Haiti: 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.
While Haiti continues to dig itself out of the rubble, and various individuals and groups lay out their ideas for reconstruction, there is a notable absence in Haiti. Ousted in 2004, the overwhelmingly popular Jean Bertrand Aristide is still in Pretoria, South Africa. Yesterday, actor and activist Danny Glover, recently back from Pretoria, appeared on Democracy NOW! He was asked why Aristide has not yet returned:
Well, he’s mystified by that. You know, there’s been several calls for him to return. His party still—the Lavalas is still the largest party, that’s not participating, that’s not active in the electoral process. And yet, he’s dismayed by that, the fact that both—it seems as if the South African government and the United States are complicit in his not returning to the hemisphere.
CBC News reports that 1,200 HousAll shelters will be shipped to Haiti on Friday. The shelter "consists of plastic panels that pop into a steel frame" and will be used for medical clinics and daycares. The Founder of HousAll, Miles Kennedy is reported as saying:
"Two people can put them up with only one tool — a screwdriver," he said. "They'll withstand monsoon rains, near-hurricane winds and phenomenal snow loads."
Most people in Port-au-Prince recently asked by Oxfam say they do not want to move to camps outside the city. The survey also shows that most people have received very little direct information about the Haitian government’s plans to move people to new camps, leading to uncertainty about the strategy. Yesterday, Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive revealed that the government itself is unclear on its relocation plan.
“If new camps are set-up then people should be not be forced to go. The camps should be safe to reduce criminality and protect vulnerable groups such as women and children. They should also be seen as temporary solutions not end up as long term slums outside the city limits.”
This week in Quito, Ecuador, heads of state from South American nations are meeting to discuss and coordinate Haitian relief efforts. Yesterday, the leaders endorsed a proposal to create a $100 Million fund, supplemented with another $200 Million from the Inter-American Development Bank.
A must-read article from the Washington Post today surveys the aid and relief efforts, noting there is still a dire need for more food, shelter, sanitation, medical supplies and equipment, crutches for amputees, post-operative care and rehabilitation, and much more.
“Every day, tens of thousands of Haitians face a grueling quest to find food, any food. A nutritious diet is out of the question,” as “…Overwhelmed doctors and nurses are now facing converging streams of need, from untended wounds and the illnesses born of poor sanitation to the ailments of a population that had inferior health care long before Jan. 12.”
The Miami Herald reports today that at least two US firms, AshBritt Inc. and DRC group, are using powerful connections both inside Haiti and the US to try and secure contracts in the aftermath of the earthquake. As the Herald notes:
It's unclear at this point who will be awarding the cleanup contracts, but there is big money to be made in the rubble of some 225,000 collapsed homes and at least 25,000 government and office buildings.
Last week actors and human rights advocates Danny Glover and Harry Belafonte, along with the Reverend Jesse Jackson, sent a letter to Congress and the Obama Administration calling attention to “serious mistakes that have unnecessarily delayed the delivery of medical supplies, water and other life-saving materials” to Haiti. The letter was also signed by some 90 scholars and Haiti advocates. (Disclosure: I was also a signer).
Elaine Zuckerman, President of Gender Action and the former Inter-American Development Bank Programs Officer for Haiti, writes about what needs to be done to make sure that aid to Haiti does not repeat the mistakes of the past:
To Help Haiti, Upend Aid Habits, and Focus on its Women By Elaine Zuckerman
The growing discourse around solving Haiti's many tragedies has, for the most part, ignored the unique plight of that nation's women, and their equally essential role in recovery. Even before the earthquake, Haiti's women suffered disproportionately, and recently announced aid may already be headed in the same wrong direction as in decades past. This article highlights pre-earthquake Haiti’s poverty and gender discrimination, and discusses how external assistance can end bad practices, especially by targeting women.
There are some things that should be known about DR dealing with Haiti.
On the one hand, the Dominicans have made commendable efforts to help. The government send mobile food kitchens that are making 60,000 hot meals per day. It was the earliest food distribution on the ground--day after the quake--and is the most efficient I have seen...
The New York Immigration Coalition has compiled a list of resources for Haitians seeking TPS. The list includes upcoming legal clinics and non-profit legal service organizations. For the direct link, click here.
Less than 20 years ago, the country was nearly self-sufficient when it came to rice production. But in 1995, when the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund pressured Haiti to cut import tariffs on rice from 50 percent to 3 percent, cheap subsidized rice from the US began to flood into the country. Urban consumers benefited for a while from the low-cost imports, but they caused national rice production to plummet. Today, Haiti is now importing 80 percent of the rice it consumes.
In the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake, 15 organizations formed a coalition to help coordinate the relief and reconstruction efforts. The coalition is comprised of members both on the ground in Haiti as well as here in the US that have a long history working with Haitian partners.
Haiti has the highest Tuberculosis rate in the western hemisphere and the possibility of a severe outbreak has increased, reports the New York Times. The World Health Organization says that TB is the second most deadly infectious disease in Haiti, behind AIDS. However at the clinic which housed the "country’s most infected patients" Pierre-Louis Monfort "runs the clinic alone."
The Miami Herald reported Saturday that new rules from the US Department of Health and Human Services have made medical flights from Haiti to the US much more difficult:
"One child died and the condition of critically ill children from Haiti's earthquake worsened amid stricter rules over medical flights to Miami hospitals and others in the United States, doctors and patients say."
Last week medical flights were stopped for five days after an apparent cost dispute between Florida and the Federal Government.
Aid worker and Children’s Hope founder Leisa Faulkner describes her experiences working in Haiti following the quake in an interview with Sacramento News & Review. Her comments include a familiar refrain from aid and relief workers:
“There is no security threat from the Haitian people. Aid workers do not need to fear them. I would really like for the guys with the rifles to put them down and pick up shovels to help find people still buried in the rubble of collapsed buildings and homes.”
"The earthquake in Haiti was a catastrophic setback to the Haitian people who are now facing tremendous emergency humanitarian and reconstruction needs, and meeting Haiti's financing needs will require a massive multilateral effort," said Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. "Today, we are voicing our support for what Haiti needs and deserves – comprehensive multilateral debt relief."
To read more about the importance of debt relief for Haiti please see Jubilee USA.
Numerous reports in the last few days have focused on the lack of essential aid reaching Cite Soleil, home to hundreds of thousands of Haitians. Ansel Herz reports for Reuters today that while the World Food Program has now set up two distribution sites in the vast slum, the high-energy biscuits that had been given out have not been effective:
Judette Cange said she knows the high-energy biscuits, called bon-bon, are packed with vitamins, but she will not give them to her children.
"They have ants in them. They have insects and they have expired already," she said, pointing to the brown crackers.
"We need rice, water, and tents. We don't want bad food."
"We have over 200,000 (dead). The last number I received from my services was 212,000 people that were collected on the streets and different places."
Bellerive also added that the number of homeless is probably much higher than the one million originally thought. He stated that once those that were homeless prior to the earthquake are taken into account "you should have around two million people on the streets right now."