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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A number of human rights groups and NGOs testified at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights yesterday. The groups stressed a human rights based approach to foreign assistance and requested the commission to visit Haiti to investigate the human rights situation. Mario Joseph of Bureaux des Avocats Internationaux said:
International aid has been given generously, but distributed poorly, without input from earthquake survivors. As a result, children are going hungry, women are at risk of sexual violence and exploitation, and families are sleeping in the rain, without waterproof shelter.
The groups had previously issued a series of recommendations in advance of the donor conference.

To read the testimonies and other documents that were submitted to the Inter-American commission, click here.

The groups were: Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice (CHRGJ) at NYU School of Law, the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), Partners In Health (PIH),  the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights (RFK Center), and Zanmi Lasante (ZL)
The Huffington Post has started a Haiti blog, "Rebuilding Haiti: Dispatches From the Relief Effort." The blog will have posts from relief workers, both from the ground and from international support teams. Yesterday, Rowan Moore Gerety of UNICEF, posted about the relocation plans for Port-au-Prince. With the relocation moving extremely slowly, the sudden movement may mean that beyond public health problems, there could be social health problems:
In Haiti, the rainy season is about to begin, necessitating relocation of the score of people displaced by the earthquake and currently living in over crowded camps. There are plans to move roughly 150,000 people currently living in the camps to the center of Port-au-Prince by May, yet only one site with a capacity of under 4,000 people has been secured to date.

When rains drenched the capital on Thursday night, the Golf Club de Pétionville turned to mud. It was a frightening preview of what the rainy season will hold for the 45,000 people who live there if they stay. Tents collapsed. Ditches overflowed with sewage. People and their belongings were swept downhill.

A recent Al Jazeera video report takes a look inside some of Haiti's garment factories. The factories are a central part of reconstruction plans, however Al Jazeera reports:
[M]any Haitians see the expansion of foreign companies as a way to take advantage of the widespread poverty plaguing the country, where the unemployment rate is up to 80 per cent.

The exploitation concerns come as former US presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush prepare to visit the Caribbean nation on Monday to discuss long-term recovery efforts with Haitian officials.

And a part of their plans will be to discuss  the expansion of clothing industries in the country - in which workers earn less than $4 a day - one of the lowest wages in the world.

The first is from Anderson Cooper of CNN, who interviews Sean Penn in Haiti. Penn describes the scene on the ground after heavy rains fell in Port-au-Prince last week. Penn describes a coming disaster if hundreds of thousands of displaced Haitian are not relocated before the heaviest rains begin in earnest. The video includes footage of the camps, turned to mud, after the rains.

The second video comes via the Red Cross, who obtained the video from the Irish Television Channel. The video is taken at night after just twenty minutes of heavy rains in one of the make shift camps that are home to some one million Haitians. The Red Cross explains:
It is the beginning of the rainy season in Haiti. What people had feared since the earthquake is happening. After only 20 minutes of one of the first rains of the season in the camps, the scene quickly transforms into rain soaked mud-bath. Water seeps through everywhere. People are getting wet outside and inside their tents. Tarpaulin sheets have to be cut with knives to prevent them from collapsing under the weight of the rain water. People are panicking and trying to protect themselves. What will it be like for Haiti's people when the real rains come?
Jonathn Katz reports for the AP that Clinton apologized in a statement to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on March 10:
"It may have been good for some of my farmers in Arkansas, but it has not worked. It was a mistake...I had to live everyday with the consequences of the loss of capacity to produce a rice crop in Haiti to feed those people because of what I did; nobody else."
Chief humanitarian coordinator for the UN, John Holmes, echoed this statement, telling the AP:
"A combination of food aid, but also cheap imports have ... resulted in a lack of investment in Haitian farming, and that has to be reversed."
The article notes that while these criticisms have been coming from aid groups for years, "world leaders focused on fixing Haiti are admitting for the first time that loosening trade barriers has only exacerbated hunger in Haiti and elsewhere."

