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Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction

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Diphtheria Outbreak Leads to Emergency Vaccination Program Print
Tuesday, 18 May 2010 16:31
Just over a week ago, CNN aired a report with Sean Penn on the case of Oriel, a 15 year old who contracted diphtheria and eventually died. We wrote then:
The report does a good job describing how - despite its fixation on Penn’s personality – that the boy’s life might have been saved had, first, vaccinations been available, and then, second, the antitoxin to treat diphtheria been more easily accessible once Oriel came down with the disease. Yet, as CNN reported, “it took Penn -- even with his star power -- 11 hours to get his hands on one dose.”
After the report, the World Health Organization responded by saying that it was "just an isolated case and there are no other cases."

Today, the UN News Center reports that an outbreak of the disease over the weekend has prompted health authorities to begin a targeted vaccination campaign, writing:
Cases of the disease were first reported on Saturday in Camp Batimat in Cité Soleil district, one of the settlements housing people displaced by the January earthquake, Christiane Berthiaume, spokesperson for the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), told reporters in Geneva.
Read more...

 

 
Is the Miami Herald calling for all parties to be involved in the elections? Print
Monday, 17 May 2010 16:44
A Miami Herald editorial calls on Haitian political actors to unite in order to hold a credible vote as soon as possible. This is especially important given that:
Haiti's parliament went out of business last Monday because the earthquake forced the cancellation of legislative elections in February. That has left President René Préval as the sole effective constitutional authority in the country, with no preparations undertaken so far to hold new elections.
The Herald states that
Haiti's leaders need to unite in the common interest of organizing transparently free and fair elections in the shortest time frame possible.
Read more...

 

 
New York Times: "Still Homeless in Haiti" Print
Monday, 17 May 2010 11:01
Over five months have passed since the devastating earthquake struck Haiti in January, and although relief organizations say they have reached 100 percent of those in need of shelter, the reality on the ground is still dire. On Saturday, a New York Times editorial raised some of these important points, writing:
Of the more than 1.5 million Haitians left homeless by the Jan. 12 earthquake, about 7,500 have been moved from the most dangerous areas of crowded tent cities to new resettlement sites. The conditions in those tent cities are grim. Thunderstorms are fierce, and the plastic sheets and tarps distributed after the disaster are fraying, along with the people’s patience.

Meanwhile, the demand for secure housing keeps growing as people who fled the capital, Port-au-Prince, move back, because that’s where most of the aid is.
Read more...

 

 
Why Don’t They Spend the Money Now, When People Need It? Print
Thursday, 13 May 2010 10:40
As described in a CBS News investigation last night, some of the large NGO’s that have received millions of dollars in individual donations – and, we would note, in some cases, U.S. taxpayer money via USAID – have spent relatively little of it, despite the urgent crises facing many Haitians during the rainy season, and with the hurricane season just around the corner.

CBS investigated 5 major charities: CARE, the American Red Cross, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund, and the Clinton Foundation Haiti Fund. Of these:
Only the Clinton-Bush fund and Clinton Foundation refused to answer our questions, despite repeated e-mails and phone calls. Their websites say they've received $52 million in donor dollars, and have spent only about $7 million: less than one-seventh.

The Red Cross has raised $444 million and spent about 25 percent ($111 million) of it, including $55 million for "emergency relief," such as food and kitchen items, and $42.9 million for shelter including tarps, tents and blankets.

CARE has raised $34.4 million and spent about 16 percent ($5.75 million), $2.5 million of that on "shelter."

And at Catholic Relief Services: of $165 million committed to Haiti, it spent no more than 8 percent ($12.2 million), including $2.5 million on food $1.28 million on emergency shelter.

(Click on the links above for PDF’s with charts and reports breaking down income and expenditures.)
Read more...

 

 
Congress Should Quickly Allocate Funds, Exert Oversight on Haiti Relief Print
Wednesday, 12 May 2010 14:09
The supplemental funding bill for Haiti has languished in Congress since it was introduced over 6 weeks ago. News accounts this week, however, suggest that the funding will be attached to the upcoming war funding bill that lawmakers hope to pass before the Memorial Day recess. Last week the Latin America Working Group (LAWG) issued a statement which read, in part:
It is urgent that Congress approve a generous aid relief and reconstruction package that supports a sustainable, decentralized, Haitian-led recovery as soon as possible. A delay in approving the supplemental will postpone much needed efforts in Haiti and affect the replenishment of the International Disaster Assistance account, damaging the U.S. government's ability to address humanitarian crises around the globe.
Read more...

