The U.S. Government Accountability Office released a report last week noting, among other things, that the Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission (IHRC) is still not operational, although it still has several months to do so before its mandate ends:
although the commission's mandate ends in October 2011, IHRC is not fully operational due to delays in staffing the commission and defining the role of its Performance and Anticorruption Office--which IHRC officials cited as key to establishing the commission as a model of good governance.
The GAO goes on to note a significant disconnect between what the Haitian government has identified as priorities, and what IHRC has green-lighted:
although the Haitian government identified nearly equal 18-month funding requirements for debris removal and agriculture, IHRC has approved about 7 times more funding for agriculture projects.
This is perhaps not surprising considering the IHRC’s problems in ensuring involvement of Haitian partners in decision-making.
The debris removal, of course, is necessary in part to clear space for new shelters, and getting displaced persons out of IDP camps, where cholera – abetted by a severe lack of adequate sanitation – can be a serious danger. (Deutsche Presse-Agentur reported this weekend on a new milestone in post-quake tragedy: 5,200 cholera deaths and 300,000 infections over the past seven months.) Yet just 20 percent of the rubble has been removed, according to various officials. USAID has not made rubble removal much of a priority either, according to the USAID Office of the Inspector General.
Almost a year ago, we warned of the possibly devastating consequences as thousands of people were still in tents or living under tarps as the hurricane season began. We cited the Red Cross’ Alex Wynter at the time, as quoted in the Miami Herald:
"When we first started this operation . . . we hoped that we would be able to build a significant number of transitional shelters by the start of the hurricane season," said Alex Wynter of the International Federation of Red Cross. "We've made up our minds that we are going to have to face the emergency or the potential emergency of the rainy season and the hurricane season in the camps."
Now, the hurricane season is about to begin again – and again, it may be more severe than usual, as AP reports:
The director of the [U.S.] National Hurricane Center said Friday that Haiti’s ability to respond to a tropical storm while still reeling from a January 2010 earthquake remains his top concern for the Atlantic hurricane season.
“I don’t feel comfortable that, should there be a direct hit, there would be the capacity to shelter everybody in a safe place,” director Bill Read said at the end of the weeklong Florida Governor’s Hurricane Conference.
The six-month Atlantic hurricane season begins June 1, and U.S. government forecasters expect it to be an above average season.
As many as 18 named tropical storms are expected to develop before the season ends Nov. 30, and three to six of those could strengthen into major hurricanes with top winds of 111 mph or higher, forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Thursday.
As we’ve noted recently, many people displaced by the earthquake have made the difficult choice of returning to damaged buildings rather than remain in camps where services are lacking (with some lacking any NGO attention at all), and where they may be subject to forced evictions, as IDP's in Delmas were yesterday. But some of these structures may also not be suited to withstand the impact of hurricanes making landfall in Haiti.