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Elections in the Time of Cholera, Part III Print

Leading up to the elections on Sunday we will be posting commentary from CEPR's Alex Main, who is in Haiti this week. The following is the third installment, click here for the first or here for the second:

After a heavy dose of meetings with foreign aid workers at the UN Log base we decide that it’s time that we heard from some of the Haitians most affected by the January 12 earthquake.  Over two days we visit a few of the tent and tarp camps around Port-au-Prince that are now home to nearly a million and a half individuals who lost their homes during the quake. Everywhere we go we ask camp dwellers – referred to in a clinical manner by the international aid community as internally displaced people, or IDPs – what they think of the elections, the cholera epidemic and the general situation of their country following the earthquake. 

Chanmas 

Located in the heart of downtown Port-au-Prince in the Chanmas public park, this camp lodges hundreds of families that lost their homes in the nearby neighborhoods of Kafou Fey and Fò Nasyonal which were hit particularly hard by the earthquake.  As is frequently the case with most of the camps throughout the city, Chanmas is an informal camp; in other words, the Haitian government never authorized the use of the site for temporary shelter.  According to camp dwellers and outside witnesses, Haitian authorities, with the backing of MINUSTAH and the Haitian police, have done everything they can to discourage people from staying by restricting aid and intimidating residents.  But for many of those who set up camp here in the days following the earthquake there was no other available space in the area and, to this day, there is nowhere else for them to go.  And so, despite the discomfort, hostility and lack of basic services they have for the most part stayed put.

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Elections in the Time of Cholera, Part II Print

Leading up to the elections on Sunday we will be posting updates and commentary from CEPR's Alex Main, who is in Haiti this week. The following is the second installment, click here for the first:

Every Tuesday morning at the UN Log base representatives of international agencies and relief organizations involved in post-quake relief operations meet in “cluster” meetings, where they share news regarding their various projects and discuss ways in which to coordinate and improve delivery of humanitarian assistance on the ground.  If there’s any place that can be considered the strategic hub of the relief effort, this is it.  We arrive at the base at 8am eager to learn more about how organizations are responding to the cholera crisis and what is being done, if anything, in relation to the November 28 legislative and presidential elections.  

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Is it Time for MINUSTAH to Wrap it Up? Print
At the UN General Assembly discussion on Haiti next Friday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, in keeping with past practice, is likely to heap praise on MINUSTAH and the elections process. As we noted yesterday, MINUSTAH’s position on the rigged nature of the elections through party exclusion is to pretend there is no controversy: “Mulet said there have been no allegations of government manipulation of the campaign or any other wrongdoing,"  Bloomberg's Bill Varner reported yesterday. Voter access and registration? Miraculously, close the entire eligible voting population has already registered, disease outbreaks, homelessness, and other obstacles be damned.

Since MINUSTAH is doing such an amazing job at fulfilling their mission, perhaps it’s time to ask: when is MINUSTAH going to leave? Bob Naiman at Just Foreign Policy proposes that it’s time for a timetable for MINUSTAH’s withdrawal, and some foreign leaders are also calling for the UN troops to leave Haiti.

Naiman writes:
Haitian protesters have been chanting: "MINUSTAH go home," MINUSTAH being the name of the UN force.

Why do UN troops remain in Haiti? What are their plans for leaving? Is there a timetable for the withdrawal of UN forces from Haiti? If not, why not?

If the demands by Haitian protesters for UN forces to leave are not just, shouldn't someone have to explain why? No explanation is being given for why UN troops should remain in Haiti indefinitely.
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UN Urges Cholera Funds Now: “Let's worry about next year next year.” Print
The UN General Assembly is set to have a post-elections discussion on Haiti on December 3. No doubt the UN will again urge the international community to contribute to its emergency fund to fight cholera – an appeal that has largely fallen on deaf ears. As CBC reported yesterday:
Deaths from the cholera epidemic in Haiti could rise above 10,000 if help doesn't quicken, but bureaucracy is slowing aid down, says a Canadian who heads the United Nations humanitarian efforts in the Caribbean country.

"All the conditions for a massive cholera epidemic are present in Haiti," Nigel Fisher told CBC News. "It is exploding."

The United Nations puts the reported cholera death toll at 1,344, but says experts believe the tally could be as high as 2,000. Though official numbers state about 50,000 Haitians have been stricken by the disease, Fisher believes the true number could be closer to 70,000.

"If we don't move — we, the whole community and national counterparts — don't accelerate the process, we could see deaths going above 10,000 or so."

While additional funds are necessary to combat the outbreak, Fisher said the key to tackling the treatable disease are setting up more treatment centres and moving resources from future projects and reconstruction to cholera.

"This today is the most urgent crisis Haiti is facing," he said. "Put the resources in now. Let's worry about next year next year."
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Elections in the Time of Cholera, Part I Print
CORRECTION: Please note that the last paragraph of this post originally mistakenly referred to CRS when it should have referred to the American Red Cross. We apologize for the error, and have corrected the information below.

Leading up to the elections on Sunday we will be posting updates and commentary from CEPR's Alex Main, who is in Haiti this week. The following is the first installment:


It is a sunny Monday afternoon in Port-au-Prince and we are bouncing through a maze of small streets in a bruised Daihatsu SUV.  Since rubble continues to clog many of the main arteries of the city, we are taking bumpy, unpaved backroads through dusty neighborhoods rendered temporarily colorful by the multitude of campaign posters and signs that plaster nearly every available wall.  Everywhere we turn we see the faces and broad smiles of legislative and presidential candidates like popular compa musician Michel “Sweet Micky” Martely, the pearly white businessman – and 2004 coup supporter – Charles Baker and, most of all, public works minister Jude Celestin, the INITE party candidate endorsed by outgoing president Preval, among others.  Nearly as ubiquitous are tent camps clinging to hills or lining the roadway, bursting with thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) made homeless by the January 12 earthquake, or tranbleman deté in Haitian Creole.  Along with frequent piles of rubble mixed with layers of trash, these camps are a constant reminder of the quake’s tragic aftermath and the glaring failure of both Haiti’s authorities and well-endowed relief organizations to respond effectively to the human and material devastation. 

We are here – a small group of us from the Washington NGO and think tank community – to get a better picture of the situation in Haiti and, in particular, of the electoral process that will unfold on November 26th.  As Haitians struggle to cope with the quake’s aftermath as well as the recent onset of a major cholera epidemic that has already killed at least 1400, they are also being called on to participate in legislative and presidential elections that many observers consider to be unfair and uninclusive.   Our goal is to meet with representatives of a wide array of sectors – from the burgeoning grassroots movements in IDP camps to international organizations tasked with administering the multibillion dollar relief and reconstruction efforts – and try to assess the potential impact of these elections and why, over ten months after the earthquake, the human emergency in Haiti seems to be worsening.
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