Haiti: 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.
Deputy UN Secretary General Asha-Rose Migiro, speaking to reports at the UN upon returning from a visit to Haiti said that, "Though commendable progress has been made there since Jan. 12, when the earthquake struck, the situation remains dire," reports Xinhua.
Over three months after the earthquake and with the rainy season already beginning, there is still much to be done. On April 13 Red Cross Federation spokesman Alex Wynter said that the number in need of shelter was raised from 1.3 million to 1.5 million. This means there are still some 300,000 people without shelter. Further, as OCHA noted in their most recent update only about a quarter of households have received any rope or other materials to secure their shelters, which "remains a vital gap in the response" as many thousands of shelters will need to be strengthened for the rains. The rains are often too strong for the tarps, as has been documented by video, and as reported by the International Federation of the Red Cross earlier in the week.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) released their updated Situation Report today (PDF). The report reveals that the distribution of shelter materials has reached 90 percent of those in need, and is on track to reach 100 percent by the May 1 goal. Nevertheless, worries remain that even with tarps, the rainy season could still cause an immense disaster. OCHA notes that:
With only 20,243 tool kits reported as distributed and 81,000 households with ropes and fixings provision, this remains a vital gap in the response. A large number of emergency shelters constructed will require strengthening for the rainy season.
On CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 last night they looked at relocation plans, asking the important question, why have things moved so slowly? First CNN correspondent Gary Tuchman travels to the first planned relocation site, which will open on Sunday. Tuchman asks a member of the presidential task force why things have taken so long:
"It ought to be done faster. But you have to coordinate it with the U.S. Army, the Corps of Engineers, with the U.N. people, with the European community, with the Oxfam, all a bunch of actors, together."
The Organization of American States (OAS) announced that they will be sending election observers to prepare and monitor elections in Haiti. Legislative elections had been planned for February, however have been postponed due to the earthquake. Presidential elections are set to take place in the fall as Preval's term ends in February 2011.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) told a Florida radio station upon returning from a congressional trip to Haiti that, "we didn't see the Red Cross anywhere, at all," reports Michael O'Brien for Politico's Blog Briefing Room. O'Brien writes:
The Florida congresswoman said that what she saw gave her pause in recommending the Red Cross as a venue for donations. "I wouldn't say that," she said when asked if the Red Cross was the best place for listeners to donate, adding later that she could not "unequivocally" recommend the relief group.
Millions of dollars have flowed into Haiti since a large earthquake devastated its capital, Port au Prince, in late January.
A newissue brief from CEPR (PDF) proposes that international donors seeking to support Haiti’s agricultural sector and provide food to those in need could help Haiti become more self-sufficient by purchasing the entire Haitian rice crop over the next two years. The paper finds that buying up all of Haiti’s rice should be close to the amount of food aid for rice that the international community is likely to provide this year, and would provide a tremendous boost to Haitian farmers, who currently are unable to compete with low-cost rice imports from the U.S.
NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams reported on the American Red Cross in Haiti last week. The American Red Cross has received almost $400 million in donations since the earthquake, but in previous disasters has come under fire for how it allocates its funding. NBC correspondent Robert Bazell points out that a Government Accountability Office report from 2007 found that "the Red Cross lacked adequate plans for providing shelter and temporary housing to victims of catastrophic disasters such as Hurricanes Katrina and Rita." Razell also points out that after 9/11, the American Red Cross came under fire from Congress after they diverted donations to their general operating fund.
James Parks posts on the AFL-CIO blog that trade unionists from all over the world are meeting this week in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic to discuss rebuilding Haiti. Parks writes "Unions have already made it clear the reconstruction and future development of Haiti must include social protections, creation of decent work and respect for workers’ rights."
The Washington Post reported on Sunday on the possible effects of the rainy season on the hundreds of thousands of displaced persons. Relief agencies are in a race against time to dredge canals and build retaining walls to protect those in the camps. Anthony Banbury, who was the second in command for the UN in Haiti, told the Post, "The rainy season is a freight train headed right at us." The Post describes what the rains do to the camps:
In post-earthquake Port-au-Prince, rainstorms -- including several brief ones over the past week -- lift refuse out of piles and spread it across streets and camps. With the ooze -- an awful melange of rotting fruit, chicken bones and human waste -- comes a smell that brings to mind spoiled milk and gangrenous wounds.
Mark Schuller reports from Haiti on the aid efforts thus far, stressing the need for human rights to be respected. Schuller looks at the shelter situation as well as sanitation and food aid. In all three areas there are significant problems, according to Shuller. The camps are crowded, and the rains are putting strain on the shelter and turning the ground into mud. Food aid done by the large NGOs has bypassed local groups who have more knowledge of specific needs inside the camps. In the Solino camp of 6,000 that Schuller visited, there is not one single latrine. Where there are latrines the lines are long and there are even reports that in some camps they have began to charge a fee to use the bathroom.
There are also reports that at a camp on school grounds residents are feeling as though they are being starved out, being denied there rights to shelter, food and sanitation in an effort to get them to relocate. Schuller writes that the St. Louis de Ganzague school, "is a long-standing institution that educates the children of the so-called "political class."" Samuel Remy, from one of the camp committees, told Schuller:
AFP reports today that the UN has abruptly changed plans on the relocation of hundreds of thousands of Haitians before the rainy season. The new plan, based on recent surveys, will relocate just 9,000 who are the most at risk. AFP reports:
Until recently, the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) had been saying that 218,000 people living in so-called red sites around the capital Port-au-Prince would have to move.