To read the entire article, click here. To see past coverage of this issue and the effects of imported rice on Haiti, see this or this.
An editorial in the Miami Herald on Sunday argues that Haiti faces another disaster as the rainy season comes, and that urgent efforts must be taken on the ground. "Despite the best efforts" of the international community, the situation on the ground remains dire:
The devastated capital of Port-au-Prince, where hundreds of camps are located, is ground zero for the crisis of the homeless. Refugees in overcrowded shelters live in conditions of utter squalor, surrounded by piles of trash in mosquito-infested camps where the air is thick with the odor from overflowing latrines, and drainage lines are clogged with sewage.

Security is a problem. So is hygiene.

The flimsy tents and tarps in these camps will be no match for the coming storms, which is why an all-out effort must be made to relocate as many of the displaced as possible, particularly children, before it's too late.

The focus should be on the 29 of 425 sites in and around the capital, with about 200,000 homeless, that U.N. officials say are the most vulnerable to flooding and have been targeted for resettlement. The government's chief advisor on relocation, Gerard-Emile ``Aby'' Brun, says it will take $86 million to build relocation sites and another $40 million to secure rights to the land.

At this stage, money should not be the problem. More than $1 billion in aid has flowed into Haiti, and more is coming.
To read the entire article, click here.
47 local and international NGOs and civil society groups held a meeting last week to comment on the upcoming donor conference in New York. Afterwards 26 groups signed a statement that decried the absense of local input in the reconstruction plans that are being put forward. The statement is available online here (in Spanish). The full text of their statement follows:

Haitian NGOs Decry Total Exclusion from Donors’ Conferences on Haitian Reconstruction

March 18, 2010

SANTO DOMINGO .- More than 26 organizations and social movements in Haiti reported that the process established for formulating the “Plan for Reconstruction of Haiti” at the donors' conference that concluded yesterday in Santo Domingo has been characterized by an almost total exclusion of Haitian social actors and civil society, and very limited participation by uncoordinated representatives of the Haitian State.

The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) issued a draft report, "Sectorial Assessment of Damages, Losses and Requirements." The report notes that extreme poverty has reached levels not seen in a decade when the level was over 70 percent. According to the 2009 UN Human Development Report the proportion living in extreme poverty in Haiti was 54.9 percent.

The ECLAC report also notes that over 222,000 people died, more than 311,000 were injured, and 15% of the population (1.5 million) are now homeless. ECLAC estimates that the total damages are "more than US$ 7.8 billion, equivalent to over 120% of Haiti's GDP in 2009."
Heavy rains hell in Port-au-Prince today, the AP reports. The rains, some of the heaviest yet, damaged shelters and sent fear throughout the camps. Although no deaths were reported, the AP reports:
Aid workers said people were swept screaming into eddies of water and flows ripped down tents an Israeli aid group is using to teach school.

"They were crying. There was just fear down there. It was chaos," said Jim Wilson of the aid group Praecipio, who came running from his own shelter up the hill when he heard the screams.

On March 15, Amnesty International described the "daily struggle in Haiti's camps":
Two months after the earthquake, thousands in Port-au-Prince and elsewhere still await a first glimpse of humanitarian aid. In the four makeshift camps we visited during our first days in Haiti, life is a daily struggle and conditions are dire to say the least.

People are without water, food, sanitation or shelter. Resilience and solidarity with each other are the only things these camp-dwellers can rely on.
Amnesty notes that there have been numerous reports of rape and sexual abuse in the camps since the quake:
The day we visited the police station, a male officer on duty at the table unwillingly counted for us the number of cases registered in the log book: 52 cases of physical and sexual violence since the earthquake.

He said that many victims were minors, aged between 11 and 16, and that most of the assaults took place at night.

Although he knew where to refer victims for medical attention after a sexual assault, he was unable to explain why, on the previous night, a mother seeking police assistance in the attempted rape of her 17-year-old daughter by four young men, was told that the police could not do anything and that the security in the camps was the responsibility of the President of the Republic. Quite a blow for the population’s confidence in the police…
Amnesty, which has sent a mission to Haiti, ends their update with the most pressing issue:
The rainy season looms and all the people we talked to fear the worst. Shelter is what they need and what they ask for. That is their priority.
TIME reports today on the difficulties of holding elections in Haiti after the earthquake. The article notes many of the logistical problems such as voting rolls and voter ID cards, as well as the importance for the legitimacy of the government. TIME, however, fails to note that there were serious problems with the planned legislative elections. Previous articles on elections have also failed to address these problems.

