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.
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."
"While I am pleased that this important hearing is being held and believe that the witnesses called have important information to share with Congress, I am disappointed that the witness list is devoid of Haitian voices. Haiti's reconstruction should be led by Haitians.”
In 2008 the United Nations Human Rights council named Mr. Cephas Lumina as an independent expert on the effect of foreign debt. Today Mr. Lumina called for an immediate cancellation of debt for Haiti and directly addressed the International Monetary Fund 's decision to issue a $114 million loan:
"The extension of Haiti's loan programme in circumstances where the IMF acknowledges the country's high risk of debt distress, and particularly in view of the fact that the country's economy has collapsed and its debt service capacity is non-existent, runs counter to the IMF's own advice and is profoundly inappropriate."
Haitian President Rene Preval requested 200,000 tents last week to help provide shelter for the hundreds of thousands of displaced and homeless in the wake of the devastating earthquake in Haiti. On February 2, the UN issued a statement which said “Beyond food, hundreds of thousands of Haitian earthquake victims displaced from their homes in Port-au-Prince, Léogâne and Jacmel urgently need shelter, with plastic sheeting taking priority over tents.” The International Office for Migration, which is leading the shelter cluster in Haiti, said that along with 55 other aid agencies working to provide shelter they “will soon have distributed close to 52,000 tarpaulins, more than 9,000 family tents.”
This blog will follow the relief and reconstruction efforts in Haiti. Haiti’s poverty, as has been well known for more than two centuries, is not so much a result of natural disasters or other characteristics of the country, as it is the result of the intervention of foreign powers. This has been true in recent years as well: from 2000-2004, the United States, in collaboration with other allies, cut off nearly all international aid to Haiti in an effort that wrecked the economy and succeeded in toppling the elected government. This blog will keep track of current efforts at relief and reconstruction with an eye towards ensuring that such efforts are oriented toward the most urgent and important needs of the Haitian people, and that aid is not used to undermine Haitians' right to self-determination.