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 NACLA article offers a glimpse into the state of health care in Haiti - and perhaps why some Haitians may be skeptical of current U.S. and UN relief efforts - by examining the the history and evolution of "Haiti’s first and only public medical school." The school was a joint project by the governments of Taiwan, Cuba and Haiti.
In a declaration full of optimism and hope, the Dean of Health Sciences, Dr. Yves Polynice stated: “The inauguration of the Aristide Foundation University is an opportunity to renew our Hippocratic Oath where each physician pledges to care for the poor, widows, and orphans free of cost. We must be conscious that any illness affecting one citizen represents a threat to us all. Today we say ‘health care for all, without exclusion.’ ” On February 3, 2004, the hospital officially opened its doors and began treating many of Haiti’s most vulnerable. For many it was their first visit to a doctor.

Robert Naiman, Policy Director of Just Foreign Policy, argues in the Huffington Post for raising the wage of garment workers in Haiti:
Americans want to help Haiti; Democrats control the U.S. Congress; the Haitian Parliament has passed legislation saying Haitian workers should be paid at least $5 a day; and specific legislation that provides preferential access to the U.S. market to garments from Haiti is already U.S. law. Therefore, the following policy reform ought to be a slam dunk: Haitian garment workers whose products receive preferential access to the U.S. market under the HOPE II Act ought to be paid at least $5 a day.

Beverly Bell, associate fellow at the Institiute for Policy Studies and Program Coordinator for Other Worlds, reports on Truthout about grassroots and popular radio in Haiti. Bell speaks with Sony Esteus, director of the Society for Social Mobilization and Communication:
I ask Sony to tell me about the importance of community radio in Haiti, the first priorities for rebuilding it, and the role it can play in reconstructing a just Haiti. First, he clarifies my terminology. SAKS works with community radio, but views itself as part of the network of popular radio, which he defines as radio in the struggle to transform society.

Peter Hallward, author of "Damming the Flood: Haiti, Aristide, and the Politics of Containment," appeared on Democracy NOW! today to discuss the ongoing relief efforts in Haiti. To read the transcript or watch the video, click here.
Last week we wrote about the GEO Group, recipient of a $260,589 contract for "guard services." The description of the contract says "Extend period of performance and add fund for Haiti surge." Although the full details of the contract do not seem to be available, it is likely that this refers to the current contract GEO Group has for running the Guantanamo Bay Migrant Operations Center.

Frank Bajak reports for the AP on police brutality in one of the make-shift camps in Haiti. The camp is on the grounds of the Prime Minister’s office and is home to around 2,500 Haitians, according to the AP. Bajak reports:
Witnesses said police beat 22-year-old Dalida Jeanty in the morning after she picked up a broom to sweep around her tent. "They called her and she did not come so they beat her," said her cousin, Alix Jeanty.

Friends and relatives carried the woman down the hill and U.N. peacekeepers arranged for her to be taken to the hospital.

The AP reports on the Haitian government's plans to relocate the 1.2 million displaced by the earthquake. While the government does own some land, it will not be enough, forcing the government to appropriate privately held land. As the AP reports:
The decision, announced in an interview with The Associated Press, is potentially explosive in a country where a small elite owns most of the land in and around the capital.

That elite, a traditionally corrupting force in Haitian politics, has the power to bring down the government.

The Federal Procurement Data System shows that GEO Group Inc. received a no-bid contract worth $260,589 in the wake of the earthquake in Haiti. The contract length is just over one month; it was awarded by the Department of Homeland Security through the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement for “guard services.”

The company, formerly known as Wackenhut Corrections Corp., is a multinational corporation which runs numerous prison facilities in the US.

GEO Group has been at the center of numerous scandals involving their facilities and their treatment of prisoners. The most recent occurred just last month, less than two weeks before receiving their contract in Haiti. Gregorio de la Rosa Jr. was beaten to death in a GEO Group facility in 2001. In early January of this year, The GEO Group reached a settlement in the wrongful death suit, agreeing to pay in excess of $40 million.

Thursday was the second major rain in the last week, increasing fears that the 1.2 million displaced from the earthquake will not have adequate shelter before the rainy season begins.

The rains, which only lasted for a few hours, caused some camps to turn into mud, and even flooded parts of Cite Soleil, AP reports. Pictures of the flooding can be seen here, or here.

President Rene Preval told Reuters that:
Every time I meet with foreign leaders and delegations, I tell them that [shelter] is the most urgent need.

Fast Company Magazine reports on the use of Open Source mapping software in the relief efforts. Open Source developers Tom Buckley and Schuyler Erle are working in Haiti.  Fast Company reports:
The pair are advising the World Bank on the use of crowd-sourced mapping, primarily through the open-source program OpenStreetMap, in the relief and recovery effort in Haiti.

Patrick Elie, former Defense Minister under Aristide and current aid to President Preval had the following to say to Inter-Press Service regarding private contractors in Haiti:
"These guys are like vultures coming to grab the loot over this disaster, and probably money that might have been injected into the Haitian economy is going to be just grabbed by these companies and I'm sure that they are not only these mercenary companies but also the other companies like Halliburton or these other ones that always [come] on the heels of the troops."

