Haiti Relief & Reconstruction Watch

Haiti Relief & Reconstruction Watch

Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch is a blog that tracks multinational aid efforts in Haiti with an eye towards ensuring they are oriented towards the needs of the Haitian people, and that aid is not used to undermine Haitians' right to self-determination.

The Organization of American States (OAS) will send electoral monitors to Haiti despite the election having not been scheduled, reports AFP. According to Frederic Bolduc, the OAS Special Representative to Haiti, the observers “intend to arrive several months in advance to help authorities register voters and then count votes.” Bolduc pointed out that setting the date of the election was up to the Haitian government and that the “OAS will not decide on a date.”

Elections, which were supposed to be held in November 2011, have yet to be scheduled as conflicts between the president and parliament over the electoral law continue. The head of the U.N. mission in Haiti, Sandra Honoré, told the U.N. Security Council (PDF) in late August that the “delay in the holding of long-overdue partial senatorial, municipal and local elections is of increasing concern and poses a series of risks to the stabilization process.” If elections are not held by January 2014, the terms of many parliamentarians will end, potentially shutting down an entire branch of Haiti’s government and allowing President Martelly to rule by decree.

On a trip to Washington D.C. last week, Haitian Senator Steven Benoit put the blame for the electoral delays squarely on Martelly. Benoit noted that “after two years of hide and seek” with the electoral reforms, formation of the electoral council and submission of the electoral law, there will not be time to reach an agreement before the terms of parliamentarians come to an end. Noting that Martelly told a crowd the previous week that for the next two years he would “run Haiti as he saw fit,” Benoit warned that “having President Martelly run Haiti without a Congress and without holding elections” would ensure a return to “political instability and turmoil.”

As with previous elections, the international community is footing the bill. A United Nations Development Program (UNDP) project, funded by the U.S., Canada, Brazil, the E.U. and others has already disbursed over $401,000 and has estimated the cost of holding elections to be over $32 million. The UNDP project aims to “strengthen the technical and strategic capabilities” of the Haitian electoral council, but the council itself has come under increasing scrutiny. Last week Benoit accused Martelly of having “done all he could to have a hand-picked electoral council.” According to AFP, the involvement of the OAS “elicited numerous complaints by opposition parties, which feel Haiti should determine its own ability to hold elections.” The reaction of the opposition may be a result of the OAS’s role during Haiti’s last election.

The election in November 2010, which led to Martelly becoming president, was plagued by record-high abstention, wide-spread fraud and the exclusion of over a dozen political parties. On election day, 13 of 19 candidates called for the election to be cancelled. The only independent analysis of the voting records, performed by the Center for Economic and Policy Research determined that it was “impossible to determine who should advance to a second round” due to the high number of irregularities. While Martelly was originally found to have placed third, thus missing out on the second round, the U.S. and other foreign powers were quick to cast doubt on the results. According to multiple reports, the international community “threatened” the sitting president “with immediate exile” if he did not “bow to their interpretation of election results.” Eventually an OAS delegation was brought to Haiti and, despite not conducting a statistical analysis, recommended overturning the first round results, thus putting Martelly into the second round.

In response the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) issued a statement urging “the United States and the international community to uphold the ideals of fairness and support a new Haiti election process that is free and fair, respecting the rights of the Haitian people.” The CBC had warned before the first round that the holding of such unfair elections “will come back to haunt the international community later.”

Despite the warnings and calls for new elections, the OAS succeeded in overturning the first round elections, setting the stage for the Martelly presidency and, three years later, the political battle over another electoral process.

The Organization of American States (OAS) will send electoral monitors to Haiti despite the election having not been scheduled, reports AFP. According to Frederic Bolduc, the OAS Special Representative to Haiti, the observers “intend to arrive several months in advance to help authorities register voters and then count votes.” Bolduc pointed out that setting the date of the election was up to the Haitian government and that the “OAS will not decide on a date.”

Elections, which were supposed to be held in November 2011, have yet to be scheduled as conflicts between the president and parliament over the electoral law continue. The head of the U.N. mission in Haiti, Sandra Honoré, told the U.N. Security Council (PDF) in late August that the “delay in the holding of long-overdue partial senatorial, municipal and local elections is of increasing concern and poses a series of risks to the stabilization process.” If elections are not held by January 2014, the terms of many parliamentarians will end, potentially shutting down an entire branch of Haiti’s government and allowing President Martelly to rule by decree.

On a trip to Washington D.C. last week, Haitian Senator Steven Benoit put the blame for the electoral delays squarely on Martelly. Benoit noted that “after two years of hide and seek” with the electoral reforms, formation of the electoral council and submission of the electoral law, there will not be time to reach an agreement before the terms of parliamentarians come to an end. Noting that Martelly told a crowd the previous week that for the next two years he would “run Haiti as he saw fit,” Benoit warned that “having President Martelly run Haiti without a Congress and without holding elections” would ensure a return to “political instability and turmoil.”

As with previous elections, the international community is footing the bill. A United Nations Development Program (UNDP) project, funded by the U.S., Canada, Brazil, the E.U. and others has already disbursed over $401,000 and has estimated the cost of holding elections to be over $32 million. The UNDP project aims to “strengthen the technical and strategic capabilities” of the Haitian electoral council, but the council itself has come under increasing scrutiny. Last week Benoit accused Martelly of having “done all he could to have a hand-picked electoral council.” According to AFP, the involvement of the OAS “elicited numerous complaints by opposition parties, which feel Haiti should determine its own ability to hold elections.” The reaction of the opposition may be a result of the OAS’s role during Haiti’s last election.

The election in November 2010, which led to Martelly becoming president, was plagued by record-high abstention, wide-spread fraud and the exclusion of over a dozen political parties. On election day, 13 of 19 candidates called for the election to be cancelled. The only independent analysis of the voting records, performed by the Center for Economic and Policy Research determined that it was “impossible to determine who should advance to a second round” due to the high number of irregularities. While Martelly was originally found to have placed third, thus missing out on the second round, the U.S. and other foreign powers were quick to cast doubt on the results. According to multiple reports, the international community “threatened” the sitting president “with immediate exile” if he did not “bow to their interpretation of election results.” Eventually an OAS delegation was brought to Haiti and, despite not conducting a statistical analysis, recommended overturning the first round results, thus putting Martelly into the second round.

In response the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) issued a statement urging “the United States and the international community to uphold the ideals of fairness and support a new Haiti election process that is free and fair, respecting the rights of the Haitian people.” The CBC had warned before the first round that the holding of such unfair elections “will come back to haunt the international community later.”

Despite the warnings and calls for new elections, the OAS succeeded in overturning the first round elections, setting the stage for the Martelly presidency and, three years later, the political battle over another electoral process.

