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Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction

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Preval: Food Aid Risks Damaging Economy Print
Monday, 08 March 2010 16:44
Haitian President Rene Preval arrives in Washington today and is set to meet with President Obama on Wednesday. Reuters reports on one of the key messages that will come from Preval:
Donations of food and water have proved a lifeline for more than 1.2 million people displaced by the quake, but Preval told a news conference on Monday the aid could in the long term hurt the economy of the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

"I will tell him (Obama) that this first phase of assistance is finished," said Preval, standing in front of the ruined presidential palace in Port-au-Prince.

"If they continue to send us aid from abroad -- water and food -- it will be in competition with the national Haitian production and Haitian commerce," he said.
Read more...

 

 
Paul Collier: New Approach to NGOs Needed Print
Monday, 08 March 2010 14:50
Paul Collier writes for the Independent about the role of NGOs in Haiti's recovery and the need for a new approach to aid. Collier is a professor at Oxford and the author of "Haiti: From Natural Catastrophe to Economic Security", prepared for the UN Secretary General last year. Echoing both Haitian Prime Minister Jean Max Bellerive, and Haitian President Rene Preval, Collier writes:
As the NGOs further scale-up, the already limited capacity of the state has been decimated. Essential as the NGOs have been, this imbalance threatens to leave the state marginalised in the core task of basic service provision.
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WSJ: "Social Structures Form in Haiti's Tent Cities" Print
Monday, 08 March 2010 12:45
The Wall Street Journal reports on the rise of self-governance in the make-shift camps, home to 1.3 million people. Miriam Jordan of the WSJ writes:
Inside the many tent cities now home to hundreds of thousands of people, a rudimentary social order is beginning to emerge as committees agitate to secure food, water and supplies in high demand from international aid organizations.
Read more...

 

 
AP: "Billions For Haiti, A Criticism For Every Dollar" Print
Friday, 05 March 2010 17:46
A series of articles today report on the mounting criticism over the relief efforts, focusing on the issue of shelter.

The AP reports that for the billions of dollars that have been committed to Haiti there are still serious flaws in the relief effort:
A half-million homeless received tarps and tents; far more are still waiting under soggy bed sheets in camps that reek of human waste. More than 4.3 million people got emergency food rations; few will be able to feed themselves anytime soon. Medical aid went to thousands, but long-term care isn't even on the horizon.
The AP reports on Haitian Prime Minister Bellerive's concerns that the relief effort has been bypassing the Haitian Government.  Bellerive told the AP "Too many people are raising money without any controls, and don't explain what they're doing with it."

The AP also notes that while millions have been pledged, much of the money goes to businesses in the donor's home country:
USAID paid at least $160 million of its total Haiti-related expenditures to the Defense Department, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, two local U.S. search and rescue teams and, in at least two instances, itself.

Tens of millions more went to U.S.-based aid groups. While much of that bought food and other necessities for Haitians, it often did so from U.S. companies—including highly subsidized rice growers whose products are undercutting local producers, driving them out of business.

One cent of every dollar has gone to the Haitian government.
Speaking on the same topic, IPS reports on a delegation of human rights experts that are preparing to travel to Haiti. The delegation has laid out a set of guidelines to make sure that donors not make the same mistakes that have plaqued Haiti for years. This includes an active effort to include Haitians in the relief and reconstruction process. Monika Kalra Varma, executive director of the RFK Center told IPS:
"But rhetoric and goodwill go only so far. Forging a real partnership with the Haitian people will require a total change in the culture of delivering aid to Haiti. Yet if that kind of partnership is not achieved, we will have more of the failures we have seen for decades."
The groups are stressing the importance of human rights in the relief effort, as well as transparency:
"Donor states should act with full transparency and accountability, making information about their plans and programmes available to all, and should work with the Haitian government to set up public monitoring and reporting mechanisms."
IPS concludes:
Aid to Haiti has been marked by frequent interruptions, particularly in assistance from the U.S., for political and ideological reasons. Within Haiti, massive and continuing government and private corruption has siphoned off large chunks of funding and misdirected money to people who didn't need help.

Development experts say aid to Haiti has been aid to the light-skinned elites of Haiti.

