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.

Questions? This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 Facebook Subscribe by E-mail RSS feed
September 14, São Paulo based Brasil de Fato reported on the death of 16 year old Gerald Jean Gilles. The paper reports that the death may have been caused by MINUSTAH soldiers in the city of Cap-Haïtien. Thalles Gomes writes for Brasil de Fato (translated by lo-de-alla.org):
“They are suffocating me,” was the cry heard on August 17 by employees of the Henri Cristophe Hotel, in Cap-Haïtien, capital of the Nord department of Haiti. The call for help came from the Formed Police Units base belonging to MINUSTAH, the United Nations Mission for the Stabilization of Haiti. On that same day, Nepalese United Nations soldiers reported that Haitian Gerald Jean Gilles had entered their military base and had hanged himself.

The report issued by the UN did not explain how the young Gerald had managed to get into the military base, tie a rope on the patio and hang himself without any soldiers noticing.

Their version is contested vehemently by Gerald’s family and friends. According to them, the young man had been doing odd jobs for the Nepalese soldiers for some time in exchange for money or food. And the suspicion that Gerald had stolen 200 dollars from one of the soldiers was the reason the Nepalese soldiers tortured and suffocated him to death.

The Christian Science Monitor reported yesterday on the crisis of legitimacy surrounding the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) in Haiti. CSM writes:
Details of an Aug. 16 meeting between Mr. Préval and members of Haiti’s election commission (CEP) has observers questioning whether the CEP rejected candidates based on politics instead of the Constitution.
The Monitor continues, noting that some allege President Préval personally removed some candidates from the final list, including former U.S. ambassador and Jean’s uncle, Raymond Joseph.

Although the election process has received considerable media coverage, most of it has simply focused on the candidacy of Wyclef Jean and not the larger issues relating to the CEP. As we have written numerous times before, and as described in an open letter from over 20 Haiti and U.S.-based NGO’s to Secretary Clinton this week, the CEP has suffered from a lack of legitimacy well before the current electoral season because of their arbitrary exclusion of Haiti’s most popular party, Fanmi Lavalas, as well as numerous other political parties from last years planned legislative elections.  To the Monitor’s credit however, they also report on the exclusion of the political parties, writing:
The CEP excluded 14 political parties from parliamentary elections and seven political parties from presidential elections, including Fanmi Lavalas, the popular party of former President Jean Bertrand Aristide. Reasons given for its exclusion do not “pass the smell test under Haitian law,” says Mr. Concannon at IJDH.

AFP reports this morning that the Haitian Civil Protection Agency "declared an "orange alert," warning that several regions could be prone to flooding as a result of heavy rains expected in the next 48 hours" as Hurricane Igor approaches. The warning may affect the hundreds of thousands of displaced persons still living in makeshift camps over 8 months since the earthquake. As the first major hurricane threatens Haiti, it brings the dire situation on the ground into the forefront.

A press release this morning from the Haiti Response Coaltion [HRC] calls attention to a series of protests planned for today in Port-au-Prince. The statement reads:
On Monday September 13th at 11am EST (10am in Haiti) residents of more than a dozen camps for internally displaced people will demonstrate in front of the National Palace to demand the right to education. They are also calling for decent housing because they are living in fear during this hurricane season.

Haiti may have dodged a bullet as tropical storm Gaston – which meteorologists had feared might hit Haiti – dissipated late last week. But the scare was a reminder of just vulnerable hundreds of thousands of displaced Haitians, who lack adequate shelter, are.

Aljazeera English reported from Haiti on the country’s lack of hurricane-preparedness. Beginning its report with IDPs’ “bat teneb” protest of forced evictions, neglect, and unfulfilled promises on Friday, Aljazeera’s Sebastian Walker describes some of the challenges that Haiti – a country that is severely hit by hurricanes nearly every year – faces in the wake of January’s earthquake. If a hurricane were to bear down on Haiti, “…the sheer numbers of those still living under tarpaulin means an organized evacuation is almost impossible,” he explains, before visiting a hurricane shelter that can house 400 people - at an IDP camp that is home to 40,000.

“We’re not going anywhere, because we have nowhere else to go,” Oreste Saint-Philippe, an IDP camp resident explains. “We’ll just have to stay here, and see what happens.”

