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Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction

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Cholera Cases Down, But Are Past Mistakes Being Repeated? Print

Although cholera cases decreased by nearly half from July to August following the predictable spike during the rainy season, on average, cholera infected more than 500 people and killed three people each day in September. Although these numbers are still well below previous peaks, they should not provide false confidence, as a decreased caseload in March and April did previously. Cases could increase quickly at almost any time, as cholera is a highly cyclical disease. Indeed, Haiti Libre reported just this week that Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has seen a significant increase in their case load in Port-au-Prince. Romaine Gitenet, MSF head of mission, told Haiti Libre that “"In one month we went from less than 300 admissions per week to over 850, which suggests a worsening situation in the coming weeks.”  Also worrisome is the continued lack of support to the United Nation’s cholera appeal as humanitarian relief efforts continue to dwindle as funds run out.

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43% of Donor Pledges Disbursed, But Where? To Whom? Print

The United Nations Office of the Special Envoy for Haiti (OSE) released updated figures on the status of donor countries’ aid pledges earlier this week. The analysis reveals that just 43 percent of the $4.6 billion in pledges has been disbursed, up from 37.8 percent in June. This increase of $230 million is much larger than the observed increase in aid disbursement from March to June, when total disbursements increased by only $30 million. Also, an additional $475 million of aid money has been committed, meaning more money is now in the pipeline for Haiti. This increase is certainly a positive development, yet the overall levels of disbursement remain extremely low. The $4.6 billion in pledges was for the years 2010 and 2011, which means that donors have only a few months to fulfill their pledges.

While $1.52 billion was disbursed in 2010, this year, less than 30 percent of that—$455 million—has been disbursed. The United States, which pledged over $900 million for recovery efforts in 2010 and 2011, has disbursed just 18.8 percent of this (PDF). Of countries that pledged over $100 million dollars, only Japan has achieved 100 percent disbursement.

But it is important to go beyond the level of disbursements to see how much of this money has actually been spent on the ground and how it has supported both the Haitian public and private sectors. The following analysis shows that much of the money donors have disbursed has not actually been spent on the ground yet, that the Haitian government has not received the support it needs, and that Haitian firms have largely been bypassed in the contracting process.

Just 10 percent of funds disbursed by the Haiti Reconstruction Fund, which received nearly 20 percent of all donor pledges, have actually been spent on the ground. The Interim Haiti Recovery Commission has approved over $3 billion in projects, yet most have not even begun. Budget support for the Haitian government is set to be lower in 2011 than it was before the earthquake in 2009. Finally, only 2.4 percent of U.S. government contracts went directly to Haitian firms, while USAID relied on beltway contractors (Maryland, Virginia and DC) for over 90 percent of their contracts.

Disbursed By Donor Doesn’t Mean Spent on the Ground

The international community has set up a number of institutions that aim to centralize aid flows and projects, in particular the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC) and the Haiti Reconstruction Fund (HRF). The HRF has received roughly 20 percent of donor funds.

Our analysis of the Haiti Reconstruction Fund’s annual report revealed that despite public announcements touting a 71 percent disbursal rate at the Fund, in reality, closer to 10 percent had actually been spent on the ground, much of which was on consultant fees.

The HRF report notes that “The Trustee has transferred funds totaling US$197 million in respect of those approved projects and associated fees to the Partner Entities,” and an additional $40 million is set to be transferred. Together the $237 million is equal to 71 percent of the total funds raised. However, as the HRF notes, this money has not actually been spent on the ground, but simply transferred to their Partner Entities (the World Bank, UN and the Inter-American Development Bank - IDB). The disbursement of funds from those organizations is just $35 million, or about 10 percent of the total contributions received. The IDB, which has received $37 million in HRF funds, has yet to actually disburse any of this total.

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Newly Wikileaked Cables Provide Context to Anti-MINUSTAH Backlash in the Wake of Scandals Print

We have noted the many scandals that have dogged MINUSTAH’s presence in Haiti since the beginning to the most recent, which involve the video-taped rape of an 18-year-old man, and MINUSTAH troops having sex – and fathering children – with Haitian minors and women. Protests have erupted following these new scandals, and signals from the Haitian government and prominent political figures in Haiti have signaled an impatience with the open-ended Mission.

The Haitian government’s stated support for MINUSTAH’s presence has always been key to its ability to remain in Haiti. A classified Embassy cable by then-Ambassador Janet Sanderson, written in October 2008, and recently made available by Wikileaks, describes how the Haitian government questioned the Mission’s purpose years ago. Then-President René Préval appears to have sought to have MINUSTAH’s mandate changed from a Chapter 7 to a Chapter 6 designation:

2. (C)  UNSRSG Hedi Annabi tells me that Haitian President Rene Preval intends to seek a change in the MINUSTAH mandate from Chapter 7 to Chapter 6 status. Arguing that bringing MINUSTAH here under Chapter 7 sends the signal to investors that Haiti is a "war zone," and ups insurance rates, Preval told Annabi on October 1 that he is writing the UNSC President to request that the Council revisit this issue  prior to vote on the extension of the MINUSTAH mandate. Annabi added that Preval briefly raised this issue with UNSYG Ban Ki Moon during his courtesy call at the UNGA last month; the SYG tried to dissuade Preval but noted that this matter was more in the purview of the UNSC rather than the SYG's office.

