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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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.

Reuters reports on the U.N. Peacekeepers's response in the days after the earthquake, reporting a detrimental focus on security.

One member of the US Army's 82nd Airborne Division told Reuters:
"The only time I've seen one of these U.N. troops jump out of the back of a truck was to beat up on somebody or take a shot at them,"

CNN reports that after weeks of planning “tent cities” to house earthquake survivors who lost their homes, the Haitian government is adopting an entirely new strategy. The new plan
revolves around registering residents of the camps and determining whether their homes can be rebuilt.
"If the home has been damaged, teams will be sent to remove the rubble, or a structural engineer will be sent to see if it can be fixed," said Mark Turner, spokesman for the Organization of International Migration, which is assisting in the effort.

Twelve Haitian children, airlifted to the US, may not actually be orphans, reports Ginger Thompson for the New York Times. Fifty-four Haitian children were airlifted to Pennsylvania in the aftermath of the earthquake, "organized by Gov. Edward G. Rendell of Pennsylvania and supported by top Obama administration officials." The Times reports:
But for 12 of the children, last month’s airlift transported them from one uncertain predicament to another. As it turns out, those children — between 11 months and 10 years old — were not in the process of being adopted, might not all even be orphans and are living in a juvenile care center here while the authorities determine whether they have relatives in Haiti who are able to take care of them.

Patricia Mazzei reports for the Miami Herald on the lack of sanitation and the possibility of diseases spreading throughout the make-shift camps:
"But now, more than five weeks after the quake, the dangers of inadequate sanitation could amount to the most pressing public health issue in this quake-wrecked city. "

Ansel Herz, reporting for IPS, writes about the lack of secure shelter as the rainy season nears.

The UN reports that "[t]o date, over 104,000 tarpaulins have been distributed along with 19,000 family size tents." This provides only slightly more than a quarter of those displaced with shelter.

Even when tarps are handed out, it can be met with confusion, as Herz reports:
At a shelter distribution by CARE International at a camp in a Petionville public square, the tarps were received with a mixture of confusion and disappointment.

"It's not clear for us. We can't set them up because they don't send anyone to give an explanation," said Joseph Jean-Ones, whose family lives in the camp, as he tried to fit one metal pole on top of another.

His wife was given a gray tarp, a set of gleaming metal poles, and a single piece of paper with pictoral diagrams showing how to tie the materials together. The tarps do not come with text instructions, in Haitian Creole or any language.

"They should teach people how to set them up before distributing them," said another man, setting the supplies down on the ground. "Now we don't know what to do with it. It's like they're distributing problems to us."
CARE later told Herz that in the future they would set up an example tarp in each camp before distribution.

There has also been some controversy surrounding the use of tarps versus tents. The Shelter Cluster has largely decided that tents take up too much room and that tarps are the only viable shelter at this point. There are dissenting opinions, however. Herz reports:
"What we're about is shelter, warmth and dignity - it's difficult to get that with tarps," said John Leach, Shelterbox's Head of Operations, in an interview. He said the plastic tarps will prove inadequate under heavy rains.

"If tarps are that great, why are all the U.N. people living in tents?" he asked.
The reality is that no matter how much shelter material is distributed, the situation remains grave:
"No one is pretending that this offers anything but very partial protection from the rains," Alex Wynter, spokesman for the International Federation of the Red Cross, told reporters in a press briefing.

"I would say that the tents and tarpaulins, in addition to giving people a modicum of privacy, give people a tool with which they can stay dry overnight," he said. "But there's no doubt that we face a very grave crisis here, when the rains come."



The Los Angeles Times reports on the stress that the exodus of hundreds of thousands of Haitians from Port-au-Prince has put on rural communities. This is especially significant with the planting season fast approaching and supplies hard to come by and money even tighter than usual. The Times reports:
Villagers are near the breaking point as they try to accommodate tens of thousands of displaced city dwellers just when they would be putting their precious resources into preparing for planting. In desperation, some have resorted to eating their meager seed stocks or killing their chickens and goats to feed the influx, rather than keeping them to sell.


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