HaitiHaiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch is a blog that tracks multinational aid efforts in Haiti with an eye towards ensuring they are oriented towards the needs of the Haitian people, and that aid is not used to undermine Haitians' right to self-determination.

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The following is from guest contributor Steven Forester who coordinates immigration policy advocacy for the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH).

July 12 will be six months since the quake. Last Saturday a Washington Post editorial again, as on January 29, urged the Obama Administration to promptly parole 55,000 beneficiaries of visa petitions DHS has already approved -- but who otherwise will languish years longer in Haiti due to the visa backlog -- citing as precedent DHS's creation in 2007 of a Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program.  A favorable Post blog followed on Wednesday.
 
Creating a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program would serve the same goals as the Cuban program and give Haiti's recovery a huge blood transfusion via their consequent remittances to an estimated 550,000 or more Haitians.  You can support this goal.
 
HIAS has created a laminated poster that asks people to urge DHS (202 282 8495) and Congress (202 224 3121) to reunite these 55,000 separated Haitian families.  To get a free poster, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with your name and address, and post them widely.

The AP reported late last night that President Preval had rejected many of the recommendations outlined in Senator Lugar's report for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee which we wrote about yesterday. While Preval did formally set a date for elections, a key recommendation of the report, he refused to work with international partners to reform the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) or to do more to ensure a fully inclusive electoral process. The Miami Herald and Reuters also have the story. As we wrote yesterday, and a number of times previously, Haiti's largest party, Fanmi Lavalas was excluded from 2009 elections and also from the planned February elections. Preval, however, defended the action, the AP writes:
He also defended the prohibition on the exiled Aristide's Fanmi Lavalas party in last year's elections, a ban that came after rival factions of the party submitted competing lists of candidates.

"International donors need to look for an accord with the CEP and the political parties and the factions of Fanmi Lavalas," Preval said. "We are giving (the parties) the support that they need, and the factions need to figure it out (for themselves)."

Haitian President Rene Preval signed a decree on Tuesday setting November 28, 2010 as the election date, the AP reports. According to AFP, not only will a new president be elected, but the entire Chamber of Deputies and one third of the senate are also up for grabs. Serious issues, however, have yet to be resolved. As we have noted numerous times before, the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) excluded 15 political parties from participating in the legislative elections planned for February. Among the parties excluded was Fanmi Lavalas, the most popular party. There has been no indication if the exclusion will hold for the November elections.

There are also constitutional issues concerning the CEP. The Haitian Constitution calls for a Permanent Electoral Council, however the current Provisional council’s members were appointed by Preval during his term in office. The parties that had been excluded were predominantly opponents of Preval's INITE coalition, raising concern over the independence of the CEP. Al-Jazeera, in their coverage of the election decree, note that Preval "did not address opponents' calls for the council itself to be replaced before a vote is held."

A Senate Foreign Relations Committee report entitled, "Haiti at a Crossroads" was released earlier this week which warns that "there are worrisome signs that the rebuilding process in Haiti has stalled." The report is critical of the Haitian government, especially as it regards the issue of resettlement, but also for not sufficiently communicating with the Haitian people and for dragging its feet in development projects. In an interview with the AP earlier this week, Prime Minister Bellerive responded to some of these criticisms, as AP reports:
With a chuckle, he also said it is unfair for U.S. officials to take him to task when the Senate still has not approved aid money that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton promised at the donors' conference.

"They ask me to move more projects when the money is still on hold," Bellerive said.

On Tuesday, AccuWeather.com reported that Haiti will be at an increased risk of flooding this weekend, as a "tropical disturbance toting heavy showers and gusty thunderstorms moves in from the Eastern Atlantic." The report continues, "In addition, Hurricane Expert Joe Bastardi is predicting a second surge of tropically induced rain in the next two weeks with a tropical wave following the current system...". Adding that in Haiti, "Most of the shelters available to refugees today consist of tarps and tents that may not be able to withstand extreme weather."