15 political parties were excluded from participating in the planned February election. The Provisional Electoral Council’s arbitrary exclusions included Fanmi Lavalas, the overwhelmingly largest and 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.

The Washington Post reports today on the UN and Haitian Government beginning a campaign to shelter those in need before the rainy season begins:
In the coming weeks, the United Nations, in conjunction with the government and other relief organizations, will begin a communication effort to reach the displaced population, including radio, text messages, television news and even a television soap opera to drive home the point that masses of people must be relocated.

The Global Health blog at Change.org yesterday reported on how international NGOs have largely bypassed the Haitian health ministry in their relief efforts:
In advance of a March 31 donors' conference on Haiti, health officials are scrambling to assemble a better picture of the country's needs -- but the bulk of relief groups aren't exactly cooperating. To assist with medium- and long-term planning, Haiti's Ministry of Health has required all new organizations arriving in Haiti to provide information about how many people would be on the ground, what their skill sets were and for how long they'll stay. Yet even that rudimentary information has been hard to come by.
This situation is not unique to the health sector. Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive and Haitian President Rene Preval have both made similar statements. Reuters reported that Bellerive said:
"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."
Preval, in an interview with the Miami Herald noted that while millions have been pledged, very little has gone to the Haitian Government. An AP analysis of aid in the aftermath of the quake found that only one cent of every aid dollar went to the Haitian Government.

AFP reports today that the UN considers 218,000 Haitians to be at risk of flooding as the rainy season begins:
Two months after arguably the worst natural disaster of modern times, Haiti faces further calamity as more than 200,000 quake survivors camp in putrid tent cities at risk of major flooding.

Heavy rains fell in Port-au-Prince on Monday, and flooding has already killed at least 13 in other areas of Haiti. The Shelter Cluster plans to have around 93% of those in need of shelter equipped with atleast a tarp or tent by May 1, but with the hurricane season beginning in June it will be impossible to provide adequate shelter to deal with the bigger storms. The Red Cross said today that most people will still have only temporary shelter by the time the hurricane season begins, according to Deutsche Presse-Agentur:

However, more durable solutions would not be ready by June, said Pablo Medina, a member of the International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies.

Instead, communal hurricane shelters were being considered as the only viable option, with the majority of those made homeless after the quake expected to still be living in temporary tents and similar units.
Last week a New York Times editorial criticized the relief efforts in Haiti:
But after nearly two months, it’s not enough. Only half of those displaced have received even the crudest means of emergency shelter: plastic tarps and tents that will hardly protect them when floods start in earnest next month, and the hurricanes come in June. In hundreds of crowded settlements around the country, like the ones sheltering more than 600,000 in Port-au-Prince, food, water, medical care and security remain spotty.

Large swaths of the earthquake zone remain untouched by aid. They are choking in rubble, and trucks and volunteers have barely begun to scratch out safe places in the wreckage for people to live.
The Times urges more coordination with local groups:
There is a burning need to tap the energies of Haitians — not just the devastated national government. That means at the grass-roots, church, business and neighborhood groups that know the country, speak its languages, and are deeply committed to its rebirth.
To read the entire article, click here.
*This post was edited slightly for accuracy.

The FAO and other experts have warned that support for Haiti's agricultural sector is key to increasing food security and ensuring recovering from the earthquake.  Despite this, the agricultural program remains only 20% funded, according to OCHA.

FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf traveled to Haiti over the weekend and began distributing seeds and fertilizers to farmers. By June the FAO "plans to reach 180,000 smallholder farming families with 1,500 tonnes of seeds and fertilizers."

USAID is also collaborating with the Haitian government in support of the agricultural sector. According to USAID, "Last week, USAID signed an agreement with the Government of Haiti to identify USAID and its WINNER (Watershed Initiative for National Natural Environmental Resources) project as a strategic partner in the Cul-de-Sac, Cabaret, Mirbalais, Archaie and Gonaives regions of Haiti. The project aims to prepare the maximum amount of land possible for planting in the next six weeks. WINNER will work with 200 farmer associations and train 800 "master farmers."

The "WINNER" program was signed in 2009, and is a five-year, $126 million program that is being implemented by Chemonics International.

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.

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