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.
The rainy season is returning to Haiti, and so is an expected increase in cholera infections. There have been as many deaths – 13 – in the last eight reported days as there were in all of January or February this year. Yet red tape and funding shortfalls are hampering prevention and treatment efforts.
NPR health correspondent Richard Knox presented a lengthy report yesterday on a cholera vaccination program that has yet to be implemented, despite consensus from the Haitian government, the World Health Organization, the Pan American Health Organization, and the CDC that it could be effective. The program, which will provide vaccines to some 100,000 people, is now awaiting the conclusions of a national ethics committee, “which wants assurance that the vaccine is no longer considered experimental.” The organizations administering the program, Partners in Health and GHESKIO, had hoped to get it underway in January.
Meanwhile, the spring rains are beginning. Cholera cases are starting to climb, because the floods spread the cholera bacterium around.
"We know it's going to rain, we know it's going to flood," says Dr. Vanessa Rouzier, "so we are afraid we are wasting precious time."
Rouzier works with GHESKIO, a Haitian medical group that is organizing the vaccination project in Port-au-Prince, Haiti's capital. The rural arm is sponsored by Partners in Health in the Artibonite River valley, where cholera first appeared.
The two groups have been planning the demonstration project for more than a year.
A new report by AP investigative reporter Martha Mendoza and Haiti correspondent Trenton Daniel sheds light on the Red Cross' plans to possibly build a hotel on the 10 acres of land near the Toussaint L’Ouverture airport that it uses for its base camp.
The article reports:
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is considering building a hotel and conference center in Haiti on part of a $10.5 million property that it bought after the 2010 earthquake.
The hope is that profits could sustain the work of Haiti's local Red Cross in the coming years, the head of the international group's Haitian delegation said Monday.
The 10-acre compound, known as the "Hilton Property," was purchased from Comme Il Faut, Haiti's local cigarette company, in the months after the quake, Eduard Tschan told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.
The charity paid in a single payment, using funds donated by national Red Cross agencies for quake recovery. At the time, Haiti's recovery was the largest operation in the organization's history, with 3,000 people working here.
Now that its work is winding down, the international Red Cross is putting together an exit strategy and as part of that process is trying to figure out what to do with this property.
In early March, social scientists Athena Kolbe and Robert Muggah released a study, backed by Canada’s International Development Research Centre and the Igarapé Institute of Brazil, showing increasing crime rates in the capital of Port-au-Prince. Based on household surveys, the authors found that “[f]or the first time since 2007, the incidence of violent crime and victimization has shown a consistent increase”. While the homicide rate in Haiti’s capital is lower than in many other Caribbean cities, the authors note the current rate in Haiti makes it one of the highest recorded rates since the post-coup period of 2004. At the same time, the authors found a reversal in citizens’ support for the Haitian National Police.
In an interview with HRRW, Kolbe, a clinical social worker affiliated with the University of Michigan, explains the social context of the current study and explores some of the causes and implications of the results. Kolbe finds that most of the victims of violence and criminal activities were residents of low-income neighborhoods where the population has experienced “social and political marginalization.” The ending of aid programs has also had a “profound impact on the people who need the services the most.” Kolbe notes that the bypassing of the Haitian government by NGOs and donor governments has created a situation where these entities and not the Haitian state “provide basic social and municipal services.” With a government that cannot guarantee its citizens access to services, Kolbe notes that “simply increasing the number of police on the street isn’t going to solve Haiti’s crime problem.” What is needed is to “focus efforts on improving the conditions in society that create the climate where crime is a viable option.”
Read more for the full interview:
Jacob Kushner and Jean Pharés Jérôme of Global Post report today on the high-profile USAID project to build a temporary building for Haiti’s parliament. Although the $1.9 million building was “inaugurated” in November 2011, Kushner and Jérôme report that:
But more than four months later, that location remains vacant. The building is scattered with woodwork trimmings and debris from a costly ongoing renovation paid for by the Haitian treasury because legislators say the United States never finished the job. And critics in Haiti charge that the unfinished work and empty building stand as a powerful metaphor for much of what is wrong with USAID’s approach to development in Haiti: that it lacks coordination with and input from the Haitians themselves about how best to undertake reconstruction projects.
