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Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction

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More People at Risk Due to Red Tape, Under-funding of Emergency Relief Print

The rainy season is returning to Haiti, and so is an expected increase in cholera infections. There have been as many deaths – 13 –  in the last eight reported days as there were in all of January or February this year. Yet red tape and funding shortfalls are hampering prevention and treatment efforts.

NPR health correspondent Richard Knox presented a lengthy report yesterday on a cholera vaccination program that has yet to be implemented, despite consensus from the Haitian government, the World Health Organization, the Pan American Health Organization, and the CDC that it could be effective. The program, which will provide vaccines to some 100,000 people, is now awaiting the conclusions of a national ethics committee, “which wants assurance that the vaccine is no longer considered experimental.” The organizations administering the program, Partners in Health and GHESKIO, had hoped to get it underway in January.

Knox reports:

Meanwhile, the spring rains are beginning. Cholera cases are starting to climb, because the floods spread the cholera bacterium around.

"We know it's going to rain, we know it's going to flood," says Dr. Vanessa Rouzier, "so we are afraid we are wasting precious time."

Rouzier works with GHESKIO, a Haitian medical group that is organizing the vaccination project in Port-au-Prince, Haiti's capital. The rural arm is sponsored by Partners in Health in the Artibonite River valley, where cholera first appeared.

The two groups have been planning the demonstration project for more than a year.

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Will the Red Cross Put Shelter for Paying Tourists and Aid Workers Before IDP's? Print

A new report by AP investigative reporter Martha Mendoza and Haiti correspondent Trenton Daniel sheds light on the Red Cross' plans to possibly build a hotel on the 10 acres of land near the Toussaint L’Ouverture airport that it uses for its base camp.

The article reports:

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is considering building a hotel and conference center in Haiti on part of a $10.5 million property that it bought after the 2010 earthquake.

The hope is that profits could sustain the work of Haiti's local Red Cross in the coming years, the head of the international group's Haitian delegation said Monday.

The 10-acre compound, known as the "Hilton Property," was purchased from Comme Il Faut, Haiti's local cigarette company, in the months after the quake, Eduard Tschan told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

The charity paid in a single payment, using funds donated by national Red Cross agencies for quake recovery. At the time, Haiti's recovery was the largest operation in the organization's history, with 3,000 people working here.

Now that its work is winding down, the international Red Cross is putting together an exit strategy and as part of that process is trying to figure out what to do with this property.

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Kolbe: Political and Social Marginalization Behind Increases in Crime Print

In early March, social scientists Athena Kolbe and Robert Muggah released a study, backed by Canada’s International Development Research Centre and the Igarapé Institute of Brazil, showing increasing crime rates in the capital of Port-au-Prince. Based on household surveys, the authors found that “[f]or the first time since 2007, the incidence of violent crime and victimization has shown a consistent increase”. While the homicide rate in Haiti’s capital is lower than in many other Caribbean cities, the authors note the current rate in Haiti makes it one of the highest recorded rates since the post-coup period of 2004. At the same time, the authors found a reversal in citizens’ support for the Haitian National Police.

In an interview with HRRW, Kolbe, a clinical social worker affiliated with the University of Michigan, explains the social context of the current study and explores some of the causes and implications of the results. Kolbe finds that most of the victims of violence and criminal activities were residents of low-income neighborhoods where the population has experienced “social and political marginalization.” The ending of aid programs has also had a “profound impact on the people who need the services the most.” Kolbe notes that the bypassing of the Haitian government by NGOs and donor governments has created a situation where these entities and not the Haitian state “provide basic social and municipal services.” With a government that cannot guarantee its citizens access to services, Kolbe notes that “simply increasing the number of police on the street isn’t going to solve Haiti’s crime problem.” What is needed is to “focus efforts on improving the conditions in society that create the climate where crime is a viable option.”

