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Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction

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Are MINUSTAH's Voter Progress Claims Too Good to Be True? Print
Tuesday, 23 November 2010 16:12
Bloomberg reports today:
[MINUSTAH head Edmond] Mulet said 4.5 million Haitians have been registered to vote for president and for seats in the parliament, and that campaign rallies and caravans are being held without incident. He cautioned that former Haitian soldiers and gangs may attempt to disrupt the voting.
Sadly, there was actually a fatal shooting incident today – media reporting a clash between supporters of  presidential candidates Jude Celestin and Charles Henri Baker, respectively, with two people dying.

If, as Mulet says, 4.5 million Haitians are registered to vote, this would be one million more people registered than in the last presidential election, and probably close to the entire voting age population (which was 4.3 million in 2006). This is highly unlikely, especially considering that over one million people were displaced, and some 300,000 killed, by this year’s earthquake.
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A Tale of Two Elections Print
Tuesday, 23 November 2010 13:24

HRRW's own Dan Beeton writes in today's Los Angeles Times:

Haiti is scheduled to hold elections on Nov. 28, and nothing — neither the cholera outbreak that has killed more than 1,000 people nor the fact that more than 1 million earthquake survivors remain homeless — seems likely to convince the Haitian government or its international backers that the vote should be postponed. It should be. Why? The electoral process is rigged. Unfortunately, the Obama administration seems happy to go along with the charade.

Earlier this month President Obama rightly condemned the bogus elections in Burma (renamed Myanmar by the military regime). He said: "The unfair electoral laws and overtly partisan Election Commission [controlled by the military regime] ensured that Burma's leading pro-democracy party, the National League for Democracy, was silenced and sidelined." And NLD party leader Aung San Suu Kyi

Now that a similarly flawed process is about to be repeated much closer to home, the Obama administration should be equally adamant in condemning it.
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Live-Blogging the Elections Print
Tuesday, 23 November 2010 11:17
CEPR's Alex Main is in Haiti this week along with delegates from the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, TransAfrica Forum, and other organizations to observe events surrounding the elections, including police and UN response to any protests, possible voter boycotts, voter access and participation levels, the cholera epidemic and how it is affecting people; and the status of overall relief efforts. The delegation’s members will be in close contact with an array of local and national civil society organizations during their stay. Alex will provide periodic updates which we will post here.

On Sunday, we will live-blog the elections using reports from Alex and other on-the-ground sources based in Haiti. Check back throughout Sunday for new updates. Media interested in interviewing Alex or other observers in Haiti this week can contact us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .
 
Will UN's Appeal for Emergency Cholera Fund Fall on Deaf Ears? Print
Monday, 22 November 2010 16:52
The UN Office of the Special Envoy to Haiti has released updated data regarding the status of pledges made by donor countries in New York last March. As a cholera epidemic continues to spread, now claiming at least 1300 lives, the international community has failed to live up to their pledges. A total of $3.2 billion was pledged for 2010 alone, yet a full 35 percent of this is in the form of debt cancellation, which does not free up any fiscal space since Haiti was not paying interest on that debt. In total, out of the $2.12 billion in pledges for 2010 (excluding debt cancellation) just 42.3 percent has been distributed. The US, which made its first distribution last week, is counted as meeting 100 percent of their pledge, however this conceals the fact that the US changed its pledge time line in September of this year. After originally pledging $1.15 billion for 2010, in September the US pushed all of that funding back until fiscal year 2011 (which began in October). At this point the US has distributed just $120 million of its $1.15 billion pledge.

It is not just the United States, or individual governments that have failed to live up to their pledges. The European Commission has distributed just $48.6 million of its $223.6 pledge, while Canada is still $116 million short of its 2010 pledge. The Inter-American Development Bank has distributed just $50 million of the $326 million that it pledged.

Yet despite the dire situation on the ground, governments seem no more willing to open their wallets for Haiti. The UN says that only three percent of their $164 million emergency appeal to fight cholera has been funded. This only compounds the problem, as the original UN flash appeal from after the earthquake is still just 72 percent funded. The flash appeal to fight cholera is focused on three sectors: 1) health, 2) shelter, and 3) water, sanitation and hygiene. Yet these three sectors are still underfunded in the original appeal by almost $111 million dollars.
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MINUSTAH Responds to Day of Protests By Tear-Gassing IDP Camp Print
Thursday, 18 November 2010 17:40
Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in various Haitian cities today in a day of protest against MINUSTAH, which is now widely believed to have been the source of the cholera outbreak. Marchers in Port-au-Prince, Cap Haitian, and elsewhere are protesting the UN mission’s role in the outbreak and other misdeeds, with many calling on the forces to leave Haiti.

A third protester – this week – was killed during protests yesterday. AP reports:
Witnesses told an AP Television News cameraman that the peacekeepers opened fire, killing a demonstrator and wounding one protester in the face, one in the stomach and another in the leg. The dead man's body was displayed to reporters with a fatal gunshot wound in his left armpit.

The U.N. denied its peacekeepers fired, insisting there wasn't any shooting at the scene by anyone. The U.N. acknowledged earlier in the week when a peacekeeper killed one of the two other demonstrators who have died, saying the soldier shot in self-defense.
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In Response to Protests, MINUSTAH Disregards Legitimate Grievances Print
Tuesday, 16 November 2010 15:10
Protests against the UN and MINUSTAH in Cap-Haitien and elsewhere throughout the country yesterday resulted in at least two civilian deaths and numerous injuries. Yet the response from MINUSTAH completely ignores the legitimate concerns of the citizens about the source of the Cholera outbreak and the role of MINUSTAH in Haiti. The UN News Center reports:
“The way the events unfolded suggests that these incidents were politically motivated, aimed at creating a climate of insecurity on the eve of elections,” the mission, known as MINUSTAH, said in a statement.

“MINUSTAH calls the people to remain vigilant and not be manipulated by enemies of stability and democracy in the country,” the mission added.
The protesters, according to news reports, largely held MINUSTAH responsible for bringing cholera (with a death toll now over 1000) into Haiti, where it had not been seen for decades. Despite calls from public health experts like Paul Farmer to pin point the cause of the epidemic, and the popular anger directed at MINUSTAH, officials have shied away from such an investigation. As reported by the Associated Press, a World Health Organization official said today that "at some time we will do further investigation but it's not a priority right now."
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Despite Everything, Haitian Government Continues to Move Ahead With Flawed Elections Print
Tuesday, 16 November 2010 11:27
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
Friday, 12 November 2010 18:09
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
Friday, 05 November 2010 16:57
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
Friday, 05 November 2010 14:51
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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