The United Nations mission in Haiti, already facing a credibility crisis over its introduction of cholera, is facing new allegations that one of its troops raped an 18-year old woman this past weekend in the town of Leogane, according to police inspector Wilson Hippolite. In an e-mailed statement, the U.N. acknowledged that they “are aware of the allegations made against a military staff member” and noted that a “preliminary investigation has been launched to determine the facts of the case.”

According to Metropole Haiti, the alleged assault occurred off National Highway #2 on Saturday when the 18-year old woman was approached by a Sri Lankan U.N. military officer. A Justice of the Peace, conducting a preliminary investigation, visited the site of the alleged assault on Sunday and found a used condom. Further tests are being conducted, according to the report. The accused has been moved to a different MINUSTAH base in another part of the country as the investigation unfolds. As of July 30, Sri Lanka had over 860 troops stationed in Haiti, making it the third largest troop contributing country to the 9 year-old mission.

This is but the latest in a string of sexual abuse scandals that have plagued the U.N. mission in Haiti. And it’s not the first time Sri Lankan troops have been involved; in 2007 over 100 Sri Lankan members of MINUSTAH were repatriated after allegations of “transactional sex with underage girls.” In fact, according to the U.N. Conduct and Discipline Unit, there have been 78 allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation by members of MINUSTAH reported in just the last 7 years.

Responding to the latest allegation, the U.N. mission noted that “the UN has a zero tolerance policy regarding sexual exploitation and abuse that we, at MINUSTAH, strictly enforce.” However the U.N. lacks the authority to hold accountable those who are found responsible. Troops stationed in Haiti under the U.N. mission are subject only to the justice system of their home country. In 2011, four Uruguayan troops were repatriated after a video surfaced showing the sexual assault of a Haitian man. Though the case has dragged on in the Uruguayan legal system, this week they were sentenced to 2 years and 1 month in prison. However, as they served 3 months last year as the case progressed, they will not have to return to prison, according to local news reports.

In response to the ever-expanding list of sexual abuse allegations, MINUSTAH has stepped up its efforts to train police and military on sexual conduct. The latest report of the Secretary General for the U.N. Security Council states that 1,074 personnel were put through “training sessions” and that MINUSTAH leadership, “consistently delivered a strong message to all staff members to maintain the highest standards of conduct at all times.” But, without any real authority to punish those who violate the standards, the number of sexual abuse cases continues to rise. Through the first 8 months of 2013, there had already been 13 allegations. The latest makes 14. While MINUSTAH makes up less than 10 percent of U.N. peacekeeping forces worldwide, the mission has accounted for over 35 percent of all sexual abuse and exploitation allegations against all such U.N. forces in 2013.

The United Nations mission in Haiti, already facing a credibility crisis over its introduction of cholera, is facing new allegations that one of its troops raped an 18-year old woman this past weekend in the town of Leogane, according to police inspector Wilson Hippolite. In an e-mailed statement, the U.N. acknowledged that they “are aware of the allegations made against a military staff member” and noted that a “preliminary investigation has been launched to determine the facts of the case.”

According to Metropole Haiti, the alleged assault occurred off National Highway #2 on Saturday when the 18-year old woman was approached by a Sri Lankan U.N. military officer. A Justice of the Peace, conducting a preliminary investigation, visited the site of the alleged assault on Sunday and found a used condom. Further tests are being conducted, according to the report. The accused has been moved to a different MINUSTAH base in another part of the country as the investigation unfolds. As of July 30, Sri Lanka had over 860 troops stationed in Haiti, making it the third largest troop contributing country to the 9 year-old mission.

This is but the latest in a string of sexual abuse scandals that have plagued the U.N. mission in Haiti. And it’s not the first time Sri Lankan troops have been involved; in 2007 over 100 Sri Lankan members of MINUSTAH were repatriated after allegations of “transactional sex with underage girls.” In fact, according to the U.N. Conduct and Discipline Unit, there have been 78 allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation by members of MINUSTAH reported in just the last 7 years.

Responding to the latest allegation, the U.N. mission noted that “the UN has a zero tolerance policy regarding sexual exploitation and abuse that we, at MINUSTAH, strictly enforce.” However the U.N. lacks the authority to hold accountable those who are found responsible. Troops stationed in Haiti under the U.N. mission are subject only to the justice system of their home country. In 2011, four Uruguayan troops were repatriated after a video surfaced showing the sexual assault of a Haitian man. Though the case has dragged on in the Uruguayan legal system, this week they were sentenced to 2 years and 1 month in prison. However, as they served 3 months last year as the case progressed, they will not have to return to prison, according to local news reports.

In response to the ever-expanding list of sexual abuse allegations, MINUSTAH has stepped up its efforts to train police and military on sexual conduct. The latest report of the Secretary General for the U.N. Security Council states that 1,074 personnel were put through “training sessions” and that MINUSTAH leadership, “consistently delivered a strong message to all staff members to maintain the highest standards of conduct at all times.” But, without any real authority to punish those who violate the standards, the number of sexual abuse cases continues to rise. Through the first 8 months of 2013, there had already been 13 allegations. The latest makes 14. While MINUSTAH makes up less than 10 percent of U.N. peacekeeping forces worldwide, the mission has accounted for over 35 percent of all sexual abuse and exploitation allegations against all such U.N. forces in 2013.

Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, on a trip to Europe to ensure continued donor support, was asked by France 24’s Marc Perelman about the ongoing cholera epidemic and U.N. responsibility. Perelman notes that “all the scientific evidence up to date points to the U.N.” but questioned Lamothe as to why the Haitian government has “never pushed for a public apology.” Lamothe stressed that the government has tried to address the issue through “direct dialogue” with the U.N., but also noted that the U.N. has an obvious “moral responsibility” to address the epidemic.

The U.N., in addition to not issuing an apology, has never accepted responsibility for the deadly epidemic that has killed over 8,260 and sickened over 675,000 in the last three years. A U.N.-backed cholera elimination plan has been unable to raise the required funds to adequately address the issue, despite Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s assurance in late 2012 that he would “use every opportunity” to raise the necessary funds. A high-level donor meeting to raise funds for the plan, scheduled for early October in Washington, has now been postponed until 2014. It had been expected that Mr. Ban, as well as World Bank president Jim Yong Kim, would attend. The plan, which requires some $450 million over its first two years, remains less than half funded.

In the meantime, cholera continues to ravage the country as the response capabilities of national actors diminish. In a bulletin earlier this week, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) noted that “resources for cholera response, including funding and staff, have been in steady decline since 2012.” OCHA concludes by stating that “if this trend continues, it would be virtually impossible to effectively and efficiently respond to the epidemic in the event of sudden outbreaks.” The lack of adequate resources also means that detailed data on where cholera outbreaks are occurring and how many are dying is becoming harder and harder to come by. The actual toll of this imported disease could be much higher than the official numbers indicate.

In late August, members of the U.N. Security Council and countries contributing to MINUSTAH met to discuss the extension of the mission’s mandate. Not a single country (PDF) raised the issue of U.N. responsibility for cholera, though many praised the Secretary General’s efforts to eliminate it. MINUSTAH’s proposed budget for 2013/2014 is $576,619,000, more than enough to fully fund the cholera elimination plan over its first two years.

