Martha Mendoza and Trenton Daniel of the Associated Press reported over the weekend on the state of U.S. reconstruction efforts in Haiti. The report is based largely on documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests. Mendoza and Daniel write:
Until now, comprehensive details about who is receiving U.S. funds and how they are spending them have not been released. Contracts, budgets and a 300-item spreadsheet obtained by The Associated Press under a Freedom of Information Act request show:
- Of the $988 million spent so far, a quarter went toward debt relief to unburden the hemisphere's poorest nation of repayments. But after Haiti's loans were paid off, the government began borrowing again: $657 million so far, largely for oil imports rather than development projects.
- Less than 12 percent of the reconstruction money sent to Haiti after the earthquake has gone toward energy, shelter, ports or other infrastructure. At least a third, $329 million, went to projects that were awarded before the 2010 catastrophe and had little to do with the recovery - such as HIV/AIDS programs.
- Half of the $1.8 billion the U.S. promised for rebuilding is still in the Treasury, its disbursement stymied by an understaffed U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince in the months after the quake and by a Haitian government that was barely functional for more than a year.
- Despite State Department promises to keep spending public, some members of Congress and watchdogs say they aren't getting detailed information about how the millions are being spent, as dozens of contractors working for the U.S. government in Haiti leave a complex money trail.
Searching for evidence of success after more than two years and two billion dollars, the AP found lasting results hard to come by as “projects fundamental to Haiti's transformation out of poverty, such as permanent housing and electric plants in the heavily hit capital of Port-au-Prince have not taken off.” Attempting to preempt the AP article, Mark Feierstein, Assistant Administrator for Latin America and Thomas C. Adams, Haiti Special Coordinator at the U.S. Department of State wrote an article, “Progress in Haiti” to combat what they believe to be an unfair portrayal of U.S. reconstruction efforts.
Mendoza and Daniel note that the reconstruction plan laid out a number of benchmarks, 40 of which were due to be reached this month. But while some benchmarks have been achieved, many have not. One area of particular concern is the provision of shelter. While Adams and Feierstein point to the decrease in the camp population as the first sign of success, AP reports:
Meanwhile, 390,000 people are still homeless. The U.S. promised to rebuild or replace thousands of destroyed homes, but so far has not built even one new permanent house. Auditors say land disputes, lack of USAID oversight and no clear plan have hampered the housing effort. USAID contested that critique.As we have previously pointed out, the provision of new shelter options cannot explain the majority of the decrease in the camp population, and many of those that have left the camps have found themselves in even more precarious living conditions, this time out of sight of the humanitarian community.
The State Department says 29,100 transitional shelters have been built, to which residents are adding floors, walls or roofs to make permanent homes, although homes once again vulnerable to natural disasters. U.S. funds also supported 27,000 households as they moved in with friends or families, and repaired 5,800 of the 35,000 damaged homes they had planned to complete with partners by July 2012. Also by this month the U.S. had planned to help resolve 40,000 to 80,000 land disputes, but at latest count had helped 10,400.
Haiti’s cholera infection and death rates show an alarming recent increase, with official statistics reporting 290 deaths and nearly 40,000 cases in May and June alone, as the rainy season returned. Pressure continues to build for the United Nations to take responsibility for causing the cholera outbreak, which has now killed over 7,418 people and infected over 579,014. Last week, Hollywood took notice of the issue, with some 90 celebrities attending a screening of the Olivia Wilde-produced documentary film, “Baseball in the Time of Cholera” directed by David Darg and Bryn Mooser, and many urged action on the issue via Twitter, leading to the hashtag #undeny becoming a top trend for much of the day last Thursday.
Today, the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, which features prominently in the film, took “Baseball” to Congress with a screening. The move is well-timed, as 104 members of Congress just released a letter addressed to U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice calling on her to “to strongly encourage the United Nations to take a leadership role in addressing this catastrophic public health crisis,” specifically by urging “UN authorities to support efficient treatment and prevention of the epidemic and to help Haiti acquire adequate water and sanitation infrastructure.”
The letter, which was circulated by Rep. John Conyers (D – MI) states:
As cholera was brought to Haiti due to the actions of the UN, we believe that it is imperative for the UN to now act decisively to control the cholera epidemic. UN authorities should work with Haiti’s government and the international community to confront and, ultimately, eliminate this deadly disease from Haiti and the rest of the island of Hispaniola. A failure to act will not only lead to countless more deaths: it will undermine the crucial effort to reconstruct Haiti and will pose a permanent public health threat to the populations of neighboring nations.
In March, three Pakistani MINUSTAH troops were found guilty, sentenced to one year in prison and repatriated for the rape of a 14-year old Haitian boy. Although the trial was held on Haitian soil, it was a “military justice procedure…undertaken in accordance with the national laws of Pakistan,” according to the UN. Additionally, Reuters reported at the time that “Haitian government authorities were given no advance notice of the military tribunal.” Had the troops faced a Haitian court, their sentences would likely have been much longer. Had the troops had to face Haitian justice they may also have had to respond to further allegations that the Pakistani UN Mission tried to cover-up the crime, going so far as to kidnap the victim.