The building remains nothing more than a “shell” and the Haitian government has already spent $770,000 in renovations and will have to spend much more before it is actually usable. Cholzer Chancy of Haiti’s Chamber of Deputies told Global Post, “It may cost more for us to renovate it than for them to build it in the first place.”
U.S. Embassy spokesman Jon Piechowski defended the project, saying:
“We explained to them what could be done, we consulted with them on that, and they approved the project,” he said. “We answer to the American people and we need to be good stewards of their tax money, and I think we’ve done that in this case.”
The authors continue:
But to the half a million Haitians who remain displaced to tents and shacks since the earthquake, the $2 million US aid dollars spent on an empty building and the hundreds of thousands more taken from the Haitian Treasury to renovate it seem inexcusable.
“All the time, I hear on the radio that American money is going here or there,” said Acelus Saint Louis, a 45-year-old who lives in a tent with his wife and two children. “But I don’t see it. This could lift us up, but instead it’s just wasted.”
By Mark Snyder and Ellie Happel
At two in the morning on Monday March 12th, 2012, the tents of Camp Lycèe Toussaint in downtown Port-au-Prince became engulfed in flames. Within an hour, 96 of the approximately 120 emergency shelters, home to some of Haiti’s internally displaced, burned to the ground. Although most of the camp residents escaped without serious injury, the families lost the few belongings they had accumulated in the two years and two months since the earthquake. Camp residents reported that they did not have water to extinguish the fire. For months, five Red Cross water tanks have sat empty at the entrance to the camp.
The cause of the fire remains unknown. Neither the Government of Haiti nor the International Organization for Migration (IOM), responsible for camp management, has released an official statement about the fire.
Community members reported that a twelve-year old boy died in the fire. His brother died in the hospital. Their mother remains in critical condition. Many people in the camp reported suffering burns.
By Monday afternoon, camp residents reported that they had yet to receive a visit from a local or national government representative. Residents said that IOM staff came to the camp for "only some minutes" and added that they "told us nothing."
Community organizers arrived at the site to remind the victims of the fire that they were not helpless: the Haitian Constitution and international conventions grant specific rights to the internally displaced and place a duty on the government to respect and fulfill these rights. As the organizers spoke, a small group of residents grew larger and the conversation became more animated. Residents decided to hold a spontaneous protest to call attention to their situation. Within a half hour, the residents found a bullhorn and a driver willing to use his minibus and charred shelter to block the road. They rallied their displaced neighbors to block the side street that borders the camp.
When the protestors lit a tire in the road, the Haitian National Police (PNH) arrived within minutes. They extinguished the low flame and aggressively broke up the protest. On two occasions officers leveled their assault rifles and shotguns on the crowd, forcing them to disperse. One of these incidences was recorded on video, just after the PNH officer rushed into the camp with his weapon drawn and chased a young boy who yelled of the injustice of the situation. The boy ran from the officer and disappeared through an opening in an earthquake-damaged building. Additional armed officers arrived and charged into the crowd with assault rifles, shotguns, and a teargas gun.
Camp residents commented that their entire camp can burn along with their children, and the Haitian Government does nothing. But when residents burn a tire in the street, the police respond.
The UN announced today that three Pakistani officers were found guilty of sexual exploitation and abuse. Although the UN did not discuss many specifics, Reuters reported earlier that two members of the UN stabilization mission (MINUSTAH) had “been sentenced to a year in prison for raping a 14-year-old Haitian boy.” Reuters also notes that:
It was the first time that members of the U.N. military on deployment in Haiti have been tried and sentenced within its borders.