An editorial in Wednesday’s Los Angeles Times opined:
Haiti has had two elected presidents since the fall of the Duvalier dictatorship in 1986: Preval and the now-exiled Jean- Bertrand Aristide. Their Unity and Lavalas parties are divided, which means that for the first time there is no clear front-runner. Jean could play a constructive role in the wide-open race, either by endorsing another candidate, which would catapult that person into the lead, or by simply advocating for political participation. Either way, he would continue to build sorely needed legitimacy for the electoral system.
These statements would suggest that Fanmi Lavalas is running a presidential candidate. But Fanmi Lavalas is doing no such thing - apparently in reaction to past Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) rulings that arbitrarily disbar the party's participation based on technical criteria. As has been reported in various newspapers, and criticized by numerous U.S. observers, including Senator Richard Lugar [PDF], the most influential Republican in Congress on foreign affairs – to say nothing of the numerous Haitian protesters and people interviewed by international media -- the CEP is also continuing to bar Fanmi Lavalas, along with 14 other political parties, from participating in the parliamentary elections.

This arbitrary and undemocratic exclusion might also be a topic worthy of the LA Times’ editorial consideration.

At the UN-backed donor conference at the end of March, countries and organizations from all over the globe pledged over $10 billion for Haiti relief. Over $5.3 billion was pledged for fiscal years 2010 and 2011. Now, nearly five months after the conference, we take a look at the status of these pledges. 

The UN Office of the Special Envoy for Haiti has been tracking international assistance (PDF) from the top 30 donors, and despite the dire situation on the ground and an immediate need for funding, billions have yet to be distributed. Not including debt relief, the top 22 donors pledged an amazing $2.6 billion just for fiscal year 2010, yet five months later, only 20 percent of this ($538.3 million) has been distributed. However, looking at where that money comes from reveals that few nations – and very few high-income countries at all – have contributed to this. Over $200 million of that total has come from multilateral organizations such as the IDB, World Bank and IMF. Among countries, the top three are Spain, which has distributed $126.3 million, Japan, with $56.7 million, and Brazil with $55 million. The United States, which pledged $898.4 million in 2010, has not distributed or even committed any money so far. 

International Action Ties (IAT), who have been monitoring forced evictions of the internally displaced since the earthquake, released a report last week outlining steps the US government can take to ease the plight of those displaced. The report notes three main issues that are "increasingly frequent (and highly preventable) violations of the human rights of IDPs." They include the forced expulsions without proper alternatives; a "lack of political will" both with the Haitian Government and International Community to prevent these expulsions; and the "Prioritization of profit-making and political interests over the basic needs and physical protection of IDPs."

IAT provides some revealing facts about the current situation facing IDPs. Some 60 percent of camps are on private land, nearly 70 percent of IDPs were renters before the earthquake and "only 19% of IDP’s have homes that they can repair." The vast majority of IDPs are also still living in their pre-earthquake communities. In addition, in a recent study of camps, one out of every eight registered camps no longer existed. As IAT notes, this "underscores the importance of quick action on land and settlement issues, as well as community input in planning relocations."

Over seven months since the earthquake, donor countries are coming under increasing scrutiny over the slow disbursement of aid pledges. According to the website of the UN Special Envoy to Haiti, which is tracking the aid pledges, $506 million has so far been disbursed, just over ten percent of what was pledged. Although some $1.8 billion has been spent on humanitarian relief, only .29 percent has gone to the Government of Haiti. Meanwhile the construction of transitional shelters has been far too slow, with over a million Haitians still living under fraying tents and tarps as the Hurricane Season picks up.

Writing in the Toronto Star, Canadian academic Isabel Macdonald writes that "dozens of leading academics, authors and activists from around the world proposed a bold solution to this desperate financial shortfall."

Over 100 protesters demonstrated in front of the presidential palace in Port-au-Prince Thursday, “demanding a halt to forced evictions and that the government immediately provide humane alternatives to the muddy, dangerous, unsanitary and simply brutal living conditions for more than 1.5 million” internally displaced Haitians. Others joined in solidarity by banging pots within the nearby tent cities.

A press release about the protest notes:
Food distributions have come to a halt and many aid agencies are intentionally withholding necessary and fundamental services such as latrines, water, food and medical aid, in order to force earthquake victims to abandon the camps that currently exist in former parks, school grounds and churchyards. However, no feasible plans exist to relocate these families.

