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Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction

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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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Amidst Protests, Preval Declares He’ll Step Down When Term Ends Print
Friday, 21 May 2010 16:20
AP reported this week comments President Preval made at a ceremony honoring Haiti’s Flag Day that he will step down when his term ends on February 7:
“This is the last May 18 I will spend with you as president,” Preval said. Pledging to pass his office to a successor on the constitutionally mandated day, he added, “I will go and my heart will be calm.”
Preval’s announcement reiterated similar statements he made last week, and followed protests by thousands of people Monday in what AP described as “the strongest showing of opposition to the Haitian leader since the quake” expressing outrage over his handling of the post-earthquake crisis and suggestions that he might extend his term. AP noted that
Many demonstrators identified themselves as supporters of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was exiled to Africa aboard a U.S. plane during a 2004 rebellion. Protesters marched to the national mall following speaker trucks that trumpeted calls for Aristide's return.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.)
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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.
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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.

 
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