittances, if allowed to come the United States. As the World Bank pointed out on May 17, since remittances make up such a large portion of Haiti's GDP, "Haiti represents the first time the restoration of remittances services was seen as a critical part of disaster relief and response." Allowing increased immigration from Haiti has been endorsed by both the Washington Post and Miami Herald editorial boards, as well as by numerous members of Congress. As Congress has recently allocated $2 billion in funding to Haiti for the next two years, incorporating language that would allow increased immigration would be an easy and cost-effective measure to help Haiti rebuild.
 
Despite Eyewitness and Media Accounts, MINUSTAH Denies Firing Tear Gas Into Camps, Forcing People to Flee Print
Wednesday, 26 May 2010 14:29
"[O]nly pepper spray and rubber bullets were used to quell an out-of-control protest."

As heavy rains threaten to flood camps, UN troops fired volleys of tear gas at a demonstration that spilled out from a university and into the surrounding makeshift camps. Ansel Herz reports for Inter-Press Service that after UN troops entered the campus, students began to flee to the surrounding camps, where a "barrage of tear gas and rubber bullets" sent "masses of displaced Haitians running out of tent camps into the streets". Herz writes:
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With Heavy Rains Forecasted, Better Shelter Must be Priority Print
Wednesday, 26 May 2010 11:52
AccuWeather.com Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski reported yesterday that severe rains are expected in Haiti this week, with the possibility of flooding and mudslides. Sosnowski writes:
An average of 5 to 10 inches of rain is forecast to fall on the region into the weekend. However, local amounts will be higher in the mountains, where runoff will be excessive.
With well over a million Haitians living in makeshift camps, heavy rains pose an enormous threat. Tents and tarps are often no match for the berating rains. The rains can also overflow latrines, a serious public health concern. On Monday, The Guardian released a video report that captures the scene inside these camps during the rains. One resident says:
I don't have a mother nor a father. I am by myself trying to make ends meet. I used to sleep in a tent on the street and now because of this rain my tent is destroyed. Tonight I will have to stand on my feet because I don't have anything to sleep on.
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USAID Takes Credit for Tarps Over Tents Print
Tuesday, 25 May 2010 16:22

In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, the Haitian government called for some 200,000 tents to help shelter the countless Haitians that had been made homeless. However nearly a month after the quake, contradictions began to arise about whether tents or tarps would be used for relief efforts. We wrote on February 4:

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Congress Considering Increased Oversight for Haiti Aid Print
Tuesday, 25 May 2010 11:28
Congressional Quarterly reports today (subscription only) that stronger oversight and regulations would accompany the billion plus dollars allocated to Haiti in the 2010 war supplemental bill. According to CQ, most money would go through USAID, which "has been the subject of withering congressional criticism in recent years for its handling of the tens of billions in international development assistance". The article continues:
When it comes to tightening oversight of USAID, senators are focused on a series of reporting requirements in the bill, which is cosponsored by Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, and Tennessee Republican Bob Corker. Among them are submission by USAID of a detailed multi-year strategy for supporting the rebuilding of Haiti and annual reports on the strategy’s implementation, along with a Government Accountability Office review.
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UN Investigating Prison Massacre Examined in New York Times Report Print
Monday, 24 May 2010 17:44
The UN has announced it is investigating the killings of between 11 and 40 prison inmates in Les Cayes following the earthquake – an incident examined in a feature New York Times report over the weekend. The Times reports that eyewitness accounts blame police – who were backed up by UN forces – of carrying out the murders of prisoners as they lay on the ground, rather than a “prison ringleader” whom Haitian officials say committed the killings before vanishing. UN documents, the Haitian National Police inspector general’s own report, and statements by prison employees, judicial officials, and victims’ relatives also refute the “prison ringleader” story.

The Times reports that the massacre followed an escape attempt:
The escape plan, set in motion on Jan. 19 by an attack on a guard, proved disastrous. With Haitian and United Nations police officers encircling the prison, the detainees could not get out. For hours, they rampaged, hacking up doors and burning records, until tear gas finally overwhelmed them.
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NPR Contrasts Conditions in Two IDP Camps Print
Monday, 24 May 2010 15:43
A revealing NPR story over the weekend contrasts two IDP camps which are situated directly across the street from one another. Camp Ancien Aeroport Militaire is home to some 50,000 people, one resident described the camp as "hell", according to NPR. Eugene, injured in the quake, lives with his 6 children under a tarp, NPR describes his living conditions:
When it rains, his roof leaks. Food distributions are chaotic, if they happen at all. The toilets are so full of sewage that Eugene says he can't even use them.
The contrast with what stands across the street however is most amazing:
More than 500 large white tents are laid out in rows on an expanse of leveled gravel. There are rows of brand new toilets. There are shipping containers fitted with clean shower stalls that have never been used. Tarps from the U.S. Agency for International Development are draped over each tent.
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