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With Funding for Cholera Falling Short, Calls for Compensation from MINUSTAH Increase Print

In July, one Haitian fell ill with cholera every minute. In August, after the "second peak" from the May/June rains receded, that rate has slowed and yet still one Haitian falls ill every two minutes.  In our report, "Not Doing Enough: Unnecessary Sickness and Death from Cholera in Haiti", we noted that funding was withdrawn from the cholera response right as the rainy season was about to begin, despite the predictable spike in cases from the increased rains. Thankfully, the case load has receded some, as Jacqueline Charles of the Miami Herald pointed out yesterday:

Health experts anticipate that Haiti might experience one more deadly peak before the end of this hurricane season. After that, there are chances that the disease might become endemic in Haiti with frequent peaks over the years.

Recently, health organizations and the Haitian government have sounded the alarm over the lack of funding to combat cholera in Haiti. Al Jazeera's Craig Mauro spoke with Romain Gitenet of the health organization Doctors Without Borders, who explained:

"We just noticed that the funding for cholera is decreasing, and some actor, well some funder, who was giving money, stopped giving money which is something we don't understand."

As NGOs have retreated from the field, Haiti's Ministry of Health has taken over many of their operations and has become stretched thin. As Charles writes:

“Funding is not enough to fight against cholera in the upcoming months,’’ said Dr Gabriel Thimothé, executive director of Haiti’s Health Ministry, which lacks money to provide even basics, such as water at treatment centers.

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Explosive New Report Accuses UN Troops of Sexual Assault--Will This Lead to Greater Pressure for Withdrawal? Print

(updated below)

ABC News
 released an explosive report today which appears to confirm one of many allegations that Haitians have been making for weeks regarding gross sexual misconduct by Uruguayan peacekeeping forces who participate in the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). Journalist Ansel Herz, reporting from Port Salut, uncovered a disturbing scene recorded on a cell phone video, showing the Spanish-speaking troops in sky-blue hats and military fatigues laughing as they pin an 18-year-old Haitian youth down on a mattress on the floor, and--as a photograph captured from the video seems to suggest--sexually assault him.

According to the ABC article, Uruguayan Navy Lieutenant Nicolas Casariego confirmed that the video was real, but dismissed charges of assault, construing the incident as a nonsexual "game" of "bullying." However, a medical certificate filed with the court in Haiti and acquired by ABC News belies his interpretation of video's the events: the examiner asserted that the alleged victim was beaten and sustained "injuries consistent with having been sexually assaulted." When interviewed, the youth described being "snatched from behind as he walked by the U.N. base." The young man's mother, a street merchant, stated that he "had stayed in his bed during about two weeks but he never told me what was wrong with him. We're humiliated...After I saw the video, I couldn't stop crying."

This latest episode may further amplify the pressure that is already mounting on Latin American countries involved in the U.S.-led MINUSTAH occupation of Haiti to withdraw from the country. Uruguay, which according to ABC News has 1,100 troops stationed in Haiti, had been facing weeks of embarrassing allegations of malfeasance even before this video was released. According to Uruguyan press, in mid-August Uruguayan Undersecretary of Defense Jorge Menéndez confirmed the launch of investigations into accusations that members of the contingent were "involved in prostitution based on sexual relations with disadvantaged children" [translated]. A member of a Port Salut community group denounced the alleged activity, citing as "worst of all" the fact that the peacekeepers "take photographs of naked children on their phones to show the other soldiers" [translated]. The group also criticized MINUSTAH's creation of a sewage disposal system that emits bad odor into the area--a cause for alarm, considering that new scientific evidence definitively places responsibility for the 2010 introduction of the cholera bacterium into Haiti on UN troops from Nepal stationed in Mirebalais. The contamination of Haiti's Artibonite river with UN troops' improperly treated waste was the likely cause of the outbreak, which has killed over 6,000 Haitians to date.

While largely focusing on one particular case of purported sexual assault, ABC News does seem to independently corroborate these complaints raised in the Uruguayan news media: "Sinal Bertrand, a Haitian parliamentary deputy from the Port Salut area, said he began talks with U.N. officials last week about other allegations against the soldiers by residents of Port Salut, ranging from sexually exploiting young women to environmentally polluting the area." ABC also interviewed a local mechanic in Port Salut who denies that the troops provide more security: "They aren't useful to us at all...They just go back and forth to the beach, nothing more here in Port Salut. They just check out the young girls."

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