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Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction

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Lack of Access to Basic Services a Driving Factor Behind Sexual Violence in IDP Camps Print

To mark International Women’s Day, HRRW is highlighting recent research concerning issues relating to women’s rights in Haiti.

Recent research
from the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice sheds light on factors contributing to an increase in sexual violence since the earthquake over two-years ago. The report, “Yon Je Louvri: Reducing Vulnerability to Sexual Violence in Haiti’s IDP Camps,” is based on surveys conducted in four IDP camps in January 2011 and additional follow up research throughout 2011. While the small sample size and logistical constraints prevent the research from being representative of the IDP population at large, it nonetheless provides an important analysis of the factors contributing to gender-based violence (GBV) and steps that can be taken to remedy the situation using a human rights based approach.

The report found that in the four camps visited, 14 percent of surveyed households reported that at least one member of the household had been a victim of sexual violence since the earthquake, while 70 percent of those surveyed were “more worried” about sexual violence after the earthquake. The report explains that because of underreporting this “is particularly striking because it likely captures a minimum level of sexual violence within the studied IDP camps.” Other studies have estimated significantly higher levels of sexual violence.

The vast majority of victims, 86 percent, were female. The study also found a significant correlation between a lack of services in IDP camps and the likelihood of being a victim of sexual violence. The report finds four significant factors other than gender:

• Suffer from limited access to food. Individuals who reported that they went at least one day without eating in the previous week were more than twice as likely to come from a victim household, as compared to those who did not report insufficient access to food;

• Confront limited access to water. The average victim household had less consistent access to drinking water than their non-victim counterparts. Four out of ten respondents from victim households did not obtain water from a free connection inside their camp during the previous week;

• Face limited access to sanitation. Participants who felt that the nearest latrine was “too far” from their shelter were twice as likely to live in a victim household, and among victim households, 29 percent indicated that they knew someone who was attacked while using the latrines;

• Live in a camp that lacks participatory and responsive governance structures. The survey found that camps with lower levels of consultation regarding camp management had a higher proportion of households reporting that one or more of their members had experienced sexual violence.
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Groups Peacefully Protest for MINUSTAH Accountability on International Women’s Day Print

To mark International Women’s Day today, human rights groups and cholera victims are peacefully protesting “against the cholera and sexual violence that the UN and its peacekeeping mission, MINUSTAH, have inflicted on Haitians.” (You can follow updates from the march via the twitter feed of BAI, @BAIayiti as well Alexis Erkert of Other Worlds, @aerkert). In a statement released earlier this week to announce the march Rose Getchine Lima, the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) Women’s Network Coordinator stated:

Despite its ‘protection’ mandate, the UN’s militarization of Haiti has harmed women. MINUSTAH soldiers themselves have been guilty of sexual violence and the deadly cholera the UN brought to Haiti has destroyed families. Women, often the heads of their households, have been most vulnerable to these harms. They continue to suffer while the UN’s wrongs go unpunished.
The UN security council met today to discuss the Secretary General’s bi-annual report on MINUSTAH and Haiti, with many members expressing the need for the UN to redouble their efforts to prevent future abuses and hold those responsible accountable. The representatives of Pakistan and Uruguay, whose troops have been implicated in abuses, both pledged thorough investigations. As of yet, however, no MINUSTAH troops have been held accountable for the myriad of crimes committed against Haitians. These issues are not new. In 2007 over 100 Sri Lankan MINUSTAH soldiers were repatriated after allegations of “transactional sex with underage girls”. To this date no information on if they were ever prosecuted has been made public.

As BAI Managing Attorney Mario Joseph has noted:
The United Nations says it acts to ‘advance the status of women.’ Yet it won’t hold its personnel accountable for raping Haitian women, girls, and boys, or take responsibility for the cholera epidemic that has killed over 7,000 Haitians. The UN needs to act or the rapes and the cholera deaths will continue to decimate Haiti’s people
 
Bill Clinton Says MINUSTAH Soldier Introduced Cholera to Haiti Print

While the UN has long denied responsibility for introducing cholera to Haiti, the UN Special Envoy to Haiti Bill Clinton acknowledged today that a MINUSTAH soldier introduced the deadly bacteria that has killed over 7,000 and sickened more than half a million. The statement by Clinton is the first by a UN official to acknowledge UN responsibility.

Independent journalist Ansel Herz reported via Twitter this afternoon that at a press conference in Mirebalais, Haiti, Bill Clinton acknowledged “that a UN peacekeeping soldier brought cholera to Haiti by accident.” Herz has just posted the audio recording of Clinton’s comments, during which he responds to a question from Herz by stating:

I don’t know that the person who introduced cholera into Haiti, the UN peacekeeping soldier from South Asia was aware that he was carrying the virus. [Ed. Note: cholera is not a virus, but bacteria].

It was the proximate cause of cholera, that is, he was carrying the cholera strain; it came from his waste stream into the waterways of Haiti and into the bodies of Haitians.

