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 American Refugee Committee (ARC) issued a press release last week marking two months since the earthquake. ARC "warns that many more people may die from the spread of diseases brought on by the fast-approaching rainy season."

The release continues:
“A public health disaster looms, and thousands more people are still in need of assistance,” said Daniel Wordsworth, American Refugee Committee President. “Many people still need shelter, and, with the incoming rains, there is a potential for many more deaths from diseases such as malaria, typhoid, and diarrheal diseases.”
To read the entire press release, click here.

On March 11, TransAfrica Forum responded to the United States Southern Command, who said that “The situation on the ground in terms of the medical situation has improved,” and that “demand for medical care is not exceeding the capacity of facilities on the ground.” TransAfrica Forum president, Nicole Lee, who was in Haiti last week said, "aid is still trickling and has not nearly met the need.” The statement continues, "as the world turns its attention to the country’s longer-term reconstruction, Haiti’s people still face immediate food, shelter and sanitation shortages, as well as a severe health care crisis."

To read the entire statement, click here.
A new AP article describes the lack of progress on shelter on the two-month anniversary of the quake, as aid groups that say they’re ready to provide housing but haven’t been told where they can build yet, the Haitian government “has yet to relocate a single person”, and hundreds marched demanding something be done:
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Trash and sewage are piling up at the squalid tent camps that hundreds of thousands have called home since Haiti's devastating earthquake — and with torrential rains expected any day, authorities are not even close to providing the shelters they promised.

The White House issued a press release yesterday detailing the US government's response to the earthquake in Haiti. The release included this:
USAID has provided 160,000 plastic sheets and 24,500 family size tents that will help 185,000 families out of the estimated 260,000 families in need of shelter assistance.

Jacqueline Charles reports for the The Miami Herald today on the politics of aid in Haiti. Charles notes that despite hundreds of thousands still without shelter, the "behind-the-scenes jockeying" by aid groups, NGOs and governments alike will only increase. Charles writes:

The battle includes aid groups known as nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and U.N. agencies that want to be the chief humanitarian agencies, countries that are lobbying for a seat at the decision table, and leaders from around the world who fly in frequently making promises that have yet to be met.

Reuters reports today on the case of Ismail Ahmed, a whistleblower who worked for UNDP Somalia. Mr. Ahmed made protected disclosures of wrongdoing on the part of the UNDP, including "fraudulent payments and bogus contracts." The UN Ethics Committee ruled that he had been retaliated against for his disclosures. The retaliation included being transferred to a different country without proper support, and having damage done to his professional reputation.

The importance for Haiti is that the man Mr. Ahmed identifies as the main author of the retaliation is Eric Overvest, currently the UNDP Country Director in Haiti. The Government Accountability Project (GAP), which works to protect whistleblowers, issued a press release that states:
The move is a cause for concern as the ability of UNDP to monitor the disbursement of aid in Haiti has been severely compromised by the chaotic aftermath of the disaster.

Hillary Clinton, speaking alongside Rene Preval, said that “I assured President Preval that the United States would work with the international community to hold elections as soon as appropriate.” She also commented that Preval had told her elections were vital “to ensure the stability and legitimacy of the Haitian Government.”

The AP reported last week that Edmond Mulet, head of MINUSTAH, also had said that the presidential elections must proceed. Legislative elections that were supposed to happen last month have been postponed.

Missing from these discussions is that there were significant flaws in the planned February election, 15 political parties were excluded from participating. The Provisional Electoral Council’s arbitrary exclusions included Fanmi Lavalas, the most popular party in Haiti. Furthermore, the are constitutional issues with regards to the Provisional Electoral Council’s legitimacy. 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. This is especially troubling since opponents of Preval’s INITE coalition were being excluded from the electoral process while INITE was not. Before the earthquake there had already been widespread anger with the decision.

Despite these facts, electoral support from the US and UN continued. When elections finally do proceed as scheduled, it is imperative that they are fully inclusive.
Haitian President Rene Preval arrives in Washington today and is set to meet with President Obama on Wednesday. Reuters reports on one of the key messages that will come from Preval:
Donations of food and water have proved a lifeline for more than 1.2 million people displaced by the quake, but Preval told a news conference on Monday the aid could in the long term hurt the economy of the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

"I will tell him (Obama) that this first phase of assistance is finished," said Preval, standing in front of the ruined presidential palace in Port-au-Prince.