While some Haitian media and blogs picked up the story at the time, little has been written about the attempted cover-up. Independent journalist Kathie Klarreich, who recently traveled to Gonaïves where the crime took place, mentioned the cover-up in a larger piece about MINUSTAH scandals for the Christian Science Monitor. Klarreich has now provided new details to HRRW on what happened, raising even more questions about the level of impunity for UN troops in Haiti and just how widespread these abuses are. While the Haitian police have witnesses and evidence tying MINUSTAH to the cover-up of rape, the UN has apparently not been cooperative and has failed to adequately investigate and hold accountable those responsible.
The UN first disclosed the case in January, announcing that an investigative team would be heading to Haiti. In February, as the circumstances around the case became clearer, Senator Youri Latortue took to the airwaves to call for the lifting of immunity for MINUSTAH and to denounce the apparent cover-up that was executed by the Pakistani contingent. After witnesses of the abuse went to local police, the 14-year-old boy was kidnapped and taken to a MINUSTAH base in Cap- Haïtien with the “objective to prevent the continuation of the investigation” according to Latortue. On January 26, 2012, police arrested Vladimir Alexandre, a local Haitian, for being an accomplice to the kidnapping. Another alleged accomplice is still at large. While the “military tribunal” was conducted behind closed doors and the guilty members of MINUSTAH whisked out of the country, the local case in the city of Gonaïves has gone nowhere.
Alexandre, speaking with Klarreich, defended himself, telling her, “All I did was show them where he [the victim] lived. I don’t know anything about taking him anywhere,” adding that he didn’t receive anything from the soldiers in return. But Klarreich said that what he told her directly contradicts what he had told police when they arrested him. According to a copy of his testimony which Klarreich read, Alexandre admitted that he knew the boy, that he’d been in contact with the Pakistani MINUSTAH troops, and that he and the other accomplice had agreed to remove the boy from the area. He also admits that the Pakistanis came to his home bearing gifts for his mother – $100 Haitian Gourdes ($12 US) and a sack of rice.
Alexandre remains in the police station jail, held in a room with 111 other prisoners. The Gonaïves police chief told Klarreich that according to Haitian law, Alexandre could be held for up to two months but if no charges were brought then legally he should be allowed to go free. “I am not here to judge,” the police chief said, “but rather to make sure that the justice system works. Let’s remove the obstacles and finish this case.” The local officials in charge of the case continue to seek answers, while the lawyers for the victim continue to seek compensation from the United Nations.
Vijaya Ramachandran and Julie Walz of the Center for Global Development recently reported on their trip to Haiti, where they further examined aid accountability and the ongoing reconstruction effort, the themes of their recent policy paper which we have previously described.
Among the problems that Ramachandran and Walz noted were:
International NGOs have frequent staff turnover and very high costs. In the aftermath of the quake, we learned that senior staff came and went, some staying as little as a few weeks. A new arrival meant starting all over again, often with an individual who had little knowledge of Haiti and no knowledge of Creole (or even French). The cost of maintaining expatriate staff in Haiti is very high. According to the Miami Herald, it can cost upwards of $200,000 annually in housing and other benefits to keep a senior-level manager in Haiti. Some of our interviewees explained how NGOs and foreign workers are exempt from Haitian taxes and often do not follow Haitian registration requirements. Donors have spent billions of dollars trying to repair Haiti’s broken infrastructure, largely with their own goods and labor. In the meantime, most Haitians in Port-au-Prince spend their day trying to sell a few vegetables or fruit or other goods on the sidewalk, which in most cases, does not generate enough money to feed themselves or their families.
We repeatedly heard stories about the unintended economic and social consequences of the influx of foreign workers. Housing costs in certain areas have skyrocketed – rentals easily go for over $30,000 per year, with some houses being rented for a lot more. Restaurants and supermarkets in certain areas of Petion-ville cater exclusively to foreign tastes, and prices of basic goods have been driven up to a level that even middle-class Haitians cannot afford.
This is the second installment looking at the New York Times in depth investigation into the Caracol industrial park. For part one, click here.
Jobs at What Cost?
Sontag reports that while concerns over Sae-A’s labor practices were consistently brought to the attention of officials, the project continued to go forward without a comprehensive review:
Before the Haiti deal was sealed, the A.F.L.-C.I.O. urged American and international officials to reconsider, given what it described in a detailed memo as Sae-A’s egregious antiunion repression, including “acts of violence and intimidation” in Guatemala, where Homero Fuentes, who monitors factories for American retailers, calls Sae-A “one of the major labor violators.”
The five-page memo “accused Sae-A of using bribes, death threats and imprisonment to prevent and break up unions.” Sontag describes the allegations against Sae-A in some detail, and notes that while “Gail W. Strickler… the assistant United States trade representative for textiles, says she considered Sae-A ‘an exemplary corporate citizen,’” meanwhile “Scott Nova, executive director of the Workers Rights Consortium, calls the company ‘a big player in a dirty industry with a track record that suggests a degree of ruthlessness even worse than the norm.’”