In light of continued U.N. denials of responsibility, the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti and the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux continue to seek legal redress on behalf of over 6,000 cholera victims. An earlier claim brought to the U.N. was dismissed as “not receivable” in February. A recent Al Jazeera Fault Lines documentary by Sebastian Walker takes a detailed look at the evolution of the epidemic, its impact on rural communities and the responsibility of the U.N. In it, Walker interviews Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary General Eduardo Del Buey. After Del Buey reads, verbatim, the U.N. press release from February, Walker pressures him to explain the decision:

            Walker: That statement was very brief.

Del Buey: It’s a brief statement, it’s a legal statement and that’s about all we’re going to say on that.

Walker: But why is the claim not receivable?

Del Buey: Well, it’s not the United Nations practice to discuss in public the details of our responses to claims against the organization.

Walker: So you don’t have to explain yourselves?

Del Buey: No.

Walker: You are saying that not only do they not get compensation but you don’t even have to explain why?

Del Buey: Well, that’s exactly what I said, that’s the United Nations’ policy.

Walker: What would you say to a family member in Haiti who has had somebody die as a result of this disease?

Del Buey: Well, I would basically say…as a U.N. employee or as a human being?

Walker: Both?

Del Buey: As both. I would simply say, sorry about your loss, I’m really sorry that the cholera happened, we don’t exactly know what the origins are but we’re working as hard as we can to address the issue.

Walker: Everyone knows what the origins were. The scientific community is united…

Del Buey: Our panel told us that it was due to a confluence of circumstances…

Walker: Including being brought to Haiti, most likely, by U.N. peacekeepers.

            Del Buey: Well, that’s not what it said.*

The original report produced by the U.N.-appointed panel of experts did blame a “confluence of factors”, but also found that the disease was introduced “as a result of human activity” and that the sanitation conditions at the U.N. base very near to where the outbreak started “were not sufficient to prevent fecal contamination” of the nearby river. In March of 2013, the same panel (though no longer affiliated with the U.N.) issued a new report, based on all the additional scientific evidence, concluding that the U.N. was the “most likely source of introduction of cholera into Haiti.”

*Unofficial transcript.

Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, on a trip to Europe to ensure continued donor support, was asked by France 24’s Marc Perelman about the ongoing cholera epidemic and U.N. responsibility. Perelman notes that “all the scientific evidence up to date points to the U.N.” but questioned Lamothe as to why the Haitian government has “never pushed for a public apology.” Lamothe stressed that the government has tried to address the issue through “direct dialogue” with the U.N., but also noted that the U.N. has an obvious “moral responsibility” to address the epidemic.

The U.N., in addition to not issuing an apology, has never accepted responsibility for the deadly epidemic that has killed over 8,260 and sickened over 675,000 in the last three years. A U.N.-backed cholera elimination plan has been unable to raise the required funds to adequately address the issue, despite Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s assurance in late 2012 that he would “use every opportunity” to raise the necessary funds. A high-level donor meeting to raise funds for the plan, scheduled for early October in Washington, has now been postponed until 2014. It had been expected that Mr. Ban, as well as World Bank president Jim Yong Kim, would attend. The plan, which requires some $450 million over its first two years, remains less than half funded.

In the meantime, cholera continues to ravage the country as the response capabilities of national actors diminish. In a bulletin earlier this week, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) noted that “resources for cholera response, including funding and staff, have been in steady decline since 2012.” OCHA concludes by stating that “if this trend continues, it would be virtually impossible to effectively and efficiently respond to the epidemic in the event of sudden outbreaks.” The lack of adequate resources also means that detailed data on where cholera outbreaks are occurring and how many are dying is becoming harder and harder to come by. The actual toll of this imported disease could be much higher than the official numbers indicate.

In late August, members of the U.N. Security Council and countries contributing to MINUSTAH met to discuss the extension of the mission’s mandate. Not a single country (PDF) raised the issue of U.N. responsibility for cholera, though many praised the Secretary General’s efforts to eliminate it. MINUSTAH’s proposed budget for 2013/2014 is $576,619,000, more than enough to fully fund the cholera elimination plan over its first two years.

In light of continued U.N. denials of responsibility, the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti and the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux continue to seek legal redress on behalf of over 6,000 cholera victims. An earlier claim brought to the U.N. was dismissed as “not receivable” in February. A recent Al Jazeera Fault Lines documentary by Sebastian Walker takes a detailed look at the evolution of the epidemic, its impact on rural communities and the responsibility of the U.N. In it, Walker interviews Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary General Eduardo Del Buey. After Del Buey reads, verbatim, the U.N. press release from February, Walker pressures him to explain the decision:

            Walker: That statement was very brief.

Del Buey: It’s a brief statement, it’s a legal statement and that’s about all we’re going to say on that.

Walker: But why is the claim not receivable?

Del Buey: Well, it’s not the United Nations practice to discuss in public the details of our responses to claims against the organization.

Walker: So you don’t have to explain yourselves?

Del Buey: No.

Walker: You are saying that not only do they not get compensation but you don’t even have to explain why?

Del Buey: Well, that’s exactly what I said, that’s the United Nations’ policy.

Walker: What would you say to a family member in Haiti who has had somebody die as a result of this disease?

Del Buey: Well, I would basically say…as a U.N. employee or as a human being?

Walker: Both?

Del Buey: As both. I would simply say, sorry about your loss, I’m really sorry that the cholera happened, we don’t exactly know what the origins are but we’re working as hard as we can to address the issue.

Walker: Everyone knows what the origins were. The scientific community is united…

Del Buey: Our panel told us that it was due to a confluence of circumstances…

Walker: Including being brought to Haiti, most likely, by U.N. peacekeepers.

            Del Buey: Well, that’s not what it said.*

The original report produced by the U.N.-appointed panel of experts did blame a “confluence of factors”, but also found that the disease was introduced “as a result of human activity” and that the sanitation conditions at the U.N. base very near to where the outbreak started “were not sufficient to prevent fecal contamination” of the nearby river. In March of 2013, the same panel (though no longer affiliated with the U.N.) issued a new report, based on all the additional scientific evidence, concluding that the U.N. was the “most likely source of introduction of cholera into Haiti.”

*Unofficial transcript.

Human rights defenders in Haiti are reporting new death threats, and seem to be openly persecuted by powerful individuals and groups, as Mark Snyder and Other Worlds describe today. In an article posted on Huffington Post, Snyder profiles the case of attorney Patrice Florvilus and the Haitian human rights organization Defenders of the Oppressed. Snyder writes:

“Those before you were strong. Now they’re all dead. Stop what you are doing, or the same will happen to you.”