The Haitian government had previously requested the lifting of immunity for the Pakistani officers and the Senate passed a resolution requesting they be tried in Haitian courts. Yet, while the trial was held in Haiti, it was a “military justice procedure…undertaken in accordance with the national laws of Pakistan.” Those found guilty will serve their sentence in Pakistan. As Reuters reports, “Haitian government authorities were given no advance notice of the military tribunal.” Had the Pakistani police officers been tried in a Haitian court they likely would have faced much harsher penalties. Haiti’s Justice Minister, Michel Brunache told Reuters it was a “small” step, adding:
"We expected more from the U.N. and the Pakistani government, but now we want to focus on the proper reparation that the victim deserves."
The case is but the latest in a long string of sexual abuse cases involving MINUSTAH personnel. In 2007 over 100 Sri Lankan MINUSTAH soldiers were repatriated (PDF) after allegations of “transactional sex with underage girls”. To this date no information on if they were ever prosecuted has been made public. More recently, five Uruguayan MINUSTAH troops were repatriated and jailed after a cell phone video showing them sexual assaulting a young Haitian man was reported by the press. The soldiers have since been released from jail and the trial has stalled.
This case, however, differs from the Sri Lanka and Uruguay cases in that the abuse involved members of a Formed Police Unit rather than military personnel. Of the 11,241 MINUSTAH personnel in Haiti, 3,542 are police. The UN announced the case in January, noting a significant difference from previous cases of sexual abuse my MINUSTAH troops:
However, unlike cases involving UN military contingent personnel, investigations into allegations involving UN police fall under the responsibility of the United Nations. For this reason, a team was dispatched to Haiti, on 21 January 2012, to investigate these allegations with the utmost determination
Despite the UN’s “zero tolerance” policy on sexual abuse, they have few means to actually ensure legal prosecution of troops as the responsibility for investigating and prosecuting abuses falls on the troop contributing country. In the case of Formed Police Units (PDF), the UN has the power to investigate, but “responsibility for disciplinary action in these units rests with the commanders of the national units, who must keep the Head of Mission fully informed in all disciplinary matters.” Although Pakistan was responsible for the disciplinary action, it is unclear if it was prompted by the UN investigation. It seems likely, however, that because the guilty officers were police rather than soldiers, the UN had a greater ability to influence the case and actually enforce their “zero tolerance” policy. Still, the circumstances in which the Pakistani officers’ abuses were investigated and prosecuted remain murky at best. The UN could take an important step toward fostering an environment of transparency and accountability by releasing their internal investigation into the rape committed by the Pakistani police officers, and clarifying their role in the prosecution.
To mark International Women’s Day, HRRW is highlighting recent research concerning issues relating to women’s rights in Haiti.
Gender Action released a report this week analyzing the extent to which the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) address gender-based violence (GBV) in their post-earthquake loans. Gender Action applies their Essential Gender Analysis Checklist to five different projects implemented by the two international financial institutions. The report finds that:
[N]either the World Bank nor the IDB adequately address GBV within other critical post-earthquake investments. Sadly, this lack of attention to GBV is hardly surprising: according to Interaction, an alliance of international non-governmental organizations, “the humanitarian community continues to see women’s protection as a second-tier concern in crises, particularly natural disasters, and is slow to address GBV at the onset of an emergency” (Interaction, 2010). This case study underscores the urgent need for the World Bank and IDB to strengthen their own gender policies and explicitly address GBV across all sectors.
The report does salute the World Bank for a recent grant to combat GBV in Haiti, which was the result of advocacy efforts on the part of Gender Action and other groups.
To mark International Women’s Day, HRRW is highlighting recent research concerning issues relating to women’s rights in Haiti.
Recent research from the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice sheds light on factors contributing to an increase in sexual violence since the earthquake over two-years ago. The report, “Yon Je Louvri: Reducing Vulnerability to Sexual Violence in Haiti’s IDP Camps,” is based on surveys conducted in four IDP camps in January 2011 and additional follow up research throughout 2011. While the small sample size and logistical constraints prevent the research from being representative of the IDP population at large, it nonetheless provides an important analysis of the factors contributing to gender-based violence (GBV) and steps that can be taken to remedy the situation using a human rights based approach.