“Haitians who lost loved ones, homes and all their belongings are now out in the merciless summer sun all day, then soaked to the bone by rains each night,” explains Melinda Miles, director of Let Haiti Live and Coordinator of the Haiti Response Coalition. “They are deprived of fundamental human rights – access to food, water, shelter – and have no other place to go.”

A new column by CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot was published in the Sacramento Bee and several other newspapers today. It examines Washington’s silence on the CEP’s exclusion of Fanmi Lavalas from the upcoming elections, and also notes that

six months after the catastrophe, less than 2 percent of the 1.6 million homeless have homes. Hundreds of thousands have nothing at all; and 80 percent of the homeless that do have shelter are living under tarps where the ground under them turns to mud when it rains. And less than 2.9 percent of all aid money has gone to the Haitian government, which makes reconstruction nearly impossible. With a hundred thousand children wounded from the earthquake, public hospitals are closing.

Read the entire column here.

On this day three years ago, Haitian human rights defender and Fanmi Lavalas supporter Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine disappeared, not to be seen or heard from since, aside from chilling phone calls his captors made a few days later to his relatives in which Lovinsky could be heard in the background. Initially it seemed the kidnapping was a common kidnapping-for-ransom, but as weeks turned to months, Lovinsky’s family, friends, and colleagues increasingly became convinced that his disappearance was a political, not a common, crime.

International pleas from human rights groups, U.S. members of Congress, and individuals around the world called for the Haitian government and police to make finding Lovinsky a priority. Yet three years later, it is unclear that any serious effort has ever been made to find Lovinsky or discover what happened to him.

In the aftermath of the 2004 coup against Aristide, Haitian police and death squads moved to round up or eliminate Fanmi Lavalas leaders and Aristide supporters around the country. Lovinsky left Haiti and would spend the next two-and-a-half years in the Washington, D.C. area. While in D.C., he never ceased to speak out against the undemocratic removal of Haiti’s democratically elected government, or the rampant human rights violations that followed. When he decided to return to Haiti in 2006, he did so knowing well that his life would still be in danger, but this didn’t deter him from organizing protests and denouncing the ongoing persecution of Fanmi Lavalas members and the forced exile of President Aristide.

While most of the media – from news wires, papers, and TV and radio broadcasts, to entertainment and gossip programs and blogs – focused on musician Wyclef Jean’s announcement that he would run for president of Haiti, numerous other, less well-known (outside of Haiti, anyway) candidates entered the presidential race, little noticed by the press.

A Miami Herald article over the weekend described the entry of 34 candidates, who include Jacques Edouard Alexis, the Prime Minister who was ousted in 2008 during the food price spike; Jude Celestin, “founder and executive director of the government's road-building outfit, the National Center of Equipment” on the INITE ticket; former first-lady Mirlande Manigat, (the wife of former puppet president and anti-Aristide activist Leslie Manigat); and Yvon Neptune, former prime minister who was ousted from his office in the 2004 coup d’etat against President Aristide, and later imprisoned on bogus charges relating to a “massacre” (supposedly state-sanctioned) that never took place. Perhaps because the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) is continuing to arbitrarily keep Aristide’s party, Fanmi Lavalas (FL), and 14 other parties off the ballot as the November elections draw near, Neptune has announced he will run as the candidate for the Haitians for Haiti Party.

There was a tremendous outpouring of goodwill in the aftermath of the earthquake, it is estimated that nearly half of all US households donated for Haiti relief. The totals are outstanding, over a billion dollars from Americans alone. Yet over 6 months since the quake, much of that money is sitting in the coffers of the largest aid organizations. As we have noted numerous times before, many aid agencies are choosing to save much of your donations for longer term projects as opposed to immediate relief. Writing for the 6 month commemoration, ABC news reported that of the $1.138 billion donated to the 23 largest charities, "At least 62.7 percent, $714.3 million, has been allocated for future Haiti relief efforts or is unassigned." Yet the situation on the ground remains dire, over a million Haitians still have only the most basic form of shelter, and even that is barely able to hold up under the increasing rain.

Today two articles report on the recent decision by Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) to exclude Fanmi Lavalas (FL) – the country’s most popular political party - from the upcoming legislative elections, in which all 99 seats in the House of Deputies and one third of the 30 member Senate are up for election.

