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 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.

AP reported this week comments President Preval made at a ceremony honoring Haiti’s Flag Day that he will step down when his term ends on February 7:
“This is the last May 18 I will spend with you as president,” Preval said. Pledging to pass his office to a successor on the constitutionally mandated day, he added, “I will go and my heart will be calm.”
Preval’s announcement reiterated similar statements he made last week, and followed protests by thousands of people Monday in what AP described as “the strongest showing of opposition to the Haitian leader since the quake” expressing outrage over his handling of the post-earthquake crisis and suggestions that he might extend his term. AP noted that
Many demonstrators identified themselves as supporters of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was exiled to Africa aboard a U.S. plane during a 2004 rebellion. Protesters marched to the national mall following speaker trucks that trumpeted calls for Aristide's return.

Just over a week ago, CNN aired a report with Sean Penn on the case of Oriel, a 15 year old who contracted diphtheria and eventually died. We wrote then:
The report does a good job describing how - despite its fixation on Penn’s personality – that the boy’s life might have been saved had, first, vaccinations been available, and then, second, the antitoxin to treat diphtheria been more easily accessible once Oriel came down with the disease. Yet, as CNN reported, “it took Penn -- even with his star power -- 11 hours to get his hands on one dose.”
After the report, the World Health Organization responded by saying that it was "just an isolated case and there are no other cases."

Today, the UN News Center reports that an outbreak of the disease over the weekend has prompted health authorities to begin a targeted vaccination campaign, writing:
Cases of the disease were first reported on Saturday in Camp Batimat in Cité Soleil district, one of the settlements housing people displaced by the January earthquake, Christiane Berthiaume, spokesperson for the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), told reporters in Geneva.

A Miami Herald editorial calls on Haitian political actors to unite in order to hold a credible vote as soon as possible. This is especially important given that:
Haiti's parliament went out of business last Monday because the earthquake forced the cancellation of legislative elections in February. That has left President René Préval as the sole effective constitutional authority in the country, with no preparations undertaken so far to hold new elections.
The Herald states that
Haiti's leaders need to unite in the common interest of organizing transparently free and fair elections in the shortest time frame possible.

Over five months have passed since the devastating earthquake struck Haiti in January, and although relief organizations say they have reached 100 percent of those in need of shelter, the reality on the ground is still dire. On Saturday, a New York Times editorial raised some of these important points, writing:
Of the more than 1.5 million Haitians left homeless by the Jan. 12 earthquake, about 7,500 have been moved from the most dangerous areas of crowded tent cities to new resettlement sites. The conditions in those tent cities are grim. Thunderstorms are fierce, and the plastic sheets and tarps distributed after the disaster are fraying, along with the people’s patience.

Meanwhile, the demand for secure housing keeps growing as people who fled the capital, Port-au-Prince, move back, because that’s where most of the aid is.

As described in a CBS News investigation last night, some of the large NGO’s that have received millions of dollars in individual donations – and, we would note, in some cases, U.S. taxpayer money via USAID – have spent relatively little of it, despite the urgent crises facing many Haitians during the rainy season, and with the hurricane season just around the corner.

CBS investigated 5 major charities: CARE, the American Red Cross, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund, and the Clinton Foundation Haiti Fund. Of these:
Only the Clinton-Bush fund and Clinton Foundation refused to answer our questions, despite repeated e-mails and phone calls. Their websites say they've received $52 million in donor dollars, and have spent only about $7 million: less than one-seventh.

The Red Cross has raised $444 million and spent about 25 percent ($111 million) of it, including $55 million for "emergency relief," such as food and kitchen items, and $42.9 million for shelter including tarps, tents and blankets.

CARE has raised $34.4 million and spent about 16 percent ($5.75 million), $2.5 million of that on "shelter."

And at Catholic Relief Services: of $165 million committed to Haiti, it spent no more than 8 percent ($12.2 million), including $2.5 million on food $1.28 million on emergency shelter.

(Click on the links above for PDF’s with charts and reports breaking down income and expenditures.)

The supplemental funding bill for Haiti has languished in Congress since it was introduced over 6 weeks ago. News accounts this week, however, suggest that the funding will be attached to the upcoming war funding bill that lawmakers hope to pass before the Memorial Day recess. Last week the Latin America Working Group (LAWG) issued a statement which read, in part:
It is urgent that Congress approve a generous aid relief and reconstruction package that supports a sustainable, decentralized, Haitian-led recovery as soon as possible. A delay in approving the supplemental will postpone much needed efforts in Haiti and affect the replenishment of the International Disaster Assistance account, damaging the U.S. government's ability to address humanitarian crises around the globe.

CBS News reports that it will air an investigation tonight that examines "five major non-profits, what they have spent so far in Haiti, and how they'll track and account for the funds over time." CBS notes that:
There's a storm brewing in Haiti.

Not a storm from the rainy season bearing down, but a storm over why so many are still in dire straits a full four months after the earthquake.

Why so many are facing the ravages of the rainy season without safe shelter to protect them?A storm over how that could be the case when so much international aid has been committed to help the people of Haiti.

...