Those were the words delivered to Frena Florvilus, Director of Education and Advocacy of the Haitian human rights organization Defenders of the Oppressed (DOP), early on the morning of August 11 by one of four unidentified men who attempted to enter DOP’s office. The threat echoed numerous others that have been leveled against the DOP office and its staff since they took on the case of a young man who died in police custody within hours of his April 15 arrest, his body left covered with bruises and wounds inflicted by a severe beating. DOP has also been targeted for its work to support displaced peoples who face violent eviction from their camps, by the government and private landowners who are determined to rid the country of camps.

Among the latter may be former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier himself, as

Reynald Georges, a lawyer representing Haiti’s ex-dictator, Jean-Claude Duvalier, has brought formal accusations of arson and “association with wrongdoers” (conspiracy) against DOP’s founder and director, Patrice Florvilus, and five others. The accused received criminal court summons for Monday, August 19. Their lawyers filed an objection and request that the charges be dropped, but the prosecutor’s office has reissued the summons for Thursday, August 22.

On Monday, hundreds from the displacement camps and community organizations in Port-au-Prince marched to the courthouse together to show their support. A second march will occur Thursday.

Snyder goes on to place the threats and charges against Florvilus in the context of other human rights defenders, such as Bureau des Avocats Internationaux director Mario Joseph, who have also experienced threats and harassment from both unknown sources and Haitian authorities. Along with Joseph, Florvilus has stood up for some of the most vulnerable members of post-earthquake Haitian society – internally displaced persons (IDP’s). Like Joseph, Florvilus has also found himself confronted by attorney Reynold Georges, “best known,” Snyder writes, “for representing the recently returned ex-dictator, Jean-Claude Duvalier, who faces charges of crimes against humanity.” As with Joseph, the threats against Florvilus have prompted international alarm from Amnesty International, among others.

In this case, however, there appears to be a more direct connection between Georges – and Duvalier – and forced eviction and other rights violations against IDP’s. The incident in question is an April arson attempt against IDP Camp Acra, the site of multiple such attacks aimed at forcing residents to leave. According to Snyder:

The latest wave of threats relate to a chain of events that started on April 13th, when some 1,500 families living in a camp known as Camp Acra, came under threat of eviction from lawyer Reynald Georges. …Witnesses have stated that Georges entered Camp Acra brandishing a firearm, guarded by five Haitian officers and accompanied by a justice of the peace. He threatened to remove people from the land by “any means necessary.” Claiming at the time that the land belonged to his client, Duvalier, Georges is reported to have told the crowd that heavy equipment was on its way to raze the camp.

At 2:00 a.m. that morning, unknown assailants attempted to burn down the camp. Arson attacks have been used repeatedly to illegally evict displaced earthquake survivors still stuck in the camps. Families in Camp Acra activated to contain the fire to the several tarp shelters upon which ignited gasoline-soaked rags had been thrown. No physical injuries were reported.

Snyder reports how following inaction by the Haitian National Police, camp residents protested. It was then that the police acted, “randomly” arresting two men from the crowd of protesters: Méris Civil and Darlin Lexima. It was Civil who died in police custody hours after his arrest; Florvilus and DOP were able to secure Lexima’s release. Lexima says he was tortured by police. Florvilus took on Lexima and the Civil family as clients, and following that – as has happened to Joseph, he started to get followed by the police.

According to the DOP, however, this time the harassment and intimidation has come not just from Duvalierists and the police, but also from MINUSTAH:

On August 15, a patrol vehicle of heavily armed UN soldiers parked in front of DOP’s office. When one of the DOP team asked about their intentions, the soldiers responded that they were “simply following orders.”

Under its mandate, MINUSTAH is supposed to “to support …Haitian human rights institutions and groups in their efforts to promote and protect human rights; and to monitor and report on the human rights situation in the country,” as well as “protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence.” But as we have described before, aside from MINUSTAH soldiers’ own shootings and killings of civilians and other crimes, the UN troops have often supported HNP in their actions even when those actions have resulted in killings, forced evictions, and other severe human rights violations.

While U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is proposing “reducing MINUSTAH’s military strength from 6,270 to 5,021 by June 2014” and is reportedly considering “replacing …MINUSTAH, ‘with a smaller, more focused assistance mission by 2016,’” such a time table far exceeds Haitians’ patience for the U.N. mission. Due in part to MINUSTAH perpetration of human rights abuses, and its having caused the cholera epidemic through reckless waste disposal near the Artibonite River, 72.2 percent of Port-au-Prince residents who were polled in August 2011 had wanted MINUSTAH out of the country either right away, within six months or within a year. 

Human rights defenders in Haiti are reporting new death threats, and seem to be openly persecuted by powerful individuals and groups, as Mark Snyder and Other Worlds describe today. In an article posted on Huffington Post, Snyder profiles the case of attorney Patrice Florvilus and the Haitian human rights organization Defenders of the Oppressed. Snyder writes:

“Those before you were strong. Now they’re all dead. Stop what you are doing, or the same will happen to you.”

Those were the words delivered to Frena Florvilus, Director of Education and Advocacy of the Haitian human rights organization Defenders of the Oppressed (DOP), early on the morning of August 11 by one of four unidentified men who attempted to enter DOP’s office. The threat echoed numerous others that have been leveled against the DOP office and its staff since they took on the case of a young man who died in police custody within hours of his April 15 arrest, his body left covered with bruises and wounds inflicted by a severe beating. DOP has also been targeted for its work to support displaced peoples who face violent eviction from their camps, by the government and private landowners who are determined to rid the country of camps.

Among the latter may be former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier himself, as

Reynald Georges, a lawyer representing Haiti’s ex-dictator, Jean-Claude Duvalier, has brought formal accusations of arson and “association with wrongdoers” (conspiracy) against DOP’s founder and director, Patrice Florvilus, and five others. The accused received criminal court summons for Monday, August 19. Their lawyers filed an objection and request that the charges be dropped, but the prosecutor’s office has reissued the summons for Thursday, August 22.

On Monday, hundreds from the displacement camps and community organizations in Port-au-Prince marched to the courthouse together to show their support. A second march will occur Thursday.

Snyder goes on to place the threats and charges against Florvilus in the context of other human rights defenders, such as Bureau des Avocats Internationaux director Mario Joseph, who have also experienced threats and harassment from both unknown sources and Haitian authorities. Along with Joseph, Florvilus has stood up for some of the most vulnerable members of post-earthquake Haitian society – internally displaced persons (IDP’s). Like Joseph, Florvilus has also found himself confronted by attorney Reynold Georges, “best known,” Snyder writes, “for representing the recently returned ex-dictator, Jean-Claude Duvalier, who faces charges of crimes against humanity.” As with Joseph, the threats against Florvilus have prompted international alarm from Amnesty International, among others.