EFE reports that while registration for the presidential elections will take place next week, the legislative elections will include 55 political parties and some 900 candidates, but not Fanmi Lavalas. Meanwhile Wadner Pierre, writing for Inter-Press Service, reports that in reaction to the CEP's decision, "one hundred Fanmi Lavalas supporters held a sit-in outside the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince." Pierre continues:
"The ambassador here is the representative of the U.S. government in Haiti," said Lionel Etienne, a former Fanmi Lavalas congressman. "We come here today to question the behaviour of the U.S. government. We're asking if they will continue to finance the exclusion of Lavalas by the CEP with Préval."
Yesterday, however, the OAS announced they will be sending an Electoral Observation Mission to Haiti, and that:
The United States and Spain made specific offers of financial assistance while other Member States and Permanent Observers pledged to support the effort through contributions in kind or financial resources towards covering its costs, which are an estimated $5.3 million.

The death of two young boys after a brief storm swept through their makeshift camps is "another reminder of the perilous conditions of an estimated 1.6 million people living under tarps and tents on dangerous ground," reports the Associated Press. A ten foot wall in the Terrain Acra camp in the Delmas neighborhood collpased onto a row of tents and tarps yesterday following what the AP described as nothing "more than an isolated squall."

With the Hurricane season underway, and rain a near daily occurence, improving shelter for the some 1.5 million displaced must be immediately ramped up. Thus far only about 6,000 transitional shelters have been built of a planned 125,000 and as the AP notes, of $5.3 billion pledged "less than 10 percent has been delivered. On Wednesday, the U.S. Congress passed a bill to partially fund the administration's $1.15 billion pledge to Haiti and sent it to President Barack Obama." The clearing of rubble, necessary for the construction of new shelters, is moving at a glacial pace; after 6 months, only about 2 percent of the estimated 20 million cubic yards have been cleared.

Yesterday the Congressional Black Caucus held a hearing, "Focus on Haiti: The Road to Recovery - A Six Month Review," featuring Rajiv Shah (USAID), Dr. Paul Farmer (Deputy Special Envoy to UN, Partners in Health), Loune Viaud (Zanmi Lasante), Camille Chalmers (Haitian Platform to Advocate for Alternative Development), and Ira Kurzban, Esq.(Chair, Board of Directors, Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti). To read more about the event and to see reports and issue briefs that were presented, please see the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti.

The Boston Globe reports on Paul Farmer, whose complete testimony is available at pih.org. Farmer focused on the need to strengthen the Haitian state, an issue this blog has written on previously. The Globe reports:
Too often, Farmer argued, proliferating aid agencies and foreign nations have failed to establish enduring partnerships with Haiti’s government.

“Our historical failure to do so is one of the primary reasons that trying to help the public sector now is like trying to transfuse whole blood through a small-gauge needle or, in popular parlance, to drink from a fire hose,’’ Farmer, a UN deputy special envoy for Haiti, said on Capitol Hill.

“How can there be public health and public education without a stronger government at the national and local levels?’’ Farmer said in prepared remarks.

After the initial whirlwind of coverage of the earthquake the media's attention wained considerably. Last week, which marked sixth months since the quake, saw a spike in coverage as many journalists returned to Haiti for the first time since immediately after the devastating event. Independent journalist Ansel Herz, who was in Haiti for the earthquake, and has remained their since, provided a helpful list for journalists on "how to write about Haiti":
I’ve been on the ground in Port-au-Prince working as an independent journalist for the past ten months. I’m an earthquake survivor who’s seen the big-time reporters come and go. They’re doing such a stellar job and I want to help out, so I’ve written this handy guide for when they come back on the one-year anniversary of the January quake!(Cross-published on the Huffington Post, inspired by this piece in Granta.)

For starters, always use the phrase ‘the poorest country in the Western hemisphere.’ Your audience must be reminded again of Haiti’s exceptional poverty. It’s doubtful that other articles have mentioned this fact.

You are struck by the ‘resilience’ of the Haitian people. They will survive no matter how poor they are. They are stoic, they rarely complain, and so they are admirable. The best poor person is one who suffers quietly. A two-sentence quote about their misery fitting neatly into your story is all that’s needed.