Of course, labor rights violations in the garment sector in Haiti are nothing new. In fact, on the same day that U.S., Haitian and development bank officials inaugurated the Caracol park, an investigation by Better Work Haiti found "evidence of violations of freedom of association" at other Haitian textile factories. The most recent Better Work Haiti report, which “uncovered a higher number of violations in the areas of core labour standards than what [was] observed in the previous assessments”, is available here. 11 of 20 factories were found to be non-compliant in at least one of the core labor standards.
“American officials said Sae-A would be closely monitored in Haiti because of trade legislation requiring stringent scrutiny through an American-financed inspection program.” As part of the legislation providing duty free access to the U.S. market, the U.S., together with the Better Work Haiti program, provides oversight as well as training to employers, employees and Haitian government officials on labor rights issues. But as Yannick Etienne of the Haitian workers’ rights group Batay Ouvriye tells Sontag, ‘“it remains to be seen” whether the inspection program will have “any teeth.”’
Every two years, the U.S. must identify which producers are in compliance with core labor standards and Haitian labor law. The most recent report, which was published in the last month, notes that, “While this is USTR’s fourth report, this is the first reporting period that [non-compliant] producers have been identified.” Yet, giving credence to Etienne’s concerns, this does not mean that the three producers identified as non-compliant on core labor standards will miss out on duty-free access to the U.S. market. As long as the producer shows an effort to improve and work with the U.S. to correct the problems, they will face no sanctions.
One resident of Caracol, who went to Nicaragua to participate in a Sae-A apprenticeship came back so disillusioned he told the New York Times that as soon as he found other work, he would quit his job with Sae-A:
“The way the Koreans treat the Nicaraguan workers is awful,” Mr. Joseph said. “They just treat them like nothing. Just: ‘Do your job. If you don’t do it, I’ll call somebody else to do it.’ ”
The first of two installments looking at the New York Times in depth investigation into the Caracol industrial park. Part two will be posted shortly.
Deborah Sontag, writing in today’s New York Times, takes a detailed look at the new Caracol industrial park being built in northeastern Haiti, finding that in their rush to show reconstruction progress the plan’s backers have overlooked labor and environmental concerns. Sontag writes:
Two and a half years after the earthquake, Haiti remains mired in a humanitarian crisis, with 390,000 people languishing in tents. Yet the showcase project of the reconstruction effort is this: an industrial park that will create jobs and housing in an area undamaged by the temblor, a venture that risks benefiting foreign companies more than Haiti itself.
The park, whose main tenant Sae-A expects to generate some 20,000 jobs over the next six years, has been made possible by generous subsidies from the U.S. and Haitian governments and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). Sae-A officials were invited to the U.S. embassy in Seoul to meet with Secretary of State Clinton in 2010. One concern the company had at the time was “uncertainty about whether Haiti’s minimum wage for textile workers, scheduled to increase to $5 from $3.75 a day this October, would continue to rise.” Wikileaks cables later revealed that the U.S. embassy in Haiti, along with some multinational companies had “aggressively moved to block a minimum wage increase for Haitian assembly zone workers,” according to The Nation. While the minimum wage has increased, 18 out of 20 factories monitored by the Better Work Haiti program were found to be non-compliant on the minimum wage in their most recent assessment published in April.
Despite the “obstacles,” and convinced by legislation providing tariff-free access to the U.S. market, Sae-A officials were soon heading to sign an agreement -- but not in Haiti, in Washington:
By late summer, they were flying with their investment plan to Washington for a meeting with Mrs. Clinton and other international officials in a historic treaty-signing room on the State Department’s seventh floor.
While Sae-A originally estimated the project would create 3,000-4,000 jobs, American and international officials wanted more:
“We would say, ‘We could probably do a factory with about 3,000 to 4,000 people.’ They’re like, ‘Wow. What would you need to make it bigger?’ I [Lon Garwood, senior advisor to Sae-A] said, ‘If we could get a loan for the machines, we could probably double that.’ They said, ‘What about 10,000?’ We said, ‘If we didn’t have to worry about purchasing the land, if we didn’t have to build the factory shells, then we could double it again.’ That’s where the 20,000 jobs figure came from.”
In the end, the land was provided free of charge by the Haitian government (evicting some 350 farmers in the process), the IDB agreed to provide $100 million to finance the building, while the U.S. would contribute $124 million for a power plant, housing and a port. Sae-A, which reported $1.1 billion in export business last year, only needs to invest $39.2 million. The $124 million provided by the U.S. is over a quarter of the money the U.S. earmarked for reconstruction.
Last week, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) announced a drop in Haiti’s internally displaced persons (IDP) population to below 400,000. AP reports:
The reduction in the camp population is attributed to a combination of forced removals, rental subsidies and voluntary departures, but it is not clear where the bulk of the people have gone or if their living arrangements are better than the camp conditions.