"If they continue to send us aid from abroad -- water and food -- it will be in competition with the national Haitian production and Haitian commerce," he said.

Paul Collier writes for the Independent about the role of NGOs in Haiti's recovery and the need for a new approach to aid. Collier is a professor at Oxford and the author of "Haiti: From Natural Catastrophe to Economic Security", prepared for the UN Secretary General last year. Echoing both Haitian Prime Minister Jean Max Bellerive, and Haitian President Rene Preval, Collier writes:
As the NGOs further scale-up, the already limited capacity of the state has been decimated. Essential as the NGOs have been, this imbalance threatens to leave the state marginalised in the core task of basic service provision.

The Wall Street Journal reports on the rise of self-governance in the make-shift camps, home to 1.3 million people. Miriam Jordan of the WSJ writes:
Inside the many tent cities now home to hundreds of thousands of people, a rudimentary social order is beginning to emerge as committees agitate to secure food, water and supplies in high demand from international aid organizations.

A series of articles today report on the mounting criticism over the relief efforts, focusing on the issue of shelter.

The AP reports that for the billions of dollars that have been committed to Haiti there are still serious flaws in the relief effort:
A half-million homeless received tarps and tents; far more are still waiting under soggy bed sheets in camps that reek of human waste. More than 4.3 million people got emergency food rations; few will be able to feed themselves anytime soon. Medical aid went to thousands, but long-term care isn't even on the horizon.
The AP reports on Haitian Prime Minister Bellerive's concerns that the relief effort has been bypassing the Haitian Government.  Bellerive told the AP "Too many people are raising money without any controls, and don't explain what they're doing with it."

The AP also notes that while millions have been pledged, much of the money goes to businesses in the donor's home country:
USAID paid at least $160 million of its total Haiti-related expenditures to the Defense Department, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, two local U.S. search and rescue teams and, in at least two instances, itself.

Tens of millions more went to U.S.-based aid groups. While much of that bought food and other necessities for Haitians, it often did so from U.S. companies—including highly subsidized rice growers whose products are undercutting local producers, driving them out of business.

One cent of every dollar has gone to the Haitian government.
Speaking on the same topic, IPS reports on a delegation of human rights experts that are preparing to travel to Haiti. The delegation has laid out a set of guidelines to make sure that donors not make the same mistakes that have plaqued Haiti for years. This includes an active effort to include Haitians in the relief and reconstruction process. Monika Kalra Varma, executive director of the RFK Center told IPS:
"But rhetoric and goodwill go only so far. Forging a real partnership with the Haitian people will require a total change in the culture of delivering aid to Haiti. Yet if that kind of partnership is not achieved, we will have more of the failures we have seen for decades."
The groups are stressing the importance of human rights in the relief effort, as well as transparency:
"Donor states should act with full transparency and accountability, making information about their plans and programmes available to all, and should work with the Haitian government to set up public monitoring and reporting mechanisms."
IPS concludes:
Aid to Haiti has been marked by frequent interruptions, particularly in assistance from the U.S., for political and ideological reasons. Within Haiti, massive and continuing government and private corruption has siphoned off large chunks of funding and misdirected money to people who didn't need help.

Development experts say aid to Haiti has been aid to the light-skinned elites of Haiti.

A critical look at the situation in Haiti by MSF (Doctors Without Borders) highlights the "broadly insufficient" aid efforts on the ground in Haiti. Colette Gadenne, manager of MSF activities in Haiti and Christopher Stokes, General Director of MSF in Brussels,  both recently returned from Haiti. Stokes, while acknowledging what has been accomplished, says:
But for a large percentage of Haitians, some two months after the earthquake, it must be said that this solidarity has not always been reflected in actual aid on the ground, mainly in terms of shelter and sanitation.
Gadenne adds:
There are around 20 sites, the largest of which have received material assistance – tents, tarpaulins, toilet facilities, water, food, etc. – and basic medical assistance. The assistance given to these sites is incomplete, and there are dozens of other sites which still lack even the most elementary aid. Thousands of Haitians have still not seen any aid.

Although the US and UN have stressed the fact that the Government of Haiti is playing an active role in the relief efforts, and numerous experts have stressed the importance of strengthening the Haitian State, Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive's comments indicate the Government's growing frustration over the relief efforts. Reuters reports:
Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive decried a lack of coordination by aid donors with his government but stopped short of saying all bilateral aid should be funneled through the government.

