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Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction

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Shelter Still Scarce With Rainy Season Fast Approaching Print
Wednesday, 24 February 2010 10:32
Ansel Herz, reporting for IPS, writes about the lack of secure shelter as the rainy season nears.

The UN reports that "[t]o date, over 104,000 tarpaulins have been distributed along with 19,000 family size tents." This provides only slightly more than a quarter of those displaced with shelter.

Even when tarps are handed out, it can be met with confusion, as Herz reports:
At a shelter distribution by CARE International at a camp in a Petionville public square, the tarps were received with a mixture of confusion and disappointment.

"It's not clear for us. We can't set them up because they don't send anyone to give an explanation," said Joseph Jean-Ones, whose family lives in the camp, as he tried to fit one metal pole on top of another.

His wife was given a gray tarp, a set of gleaming metal poles, and a single piece of paper with pictoral diagrams showing how to tie the materials together. The tarps do not come with text instructions, in Haitian Creole or any language.

"They should teach people how to set them up before distributing them," said another man, setting the supplies down on the ground. "Now we don't know what to do with it. It's like they're distributing problems to us."
CARE later told Herz that in the future they would set up an example tarp in each camp before distribution.

There has also been some controversy surrounding the use of tarps versus tents. The Shelter Cluster has largely decided that tents take up too much room and that tarps are the only viable shelter at this point. There are dissenting opinions, however. Herz reports:
"What we're about is shelter, warmth and dignity - it's difficult to get that with tarps," said John Leach, Shelterbox's Head of Operations, in an interview. He said the plastic tarps will prove inadequate under heavy rains.

"If tarps are that great, why are all the U.N. people living in tents?" he asked.
The reality is that no matter how much shelter material is distributed, the situation remains grave:
"No one is pretending that this offers anything but very partial protection from the rains," Alex Wynter, spokesman for the International Federation of the Red Cross, told reporters in a press briefing.

"I would say that the tents and tarpaulins, in addition to giving people a modicum of privacy, give people a tool with which they can stay dry overnight," he said. "But there's no doubt that we face a very grave crisis here, when the rains come."



 
Exodus From PaP Puts Pressure on Rural Communities Print
Wednesday, 24 February 2010 09:47
The Los Angeles Times reports on the stress that the exodus of hundreds of thousands of Haitians from Port-au-Prince has put on rural communities. This is especially significant with the planting season fast approaching and supplies hard to come by and money even tighter than usual. The Times reports:
Villagers are near the breaking point as they try to accommodate tens of thousands of displaced city dwellers just when they would be putting their precious resources into preparing for planting. In desperation, some have resorted to eating their meager seed stocks or killing their chickens and goats to feed the influx, rather than keeping them to sell.
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Haiti's First Public Medical School; A History of Occupation Print
Tuesday, 23 February 2010 16:33
A NACLA article offers a glimpse into the state of health care in Haiti - and perhaps why some Haitians may be skeptical of current U.S. and UN relief efforts - by examining the the history and evolution of "Haiti’s first and only public medical school." The school was a joint project by the governments of Taiwan, Cuba and Haiti.
In a declaration full of optimism and hope, the Dean of Health Sciences, Dr. Yves Polynice stated: “The inauguration of the Aristide Foundation University is an opportunity to renew our Hippocratic Oath where each physician pledges to care for the poor, widows, and orphans free of cost. We must be conscious that any illness affecting one citizen represents a threat to us all. Today we say ‘health care for all, without exclusion.’ ” On February 3, 2004, the hospital officially opened its doors and began treating many of Haiti’s most vulnerable. For many it was their first visit to a doctor.
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"Haitian Garment Workers Should Get $5 a Day" Print
Tuesday, 23 February 2010 14:49
Robert Naiman, Policy Director of Just Foreign Policy, argues in the Huffington Post for raising the wage of garment workers in Haiti:
Americans want to help Haiti; Democrats control the U.S. Congress; the Haitian Parliament has passed legislation saying Haitian workers should be paid at least $5 a day; and specific legislation that provides preferential access to the U.S. market to garments from Haiti is already U.S. law. Therefore, the following policy reform ought to be a slam dunk: Haitian garment workers whose products receive preferential access to the U.S. market under the HOPE II Act ought to be paid at least $5 a day.
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Popular Radio in Haiti, Security Concerns Overstated Print
Tuesday, 23 February 2010 14:17
Beverly Bell, associate fellow at the Institiute for Policy Studies and Program Coordinator for Other Worlds, reports on Truthout about grassroots and popular radio in Haiti. Bell speaks with Sony Esteus, director of the Society for Social Mobilization and Communication:
I ask Sony to tell me about the importance of community radio in Haiti, the first priorities for rebuilding it, and the role it can play in reconstructing a just Haiti. First, he clarifies my terminology. SAKS works with community radio, but views itself as part of the network of popular radio, which he defines as radio in the struggle to transform society.
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Damning the Flood Print
Monday, 22 February 2010 15:40
Peter Hallward, author of "Damming the Flood: Haiti, Aristide, and the Politics of Containment," appeared on Democracy NOW! today to discuss the ongoing relief efforts in Haiti. To read the transcript or watch the video, click here.
 
Private Prison Company Gets Haiti Contract, Cont. Print
Monday, 22 February 2010 15:16
Last week we wrote about the GEO Group, recipient of a $260,589 contract for "guard services." The description of the contract says "Extend period of performance and add fund for Haiti surge." Although the full details of the contract do not seem to be available, it is likely that this refers to the current contract GEO Group has for running the Guantanamo Bay Migrant Operations Center.
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Quake Survivors Say Police Using Coercion to Force Them to Move Print
Monday, 22 February 2010 14:17
Frank Bajak reports for the AP on police brutality in one of the make-shift camps in Haiti. The camp is on the grounds of the Prime Minister’s office and is home to around 2,500 Haitians, according to the AP. Bajak reports:
Witnesses said police beat 22-year-old Dalida Jeanty in the morning after she picked up a broom to sweep around her tent. "They called her and she did not come so they beat her," said her cousin, Alix Jeanty.

Friends and relatives carried the woman down the hill and U.N. peacekeepers arranged for her to be taken to the hospital.
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Haitian Government to Appropriate Land to Provide Shelter Print
Friday, 19 February 2010 18:02
The AP reports on the Haitian government's plans to relocate the 1.2 million displaced by the earthquake. While the government does own some land, it will not be enough, forcing the government to appropriate privately held land. As the AP reports:
The decision, announced in an interview with The Associated Press, is potentially explosive in a country where a small elite owns most of the land in and around the capital.

That elite, a traditionally corrupting force in Haitian politics, has the power to bring down the government.
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Private Prison Company Gets Haiti Contract Print
Friday, 19 February 2010 17:09
The Federal Procurement Data System shows that GEO Group Inc. received a no-bid contract worth $260,589 in the wake of the earthquake in Haiti. The contract length is just over one month; it was awarded by the Department of Homeland Security through the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement for “guard services.”

The company, formerly known as Wackenhut Corrections Corp., is a multinational corporation which runs numerous prison facilities in the US.

GEO Group has been at the center of numerous scandals involving their facilities and their treatment of prisoners. The most recent occurred just last month, less than two weeks before receiving their contract in Haiti. Gregorio de la Rosa Jr. was beaten to death in a GEO Group facility in 2001. In early January of this year, The GEO Group reached a settlement in the wrongful death suit, agreeing to pay in excess of $40 million.
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