While previous reports of IDP population decreases were held up uncritically as signs of progress, this time IOM spokesperson Leonard Doyle provided a more nuanced response. While the government-backed relocation efforts have only reached a small portion of the IDP population, Doyle notes that “As for the rest we don't know [where they ended up],” adding, “[a] lot of these people we know have pitched tents on the side of the mountains.” Indeed, a simple look at the available numbers suggests that many of those that have left the IDP camps monitored by the IOM have not found adequate shelter.
The IOM touts a 75 percent reduction in the camp population since July 2010, amounting to a decrease of over 1.1 million people. Yet as of April 2012, only 12,000 rental subsidies were given out, 13,000 houses were repaired and just fewer than 5,000 new homes were constructed. In total, these three solutions account for only about 12 percent of the reduction in IDP population. Additionally, about 108,000 transitional shelters have been built, which would account for an additional 42 percent. However this likely overstates the effects of the transitional shelter, as it is estimated that only about 40 percent of transitional shelters actually went to IDPs.
Figure I compares the number of households exiting the camps with the number of new housing solutions completed. As can be seen, the majority of the IDP population decrease occurred when shelter implementation was far too low to absorb all the people exiting the camps. This backs up previous studies which have shown that forced evictions and declining services were the primary drivers of the reduction in IDP population.
Graph: CEPR, Author's Calculation Source: E-Shelter and CCCM Cluster
On June 5, Ministers of Defense and Foreign Relations from South American countries met in Asunción, Paraguay to discuss the future of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti – or MINUSTAH. Ten of the twelve countries in the regional group known as UNASUR – the Union of South American Nations - contribute troops to MINUSTAH and make up nearly 50 percent of the entire force. As we have described in other posts, there has been quite a bit of debate regarding MINUSTAH in troop-contributing countries, especially Brazil, the largest contributor.
Since last summer, there has also been a wave of civil society opposition to the ongoing presence of foreign military troops in Haiti, as attested by separate letters addressed to Latin American presidents and the UN Secretary General and signed by prominent intellectuals and human rights defenders from throughout Latin America. This opposition has been bolstered by a string of recent sexual abuse cases, including more than one involving troops from UNASUR member country Uruguay, as well as the overwhelming evidence suggesting that MINUSTAH bears responsibility for introducing cholera into Haiti.
As the Telesur correspondent in Paraguay, Amanda Huerta explained, there were two competing positions among UNASUR countries: those that favored a rapid reduction of troops and a shift in focus to reconstruction and humanitarian activities and those who favored maintaining current troop levels until 2014. The final declaration on MINUSTAH noted the need to develop a policy of sustained cooperation which “respects the sovereignty and the self-determination of the Haitian people”. Further, ministers agreed to form a working group “for the purposes of elaborating a scheme on the strategy, form, conditions, stages, and timeline of a Plan of Reduction of Contingents of the Military Component of the Mission.” Given the large role South American countries play in MINUSTAH (an importance clearly recognized by the United States), any decision made on reducing troops would have a tremendous impact on MINUSTAH’s future in Haiti.
A piece yesterday on the Christian Science Monitor's website, written by investigative journalist Kathie Klarreich, discusses the increasing unpopularity of UN troops in Haiti in the wake of multiple sexual abuse incidents and the introduction of cholera in late 2010. As the article explains, the negative feelings that these scandals have stirred up among Haitians are compounded by the general lack of accountability of foreign soldiers and police personnel that are part of the UN Stabilization Mission for Haiti, or MINUSTAH.
The Monitor highlights two recent sexual abuse cases involving MINUSTAH personnel, both of which we’ve documented on the Haiti Relief and Reconstruction Watch blog: the rape of an 18 year-old boy by Uruguayan soldiers in Port Salud last year and the rape of a fourteen year-old boy by Pakistani police officers. In both these cases, after the scandals became public, the alleged rapists have faced judicial pursuits in their countries of origin, though the Pakistani officers only received a one-year sentence, and the trial of the Uruguayan soldiers has moved forward at a snail’s pace.
But there’s no indication that other abuse incidents involving MINUSTAH have resulted in judicial pursuits of any kind. The Monitor mentions the case of “more than 100 Sri Lankan troops expelled in 2007 on suspicion of sexual exploitation of Haitian women and girls.” But, writes Klarreich:
“no information about what happened to those Sri Lankan peacekeepers was ever made public by either the UN or Sri Lanka. Member states are not required to divulge the outcome of their internal inquiries.”
In a report that focuses on the case of the Port Salut rape case, Haiti’s National Human Rights Defense Network, lists a number of other cases of human rights abuses allegedly committed by MINUSTAH agents since 2005 that – as far as we know – haven’t been properly investigated or prosecuted.
The Miami Herald’s Jacqueline Charles reports on the planned Caracol Industrial Park in Haiti today, noting that while the project’s funders tout it as “the most visible symbol of post-quake progress”, it remains a source of controversy. Charles writes:
Desperate for any good news after the devastating January 2010 earthquake, the Haitian government signed off on the 600-acre industrial park in this remote rural village without preparing for how the region should eventually look — or absorb the promised jobs. Only now is a zoning plan being developed, but residents and Haiti watchers wonder if it’s coming too late.