"We don't know who has given money to NGO's (nongovernmental organizations) and how much money have they given. ... At the moment, we can't do any coordination or have any coherent policies for giving to the population," Bellerive told a news conference.

A thought-provoking piece from anthropologist and filmmaker Mark Schuller on Huffington Post today asks some hard questions of the international community:
As of a month after the earthquake the estimate of aid donated is $600 million for Haiti relief efforts (compare this to the $20 billion in Wall Street bonuses).

And yet, there are still an estimated 600,000 people today who are not covered when the rainy seasons come. According to aid agencies' own estimates, only 35% of the needs for tents and tarps in Port-au-Prince are being met - and this up from 30% a week and a half ago. While the rains haven't come yet, they surely will. I join many others in asking why this is, especially given this outpouring of generosity.
But there is hope for moving beyond some of the obstacles to aid delivery, Schuller writes:

This is the main message from an evaluation of relief efforts released Tuesday by Refugees International. The report concludes that "By all accounts, the leadership of the humanitarian country team is ineffectual."

The AP reports today on the difference in approach, and outcomes of large aid organizations versus smaller do-it-yourself operations; especially prevalent given the lack of shelter and the rainy season fast approaching.
The Miami property developer, volunteering after Haiti's earthquake, was horrified to see children sleeping in the dirt under makeshift tents of bed sheets propped up on sticks. A global, billion-dollar aid effort should be able to do better, he thought.

He decided he could do better himself.

Michael Capponi flew home, collected donated tents, flew them back to Haiti and persuaded a mayor to let him build a proper camp for hundreds of families on the soccer field of a gated community of luxury villas. It took him three days and less than $5,000.

"I didn't put this together to get a pat on the back, but to show the world it can be done rather quickly, and with limited funds," said Capponi, 37.

The Wall Street Journal reports on the effects of aid on local markets and small businesses in Haiti:
After the Jan. 12 quake, which killed as many as 300,000 people, the world launched a massive relief effort to bring food, water, medicine and other supplies to needy Haitians. The U.S. alone has spent more than $665 million, official figures show.

But only a tiny fraction of that money is being spent in Haiti, buying goods from local businesses. Worse, the aid is having the unintended consequence of making life harder for many businesses here, because of competition from free goods brought in by relief agencies. The damage to Haitian companies is making it harder for them to get back on their feet and create the jobs the country needs for a lasting recovery.

After chaos and confusions surrounding changing plans for providing shelter last week, sources on the ground say the shelter cluster has decided on a three step strategy. First, register those in the camps and if their homes are safe, ask them to return home. If this is not an option tarps will be handed out. If the camp is unsafe, or has been targeted for decongestion then those who cannot return home will be moved to different camps, although land has not yet been secured for this.

As of today, 40% of shelter needs have been covered, representing just over 500,000 people. This leaves more than 700,000 in dire need of shelter with the rainy season fast approaching, and more rain in the forecast for later this week. Yet the shelter cluster's goal is to provide one tarp per family by May 1 – possibly well after the rainy season has begun (at least 13 people were already killed in flooding over the weekend in Les Cayes).

The "Haiti Recovery Act" passed through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week. The bill, introduced by Senators Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Richard Lugar (R-IN) would eliminate Haiti's outstanding debt to International Financial Institutions (IFI) and any debt incurred during relief efforts. Also, the bill would encourage IFIs to make available grants rather than loans "in order to end the debt-relief cycle." Other aspects include the creation of an international infrastructure fund and the extension of trade benefits.

One month after the earthquake, MSF (Doctors Without Borders) had the following to say:
"It's hard to believe that four weeks after the quake, so many people still live under bed sheets in camps and on the street," said Christophe Fournier, MSF's International President who recently returned from Haiti. "Where it can, MSF has been distributing tents as well as hygiene kits and cooking supplies, but it is mainly concentrating on providing medical care. "One can only wonder how there could be such a huge gap between the promise of a massive financial influx into the country and the slow pace of distribution. MSF is concerned that with the onset of the rainy season, we'll be facing new medical emergencies, when people who are living without shelter, come to us with diarrhoea or respiratory infections."

*This post has been edited slightly for accuracy.

The AP reports today on the effects of US rice on Haitian farmers:
Subsidized U.S. rice has flooded Haiti for decades. Now, after the Jan. 12 quake, 15,000 metric tons of donated U.S. rice have arrived.


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