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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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.

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.


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