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Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction

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Despite Everything, Haitian Government Continues to Move Ahead With Flawed Elections Print
Despite the outbreak of cholera which has already claimed over 900 lives and spread to all 10 of Haiti’s provinces, despite new protests against authorities including the UN for possibly starting the outbreak (something which the UN continues to deny, while defensively claiming that the protests are “politically motivated”, “aimed at creating a climate of insecurity on the eve of the elections”), and despite public concerns from various Haitian politicians and parties, 45 members of the U.S. Congress, Senator Lugar, newspapers, and numerous NGO’s, the Haitian government still seems prepared to move ahead with November 28’s elections as scheduled.

As readers of numerous press reports and past blog posts know, controversy around the elections centers around the Provisional Electoral Council’s banning of some 14 political parties from the ballot, including the most popular, Fanmi Lavalas. Many Haitians and observers are also concerned about voter access in the wake of the January quake that displaced over a million people.

Now a new constituency of people with experience and knowledge of Haiti are weighing to voice opposition to what they see as rigged elections: returned Peace Corps volunteers (RPCV’s). As TruthOut describes:
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U.S., WHO Preparing for Cholera Epidemic in Haiti “For Years to Come” Print
Media reports say over 800 people have now died from cholera in Haiti, including at least 10 so far in Port-au-Prince, where some 278 cases have been detected. To deal with the worsening crisis, the UN is requesting some $164 million. The urgency of the situation was made clear by Elisabeth Byrs, a spokeswoman for the U.N. humanitarian office, who "told reporters in Geneva that the funds need to be provided quickly 'otherwise all our efforts can be outrun by the epidemic.'"

Yet, international agencies, and the U.S. government, already seem to be preparing for “an epidemic” that could last for years, killing thousands of people. As AP reported today:
The World Health Organization said Friday that the epidemic isn't likely to end soon.

"The projections of 200,000 cases over the next six to twelve months shows the amplitude of what could be expected," said WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl. He noted that the current fatality rate of 6.5 percent is far higher than it should be.

"Cholera, now that it is in Haiti, probably the bacteria will be there for a number of years to come," he added. "It will not go away."
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As Tomas Bears Down on Haiti, Authorities Hide “Usable Shelters” From Tent Camp Residents Print
As Hurricane Tomas approached Haiti, authorities sent mixed messages regarding disaster preparedness efforts, and displaced Haitians in camps were told to evacuate from what had previously been held up as a “model” camp. While U.S. State Department Spokesperson P. J. Crowley told reporters at a briefing yesterday that
In and around Port-au-Prince, obviously where the earthquake damage last January was most significant, there are 400 shelters available in and around Port-au-Prince and these shelters can accommodate close to 1 million people, and we’ve been encouraging the people of Haiti to move to those shelters if they’re able in anticipation of the storm. If there is a silver lining here, it’s a very small one.
AP reported that
Officials in Haiti maintain a list of thousands of usable shelters in the capital -- often schools and churches -- but it is not being released to the public, despite pressure from international aid groups who say the information could save lives.

“We don't want people to know where these buildings are because people are going to invade and we won't have enough places for the people who really need them," [Nadia Lochard, Haiti civil protection departmental coordinator for the area that includes Port-au-Prince] said.
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Haiti's Cholera Outbreak Whodunit Print
MINUSTAH is under increasing scrutiny as investigators consider whether Haiti’s cholera outbreak may have begun at a base in Mirebalais, on a tributary of the Artibonite River, used by a Nepalese MINUSTAH contingent. “The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the strain of cholera that has killed at least 442 people the past three weeks matches strains found in South Asia,” AP reported Wednesday. Other experts are certain that the disease – which has not been experienced in Haiti for many decades – must have had a foreign origin:
Laurie Garrett, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, said it is clear that the disease was imported to Haiti but that it is still not clear by whom or how. She said the epidemic will contain lessons for humanitarian relief work and disaster relief around the world.

"It has to be either peacekeepers or humanitarian relief workers, that's the bottom line," she said.
Some experts, such as Partners in Health founder, U.N. deputy special envoy, and award-winning doctor and humanitarian, Paul Farmer, urged continued investigation into the cause, despite UN reluctance. Farmer added that the decision not to investigate the diseases origins, “sounds like politics to me, not science.” AP also reports that
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Relief Efforts' Failure to Provide Shelter Has Haiti Reeling as Tomas Approaches Print
Nearly 10 months since the earthquake, the lack of adequate shelter has again been thrown into the spotlight as Haiti is under red alert in the face of tropical storm Tomas, which could still strengthen to a hurricane by the time it reaches Haiti. For months aid groups and advocates have argued for the need for hurricane preparedness, specifically the need for better shelter, yet as Tomas approaches, "Aid workers are scrambling to prepare but are badly short of supplies including shelter material," reports Jonathan Katz of the Associated Press.

With over 1.3 million Haitians still living in makeshift camps, with nothing but frayed tarps and tents, is is clear the relief effort has failed to provide adequate shelter. Only 18,872 transitional shelters have been built (PDF), out of a planned 125 thousand. Meanwhile, as Stephen Kurczy of the Christian Science Monitor reports, efforts have not yet begun to repair the 120,000 or so houses that could "easily be repaired with only days worth of work." A structural engineer who has been assessing the city notes that the repairs will not start until sometime next year and "That's assuming the money actually comes through from international donors who pledged billions of dollars but seem reluctant to actually open their wallets, he says." And that is a big assumption as rich countries continue to neglect their aid pledges, and NGOs continue to sit on emergency relief donations.
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