In this case, however, there appears to be a more direct connection between Georges – and Duvalier – and forced eviction and other rights violations against IDP’s. The incident in question is an April arson attempt against IDP Camp Acra, the site of multiple such attacks aimed at forcing residents to leave. According to Snyder:

The latest wave of threats relate to a chain of events that started on April 13th, when some 1,500 families living in a camp known as Camp Acra, came under threat of eviction from lawyer Reynald Georges. …Witnesses have stated that Georges entered Camp Acra brandishing a firearm, guarded by five Haitian officers and accompanied by a justice of the peace. He threatened to remove people from the land by “any means necessary.” Claiming at the time that the land belonged to his client, Duvalier, Georges is reported to have told the crowd that heavy equipment was on its way to raze the camp.

At 2:00 a.m. that morning, unknown assailants attempted to burn down the camp. Arson attacks have been used repeatedly to illegally evict displaced earthquake survivors still stuck in the camps. Families in Camp Acra activated to contain the fire to the several tarp shelters upon which ignited gasoline-soaked rags had been thrown. No physical injuries were reported.

Snyder reports how following inaction by the Haitian National Police, camp residents protested. It was then that the police acted, “randomly” arresting two men from the crowd of protesters: Méris Civil and Darlin Lexima. It was Civil who died in police custody hours after his arrest; Florvilus and DOP were able to secure Lexima’s release. Lexima says he was tortured by police. Florvilus took on Lexima and the Civil family as clients, and following that – as has happened to Joseph, he started to get followed by the police.

According to the DOP, however, this time the harassment and intimidation has come not just from Duvalierists and the police, but also from MINUSTAH:

On August 15, a patrol vehicle of heavily armed UN soldiers parked in front of DOP’s office. When one of the DOP team asked about their intentions, the soldiers responded that they were “simply following orders.”

Under its mandate, MINUSTAH is supposed to “to support …Haitian human rights institutions and groups in their efforts to promote and protect human rights; and to monitor and report on the human rights situation in the country,” as well as “protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence.” But as we have described before, aside from MINUSTAH soldiers’ own shootings and killings of civilians and other crimes, the UN troops have often supported HNP in their actions even when those actions have resulted in killings, forced evictions, and other severe human rights violations.

While U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is proposing “reducing MINUSTAH’s military strength from 6,270 to 5,021 by June 2014” and is reportedly considering “replacing …MINUSTAH, ‘with a smaller, more focused assistance mission by 2016,’” such a time table far exceeds Haitians’ patience for the U.N. mission. Due in part to MINUSTAH perpetration of human rights abuses, and its having caused the cholera epidemic through reckless waste disposal near the Artibonite River, 72.2 percent of Port-au-Prince residents who were polled in August 2011 had wanted MINUSTAH out of the country either right away, within six months or within a year. 

(This post was revised on August 14, 2013 to add additional references to cholera studies suggested by reader feedback.)

Yet another study [PDF] has determined that the U.N. is responsible for having caused Haiti’s deadly, ongoing cholera epidemic. The new report written by Rosalyn Chan MD, MPH, Tassity Johnson, Charanya Krishnaswami, Samuel Oliker-Friedland, and Celso Perez Carballo and published by the Yale Law School and the Yale School of Public Health, in collaboration with the Haitian Environmental Law Association (Association Hatïenne de Droit de L’Environment), concludes that “The United Nations inadvertently caused a deadly cholera epidemic in Haiti, and has legal and moral obligations to remedy this harm.”

According to the press release accompanying the 58-page report [PDF], the results “directly contradic[t] recent statements by the U.N. Secretary-General that the organization did not bring cholera to Haiti, and has no legal responsibilities for the epidemic or its consequences.”

“The U.N.’s ongoing unwillingness to hold itself accountable to victims violates its obligations under international law,” Johnson said in the release.

A Washington Post editorial on Sunday once again called on the U.N. to take responsibility for the cholera outbreak, and on the international community to put up the funds needed to implement the cholera eradication plan designed by the Haitian and Dominican governments, the U.N., the Pan American Health Organization, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

IT IS now all but certain that Haiti’s cholera epidemic, which has killed more than 8,000 people and sickened more than 600,000, is directly traceable to a battalion of U.N. peacekeepers who arrived in the country after the 2010 earthquake.

A report from researchers at the Yale School of Public Health and Yale Law School details the convincing epidemiological evidence, as well as the United Nations’ stubborn disavowal of responsibility. Initially, a panel of independent experts enlisted by the United Nations said that the evidence pointing to the peacekeepers was mainly circumstantial. Now the experts have reversed themselves, saying that the Nepalese peacekeepers were “most likely” the cause of the epidemic. Still, the United Nations refuses to accept legal, financial or moral responsibility.

Haiti needs sewage treatment plants and municipal water facilities, as well as an effective primary health-care system accessible to people in rural areas as well as towns. Through UNICEF and the Pan American Health Organization, the United Nations should redouble its efforts to establish modern infrastructure in a country where 90 percent of the population lacks running water.

That’s not just part of the United Nations’ mission. It’s a matter of accountability and responsibility.

The Yale study is at least the tenth such report to emerge with evidence pointing to U.N. culpability. As former AP Haiti correspondent Jonathan Katz (one of the first reporters to document the reckless sewage disposal practices at the Mirebalais MINUSTAH camp) reminded us, as early as November 1, 2010, the CDC had announced “results of laboratory testing showing that the cholera strain linked to the current outbreak in Haiti is most similar to cholera strains found in South Asia.” Others studies have included those published by:

  • Microbiology and Immunology (July 2013, by the authors of the original U.N. independent study – see below): “the preponderance of the evidence and the weight of the circumstantial evidence does lead to the conclusion that personnel associated with the Mirebalais MINUSTAH [The U.N. Mission in Haiti] facility were the most likely source of introduction of cholera into Haiti.”
  • mBio (American Society for Microbiology) (July 2013): “We have found no evidence that environmental strains have played a role in the evolution of the outbreak strain,” “Our results were consistent with previous findings that show that the Haiti cholera outbreak is clonal and that Nepalese isolates are the closest relatives to the Haiti strain identified to date…”
  • Clinical Microbiology and Infection (June 2012): “The evidence that the Nepalese UN peacekeeping troops brought cholera to Haiti appears particularly strong, based on background events and published epidemiologic and molecular-genetic investigations.”
  • The Lancet [PDF] (March 2012): “…the onset of cholera in Haiti was not the result of climatic factors and was not the direct consequence of the January 2010 earthquake. All of the scienti?c evidence shows that cholera was brought by a contingent of soldiers travelling from a country experiencing a cholera epidemic.”
  • The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (January 2012): “The Haitian strain of cholera was analyzed initially to be of South Asian origin, later confirmed to be identical to the circulating Nepali strain and identified to have most likely been inadvertently introduced into the Meye river tributary system in Mirebalais as the result of faulty sanitation practices in the base camp of United Nations peacekeepers.”
  • mBio (August 2011): “This molecular phylogeny reinforces the previous epidemiological investigation that pointed towards United Nations peacekeepers from Nepal as the source of the Haitian cholera epidemic.”
  • Emerging Infectious Diseases (CDC) (July 2011): “Our findings strongly suggest that contamination of the Artibonite and 1 of its tributaries downstream from a military camp triggered the epidemic,” “We…believe that symptomatic cases occurred inside the MINUSTAH camp.”
  • The United Nations Independent Panel of Experts [PDF] (May 2011): “the 2010 Haiti cholera outbreak was caused by bacteria introduced into Haiti as a result of human activity; more specifically by the contamination of the Meye Tributary System of the  Artibonite River with a pathogenic strain of the current South Asian type Vibrio cholerae.” 
  • The New England Journal of Medicine (January 2011): “The V. cholerae strain responsible for the expanding cholera epidemic in Haiti is nearly identical to so-called variant seventh-pandemic El Tor O1 strains that are predominant in South Asia, including Bangladesh. …our data strongly suggest that the Haitian epidemic began with introduction of a V. cholerae strain into Haiti by human activity from a distant geographic source.”

