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Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction

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Will the International Community Stand Idly By While Over 11,000 Haitians Die from Cholera? Print

In the wake of last week’s letter by 53 members of the U.S. Congress urging prioritizing the needs of IDP’s, Georgianne Nienaber underscores the urgency of the situation in a new piece for Haiti Live News and other publications. Likening the looming disaster of an expected spike in cholera deaths with the sinking of the Titanic, Nienaber suggests that the current international response is akin to that of the SS Californian, which, although having been less than 10 miles away from the Titanic on April 15, 1912, made no attempt to rescue the doomed voyagers.

Nienaber writes that the number of cholera cases is already growing quickly with the onset of the rainy season:

The country-wide fatality rate is 1.7 percent, but rural Sud Est department stands at a disastrous 7.9 and Grande Anse is not far behind with a 5.4 percent death rate. The Ministere de la Sante Publique et de la Population (MSPP) provides statistics that usually lag behind real time, but you can find them on the webpage.

In a better assessment from the ground in Mirebalais, the epicenter of the outbreak, PBS reports that the Partners in Health cholera center saw 500 cases in the three weeks prior to the recent rains. They have seen 1,000 cases in the last two weeks.

While the UN has offered estimates of up to 400,000 total cases by October 2011, a new study in the British medical journal, The Lancet, predicts nearly 800,000 cases and over 11,000 deaths from the cholera outbreak.

While millions of dollars collect interest in the bank accounts of large NGO’s, and while pledges by various foreign governments go unfulfilled, treatment for cholera remains greatly underfunded. Nienaber notes that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon spoke about the urgent, but still neglected needs earlier this month:

[T]he withdrawal of some humanitarian agencies from cholera treatment centres and camps risks creating a shortage in the provision of services. The Cholera Appeal is 45 per cent funded, and the overall Haiti Appeal received only 10 per cent of the requested funds.

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Haitian Election Shenanigans: Legislative Edition Print

Late Wednesday night the CEP announced the final results of the second round of Haiti’s elections, formalizing Michel Martelly’s ascension from kompa musician to the presidency. Yet although it was largely ignored yesterday, the story that is now receiving the most attention from the media, as a result of statements of “concern” from the U.S. Embassy in Haiti and the UN, has to do with the long-ignored legislative elections. In a controversial move, the CEP switched the winners of 17 out of 77 seats that were in the running in the Chamber of Deputies were changed from the preliminary results. 15 of these went from an opposition party to INITE, the governing party, while INITE lost the other two seats. Many of the changes appear far-fetched, as shown below. The net result was that INITE increased their plurality in the Chamber of Deputies, going from 33 to 46 of the 99 seats. Three of the 99 seats are still in play, with another round in May. The international community was quick to react, with the OAS issuing a strongly worded statement last night questioning the CEP:

the Joint Mission can only question whether the eighteen changes in position announced during the proclamation of the final results in fact express the will of the voters in those constituencies.

Anonymous diplomats, speaking with AFP, were even clearer in laying the blame on President Preval:

Matching diplomatic sources have told AFP that the Inité party of outgoing President René Préval have exerted significant pressure to modify the Haitian legislative elections in its favor and increase its representation in Parliament.

“It's clear as day, a great deal of pressure” was put on the CEP which unveiled, on the night of Wednesday to Thursday, the results of the presidential and legislative elections, according to a European source.

However this should come as little surprise to the foreign entities that have been most involved in the electoral process, namely the U.S., the European Union and Canada. In an effort to gain legitimacy for the presidential elections, these powers have largely ignored or papered over the serious flaws that had been present since the beginning of the electoral process. The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (funded by USAID), in a report over a year ago on organizing elections in Haiti, wrote that, “Giving the mandate of organizing the upcoming elections to the current CEP would mean that the electoral process would be considered flawed and questionable from the start.” While the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti warned that, “The CEP’s close relationship with President Rene Préval has raised doubts about its ability to be politically neutral.” Rather than addressing these problems, the three aforementioned international entities funded the elections to the tune of $30 million and then pressured Haiti to accept the results despite an unprecedented low turnout, a high level of fraud and other irregularities and a politically motivated electoral council.

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Mark Weisbrot - "Only in America: Former U.S. Official Sued Haiti Contractors for Kickbacks" Print

CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot writes in The Guardian today:

Corruption takes many forms, and if the United States seems like it has less of it than many developing countries, this is partly because we have legalized so much of it. Election campaign contributions are only the most costly and debilitating form, a legalized bribery that, for example, gives the pharmaceutical and insurance companies a veto over health care policy and generally hollows out our limited form of democracy.

This legalization of corruption reached a new milestone last December when one Lewis Lucke, a long-time U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) official turned influence peddler, sued a consortium of firms operating in Haiti for $492,000, for breach of contract. As Lucke would have it (sorry!), he was promised $30,000 a month, plus incentives, to use his influence to secure contracts for these nice fellas. He got them $20 million dollars worth of contracts, but they cut him off after two months. The defendants in the case are Ashbritt, a U.S. contractor with a questionable track record, and the GB Group, one of the largest Haitian conglomerates. Together they formed the Haiti Recovery Group, which they incorporated in the Cayman Islands, to bid on reconstruction contracts.

Lucke was well positioned for the job, having formerly been in charge of the multi-billion dollar reconstruction effort in Haiti for the U.S. government. (He was also previously the USAID Iraq Mission Director – we know how that reconstruction turned out.) His lawsuit states that when he worked for USAID "He met with Haitian officials, former United States Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, the State Department, World Bank, and other participants . . .”. He was then hired by Ashbritt to, among other things, make “strategic introductions to key stakeholders, organizers, and brokers of Haitian recovery efforts…” Bill Clinton and George W. Bush established the Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund to help Haiti “build back better,” and Clinton is co-chair of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC), which has met about six times since the earthquake, and has been widely criticized for its lack of Haitian representation in decision-making.

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Fifty-three Members of Congress Urge Obama Administration to Address “Appalling Conditions” in Haiti’s IDP Camps Print

Today, fifty-three Democratic members of Congress sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton underscoring the gross inadequacy of relief efforts of USAID,  International Organization of Migration (IOM) and other aid organizations in Haiti’s camps for the internally displaced (IDPs).

Co-sponsored by Representatives Yvette Clarke (NY), Donald Payne (NJ) and Frederica Wilson (FL), the letter urges the administration to focus its attention on the deteriorating situation in the camps, in particular the lack of water, sanitation and other basic services; the increase in gender-based violence; and the frequent occurrence of forced evictions of camp residents.

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Haitian Companies Still Sidelined from Reconstruction Contracts Print

In December 2010, the AP conducted an analysis of Haitian earthquake contracts given out by the US government, finding that only $1.60 out of every $100 went to Haitian companies. In the story, USAID responded:

US AID says it is committed to increasing the amount of contracts going to Haitians.

“We already are engaging with Haitian communities to make them aware of how they can partner with us,” said Janice Laurente, a spokeperson for US AID.

Yet a new analysis from Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch shows that since December 2010, not a single contract has been awarded to a Haitian firm, according to the Federal Procurement Data System  (FPDS).  As of April 14, 2011, 1490 contracts had been awarded, since the January 2010 earthquake, for a total of $194,458,912. Of those 1490 contracts, only 23 have gone to Haitian companies, totaling just $4,841,426, or roughly 2.5 percent of the total.

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