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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*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.

Watch Aljazeera’s Fault Lines for an examination into the debate over reconstruction plans for Haiti. Unlike too many reports, Fault Lines presents perspectives from Haitian economists and other experts on how Haiti can rebuild and develop in order to best serve the needs of the Haitian people.

The report also looks at the self-organization in communities of displaced earthquake survivors that has helped ensure aid distribution remains orderly and reaches everyone in need.

As UN agencies met in Rome to discuss the response to the earthquake in Haiti, General Jacques Diouf, of the Food and Agriculture Organization issued a stark warning:
“At a time when Haiti is facing a major food crisis we are alarmed at the lack of support to the agricultural component of the Flash Appeal,”

Writing for The Nation yesterday, Naomi Klein makes the case that Haiti is actually a creditor, not a debtor. Therefore, she argues, to speak of debt cancellation is really only a step in the right direction.

Klein outlines three major sources of the West's debt to Haiti: The Slavery Debt, The Dictatorship Debt and The Climate Debt.

One could add that the United States, France, Canada, and the World Bank also owe Haiti for having deliberately destroyed the economy and de-stabilized the country from 2000-2004, in order to topple the elected government. Since this was done openly, including an international cut-off of vitally needed aid, has been documented, and is quite recent as compared to the previous debts cited by Klein, it should be of prime importance. The renowned medical journal, the Lancet, has estimated that the dictatorship installed after the 2004 coup murdered around 4000 people in the greater Port-au-Prince area alone. It also jailed officials and supporters of the constitutional government. The foreign governments, including the United States, who organized, funded, and contributed to this coup are also responsible for the violence that ensued.

Taiwans' Central News Agency reports that a China Times Group reporter, Liu Ping, who traveled to Haiti to cover the earthquake was upset by some of the media coverage of the security situation:
"Everyone was trying to survive, because they were looking for food and water, " the Washington-based correspondent said. "If there was more empathy in news reporting, the perspective would be different." Liu also lashed out at peacekeeping troops in Haiti. He said the troops told Taiwan's second rescue team not to go outside because it was not safe, but what the reporter saw were people who were staring over airport walls at the relief goods they hoped to receive as soon as possible.

The head of an emergency commission to provide shelter, Charles Clermont, says only a limited number of the 200,000 tents requested by the government have been delivered. Agence Haitienne de Presse reported1 on February 10 that according to Clermont:
[T]he Haitian government has only received 49,198 of the 200,000 tents it has requested from the international community, and only 15,000 of these tents are available in Haiti as of today.

The Miami Herald reported today that it has seen a copy of a U.S. plan - drafted by Secretary Clinton’s staff, and which the U.S. has presented to the Haitian government – for both Haiti’s short term and long-term relief and development.

The short-term is 18 months. This is the period of time over which an Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, which the plan calls for, would oversee the “urgent early recovery”. The long term is 10 years. This is at least for how long the plan’s “Haitian Development Authority” would “coordinate billions in foreign assistance.”

While there has not been much coverage in major media of the protests taking place in Haiti, Reuters reports:
"...a noisy, early morning protest by several hundred Haitians at the U.N. mission headquarters brought into sharp focus simmering anger over the dire need for shelter..."

With hundreds of thousands, if not millions of Haitians living in make-shift camps, the lack of rain since the earthquake has been a relief. Today, however, Reuters reports that:
Heavy rain drenched earthquake survivors in the tent camps of the Haitian capital on Thursday, bringing a warning of fresh misery to come for the 1 million people living on the streets.

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.

Oxfam states
“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.

Center for Constitutional Rights legal director Bill Quigley breaks down the Haiti relief numbers today on Common Dreams, such as:

1 million – the number of “people who have been given food by the UN World Food Program in Port au Prince – another million in Port au Prince still need help.”

63,000 is the number of “pregnant women among the people displaced by the earthquake.”

Bill notes that 7,000 tents have been “distributed by United Nations …President Preval of Haiti has asked for 200,000 tents.”

Mark Weisbrot
The Guardian Unlimited, February 8, 2010

See article on original website

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.

Tim Schwartz writes from the Haiti-D.R. border:

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...

But Tim also notes:

But there is regretable profiteering as well.