Yesterday the International Monetary Fund announced they were cancelling Haiti's outstanding debt of $268 million. Many countries have already cancelled bilateral debts, and other multilateral organizations such as the World Bank have also cancelled Haiti's debt. Although interest rates on the outstanding loans were zero until 2012, the IMF projected that obligations would reach nearly 3 percent of government revenue by 2014. The debt relief includes the $112 million loan made in the aftermath of the earthquake.

At the same time, however, the IMF extended a loan of $60 milllion to Haiti. It is highly concessionary, with no interest until end 2011, and a five and half year grace period. However, while the World Bank and IDB have offered money to Haiti in the form of grants, the IMF continues to use business as usual. Jubilee USA, who have long advocated for debt relief, released a statement that reads:
“The IMF is taking two steps forward and one step back. This is a precedent-setting moment as the IMF has agreed to use internal resources to cancel the debt of a country facing extraordinary need. But, unfortunately, this good news is undermined by the IMF’s new loan. The role of the IMF in Haiti has been long criticized, and this new loan could set Haiti on the wrong path toward a new cycle of debt. The IMF must go further by using its new Post-Catastrophe Trust Fund to provide assistance on grant terms and ensure that this comes without harmful conditions,” says [Eric] LeCompte [Executive Director of Jubilee USA Network].

Mark Schuller, who has written extensively on the role of NGO's in Haiti, and who has been providing invaluable information on the ground since the earthquake, writes today about missed opportunities and the immense challenges that remain. Despite goodwill and a sense of unity after the earthquake, more recently the old divisions in Haiti have resurfaced. On a topic we have written about previously, Schuller writes:
Yesterday the CEP, the Provisional Elections Commission, reiterated a decision made in 2009 to exclude Fanmi Lavalas, the party of exiled president Aristide, from this year's legislative elections that were originally scheduled earlier this year but postponed. Although not to the extent of giving out medals, the UN proclaimed last year's elections that also excluded Fanmi Lavalas and where almost no one voted, a success.
Meanwhile, the gaps between rich and poor have only become starker. While hundreds of thousands are fighting for cash-for-work jobs:
Haiti's educated middle class, Diaspora, and foreign consultant zoom by in new air-conditioned cars, some making as much as $1000 per day. Some foreign aid workers even stayed at the "Love Boat" - a U.N. ship costing $112,500 per day, or the price of 100 "T-shelters."

Media reports that France would pay back an historic debt – essentially a ransom that it demanded in order for Haiti to have international diplomatic and economic recognition – in order to aid Haiti’s earthquake recovery were revealed to be a hoax. Embarrassed by the reports, which came out as France enjoyed its national holiday of Bastille Day, the French government has said it is looking into legal action against the perpetrators.

But the question should be why doesn't France make this restitution? In the Twenty First Century, it is difficult to argue that this is a legitimate debt that Haiti owed France, rather than economic punishment for Haiti's achievement of liberty. Imagine if all of Europe had shunned the newly born United States of America in 1784 upon its successful revolution, and that Britain had demanded an exorbitant sum from the US in order for it to have diplomatic recognition and be able to trade with other nations. Imagine if the sum were so large, and the U.S. were so damaged by the war, that it did not finish paying off Britain until 122 years later – which is how long it took Haiti to finally make its last payment.

Etienne Peterschmitt of the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) warned today that "funding shortfalls for farmers is hampering efforts to boost food production." The UN's flash funding appeal is 66 percent funded, but the agricultural sector is at just 50 percent, a $29 million shortfall. In addition, the Haitian government's development plan calls for over $700 million for the agricultural sector, yet donor countries have failed to live up to their pledges thus far.

Over the last few decades Haiti has gone from being nearly self-sufficient in food and agricultural production to a country that must import over 50 percent of their food. The result of economic and trade policies that have devastated Haitian production; policies that former President Clinton recently apologized for. President Preval has called for large food distributions to be halted because of the distortions it can cause in the local market. For instance, the most recent Famine Early Warnings System Network price update shows that local rice is close to 20 percent cheaper than prior to the earthquake. Karen Ashmore of the Lambi Fund of Haiti told the Chronicle of Philanthropy recently:
“Food aid has its place in an emergency,” says Ms. Ashmore. “But it’s not a sustainable solution because it puts the local people out of business.”