Dan Harris reports for ABC News on the amount of donations from Americans that have not yet been spent by aid organizations. Harris writes:
Since January's earthquake, Americans have already given $800.9 million in private donations to help the country rebuild. The money has gone to 23 charities that ABC News has been tracking. Only about 37 percent of the money has been spent. Nearly $588 million in donations is still sitting on the sidelines, as millions of Haitians continue to suffer.
Charities say that spending too quickly would risk creating waste and robbing money from the long-term work that must be done. But while they plan for the long-term, there is an immediate crisis.
More than a million people are homeless and a fifth of them still have no shelter, with the rainy season officially starting Friday and the hurricane season just around the corner.
Harris also points out that only half of the 9,000 latrines that are needed have been built.
Below is a note from Mike Levy who has been monitoring and providing translations of the local news in Haiti from L'Agence Haitienne de Presse/Radio Solidarite. Their news coverage is available online in French and Kreyol at www.ahphaiti.org.
Most of the news reported over the past week by AHP News and Radio Solidarité has focused on the many conferences and preparatory meetings convened by the international community as well as the Haitian private sector, the Haitian Diaspora, commissions of the Haitian Parliament, civil society organizations and NGOs, and individual governments. Surely the sheer breadth and number of these meetings should be enough to indicate the high stakes involved. There can also be no question that Haitians are well able to match the international organizations and governments - if not with equal resources to hold meetings, at least with expertise, focus, commitment and passion. Some of these meetings were already taking place before the nightmare of the January 12th earthquake. Some draw upon documents prepared in recent years. All of them indicate a capacity and willingness to hold consultations on the question of rebuilding a better Haiti.
The New York Times reports today on the case of 30 Haitians who are being held in an immigration detention facility in Florida. The detainees, none of whom have a criminal background, were waved onto US military planes in the chaotic aftermath of the earthquake. When they arrived in Orlando it was discovered that they did not have visas and were promptly taken into custody. The Times reports that after numerous inquiries, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials said that the detainees were “being processed for release,” and revealed that there were an additional 35 Haitians being detained in other parts of the country. The Times reports that:
The detainees have received little or no mental health care for the trauma they suffered, lawyers at the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center said, despite an offer of free treatment at the jail by a local Creole-speaking psychotherapist.
Journalist Ansel Herz posted a new video showing conditions in an IDP camp in Cite Soleil, Herz writes:
This is a short video looking at IDP camps in Cite Soleil, Grand Goave, and Chanmas where people still have almost nonexistent shelter. The UN shelter cluster claims they’ve provided shelter materials to 75% of Haiti’s 1.3 million displaced people. Most people I talk to believe that’s an overestimate.
The Cite Soleil camp featured in the video, in particular, I know has received nothing in months. I’ve gone back several times. Last time kids were digging mini-trenches with sticks and rocks to divert the rain. It’s down the street from the Doctors Without Borders clinic.
The New Media Advocacy Project together with Partners in Health and the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti have released an important video showing the struggle in the IDP camps. With the rains already beginning, over 300,000 are without any shelter and the tarps that the lucky ones have are barely holding up. The organizations have a simple message:
The international community must do a better job of delivering aid more quickly and effectively to Haitians living in camps in and around Port-au-Prince.
Ansel Herz reports for Inter-Press Service on the ongoing military presence in Haiti. Specifically, the article focuses on the role of MINUSTAH, the UN peacekeeping force that has been in Haiti since 2004. Herz reports that a group of women who were receiving food aid were tear gassed by the peacekeepers recently. There is also a zoning system that designates different zones either green, orange or red, drawing comparisons from some to the mapping of a war zone. The red zones are areas where groups are advised not to go, and Herz writes that the map he was given only had red zones covering the slums of Cite Soleil and Bel Air. Further, Herz reports that at the UN compound near the airport, Haitian's are often turned away because they lack a proper pass. The article begins:
On an empty road in Cite Militaire, an industrial zone across from the slums of Cite Soleil, a group of women are gathered around a single white sack of U.S. rice. The rice was handed out Monday morning at a food distribution by the Christian relief group World Vision.
According to witnesses, during the distribution U.N. peacekeeping troops sprayed tear gas on the crowd.
An internal Obama administration assessment concludes that the U.S. government has provided $4 billion in aid to Haiti since 1990 but "struggled to demonstrate lasting impact," according to a summary of the review, which has not been publicly released.
On Wednesday, at an international donor conference, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is expected to outline U.S. plans to spend an additional $1 billion or so to rebuild the earthquake-devastated nation.
This time, U.S. officials say, they will do things differently.
Colum Lynch reports for the Washington Post on the action plan that President Preval will present to the donor conference at the UN tomorrow. Lynch writes that the plan would "redirect much of Haiti's economic development outside Port-au-Prince." The plan details how money will be spent over the next 18 months. Lynch quotes from the plan:
"Rebuilding Haiti does not mean returning to the situation that prevailed before the earthquake," according to the 53-page document, the first detailed account of how Haiti and its international backers plan to spend their money over the next 18 months. "It means addressing all these areas of vulnerability, so that the vagaries of nature or natural disasters never again inflict such suffering or cause so much damage and loss."
Paul Farmer, speaking at Barry University, said that NGOs were not doing enough to help the Haitian people after the earthquake, reports the Miami New Times blog. The article continues:
"There's graffiti all over the walls in Port au Prince right now saying, 'Down with NGOs,'" Farmer said in a speech at Barry University. "I think people in the NGO sector need to read the writing on the wall."