The report found that in the four camps visited, 14 percent of surveyed households reported that at least one member of the household had been a victim of sexual violence since the earthquake, while 70 percent of those surveyed were “more worried” about sexual violence after the earthquake. The report explains that because of underreporting this “is particularly striking because it likely captures a minimum level of sexual violence within the studied IDP camps.” Other studies have estimated significantly higher levels of sexual violence.
The vast majority of victims, 86 percent, were female. The study also found a significant correlation between a lack of services in IDP camps and the likelihood of being a victim of sexual violence. The report finds four significant factors other than gender:
• Suffer from limited access to food. Individuals who reported that they went at least one day without eating in the previous week were more than twice as likely to come from a victim household, as compared to those who did not report insufficient access to food;
• Confront limited access to water. The average victim household had less consistent access to drinking water than their non-victim counterparts. Four out of ten respondents from victim households did not obtain water from a free connection inside their camp during the previous week;
• Face limited access to sanitation. Participants who felt that the nearest latrine was “too far” from their shelter were twice as likely to live in a victim household, and among victim households, 29 percent indicated that they knew someone who was attacked while using the latrines;
• Live in a camp that lacks participatory and responsive governance structures. The survey found that camps with lower levels of consultation regarding camp management had a higher proportion of households reporting that one or more of their members had experienced sexual violence.
To mark International Women’s Day today, human rights groups and cholera victims are peacefully protesting “against the cholera and sexual violence that the UN and its peacekeeping mission, MINUSTAH, have inflicted on Haitians.” (You can follow updates from the march via the twitter feed of BAI, @BAIayiti as well Alexis Erkert of Other Worlds, @aerkert). In a statement released earlier this week to announce the march Rose Getchine Lima, the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) Women’s Network Coordinator stated:
Despite its ‘protection’ mandate, the UN’s militarization of Haiti has harmed women. MINUSTAH soldiers themselves have been guilty of sexual violence and the deadly cholera the UN brought to Haiti has destroyed families. Women, often the heads of their households, have been most vulnerable to these harms. They continue to suffer while the UN’s wrongs go unpunished.The UN security council met today to discuss the Secretary General’s bi-annual report on MINUSTAH and Haiti, with many members expressing the need for the UN to redouble their efforts to prevent future abuses and hold those responsible accountable. The representatives of Pakistan and Uruguay, whose troops have been implicated in abuses, both pledged thorough investigations. As of yet, however, no MINUSTAH troops have been held accountable for the myriad of crimes committed against Haitians. These issues are not new. In 2007 over 100 Sri Lankan MINUSTAH soldiers were repatriated after allegations of “transactional sex with underage girls”. To this date no information on if they were ever prosecuted has been made public.
The United Nations says it acts to ‘advance the status of women.’ Yet it won’t hold its personnel accountable for raping Haitian women, girls, and boys, or take responsibility for the cholera epidemic that has killed over 7,000 Haitians. The UN needs to act or the rapes and the cholera deaths will continue to decimate Haiti’s people
While the UN has long denied responsibility for introducing cholera to Haiti, the UN Special Envoy to Haiti Bill Clinton acknowledged today that a MINUSTAH soldier introduced the deadly bacteria that has killed over 7,000 and sickened more than half a million. The statement by Clinton is the first by a UN official to acknowledge UN responsibility.
Independent journalist Ansel Herz reported via Twitter this afternoon that at a press conference in Mirebalais, Haiti, Bill Clinton acknowledged “that a UN peacekeeping soldier brought cholera to Haiti by accident.” Herz has just posted the audio recording of Clinton’s comments, during which he responds to a question from Herz by stating:
I don’t know that the person who introduced cholera into Haiti, the UN peacekeeping soldier from South Asia was aware that he was carrying the virus. [Ed. Note: cholera is not a virus, but bacteria].