(This post was revised on August 14, 2013 to add additional references to cholera studies suggested by reader feedback.)

Yet another study [PDF] has determined that the U.N. is responsible for having caused Haiti’s deadly, ongoing cholera epidemic. The new report written by Rosalyn Chan MD, MPH, Tassity Johnson, Charanya Krishnaswami, Samuel Oliker-Friedland, and Celso Perez Carballo and published by the Yale Law School and the Yale School of Public Health, in collaboration with the Haitian Environmental Law Association (Association Hatïenne de Droit de L’Environment), concludes that “The United Nations inadvertently caused a deadly cholera epidemic in Haiti, and has legal and moral obligations to remedy this harm.”

According to the press release accompanying the 58-page report [PDF], the results “directly contradic[t] recent statements by the U.N. Secretary-General that the organization did not bring cholera to Haiti, and has no legal responsibilities for the epidemic or its consequences.”

“The U.N.’s ongoing unwillingness to hold itself accountable to victims violates its obligations under international law,” Johnson said in the release.

A Washington Post editorial on Sunday once again called on the U.N. to take responsibility for the cholera outbreak, and on the international community to put up the funds needed to implement the cholera eradication plan designed by the Haitian and Dominican governments, the U.N., the Pan American Health Organization, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

IT IS now all but certain that Haiti’s cholera epidemic, which has killed more than 8,000 people and sickened more than 600,000, is directly traceable to a battalion of U.N. peacekeepers who arrived in the country after the 2010 earthquake.

A report from researchers at the Yale School of Public Health and Yale Law School details the convincing epidemiological evidence, as well as the United Nations’ stubborn disavowal of responsibility. Initially, a panel of independent experts enlisted by the United Nations said that the evidence pointing to the peacekeepers was mainly circumstantial. Now the experts have reversed themselves, saying that the Nepalese peacekeepers were “most likely” the cause of the epidemic. Still, the United Nations refuses to accept legal, financial or moral responsibility.

Haiti needs sewage treatment plants and municipal water facilities, as well as an effective primary health-care system accessible to people in rural areas as well as towns. Through UNICEF and the Pan American Health Organization, the United Nations should redouble its efforts to establish modern infrastructure in a country where 90 percent of the population lacks running water.

That’s not just part of the United Nations’ mission. It’s a matter of accountability and responsibility.

The Yale study is at least the tenth such report to emerge with evidence pointing to U.N. culpability. As former AP Haiti correspondent Jonathan Katz (one of the first reporters to document the reckless sewage disposal practices at the Mirebalais MINUSTAH camp) reminded us, as early as November 1, 2010, the CDC had announced “results of laboratory testing showing that the cholera strain linked to the current outbreak in Haiti is most similar to cholera strains found in South Asia.” Others studies have included those published by:

  • Microbiology and Immunology (July 2013, by the authors of the original U.N. independent study – see below): “the preponderance of the evidence and the weight of the circumstantial evidence does lead to the conclusion that personnel associated with the Mirebalais MINUSTAH [The U.N. Mission in Haiti] facility were the most likely source of introduction of cholera into Haiti.”
  • mBio (American Society for Microbiology) (July 2013): “We have found no evidence that environmental strains have played a role in the evolution of the outbreak strain,” “Our results were consistent with previous findings that show that the Haiti cholera outbreak is clonal and that Nepalese isolates are the closest relatives to the Haiti strain identified to date…”
  • Clinical Microbiology and Infection (June 2012): “The evidence that the Nepalese UN peacekeeping troops brought cholera to Haiti appears particularly strong, based on background events and published epidemiologic and molecular-genetic investigations.”
  • The Lancet [PDF] (March 2012): “…the onset of cholera in Haiti was not the result of climatic factors and was not the direct consequence of the January 2010 earthquake. All of the scienti?c evidence shows that cholera was brought by a contingent of soldiers travelling from a country experiencing a cholera epidemic.”
  • The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (January 2012): “The Haitian strain of cholera was analyzed initially to be of South Asian origin, later confirmed to be identical to the circulating Nepali strain and identified to have most likely been inadvertently introduced into the Meye river tributary system in Mirebalais as the result of faulty sanitation practices in the base camp of United Nations peacekeepers.”
  • mBio (August 2011): “This molecular phylogeny reinforces the previous epidemiological investigation that pointed towards United Nations peacekeepers from Nepal as the source of the Haitian cholera epidemic.”
  • Emerging Infectious Diseases (CDC) (July 2011): “Our findings strongly suggest that contamination of the Artibonite and 1 of its tributaries downstream from a military camp triggered the epidemic,” “We…believe that symptomatic cases occurred inside the MINUSTAH camp.”
  • The United Nations Independent Panel of Experts [PDF] (May 2011): “the 2010 Haiti cholera outbreak was caused by bacteria introduced into Haiti as a result of human activity; more specifically by the contamination of the Meye Tributary System of the  Artibonite River with a pathogenic strain of the current South Asian type Vibrio cholerae.” 
  • The New England Journal of Medicine (January 2011): “The V. cholerae strain responsible for the expanding cholera epidemic in Haiti is nearly identical to so-called variant seventh-pandemic El Tor O1 strains that are predominant in South Asia, including Bangladesh. …our data strongly suggest that the Haitian epidemic began with introduction of a V. cholerae strain into Haiti by human activity from a distant geographic source.”

Earlier this week, USAID posted financial information to the U.S. Foreign Assistance Dashboard “in more detail than ever before,” according to the Agency. USAID posted data on 53,000 “transactions” from across the world, and as USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah commented, it “is just the latest in a series of important changes we have made to advance President Obama’s unparalleled commitment to transparency and our own USAID Forward reform agenda.”

USAID’s Forward reform agenda calls for a remaking of the way USAID does business, from an increasing focus on monitoring and evaluation to changing the procurement policies which favor large American companies over local organizations.