Clinton goes on to repeat the line from the UN investigation, which shifts blame off the UN and onto Haiti for not having adequate water and sanitation infrastructure. Clinton states that, “what really caused it is that you don’t have a sanitation system, you don’t have a comprehensive water system…”

This explanation, however neglects to account for the fact that as the UN’s own investigation found, “sanitation conditions at the Mirebalais MINUSTAH camp were not sufficient to prevent fecal contamination of the Meye Tributary System of the Artibonite River.” Had the UN adequately disposed of their waste, the outbreak would never have begun. Additionally, the UN failed to screen troops prior to their deployment from a cholera endemic region.

Since the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH)  and Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) filed a claim on behalf of 5,000 cholera victims in November, the UN has not responded and repeatedly denied their responsibility. The statement today marks an important shift from these repeated denials.

This acknowledgement of responsibility comes on the heels of statements made by U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN Susan Rice, which IJDH and BAI applauded in a press release earlier this week:

In a statement to the United Nations (UN) Security Council last week, U.S. Permanent Representative Susan Rice stressed the importance of UN accountability for its role in bringing cholera to Haiti, calling on the UN to “redouble its efforts to prevent any further incidents of this kind and to ensure that those responsible are held accountable.”

 

With Bill Clinton’s comments today, perhaps the UN will finally begin taking responsibility for the deadly epidemic and heed calls for financial compensation to victims and investment in critical life-saving infrastructure.
 
Evaluation of Donor Response to Haiti Earthquake Shows "Building Back Better" Nothing But a Slogan Print

For the previous five years an independent organization, DARA, has been publishing the Humanitarian Response Index (HRI). The DARA website explains the HRI as “the world’s only independent tool for measuring the individual performance and commitment of government donors to apply the principles of Good Humanitarian Donorship which they agreed to in 2003.” (To learn more about the HRI, see the DARA website).

Unlike other independent evaluations which have focused as much on NGO behavior as donors, the 2011 HRI Haiti report focuses almost exclusively on the donor side of the equation. The report finds a host of missed opportunities, skewed priorities, a lack of coordination and perhaps most importantly, a shortage of communication with both the Haitian government and Haitian people. The result, as the report concludes, is that:

The international community cannot claim that it has helped Haiti build back better, and missed an opportunity to redress years of neglect and inattention to the issue of building capacity, resilience and strengthening preparedness for future crises.

Coordination and Local Input

While the HRI report found that coordination among international actors was relatively good, this “came at the price of better engagement and ownership of local actors.” A problem that has been mentioned numerous times before was the holding of meetings at the UN Logistics base, which the report notes “excluded local NGOs: there was no mechanism by which the large number of Haitian NGOs could be identified or contacted, and their participation was physically limited by making their entry difficult to the logistics base and by convening cluster meetings in English.”

One interviewee told the report’s authors:

“Donors having meetings in a military base in a humanitarian crisis makes no sense and the fact that they still do it one year and a half later is even worse. It hampers participation. Haitians are totally excluded. Many people can’t enter because there are strict controls at the entrance. As Haitians it’s harder for them to get through.”

The report suggests that rather than housing UN operations on a military base, “UN agencies and clusters should have been physically based within government ministries, to expedite their re-building and support their efforts.”

Many organizations also criticized donors for being “inflexible in allowing Haitian NGOs to be subgrantees.” One exception to this was Spain, which required that NGOs partner with local organizations. Canada also set some money aside specifically to build capacity of local NGOs. The U.S. government on the other hand was “criticized…for being confusing, non-transparent and inward-looking, despite their large presence."

As an interviewee explained:

USAID has had a complete bunker mentality. It’s impossible to have any continuity in conversations with them. OFDA had platoons of consultants rotating in and out.
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As Relocation of Champ de Mars Begins, Criticism Over Lack of Adequate Housing Plan Mounts Print

An important article this week from William Booth of the Washington Post took an in-depth look at the government and international community’s efforts to clear some of most high profile of the remaining 707 IDP camps in and around Port-au-Prince. The article focused on the Champ de Mars, home to some 17,000 people, one of the largest remaining IDP camps, and also the most visible – situated just a block from the presidential palace downtown. In a program coordinated by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), families in the camp will be given $500 rental subsidies for one year. Booth continues:

“We’re not talking about a house. We’re talking about renting a room, space on the floor, with a roof, access to water, a communal kitchen, maybe a toilet,” Fitzgerald said. As program coordinator for the International Organization for Migration, he is working alongside the Haitian government to clear the Champ de Mars camp, with a $20 million grant from the Canadian government.

Booth also notes that the program, even if successful, will only address a small part of the problem:

But the darker reality is this: The Haitian government is spending $30 million to empty six camps. There are 701 more. The Champ de Mars project will cost $20 million for 20,000 people. There would still be close to half a million displaced persons in camps. No country, no group of donor nations, no NGO is considering donating $500 million to Haiti to empty the camps.

The math does not work.

Anastasia Maloney, reporting for AlertNet, explains the details of how the beneficiaries are chosen, noting that each day long lines form to get on buses provided by the IOM to take camp residents into neighborhoods looking for accommodations:

The office can only handle around 50 cases a day, and tensions are simmering. Several people vent their frustrations at IOM officials.

“I’ve been coming here every day, every day, for weeks and I haven’t got anywhere,” said one man, clutching his paperwork.

Missed appointments with landlords can mean more weeks of waiting. Often camp residents find accommodation but it turns out to be unsafe, for example, houses built in areas at risk from flooding and landslides.

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