In fact, many on the ground in Haiti have been provided with neither tarps nor tents. Although the Shelter Cluster reports 134 percent coverage of emergency shelter materials, looking deeper at the data shows that this may be misleading. While coverage for some areas greatly exceeds 100 percent, for others the coverage is significantly lower. A total of 232,130 people are still without either tents or tarps according to Shelter Cluster data from June 8. In addition to this number, a recent document from the Shelter Cluster notes that, "Tarps and tents that were distributed  in the first three months are more likely to have reached the end of their life span and might need to be replaced." The number of households whose soul source of protection from the weather are tents and tarps distributed in the first three months is an amazing 276,422, or well over 1 million people.

Ben Fox of the AP reported earlier this week on foreign firms going to Haiti to try and capitalize on the long and expensive reconstruction process. One contractor, which we have written about previously is Ashbritt. Fox writes:
Pompano Beach, Florida-based AshBritt Inc. so far has invested $25 million in its Haitian reconstruction operation covering a soccer field.

Now all Perkins [the CEO of Ashbritt] needs is a government contract to make his investment pay off.

The Wall Street Journal reports on moves by the Senate Appropriations Committee to block some funding for criminal justice programs in Haiti following the massacre at the prison in Las Cayes. Dionne Searcey writes:
The Appropriations proposal, put forth by Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, says that in light of the incident at Les Cayes "no funds ... should be obligated for justice programs in Haiti until a thorough, credible and transparent investigation occurs, the results of which are made publicly available, and the [Haitian government] takes appropriate action."

The language, while not binding, is still powerful and would likely be honored. If the proposal is approved, at least one U.S.-backed justice-reform program in Haiti expects to shut its doors, according to people close to the group.
The program that will be probably be stopped is a $20 million project, administered by USAID. Although Haiti's criminal justice system does clearly need improvement and reform, it is worth pointing out that USAID money for justice programs have, in the past, been used to undermine the democratically elected government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Ansel Herz reports for Inter-Press Service on the ongoing problems between land owners and the "temporary" camps that have sprung up throughout Port-au-Prince. Following the announcement of a moratorium on forced evictions, there is still massive confusion according to Herz, who writes:
The Haitian government and U.N. agreed in April to a temporary moratorium on forced evictions of camps. They say no landowner should push people from land unless there is an alternative space that meets minimum humanitarian standards.

“We made the decision together. But applying it was another story,” Interior Minister Paul Antoine Ben-Aimie told IPS in an interview. “We haven’t communicated anything to the population so far.”

Katie Kane, an associate profeesor of English at the University of Montana, recently traveled to Haiti to spend 24 hours living in the Camp Croix des Prez in Port-au-Prince. Kane was invited by KOFAVIV, a Haitian women's organization and through her experience is able to convey life in the camps with a level of detail that is often lacking in reports from traditional journalists. After being told that the 68 people died during the earthquake at the site of the camp, Kane writes:
He gestures around the camp while he tells me, “We are standing on their bodies; they are under us, and we walk on them every day.”

In a statement that somehow sums up the general situation of failure on the part of the international aid organizations in Haiti, Jean says, “No one has come to help us to get them out.” It is a phrase I will hear many times over before I leave the camp: “No one has come to help.”

A study done by the Karolinka Institute in collaboration with Columbia University and with the help of Digicel, offers a detailed view into the internal displacement caused by the earthquake. The analysis looks at the locations of Digicel mobile phones from January 1 until March 11.

The study finds that based on their estimates, by January 31, 570,000 people had left Port-au-Prince, with the three largest recipient areas being, Sud, Ouest and Artibonite. By March 11, however, some 41 percent of those displaced had returned to the capital, most of whom had been in Port-au-Prince prior to the quake.