The Associated Press recieved exclusive access to the flight logs at Port-au-Prince airport, revealing a chaotic period where distribution of vital aid was often delayed or rerouted. AP reports:
The Air Force did initially give priority to military units that were sent to secure the airport, distribute aid and keep the peace. But then it started taking flights according to a reservation system open to anyone.

Because of that, key aid was delayed in some cases while less-critical flights got in.

Roger Noriega of the American Enterprise Institute and former State Department official during the Bush administration writes today about “Priming the pump of private capital and promoting free market mechanisms,” in order to ensure Haiti’s recovery. The article was co-written by Francis Skrobiszewski. Noriega writes that:
Aid agencies are intensely preoccupied with providing essential humanitarian assistance in Haiti. Haitians, however, cannot wait for traditional development assistance experts to conceive and implement public and private-sector capacity-building, policy reform, educational initiatives and other long-term programs.

A broad coalition of groups with extensive experience in Haiti made their recommendations yesterday in advance of the donor conference scheduled for March. The coalition is comprised of: 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/Zanmi Lasante, and the RFK Center for Justice and Human Rights (RFK Center).

The recommendations focus on four main areas: building the capacity of the government to ensure human rights, transparency, accountability, and the empowerment of Haitian citizens.

To read the full recommendations click here.
Last week the FAO announced its worry that immediate agriculture needs were not being adequately funded, there is also evidence of rising prices for basic foods such as rice. Following up on these reports, Inter-Press Service reports today on the likelihood of an emerging food crisis in post-earthquake Haiti:
"Everybody needs to understand the need to act right now, otherwise the planting season will be lost," Geri Benoit, Haiti's ambassador to Italy and the Rome-based UN food agencies, told IPS.

Media monitor and analyst Danny Schecter probes beneath the superficiality of TV-coverage of Haiti relief, and the focus on celebrity benefits, saying that “Entertainment and popular culture are moving and valuable but ongoing popular education on the issues is more important.”

Among Danny’s recommendations:

We need another professionally staffed website to insure public accountability and transparency on where all the money raised by international agencies, national governments and charities is going.

Colum Lynch, longtime Washington Post United Nations reporter, reports for the Turtle Bay blog at Foreign Policy:
The U.N.'s top humanitarian relief coordinator John Holmes scolded his top aid lieutenants for failing to adequately manage the relief effort in Haiti, saying that an uneven response in the month following the devastating Jan. 12 earthquake was undercutting confidence in the U.N.'s ability to deliver vital assistance, according to a confidential email obtained by Turtle Bay.
Click here to read more, including the entire confidential e-mail.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy landed in Haiti this morning, the AP reports. It was the first visit by a French president to Haiti, described by the AP as once being the "nation's richest colony."

AP reports:
Some Haitians are welcoming France's new interest in their nation as a counterbalance to the United States, which has sent troops there three times in the past 16 years. But Sarkozy's visit is also reviving bitter memories of the crippling costs of Haiti's 1804 independence.

A third of the population was killed in an uprising against exceptionally brutal slavery, an international embargo was imposed to deter slave revolts elsewhere and 90 million pieces of gold were demanded by Paris from the world's first black republic.

*This post has been edited slightly for accuracy.

With the Inter-American Development Bank saying that the reconstruction of Haiti could cost upwards of $14 billion, and with billions in aid already coming in to Haiti, it is vitally important to keep a close eye on where that money is being spent.

The Federal Procurement Data System - Next Generation, has set up a function where you can track contracts awarded for Haiti related work. The list, however, is not exhaustive; there is a message on the site saying that the list only “represents a portion of the work that has been awarded to date.”  For instance the US Agency for International Development lists only two contracts totaling just under $150,000. USAID, however, says that through the Office of Transition Initiatives they have already given $20 million to three companies: Chemonics, Internews, and Development Alternatives Inc. The reality may be that these companies have received even more money than that though. The Miami Herald reported on February 8 that:

The U.S. Agency for International Development has given two assignments for Haiti-related work to two beltway firms involved in international development: Washington, D.C.-based Chemonics International and Bethesda, Md.-based Development Alternatives Inc.

The emergency work assignments, which are worth $50 million each, are likely the first of many the agency will hand out to private firms to help Haiti get on its feet after the devastating quake Jan. 12.

Bill Quigley, Legal Director at the Center for Constitutional Rights, writes over the weekend in response to a comment US Ambassador to Haiti Ken Merten made regarding relief efforts. Merten addressed humanitarian aid delivery at a press briefing by saying:
And I think, frankly, it’s working really well, and I believe that this will be something that people will be able to look back on in the future as a model for how we’ve been able to sort ourselves out as donors on the ground and responding to an earthquake.

The Washington Post had an article yesterday detailing the role that Haitian elites will play in the rebuilding of the country:
Haiti's elite -- a small, politically connected group as comfortable lobbying President René Préval as lawmakers in Washington -- is positioning itself for business opportunities emerging from their country's reconstruction.


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