Read more for the full interview:

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USAID-Funded Parliament Building Still Vacant 4 Months After “Inauguration” Print

Jacob Kushner and Jean Pharés Jérôme of Global Post report today on the high-profile USAID project to build a temporary building for Haiti’s parliament. Although the $1.9 million building was “inaugurated” in November 2011, Kushner and Jérôme report that:

But more than four months later, that location remains vacant. The building is scattered with woodwork trimmings and debris from a costly ongoing renovation paid for by the Haitian treasury because legislators say the United States never finished the job. And critics in Haiti charge that the unfinished work and empty building stand as a powerful metaphor for much of what is wrong with USAID’s approach to development in Haiti: that it lacks coordination with and input from the Haitians themselves about how best to undertake reconstruction projects.

The building remains nothing more than a “shell” and the Haitian government has already spent $770,000 in renovations and will have to spend much more before it is actually usable. Cholzer Chancy of Haiti’s Chamber of Deputies told Global Post, “It may cost more for us to renovate it than for them to build it in the first place.”

U.S. Embassy spokesman Jon Piechowski defended the project, saying:

“We explained to them what could be done, we consulted with them on that, and they approved the project,” he said. “We answer to the American people and we need to be good stewards of their tax money, and I think we’ve done that in this case.”

The authors continue:

But to the half a million Haitians who remain displaced to tents and shacks since the earthquake, the $2 million US aid dollars spent on an empty building and the hundreds of thousands more taken from the Haitian Treasury to renovate it seem inexcusable.

“All the time, I hear on the radio that American money is going here or there,” said Acelus Saint Louis, a 45-year-old who lives in a tent with his wife and two children. “But I don’t see it. This could lift us up, but instead it’s just wasted.”
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Two Die as Fire Sweeps Through Camp Lycèe Toussaint Print

By Mark Snyder and Ellie Happel

At two in the morning on Monday March 12th, 2012, the tents of Camp Lycèe Toussaint in downtown Port-au-Prince became engulfed in flames.  Within an hour, 96 of the approximately 120 emergency shelters, home to some of Haiti’s internally displaced, burned to the ground.  Although most of the camp residents escaped without serious injury, the families lost the few belongings they had accumulated in the two years and two months since the earthquake.  Camp residents reported that they did not have water to extinguish the fire.  For months, five Red Cross water tanks have sat empty at the entrance to the camp.

The cause of the fire remains unknown. Neither the Government of Haiti nor the International Organization for Migration (IOM), responsible for camp management, has released an official statement about the fire.

Community members reported that a twelve-year old boy died in the fire.  His brother died in the hospital.  Their mother remains in critical condition.  Many people in the camp reported suffering burns.

By Monday afternoon, camp residents reported that they had yet to receive a visit from a local or national government representative. Residents said that IOM staff came to the camp for "only some minutes" and added that they "told us nothing." 

Community organizers arrived at the site to remind the victims of the fire that they were not helpless: the Haitian Constitution and international conventions grant specific rights to the internally displaced and place a duty on the government to respect and fulfill these rights.  As the organizers spoke, a small group of residents grew larger and the conversation became more animated.  Residents decided to hold a spontaneous protest to call attention to their situation.  Within a half hour, the residents found a bullhorn and a driver willing to use his minibus and charred shelter to block the road.  They rallied their displaced neighbors to block the side street that borders the camp.

When the protestors lit a tire in the road, the Haitian National Police (PNH) arrived within minutes.  They extinguished the low flame and aggressively broke up the protest.  On two occasions officers leveled their assault rifles and shotguns on the crowd, forcing them to disperse. One of these incidences was recorded on video, just after the PNH officer rushed into the camp with his weapon drawn and chased a young boy who yelled of the injustice of the situation. The boy ran from the officer and disappeared through an opening in an earthquake-damaged building. Additional armed officers arrived and charged into the crowd with assault rifles, shotguns, and a teargas gun.

Camp residents commented that their entire camp can burn along with their children, and the Haitian Government does nothing.  But when residents burn a tire in the street, the police respond.

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