 
MSF: "Shelter, Hygiene and Basic Living Conditions Are Not Being Met" Print
Friday, 05 March 2010 11:47
A critical look at the situation in Haiti by MSF (Doctors Without Borders) highlights the "broadly insufficient" aid efforts on the ground in Haiti. Colette Gadenne, manager of MSF activities in Haiti and Christopher Stokes, General Director of MSF in Brussels,  both recently returned from Haiti. Stokes, while acknowledging what has been accomplished, says:
But for a large percentage of Haitians, some two months after the earthquake, it must be said that this solidarity has not always been reflected in actual aid on the ground, mainly in terms of shelter and sanitation.
Gadenne adds:
There are around 20 sites, the largest of which have received material assistance – tents, tarpaulins, toilet facilities, water, food, etc. – and basic medical assistance. The assistance given to these sites is incomplete, and there are dozens of other sites which still lack even the most elementary aid. Thousands of Haitians have still not seen any aid.
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Haitian PM: Aid Bypassing Government, Better Coordination Needed Print
Thursday, 04 March 2010 13:57
Although the US and UN have stressed the fact that the Government of Haiti is playing an active role in the relief efforts, and numerous experts have stressed the importance of strengthening the Haitian State, Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive's comments indicate the Government's growing frustration over the relief efforts. Reuters reports:
Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive decried a lack of coordination by aid donors with his government but stopped short of saying all bilateral aid should be funneled through the government.

"We don't know who has given money to NGO's (nongovernmental organizations) and how much money have they given. ... At the moment, we can't do any coordination or have any coherent policies for giving to the population," Bellerive told a news conference.
Read more...

 

 
The "Fault Lines" in Haiti's Relief and Reconstruction Print
Wednesday, 03 March 2010 18:15
A thought-provoking piece from anthropologist and filmmaker Mark Schuller on Huffington Post today asks some hard questions of the international community:
As of a month after the earthquake the estimate of aid donated is $600 million for Haiti relief efforts (compare this to the $20 billion in Wall Street bonuses).

And yet, there are still an estimated 600,000 people today who are not covered when the rainy seasons come. According to aid agencies' own estimates, only 35% of the needs for tents and tarps in Port-au-Prince are being met - and this up from 30% a week and a half ago. While the rains haven't come yet, they surely will. I join many others in asking why this is, especially given this outpouring of generosity.
But there is hope for moving beyond some of the obstacles to aid delivery, Schuller writes:
Read more...

 

 
Closer Coordination With Local Groups Key to Improved Relief Effort Print
Wednesday, 03 March 2010 16:22
This is the main message from an evaluation of relief efforts released Tuesday by Refugees International. The report concludes that "By all accounts, the leadership of the humanitarian country team is ineffectual."
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"I Have Seen Too Many Big NGOs Waste Too Much Money And I Am Fed Up" Print
Wednesday, 03 March 2010 13:54
The AP reports today on the difference in approach, and outcomes of large aid organizations versus smaller do-it-yourself operations; especially prevalent given the lack of shelter and the rainy season fast approaching.
The Miami property developer, volunteering after Haiti's earthquake, was horrified to see children sleeping in the dirt under makeshift tents of bed sheets propped up on sticks. A global, billion-dollar aid effort should be able to do better, he thought.

He decided he could do better himself.

Michael Capponi flew home, collected donated tents, flew them back to Haiti and persuaded a mayor to let him build a proper camp for hundreds of families on the soccer field of a gated community of luxury villas. It took him three days and less than $5,000.

"I didn't put this together to get a pat on the back, but to show the world it can be done rather quickly, and with limited funds," said Capponi, 37.
Read more...

 

 
"WSJ: Global Aid Is No Relief for Small Haitian Businesses" Print
Wednesday, 03 March 2010 10:25
The Wall Street Journal reports on the effects of aid on local markets and small businesses in Haiti:
After the Jan. 12 quake, which killed as many as 300,000 people, the world launched a massive relief effort to bring food, water, medicine and other supplies to needy Haitians. The U.S. alone has spent more than $665 million, official figures show.

But only a tiny fraction of that money is being spent in Haiti, buying goods from local businesses. Worse, the aid is having the unintended consequence of making life harder for many businesses here, because of competition from free goods brought in by relief agencies. The damage to Haitian companies is making it harder for them to get back on their feet and create the jobs the country needs for a lasting recovery.
Read more...

 

 
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