It was the proximate cause of cholera, that is, he was carrying the cholera strain; it came from his waste stream into the waterways of Haiti and into the bodies of Haitians.
Clinton goes on to repeat the line from the UN investigation, which shifts blame off the UN and onto Haiti for not having adequate water and sanitation infrastructure. Clinton states that, “what really caused it is that you don’t have a sanitation system, you don’t have a comprehensive water system…”
This explanation, however neglects to account for the fact that as the UN’s own investigation found, “sanitation conditions at the Mirebalais MINUSTAH camp were not sufficient to prevent fecal contamination of the Meye Tributary System of the Artibonite River.” Had the UN adequately disposed of their waste, the outbreak would never have begun. Additionally, the UN failed to screen troops prior to their deployment from a cholera endemic region.
Since the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) and Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) filed a claim on behalf of 5,000 cholera victims in November, the UN has not responded and repeatedly denied their responsibility. The statement today marks an important shift from these repeated denials.
This acknowledgement of responsibility comes on the heels of statements made by U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN Susan Rice, which IJDH and BAI applauded in a press release earlier this week:
With Bill Clinton’s comments today, perhaps the UN will finally begin taking responsibility for the deadly epidemic and heed calls for financial compensation to victims and investment in critical life-saving infrastructure.
In a statement to the United Nations (UN) Security Council last week, U.S. Permanent Representative Susan Rice stressed the importance of UN accountability for its role in bringing cholera to Haiti, calling on the UN to “redouble its efforts to prevent any further incidents of this kind and to ensure that those responsible are held accountable.”
For the previous five years an independent organization, DARA, has been publishing the Humanitarian Response Index (HRI). The DARA website explains the HRI as “the world’s only independent tool for measuring the individual performance and commitment of government donors to apply the principles of Good Humanitarian Donorship which they agreed to in 2003.” (To learn more about the HRI, see the DARA website).
Unlike other independent evaluations which have focused as much on NGO behavior as donors, the 2011 HRI Haiti report focuses almost exclusively on the donor side of the equation. The report finds a host of missed opportunities, skewed priorities, a lack of coordination and perhaps most importantly, a shortage of communication with both the Haitian government and Haitian people. The result, as the report concludes, is that:
The international community cannot claim that it has helped Haiti build back better, and missed an opportunity to redress years of neglect and inattention to the issue of building capacity, resilience and strengthening preparedness for future crises.
Coordination and Local Input
While the HRI report found that coordination among international actors was relatively good, this “came at the price of better engagement and ownership of local actors.” A problem that has been mentioned numerous times before was the holding of meetings at the UN Logistics base, which the report notes “excluded local NGOs: there was no mechanism by which the large number of Haitian NGOs could be identified or contacted, and their participation was physically limited by making their entry difficult to the logistics base and by convening cluster meetings in English.”
One interviewee told the report’s authors:
“Donors having meetings in a military base in a humanitarian crisis makes no sense and the fact that they still do it one year and a half later is even worse. It hampers participation. Haitians are totally excluded. Many people can’t enter because there are strict controls at the entrance. As Haitians it’s harder for them to get through.”
The report suggests that rather than housing UN operations on a military base, “UN agencies and clusters should have been physically based within government ministries, to expedite their re-building and support their efforts.”
Many organizations also criticized donors for being “inflexible in allowing Haitian NGOs to be subgrantees.” One exception to this was Spain, which required that NGOs partner with local organizations. Canada also set some money aside specifically to build capacity of local NGOs. The U.S. government on the other hand was “criticized…for being confusing, non-transparent and inward-looking, despite their large presence."
As an interviewee explained:
USAID has had a complete bunker mentality. It’s impossible to have any continuity in conversations with them. OFDA had platoons of consultants rotating in and out.