Critics such as Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic Policy and Research say more money should have been spent up front making sure the population's emergency needs were met. He argues that many donors who dug deep during their own tough times to give, thought they were putting immediate food in people's mouths,  giving immediate medical help, and putting a roof over victims' heads now.
The full show, with details from the investigation is set to air tonight on CBS Evening News, check your local CBS station for air time.

Protesters took to the streets of Port-au-Prince yesterday, reports AP. Thousands of Haitians came to demand that President Preval step down, angered by the decision to stay on an extra three months if elections are not conducted. AP put the number of protesters at 2000, while Reuters reported that police "used tear gas and warning shots to disperse" the crowds. Al Jazeera, looking at the causes of the protest, reported on the perceived political vacuum that has allowed significant powers to be consolidated in the executive branch and international community:

The entire lower house and one-third of the senate are no longer sitting because the earthquake prevented February's legislative elections from taking place.

"Effectively the parliament is ceasing to exist as a governing body and the people on the streets are pretty concerned about that," Al Jazeera's Seb Walker, reporting from Port-au-Prince, said.

"It concentrates power in the hands of the president and the international commission that has been set up with former US president Bill Clinton as a co-chair.

A New York Times editorial today makes some important points regarding Haiti’s next elections, which have yet to be scheduled, and as President Préval suggests he may need to stay on beyond the constitutional limits of his term. The editorial states:
The process must emphasize the greatest possible flexibility and participation by voters and candidates. Displaced people should be allowed to vote where they currently live, not their old destroyed neighborhoods.

Opposition parties will need aid to organize and campaign. In a country where transportation and communication are difficult and expensive, Mr. Préval’s Unity Party should not be given undue advantages.

CNN reports on actor and aid worker Sean Penn’s efforts to save the life of a 15-year-old boy, Oriel, who contracted diphtheria – a story with a tragic end. The report does a good job describing how - despite its fixation on Penn’s personality – that the boy’s life might have been saved had, first, vaccinations been available, and then, second, the antitoxin to treat diphtheria been more easily accessible once Oriel came down with the disease. Yet, as CNN reported, “it took Penn -- even with his star power -- 11 hours to get his hands on one dose.”

CNN describes how Penn, founder of aid agency J/P Haitian Relief Organization who “has been helping manage 50,000 displaced Haitians living in the camp that sprouted on the nine-hole course at the capital's once-exclusive golf club”, has been frustrated by poor coordination, inefficiency, and seemingly unnecessary delays in treating the sick and vaccinating those vulnerable to disease:

The AP reports that Haitian President Rene Preval issued a decree on Tuesday that would extend his for term three months if elections are not held as scheduled. Although the US, UN and OAS have all pledged support for elections, much of the infrastructure was destroyed in the quake. The move was met with anger by opposition lawmakers, Youri Latortue pledged to bring the issue before the supreme court. Unlike previous articles that covered the elections, the AP acknowledges that there were problems with the planned February elections even before the quake:
The electoral council, now operating out of a gym seized in a drug raid, is also embroiled in controversy. Opposition candidates barred from February legislative elections that were canceled after the quake have accused council members of favoring Preval's newly formed Unity party. One council member also faces dismissal on charges of embezzlement.
The article does not say whether the previously excluded political parties will continue to be left off the ballot when the postponed elections do take place, or even if a new registration of candidates and parties will be required before the elections. For more on the electoral council and the excluded parties in February's election, see this, this or this.
Ruth Messinger, president of American Jewish World Service, writes in the Huffington Post that although the plight of Haitians has faded from the media limelight, the situation is no less dire. Messinger writes:
According to the latest UN figures, 1.3 million Haitians have been left homeless by the quake. Some of these Haitians are no longer sleeping in abandoned cars but in flimsy structures fashioned from plastic sheeting and salvaged wood--a minuscule improvement, to say the least. Over 218,000 survivors are living in makeshift camps in Port-au-Prince at immediate grave risk of flooding and landslides.

In the minds of too many of the privileged and the powerful, post-earthquake Haitian society has become little more than a faded photograph. Survivors' shelter and medical needs are no longer in focus or in vogue and too many relief efforts are being shortchanged. Virtually nothing is being done by either the Haitian government or international actors for those who will be flooded out of their squatter camps. Large-scale food aid--often distributed inequitably--has nearly run dry.

Although the Shelter Cluster is reporting that 99.6 percent of those in need have received some sort of shelter, a report from CNN shows just how inadequate that shelter is. CNN reports on the situation on the ground after a downpour Monday night:
At the central plaza in Port-au-Prince, now home to thousands of displaced Haitians, water pelted rows of tents, seeping inside from every direction Monday night. At the Champs de Mars people tried to close shut entrances, some with thin cotton sheets or blankets. Mothers rushed to move children sleeping on the ground.

Suddenly, the constant noise of the street came to a halt, replaced by the thud of monstrous drops falling hard from the sky. The only welcomed sight: gleeful children cooling off after another scorching day.

The water quickly started collecting along the roadside. Aid workers say they fear that constant rain will overflow garbage- and rubble-filled canals, flooding the encampments that have sprouted on their banks.

The situation in some camps could be life threatening.


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