Their anxiety is fueled by Haiti’s historically weak institutions and the rush by the international community and Haiti’s leaders to show progress. It is also a reflection of the challenges of working in Haiti where there is continuous friction between need-to-spend foreign aid agencies, which are often perceived as arrogant, and a weak central government.
As a result, Haiti analysts say, projects are often haphazardly started with too little preliminary planning, lopsided consultation and inadequate environmental impact studies.
“The international community has been under immense pressure to show movement and this is the closest they’ve come to have something significantly positive to say about Haiti, investments and jobs,” said Carlo Dade, a senior fellow at the University of Ottawa’s School of International Development and Global Studies. “But on the other hand, this is really one case where there is no excuse for not getting it done right.”
A major issue is what the effect will be of an estimated influx of 300,000 people into the area, where town populations range from 1,500 to 25,000. Charles reports:
“When you look at the social problems that Cité Soleil poses today, you have to ask, did it have to be that way?” said Michèle Oriol, executive secretary of Haiti’s Inter-ministerial Commission on Territorial Planning, which has objected to the park’s location, and that of a U.S.-financed housing development just off the main commercial corridor.
Alex Dupuy, Haiti-born sociology professor at Wesleyan University, comments:
“It’s about tapping a source of cheap labor…They did the same thing in Port-au-Prince, which had people leaving the countryside because of the free-trade policies that have devastated the Haitian agriculture sector. So the fear that the region will be flooded is very real.”
Dupuy adds that the push to support the garment manufacturing industry “has absolutely nothing to do with creating a sustainable growth economy in Haiti.”
As previously mentioned, a release from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) this week makes an important call for renewed efforts to combat cholera as infections rise with the rainy season. But further on, the release states that “[OCHA’s Director of Operations John] Ging also visited the Champs de Mars camp for internally displaced people (IDPs), where the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is supporting voluntary return of IDPs.”
But the movement of IDPs out of such camps is often not “voluntary.” This has been the case in Champs de Mars as in many other IDP camps. Stuart Neatby wrote in an article for Canada’s Embassy magazine last month:
Port-au-Prince's Champ de Mars camp, the most visible of the hundreds of remaining camps of Haitians rendered homeless by the 2010 earthquake, saw its first set of forced evictions on April 4.
The tent camp in Haiti's capital city fills the central plaza across the street from the collapsed National Palace, a key government building that used to house the office of Haiti's president.
About 21 camp residents, including [Narcysse] Lud, woke up on March 29 to find their names on a notice warning that their makeshift shelters would be torn down. They were told they had three days to pick up all of their belongings and clear out of the camp.
The International Organization for Migration, which had maintained a census of camp residents, claimed that those to be evicted had not been within the camp during the last head count. As a result, the IOM said, the residents had no claim to stay in Champ de Mars, and the eviction was legal.
Days later, residents could only watch as local municipal workers dismantled and carted away the bits of tarp, plywood, and corrugated sheet metal that had served as their homes. Haitian National Police members, UN soldiers, and UN police officials oversaw the evictions.
While most major U.S. media attention focuses elsewhere, NGO’s and UN agencies are sounding alarm bells about rising rates of cholera infection. A release today from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) states
Grave concerns were expressed by aid workers that this year’s epidemic, which has already affected 13,000 people, 132 of whom have died, may escalate. Detection and response capacity are significantly reduced this year due to cuts in aid budgets. The OCHA Director stressed the urgency for new and more sustainable approaches by aid agencies and local authorities, and more commitment by donors. “It is unacceptable that lives are being lost to cholera because last year’s capacity building in the areas of prevention and response were lost due to a lack of funding,” [OCHA’s Director of Operations John] Ging said.
An Inter Press Service article last week, titled “Funding Dries Up Even as Rains Worsen Cholera Deaths” begins
As predicted, the beginning of the rainy season in Haiti brought exponential increases in the numbers of people sickened and killed by cholera.
While the number of new cases in December was about 300 per day nationwide, this week one centre in the capital alone reported receiving 95 cases per day. And the numbers are expected to increase.
"Between the first week of April and the last week of April, the number of new patients increased by three-fold" in the capital, Gaëtan Drossart, head of mission for Doctors Without Borders or Medecins san frontières (MSF), told IPS on May 16. "In April alone, we saw over 1,600 patients at the four cholera centres MSF supports in Port-au- Prince."
Doctors Without Borders (MSF) warned on Wednesday that not enough has been done to prepare for the rainy season and the corresponding surge in cholera that is expected. The international humanitarian organization stated:
While Haiti’s Ministry of Health and Populations claims to be in control of the situation, health facilities in many regions of the country remain incapable of responding to the seasonal fluctuations of the cholera epidemic. The surveillance system, which is supposed to monitor the situation and raise the alarm, is still dysfunctional, MSF said. The number of people treated by MSF alone in the capital, Port-au-Prince, has quadrupled in less than a month, reaching 1,600 cases in April.
