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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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.”

During his interview with Democracy NOW!, Sean Penn discussed the problems with the first relocation site, Camp Corail. Some 5000 people had been moved to the new camp from Penn’s Petionville camp because of the risk of flooding and mudslides. Camp Corail has been criticized because of its distance from the city center, barren and hot landscape and the lack of planning that went into the site. Penn also noted that some of the promises made to those who relocated have not been met:
The promises made included a tent as a transition, so they are in those tents in transition. And they would then be moved into temporary shelters into another sector in the same camp. Those were also the promises that we are still pushing to have go forward, and its something that I want the media to look at everyday. Because these people were promised temporary shelters, and they should get them.
Heavy rains last night showed the danger associated with the absence of the promised transitional shelters. Yesterday’s storm flooded the area, and IOM reports:
Flying debris from the storm caused six people to be injured and damaged or destroyed 344 tents, forcing around 1,700 people to seek emergency shelter overnight.
While plans had called for 125,000 transitional shelters to be built, still not enough to house all of the displaced, thus far less than five percent have actually been built. Furthermore, with the hurricane season having begun, less than two percent of the displaced have been housed in transitional shelters.

Monday will mark the six month anniversary of the devastating earthquake in Haiti, yet the situation on the ground remains dire. Despite billions in donor pledges and over a billion in private donations from the US alone, the relief and recovery efforts are simply not moving fast enough. A Doctors Without Borders (MSF) report this week notes, "that whilst the overall relief effort has kept many people alive, it is still not easing some of their greatest suffering." MSF is "very concerned about the lack of progress overall" in the provision of shelter, adding:
By far the biggest threat to people’s living conditions is the failure to provide any substantial, robust shelter. Sheeting and tents were never anything more than a very temporary solution. They [sheeting and tents] have a life expectancy of around six months.

Earlier this week CARICOM leaders met at a summit that included UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon. Inter-Press Service reports on the meeting, noting that CARICOM called for "some "level of order" among the hundreds of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that they fear could undermine the fragile democracy in Haiti." Roosevelt Skerrit, the Prime Minister of Dominica and head of CARICOM is quoted as saying:
"With respect to the NGOs operating out of Haiti, we called on the U.N. secretary-general to do all that he can to bring some level of order to the situation, because while we speak about maintaining democracy in Haiti we can't at the same time be affording NGOs to undermine the democratic institutions in Haiti."

The Miami Herald reports on the role of Venezuela in the relief and reconstruction of Haiti. The article notes that Venezuela was "the first nation to respond", "became the first country to forgive Haiti's foreign debt", and pledged more than the US, EU or World Bank at the UN Donor Conference in New York. These are all amazing achievements, however the Miami Herald focuses on how "the aid is likely to slow" with an ongoing recession (which is global - this, like many other news articles, treats Venezuela's economy as if it's in a vacuum) and upcoming elections in Venezuela - a prediction for which no evidence is offered.  Michael Shifter of the Inter-American Dialogue is also quoted in the article, speaking about the political use of Venezuelan aid.

None of these things are characteristics that only apply to Venezuela, however. The United States is also facing a poor economic situation back home, and elections in November, yet aid from the United States is rarely subject to the same analysis. Unlike Venezuelan aid, USAID, the main avenue for US aid projects, has an expressly political goal. The USAID website says that, "U.S. foreign assistance has always had the twofold purpose of furthering America's foreign policy interests in expanding democracy and free markets while improving the lives of the citizens of the developing world."

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."