The move was widely praised by individuals and groups advocating for greater transparency in foreign aid. Tom Murphy, writing in Humanosphere, called the data drop a “significant forward step for transparency at USAID,” while the D.C.-based Center for Global Development also cheered the move. David Hall-Matthews, the director of Publish What You Fund, told Devex, “This is a great step towards financial transparency … [the] next step is to link this information to performance and project data.”

The new data released by USAID is certainly a positive step, yet in the case of Haiti there is still a long way to go, both in terms of evaluating the effectiveness of U.S. aid as well as in measuring progress toward USAID Forward. The release also comes up far short of what the U.S. Congress is asking the State Department and USAID to provide regarding their work in Haiti.

In September of 2012, Shah stated that prior to the earthquake, less than 9 percent of aid was going to Haitian organizations, but that “we’re over the pre-earthquake level now.” The Miami Herald noted that Shah “was not more specific.” Increasing the use of local partners is a hallmark of the reform agenda, with the goal being to channel 30 percent of aid directly through local partners. However the data released this week paints a starkly different picture, with just over 2 percent of the $150 million in obligations going directly to Haitian groups. This is consistent with previous data analysis, which has shown the vast majority of aid going to groups located in the so-called Beltway around Washington D.C.

Though the new data does reveal the names of certain local organizations which weren’t publically available previously; it still shows USAID is far short of its goal of increasing direct partnerships in Haiti. On the positive side, as USAID intends to continually update the Foreign Assistance Dashboard with this transaction data, it will become significantly easier to track the changes in USAID’s procurement policies over time.

A key piece of the puzzle, which is still missing, is any information on subcontractors. In “Breaking Open the Black Box: Increasing Transparency and Accountability in Haiti,” we noted that only about 1 percent of contracts have reported subaward information, despite legislation requiring them to do so having already come into effect. This new data doesn’t afford any clarity on where the funds given to USAID’s implementing partners end up, key information for determining the local impact.

As Hall-Matthews points out, the critical next step is putting this transaction data in the context of specific projects, including expected benchmarks and actual results. Fortunately, at least in regards to Haiti, this is what the U.S. Congress is beginning to ask for.

Following a recent GAO report which noted significant delays, cost overruns and other problems with USAID’s work in Haiti, Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee stated, “the Haitian people, as well as the US taxpayer, deserve better answers about our assistance than we have received to date.” The increased calls for further transparency come after Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) recently reintroduced the Assessing Progress in Haiti Act, which, among other things, calls for the type of transactional data released by USAID, but also including the subprime level. The bill goes further, requiring a description of “goals and quantitative and qualitative indicators to evaluate the progress, or lack of achievement of such goals.” Recent language attached to the Senate Foreign Appropriations Bill includes similar requirements.

While the release of data by USAID is a welcome step toward transparency, it’s also a reminder of how much further there is to go. 

Earlier this week, USAID posted financial information to the U.S. Foreign Assistance Dashboard “in more detail than ever before,” according to the Agency. USAID posted data on 53,000 “transactions” from across the world, and as USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah commented, it “is just the latest in a series of important changes we have made to advance President Obama’s unparalleled commitment to transparency and our own USAID Forward reform agenda.”

USAID’s Forward reform agenda calls for a remaking of the way USAID does business, from an increasing focus on monitoring and evaluation to changing the procurement policies which favor large American companies over local organizations.

The move was widely praised by individuals and groups advocating for greater transparency in foreign aid. Tom Murphy, writing in Humanosphere, called the data drop a “significant forward step for transparency at USAID,” while the D.C.-based Center for Global Development also cheered the move. David Hall-Matthews, the director of Publish What You Fund, told Devex, “This is a great step towards financial transparency … [the] next step is to link this information to performance and project data.”

The new data released by USAID is certainly a positive step, yet in the case of Haiti there is still a long way to go, both in terms of evaluating the effectiveness of U.S. aid as well as in measuring progress toward USAID Forward. The release also comes up far short of what the U.S. Congress is asking the State Department and USAID to provide regarding their work in Haiti.

In September of 2012, Shah stated that prior to the earthquake, less than 9 percent of aid was going to Haitian organizations, but that “we’re over the pre-earthquake level now.” The Miami Herald noted that Shah “was not more specific.” Increasing the use of local partners is a hallmark of the reform agenda, with the goal being to channel 30 percent of aid directly through local partners. However the data released this week paints a starkly different picture, with just over 2 percent of the $150 million in obligations going directly to Haitian groups. This is consistent with previous data analysis, which has shown the vast majority of aid going to groups located in the so-called Beltway around Washington D.C.

Though the new data does reveal the names of certain local organizations which weren’t publically available previously; it still shows USAID is far short of its goal of increasing direct partnerships in Haiti. On the positive side, as USAID intends to continually update the Foreign Assistance Dashboard with this transaction data, it will become significantly easier to track the changes in USAID’s procurement policies over time.

A key piece of the puzzle, which is still missing, is any information on subcontractors. In “Breaking Open the Black Box: Increasing Transparency and Accountability in Haiti,” we noted that only about 1 percent of contracts have reported subaward information, despite legislation requiring them to do so having already come into effect. This new data doesn’t afford any clarity on where the funds given to USAID’s implementing partners end up, key information for determining the local impact.

As Hall-Matthews points out, the critical next step is putting this transaction data in the context of specific projects, including expected benchmarks and actual results. Fortunately, at least in regards to Haiti, this is what the U.S. Congress is beginning to ask for.

Following a recent GAO report which noted significant delays, cost overruns and other problems with USAID’s work in Haiti, Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee stated, “the Haitian people, as well as the US taxpayer, deserve better answers about our assistance than we have received to date.” The increased calls for further transparency come after Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) recently reintroduced the Assessing Progress in Haiti Act, which, among other things, calls for the type of transactional data released by USAID, but also including the subprime level. The bill goes further, requiring a description of “goals and quantitative and qualitative indicators to evaluate the progress, or lack of achievement of such goals.” Recent language attached to the Senate Foreign Appropriations Bill includes similar requirements.

While the release of data by USAID is a welcome step toward transparency, it’s also a reminder of how much further there is to go. 

The number of experts casting doubt on the likelihood of the U.N. having been the source of Haiti’s deadly cholera epidemic is getting increasingly smaller. In what Foreign Policy’s Turtle Bay blogger Colum Lynch calls a “dramatic retreat,” a panel of independent U.N. experts who earlier had reported that the outbreak’s cause “was not the fault” of any “group or individual” and cited environmental factors – most notably Haiti’s lack of adequate sanitation – as being partly at fault, have now determined that U.N. troops from Nepal “most likely” were the cause.

Lynch goes on to write:

the four scientists — Alejandro Cravioto, Daniele Lantagne, G. Balakrish Nair, Claudio F. Lanata — who wrote the original report say that new evidence that has come to light in the past two years. While not conclusive, that evidence has strengthened the case against the United Nations.