Data from the Ministry of Health (MSPP) backs up this increase noted by MSF. While the average daily case load reported by the MSPP was around 50 throughout March and early April, in the last two weeks of reporting (April 10-23) the average number of daily cases has increased to over 150. MSPP reports that 25 people have died due to cholera through in the first 23 days of April. While these numbers are still lower than last year, they point to an increasing caseload as the rainy season begins. Last year, just as cases were spiking, many NGOs were winding down their operations as donors pulled funding. MSF notes that the same phenomenon may be occurring this year as well:
“Too little has been done in terms of prevention to think that cholera would not surge again in 2012,” said Gaëtan Drossart, MSF head of mission in Haiti. “It is concerning that the health authorities are not better prepared and that they cling to reassuring messages that bear no resemblance to reality. There are many meetings going on between the government, the United Nations and their humanitarian partners, but there are few concrete solutions,” he said.
An MSF study in the Artibonite region, where approximately 20 percent of cholera cases have been reported, has revealed a clear reduction of cholera prevention measures since 2011. More than half of the organizations working in the region last year are now gone. Additionally, health centers are short of drugs and some staff have not been paid since January.
“Rain is just one of the risk factors for contamination. But as soon as the rains end, cholera subsides, and funding stops until the next rainy season, instead of money being channeled towards cholera prevention activities. As a consequence, people are still highly vulnerable when cholera comes back,” said Maya Allan, MSF epidemiologist.
An article by Tate Watkins in The American Interest attempts to explain some of the reasons why, as the title puts it, Haiti’s rebuilding “is…taking so long?”
Among the factors Watkins details are the often quick staff turn-overs at NGO’s and agencies, the differing priorities of foreign NGO’s and agencies versus those of Haitian organizations and the Haitian government, the disproportionately tiny number of contracts going to Haitian contractors, and bureaucratic hurdles. Watkins also focuses on what he sees as another key factor, and one that is less-often mentioned in the media (and which indeed may be much less-often noticed by foreign journalists): foreign aid workers and contractors’ disconnect from the local people where they work.
Many foreign organizations prohibit staff from traveling through certain areas of Port-au-Prince, or they’re forbidden to visit without an SUV with locked doors and windows, a local driver, and a security detail. Private security companies and insurance policies often dictate such travel guidelines. Offices and housing for foreign NGOs and aid agencies working in Haiti are concentrated in Pétion-Ville, an affluent section of the capital home to classy hotels and vibrant restaurants. But the concentration of expats also presents a cluster of targets for crime; the relatively upscale area can be just as dangerous as many other parts of the city. In March 2010, for example, two Swiss employees of the NGO Doctors Without Borders were kidnapped in Pétion-Ville after a night on the town and held for one week. The organization would not disclose whether it paid a ransom for their release.
[Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods co-founder Sasha] Kramer says many of the security measures that foreign organizations take actually increase risks for aid workers, because the restrictions hinder international staff’s ability to forge relationships with locals and build community ties—further hampering their ability to work effectively and efficiently.
She describes it from locals’ point of view: “You come into my neighborhood and you’re already afraid of me? Well, that’s offensive. So I think it engenders a feeling immediately of sort of defensiveness in communities, understandably.” And aid projects suffer as well. She says that she’s sensed tremendous frustration among international employees working with large NGOs who feel disconnected from the people they’re here trying to help.
CEPR Researcher Jake Johnston wrote in the Caribbean Journal yesterday:
In the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti, donors pledged billions of dollars for reconstruction efforts. With those dollars was a commitment to “build back better”; this time was supposed to be different from previous big aid campaigns. But so far less than half of donor pledges have been disbursed, and it has become clear that “building back better” remains nothing more than a slogan. While there clearly have been successes in Haiti since the earthquake and the hard work of thousands of aid workers shouldn’t be discounted, nearly half-a-million remain homeless and hundreds of thousands more are living in desperate conditions. With a visible lack of results and little hard data with which to assess progress, one question naturally arises: “where did the money go?” At the Center for Economic and Policy Research and together with many other organizations, we’ve been trying to track where exactly the money that did get spent, went. It hasn’t been easy.Read the rest here.
To be sure, aid projects shouldn’t be judged solely on what percent of an aid budget went to overhead, or how much went to American consultants or was spent on American products as opposed to Haitian consultants and products. Ideally, the effectiveness of projects should be based on their outcomes, not just on the breakdown of how funds are spent. But measuring outcomes often isn’t feasible. A nominally independent review of the U.S. government’s response in Haiti attempted to measure the quality and impact of aid, but “a disquieting lack of data on baselines against which to measure progress or even impact” prevented them from doing so.
As taxpayers, we have the right to know how our tax dollars are being used and if they are used effectively. Specifically, this means looking at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which has spent well over a billion dollars in Haiti since 2010. To their credit, it’s not difficult to obtain the first level of transparency: to which organizations USAID gave funds. USAID factsheets reveal that close to 100 percent of humanitarian funds for Haiti were channeled through NGOs, U.N. agencies or right back to other U.S. government agencies. Included in this billion-plus dollars hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts which have gone overwhelmingly to “beltway bandits” -- firms located in D.C., Maryland or Virginia. Only 0.02% by our latest tally has gone to Haitian firms.