Yesterday in the Dominican Republic a conference was held on the reconstruction of Haiti, the "World Summit on the Future of Haiti: Solidarity beyond the Crisis". The summit brought together over 100 countries and international organizations. At the summit, Haitian President Rene Preval called on donor countries to honor the pledges made at the Donor Conference in New York over two months ago. In New York $5.3 billion was pledged for the next two years, and $9.9 billion over the next decade. Despite this, Al-Jazeera reports:
According to aid experts, Haiti needs about $11.5bn for its anticipated decade-long rebuilding effort.

But so far, Haitian government officials say, only Brazil has delivered its entire aid pledge of $55m.

We – along with aid and relief groups on the ground in Haiti - have argued before that in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake an over-emphasis on security concerns severely hampered relief efforts. US defense secretary Robert Gates cited "security concerns" for preventing air drops of humanitarian aid, while Doctors Without Borders warned that "hundreds could die" after one of their supply planes was delayed for 48 hours because the US military was not prioritizing humanitarian aid at the Port-au-Prince airport. CEPR co-director Mark Weisbrot noted on January 20 that despite the warning about security:
Lieutenant General PK Keen, deputy commander of the US Southern Command, reports that there is less violence in Haiti now than there was before the earthquake hit. Dr Evan Lyon, of Partners in Health, a medical aid group famous for its heroic efforts in Haiti, referred to "misinformation and rumours … and racism" concerning security issues.

“We've been circulating throughout the city until 2:00 and 3:00 in the morning every night, evacuating patients, moving materials. There's no UN guards. There's no US military presence. There's no Haitian police presence. And there's also no violence. There is no insecurity.”

Today is the official beginning of the Hurricane season in the Caribbean, and there are a number of stories from over the weekend warning of another serious catastrophe given the conditions on the ground in Haiti. As we pointed out last week, experts are forecasting an above average hurricane season, with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicting up to 23 named tropical storms. AP reminds us that "Tropical Storm Jeanne killed nearly 3,000 people in 2004, and a series of 2008 storms killed 800 — mostly in the country's central region north of Port-au-Prince." Both the AP and the Miami Herald point out that only a very small portion of the displaced have been relocated from flood prone areas. From the AP:
Dr. Jean Pape, one of the country's most prominent public health experts, estimates that only 1 percent of the masses stuck in dangerous flood zones have been relocated.

The World Bank announced today that they have cancelled the remaining $36 million in debt owed by Haiti. The Bank said that the cancellation was "made possible by contributions from Belgium, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, The Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland." The decision comes nearly one month after the United States passed a law directing the "Secretary of the Treasury to instruct the U.S. Executive Directors at the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF)" to completely cancel Haiti's debt.

The International Monetary Fund, however, has yet to cancel Haiti's debt. According to IMF figures, Haiti's debt to the Fund stands at $282 million. Although interest rates on outstanding loans are zero until 2012, the IMF projects that obligation will reach nearly 3 percent of government revenue by 2014. This includes the $114 million loan the Fund approved for Haiti after the earthquake. In contrast, the World Bank has made $479 million available to Haiti in the form of grants.

Given that the US congress is pushing the treasury secretary to cancel Haiti's debt, and that the US treasury continues to hold an effective veto over the IMF, one may wonder why it is taking the IMF so long to grant debt relief to Haiti.
MSNBC ran a segment yesterday on the 55,000 Haitians who had been approved prior to the earthquake to come to the United States. Now, with many - including the family of North Miami Mayor Andre Pierre - living in makeshift camps, they are being denied entry to the US because of immigration quotas. As Steve Forester of IJDH explains, the MSNBC report would have been strengthened by discussing the positive impact these immigrants could have on Haiti through increased remittances, if allowed to come the United States. As the World Bank pointed out on May 17, since remittances make up such a large portion of Haiti's GDP, "Haiti represents the first time the restoration of remittances services was seen as a critical part of disaster relief and response." Allowing increased immigration from Haiti has been endorsed by both the Washington Post and Miami Herald editorial boards, as well as by numerous members of Congress. As Congress has recently allocated $2 billion in funding to Haiti for the next two years, incorporating language that would allow increased immigration would be an easy and cost-effective measure to help Haiti rebuild.
"[O]nly pepper spray and rubber bullets were used to quell an out-of-control protest."