 

 
TONIGHT: CBS News Investigates How Aid Money is Being Spent in Haiti Print
Wednesday, 12 May 2010 13:11
CBS News reports that it will air an investigation tonight that examines "five major non-profits, what they have spent so far in Haiti, and how they'll track and account for the funds over time." CBS notes that:
There's a storm brewing in Haiti.

Not a storm from the rainy season bearing down, but a storm over why so many are still in dire straits a full four months after the earthquake.

Why so many are facing the ravages of the rainy season without safe shelter to protect them?A storm over how that could be the case when so much international aid has been committed to help the people of Haiti.

...

Critics such as Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic Policy and Research say more money should have been spent up front making sure the population's emergency needs were met. He argues that many donors who dug deep during their own tough times to give, thought they were putting immediate food in people's mouths,  giving immediate medical help, and putting a roof over victims' heads now.
The full show, with details from the investigation is set to air tonight on CBS Evening News, check your local CBS station for air time.

 
Haitian Protesters Concerned for Democracy Print
Tuesday, 11 May 2010 15:35

Protesters took to the streets of Port-au-Prince yesterday, reports AP. Thousands of Haitians came to demand that President Preval step down, angered by the decision to stay on an extra three months if elections are not conducted. AP put the number of protesters at 2000, while Reuters reported that police "used tear gas and warning shots to disperse" the crowds. Al Jazeera, looking at the causes of the protest, reported on the perceived political vacuum that has allowed significant powers to be consolidated in the executive branch and international community:

The entire lower house and one-third of the senate are no longer sitting because the earthquake prevented February's legislative elections from taking place.

"Effectively the parliament is ceasing to exist as a governing body and the people on the streets are pretty concerned about that," Al Jazeera's Seb Walker, reporting from Port-au-Prince, said.

"It concentrates power in the hands of the president and the international commission that has been set up with former US president Bill Clinton as a co-chair.
Read more...

 

 
“Greatest Possible Participation by Candidates” – NYT on Haitian Elections Print
Monday, 10 May 2010 15:21
A New York Times editorial today makes some important points regarding Haiti’s next elections, which have yet to be scheduled, and as President Préval suggests he may need to stay on beyond the constitutional limits of his term. The editorial states:
The process must emphasize the greatest possible flexibility and participation by voters and candidates. Displaced people should be allowed to vote where they currently live, not their old destroyed neighborhoods.

Opposition parties will need aid to organize and campaign. In a country where transportation and communication are difficult and expensive, Mr. Préval’s Unity Party should not be given undue advantages.
Read more...

 

 
"This country is not ready for an emergency" – Sean Penn in CNN Report Print
Monday, 10 May 2010 14:01
CNN reports on actor and aid worker Sean Penn’s efforts to save the life of a 15-year-old boy, Oriel, who contracted diphtheria – a story with a tragic end. The report does a good job describing how - despite its fixation on Penn’s personality – that the boy’s life might have been saved had, first, vaccinations been available, and then, second, the antitoxin to treat diphtheria been more easily accessible once Oriel came down with the disease. Yet, as CNN reported, “it took Penn -- even with his star power -- 11 hours to get his hands on one dose.”

CNN describes how Penn, founder of aid agency J/P Haitian Relief Organization who “has been helping manage 50,000 displaced Haitians living in the camp that sprouted on the nine-hole course at the capital's once-exclusive golf club”, has been frustrated by poor coordination, inefficiency, and seemingly unnecessary delays in treating the sick and vaccinating those vulnerable to disease:
Read more...

 

 
Preval Ups the Ante for New Elections Print
Thursday, 06 May 2010 09:58
The AP reports that Haitian President Rene Preval issued a decree on Tuesday that would extend his for term three months if elections are not held as scheduled. Although the US, UN and OAS have all pledged support for elections, much of the infrastructure was destroyed in the quake. The move was met with anger by opposition lawmakers, Youri Latortue pledged to bring the issue before the supreme court. Unlike previous articles that covered the elections, the AP acknowledges that there were problems with the planned February elections even before the quake:
The electoral council, now operating out of a gym seized in a drug raid, is also embroiled in controversy. Opposition candidates barred from February legislative elections that were canceled after the quake have accused council members of favoring Preval's newly formed Unity party. One council member also faces dismissal on charges of embezzlement.
The article does not say whether the previously excluded political parties will continue to be left off the ballot when the postponed elections do take place, or even if a new registration of candidates and parties will be required before the elections. For more on the electoral council and the excluded parties in February's election, see this, this or this.
 
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