But this isn’t the end of the line when it comes to transparency. Once funds are given to an organization, what are they spent on? What were they meant to achieve? How much goes back to the U.S. and how much goes to local firms? In a meeting last October in Port-au-Prince a USAID official defended the awarding of contracts to so-called “beltway bandits”, telling me that while certainly some money goes off the top for their profits, much gets spent in country or is given to local subcontractors. It was a back-of-the-envelope calculation, but he estimated that each international worker sent to Haiti could cost up to $250,000 a year. The important part, he stressed, was that this money would be spent in Haiti on electricity, security, housing, etc. “He has to live here, eat here, dance here, whatever,” the official reasoned.
Yesterday, Vijaya Ramachandran and Julie Walz of the Center for Global Development provided a nice overview of the U.S government’s review of its Haiti earthquake response. Ramachandran and Walz found that while the review includes “some frank and enlightening assessments of USG [U.S. government] response and coordination” it contained “very little discussion of aid accountability.”
As Ramachandran and Walz point out, the authors of the review couldn’t determine the effectiveness or impact of aid because of a “disquieting lack of data.” Part of the problem seems to stem from how data collection and management is viewed by aid workers and USG employees, who made up the vast majority of sources for the review. The report states:
During the Haiti response, limitations related to information management followed two major lines. First, there were limited data available for tactical and operational decisions; and second, there were overwhelming requests for data and information from policy leaders in Washington that made systematic data collection more difficult. These demands were often driven by reports in the media.
Thankfully, the authors note that at least “some” of those they interviewed understood that the former led to the latter: limited availability of data was what generated the “overwhelming” number of requests. Others told the authors that requests for information “detracted from the on-ground response” as they were forced to “’chase down’ facts.”
Of course, data is important to the on-the-ground response as well, as the report points out:
Data collection, through surveys and assessments, is an essential component for managing a disaster response. Surveys and assessments are used to identify the needs of the affected population to direct the response. Ideally, these types of data can be used to measure the overall impact of the humanitarian response.
This guest post is cross-posted from the Center for Global Development.
By Vijaya Ramachandran and Julie Walz
Last week, USAID finally published an evaluation report on its activities in Haiti: “Independent Review of the U.S. Government Response to the Haiti Earthquake”. The report is dated March 28, 2011. Yes, 2011. It took over a year to post the document on the USAID website. The review was conducted by MacFadden and Associates – which operates an $80M Indefinite Quantity Contract from USAID. There are some frank and enlightening assessments of USG response and coordination, but very little discussion of aid accountability.
Here are some impressions of the report:
Let’s start with the good.
Strengthen USAID. The report very clearly calls for a strengthening USAID: improved institutional structures, more staff and capacity, investments in new technology, and a reduction in reliance on outside contractors. It is a call that has been made many times before, as USAID has evolved from a development implementer into an organization that manages contractors and grantees. For example, USAID’s direct-hire workforce has decreased from around 8600 in 1962 to 2900 in 2009, despite an increase in foreign assistance. The report says that USAID’s weaknesses were especially apparent because the President appointed USAID as the lead agency in the USG Haiti response.
Nix the “whole of government” approach in disaster response. The report recommends that a “whole of government” approach should not be used in future international disaster response. It is a concern that our colleague Todd Moss has previously discussed. Although the idea of having all federal agencies at the table seems logical, it also creates parallel chains of command and further constrains the USG’s ability to get things done. This is especially true in a disaster situation where rapid response is needed. After the quake, more than 12 federal agencies sent staff to Haiti. This created problems in terms of clear lines of authority, with specific reporting structures and delineated functions between agencies.
The Office of the Special Envoy for Haiti released updated data this week on public sector donor disbursements since the earthquake in Haiti. The Special Envoy has been instrumental in holding donors accountable for pledges they made at the March 2010 New York donor’s conference. For the period 2010-2012, 55 public sector donors pledged $5.48 billion dollars with $2.48 billion, or 45.3 percent being disbursed so far. This represents an increase of $96 million since the last update in December 2011, the smallest such increase since the Special Envoy has been tracking donor disbursements.
Overall, the $2.48 billion has been disbursed through four main channels:
- $1.65 billion (66.6 percent) in grants to multilateral agencies, NGOs and private contractors
- $337.2 million (13.6 percent) in budget support to the Government of Haiti
- $295.6 million (11.9 percent) to the World Bank, IDB and UN through the Haiti Reconstruction Fund (HRF)
- $196.9 million (7.9 percent) in loans to the Government of Haiti
The vast majority of these funds were disbursed in 2010. According to the Special Envoy (PDF), $1.61 billion was disbursed in 2010, $843.1 million in 2011 and just $27.8 million thus far in 2012. An important qualifier is that disbursed does not mean spent. For example, of the $295.6 million that has gone to the HRF, only $55.7 million has been spent on the ground.
As can be seen in Figure 1, many of the top donors have failed to live up to their pledges (PDF).