As heavy rains threaten to flood camps, UN troops fired volleys of tear gas at a demonstration that spilled out from a university and into the surrounding makeshift camps. Ansel Herz reports for Inter-Press Service that after UN troops entered the campus, students began to flee to the surrounding camps, where a "barrage of tear gas and rubber bullets" sent "masses of displaced Haitians running out of tent camps into the streets". Herz writes:

AccuWeather.com Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski reported yesterday that severe rains are expected in Haiti this week, with the possibility of flooding and mudslides. Sosnowski writes:
An average of 5 to 10 inches of rain is forecast to fall on the region into the weekend. However, local amounts will be higher in the mountains, where runoff will be excessive.
With well over a million Haitians living in makeshift camps, heavy rains pose an enormous threat. Tents and tarps are often no match for the berating rains. The rains can also overflow latrines, a serious public health concern. On Monday, The Guardian released a video report that captures the scene inside these camps during the rains. One resident says:
I don't have a mother nor a father. I am by myself trying to make ends meet. I used to sleep in a tent on the street and now because of this rain my tent is destroyed. Tonight I will have to stand on my feet because I don't have anything to sleep on.

In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, the Haitian government called for some 200,000 tents to help shelter the countless Haitians that had been made homeless. However nearly a month after the quake, contradictions began to arise about whether tents or tarps would be used for relief efforts. We wrote on February 4:

Congressional Quarterly reports today (subscription only) that stronger oversight and regulations would accompany the billion plus dollars allocated to Haiti in the 2010 war supplemental bill. According to CQ, most money would go through USAID, which "has been the subject of withering congressional criticism in recent years for its handling of the tens of billions in international development assistance". The article continues:
When it comes to tightening oversight of USAID, senators are focused on a series of reporting requirements in the bill, which is cosponsored by Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, and Tennessee Republican Bob Corker. Among them are submission by USAID of a detailed multi-year strategy for supporting the rebuilding of Haiti and annual reports on the strategy’s implementation, along with a Government Accountability Office review.

The UN has announced it is investigating the killings of between 11 and 40 prison inmates in Les Cayes following the earthquake – an incident examined in a feature New York Times report over the weekend. The Times reports that eyewitness accounts blame police – who were backed up by UN forces – of carrying out the murders of prisoners as they lay on the ground, rather than a “prison ringleader” whom Haitian officials say committed the killings before vanishing. UN documents, the Haitian National Police inspector general’s own report, and statements by prison employees, judicial officials, and victims’ relatives also refute the “prison ringleader” story.

The Times reports that the massacre followed an escape attempt:
The escape plan, set in motion on Jan. 19 by an attack on a guard, proved disastrous. With Haitian and United Nations police officers encircling the prison, the detainees could not get out. For hours, they rampaged, hacking up doors and burning records, until tear gas finally overwhelmed them.

A revealing NPR story over the weekend contrasts two IDP camps which are situated directly across the street from one another. Camp Ancien Aeroport Militaire is home to some 50,000 people, one resident described the camp as "hell", according to NPR. Eugene, injured in the quake, lives with his 6 children under a tarp, NPR describes his living conditions:
When it rains, his roof leaks. Food distributions are chaotic, if they happen at all. The toilets are so full of sewage that Eugene says he can't even use them.
The contrast with what stands across the street however is most amazing:
More than 500 large white tents are laid out in rows on an expanse of leveled gravel. There are rows of brand new toilets. There are shipping containers fitted with clean shower stalls that have never been used. Tarps from the U.S. Agency for International Development are draped over each tent.


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