"The cooperation with Venezuela is the most important in Haiti right now in terms of impact, direct impact," President Martelly told the Associated Press in December. The most important channel for this cooperation is the PetroCaribe agreement, which most Caribbean countries are currently a part of and which the government of René Préval joined in 2006. Through the agreement Venezuela finances part of Haiti’s fuel import bill, allowing for a portion to be paid up front and the remainder to be used as a loan with a long maturity and low rates. The funds made available through PetroCaribe are, as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) explains, “under the control of the central government”. This makes PetroCaribe assistance drastically different from aid provided by traditional donors, which by and large bypasses the government. In fact, traditional budget support to the Haitian state was lower last year than the year before the earthquake.
Over the duration of the agreement, which began in 2008, Venezuela has provided nearly $1.9 billion (PDF) in petroleum products, with over $800 million being paid up front. Following the earthquake, Venezuela cancelled some $400 million of PetroCaribe debt, yet with large disbursements since the earthquake Haiti still owes some $580 million. While significant resources have already been spent, Haiti maintains a balance of $350 million in PetroCaribe funds.
The government of Haiti has predictably turned to one of its only pools of un-restricted funds to finance reconstruction and development programs. The IMF notes that the GOH has “committed to only use PetroCaribe resources to finance growth-enhancing investment projects.” The spending with PetroCaribe funds represents a significant portion of capital spending undertaken by the central government. In the latest IMF review of Haiti’s economy, the IMF estimates that PetroCaribe funds will account for nearly half of domestically-financed capital spending in 2012, amounting to 4.7 percent of GDP. While foreign financed capital spending still overshadows this (it is projected to be 14.9 percent of GDP in 2012), the PetroCaribe funds are unique in that they are directly under the control of the government.
The reconstruction projects financed with PetroCaribe funds have come under scrutiny recently as allegations emerged that Martelly received some $2.5 million in kickbacks related to contracts awarded by the Haitian government. Yet it is also true that the PetroCaribe funds represent some of the largest infrastructure related investments in Haiti since the earthquake. Overall, $380 million has been awarded to firms for infrastructure-related work (PDF) and the most recent data shows that over 73 percent has already been spent. For comparison, the Government Accountability Office found in November that of $412 million in infrastructure projects approved by USAID, only 0.8 percent had been disbursed. It is no wonder then that Martelly told the AP that Venezuela aid stacked up favorably with US assistance, which often takes more time:
"Sometimes for a simple project, it might take too long for the project to happen," he said. "If you're asking me which one flows better, which one is easier, I'll tell you Venezuela."
Amazingly, despite the clear benefits of the PetroCaribe agreement for Haiti, a steady supply of oil, concessional financing, unrestricted funds, it almost never happened.
The Haiti Reconstruction Fund (HRF) was a center piece of the international community’s pledge to “build back better”, yet its latest financial report reveals that despite receiving a significant share of donor disbursements, very little has thus far been spent on the ground. Additionally, without the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC), unallocated resources from the HRF remain unutilized, collecting interest in bank accounts.
The HRF, established in March 2010, aims to coordinate and fund priority projects for Haiti’s reconstruction. The Fund has received 18 percent of all donor disbursements as of December 2011 and describes itself as the “largest source of unprogrammed funding for the reconstruction of Haiti”. The HRF allocates funding to projects that have been approved by the now defunct IHRC.
According to its February 2012 financial report, the HRF has received $377 million from donors, allocating $274 million (73 percent) to 16 projects. When the HRF allocates money for a project, the funds are transferred to a “partner entity”; either the UN, World Bank or Inter-American Development Bank, which then carries out the project. The financial report shows that while the Fund has transferred a large amount of resources, the partner entities have disbursed very little of it on the ground.
Following a request from HRRW, USAID yesterday released information on the amount of relief and reconstruction funds that have gone to local partners in Haiti. The info, available here, is a positive step towards transparency and provides the only official information on the level of local contracting by USAID in Haiti. As can be seen in figure 1, about $9.5 million has gone to local organizations and firms since the earthquake. An additional $18.3 million has been awarded to Haitian-American firms, according to USAID data.
Although ascertaining the total spending by USAID in Haiti since the earthquake is not an easy feat, the $9.5 million that has gone to local firms represents a small fraction of total spending by USAID. In fiscal years 2010 and 2011, USAID reported spending over $700 million on humanitarian programs (not counting funding through USAID/OTI, which is included in Figure II). Additionally, the most recent data compiled by HRRW reveals nearly $400 million in contracts that have been awarded since the earthquake. As can be seen in figure II, only 0.02 percent of these contracts have gone directly to local firms, while over 75 percent have gone to firms located in the Beltway (DC, Maryland, Virginia). The largest of these beltway contractors is Chemonics International, which has received $173.7 million from USAID since the earthquake. The company came under criticism in recent weeks regarding the temporary parliament building that was constructed under a Chemonics contract. Haitian lawmakers told GlobalPost that the building was nothing more than a “shell”, and that it would cost the government as much to finish it as USAID had spent on building it. The building remains vacant four months after it was inaugurated by USAID and Haitian officials.