The experts — who no longer work for the United Nations — also defended their initial findings, saying the “majority of evidence” at the time was “circumstantial.” They added, that the “current strain Nepal strain of cholera was not available for molecular analysis” at the time.

The team’s new report tracks the arrival in October 2010 of a contingent of Nepalese peacekeepers from Kathmandu to a U.N. encampment in the Haitian village of Mirebalais, which sits on the banks of the Artibonite River.

Lynch writes that

The report stated that the peacekeepers had constructed a series a “haphazard “system of pipes from the U.N. camps showers and toilets to the six fiberglass tanks. The “black water waste,” which included human feces, was then transferred to an open, unfenced, septic pit, where children and animals frequently roamed. The system provided “significant potential” for contamination.

But in fact the report does not say the U.N. troops themselves “constructed” the “haphazard” pipe system themselves; the U.N. is supposed to have hired a contractor, Sanco Enterprises SA, to facilitate the removal of human waste from the base. The U.N. does of course bear blame for the contractor’s negligence, however.

Lynch reports:

The panel ruled out the possibility that the cholera strain had originated in the region, saying the lethal strain was “very similar but not identical to the South Asian strain of Vibrio Cholerae.”

“The exact source of introduction of cholera into Haiti will never be known with scientific certainty, as it is not possible to travel back in time to conduct the necessary investigations,” the panel’s members wrote in its new report.. “However, the preponderance of the evidence and the weight of the circumstantial evidence does lead to the conclusion that personnel associated with the Mirebalais MINUSTAH [The U.N. Mission in Haiti] facility were the most likely source of introduction of cholera into Haiti.”

Lynch notes that “The latest findings will increase pressure on the United Nations to acknowledge responsibility for introducing cholera into the country.” As we have recently described, the U.N. has taken a defensive posture both toward its own responsibility for the epidemic and for ensuring funding for its own cholera eradication plan (prepared with the Haitian and Dominican governments and NGO’s). A new article from Haiti Grassroots Watch (HGW) warns that the lack of funding for the plan could mean “that the disease will likely be endemic to Haiti for years to come.”

Noting that “the majority of Haitians – about eight million people – do not have access to a hygienic sanitation system,” HGW cites Physicians for Haiti’s Rishi Rattan as saying that it is “highly likely that cholera will become endemic in Haiti without full funding of Haiti’s cholera elimination plan by entities such as the United Nations (UN).”

HGW goes on to report:

The death rate is on the rise in the countryside. Today, more than four percent of those infected die due to the lack of cholera treatment centers. At the epidemic’s peak, there were 285. Today, there are only 28. Once financing ran out, most humanitarian agencies abandoned the country.

Worse, one of the two large waste treatment facilities built following the earthquake recently went out of service.

As the international community fails to fully fund the cholera eradication plan and ensure adequate sanitation and clean drinking water for Haiti’s population, HGW describes one important, smaller-scale alternative in treating sewage: how the small non-profit Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods (SOIL) is stepping in to help dispose of human waste and convert it into usable compost.

The number of experts casting doubt on the likelihood of the U.N. having been the source of Haiti’s deadly cholera epidemic is getting increasingly smaller. In what Foreign Policy’s Turtle Bay blogger Colum Lynch calls a “dramatic retreat,” a panel of independent U.N. experts who earlier had reported that the outbreak’s cause “was not the fault” of any “group or individual” and cited environmental factors – most notably Haiti’s lack of adequate sanitation – as being partly at fault, have now determined that U.N. troops from Nepal “most likely” were the cause.

Lynch goes on to write:

the four scientists — Alejandro Cravioto, Daniele Lantagne, G. Balakrish Nair, Claudio F. Lanata — who wrote the original report say that new evidence that has come to light in the past two years. While not conclusive, that evidence has strengthened the case against the United Nations.

The experts — who no longer work for the United Nations — also defended their initial findings, saying the “majority of evidence” at the time was “circumstantial.” They added, that the “current strain Nepal strain of cholera was not available for molecular analysis” at the time.

The team’s new report tracks the arrival in October 2010 of a contingent of Nepalese peacekeepers from Kathmandu to a U.N. encampment in the Haitian village of Mirebalais, which sits on the banks of the Artibonite River.

Lynch writes that

The report stated that the peacekeepers had constructed a series a “haphazard “system of pipes from the U.N. camps showers and toilets to the six fiberglass tanks. The “black water waste,” which included human feces, was then transferred to an open, unfenced, septic pit, where children and animals frequently roamed. The system provided “significant potential” for contamination.

But in fact the report does not say the U.N. troops themselves “constructed” the “haphazard” pipe system themselves; the U.N. is supposed to have hired a contractor, Sanco Enterprises SA, to facilitate the removal of human waste from the base. The U.N. does of course bear blame for the contractor’s negligence, however.

Lynch reports:

The panel ruled out the possibility that the cholera strain had originated in the region, saying the lethal strain was “very similar but not identical to the South Asian strain of Vibrio Cholerae.”

“The exact source of introduction of cholera into Haiti will never be known with scientific certainty, as it is not possible to travel back in time to conduct the necessary investigations,” the panel’s members wrote in its new report.. “However, the preponderance of the evidence and the weight of the circumstantial evidence does lead to the conclusion that personnel associated with the Mirebalais MINUSTAH [The U.N. Mission in Haiti] facility were the most likely source of introduction of cholera into Haiti.”

Lynch notes that “The latest findings will increase pressure on the United Nations to acknowledge responsibility for introducing cholera into the country.” As we have recently described, the U.N. has taken a defensive posture both toward its own responsibility for the epidemic and for ensuring funding for its own cholera eradication plan (prepared with the Haitian and Dominican governments and NGO’s). A new article from Haiti Grassroots Watch (HGW) warns that the lack of funding for the plan could mean “that the disease will likely be endemic to Haiti for years to come.”

Noting that “the majority of Haitians – about eight million people – do not have access to a hygienic sanitation system,” HGW cites Physicians for Haiti’s Rishi Rattan as saying that it is “highly likely that cholera will become endemic in Haiti without full funding of Haiti’s cholera elimination plan by entities such as the United Nations (UN).”

HGW goes on to report:

The death rate is on the rise in the countryside. Today, more than four percent of those infected die due to the lack of cholera treatment centers. At the epidemic’s peak, there were 285. Today, there are only 28. Once financing ran out, most humanitarian agencies abandoned the country.

Worse, one of the two large waste treatment facilities built following the earthquake recently went out of service.

As the international community fails to fully fund the cholera eradication plan and ensure adequate sanitation and clean drinking water for Haiti’s population, HGW describes one important, smaller-scale alternative in treating sewage: how the small non-profit Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods (SOIL) is stepping in to help dispose of human waste and convert it into usable compost.

A sad milestone has passed: it has now been 1,000 days since Haiti’s cholera outbreak began. Even though U.N. troops from Nepal have been linked to the outbreak through study after study, and even though U.N. Special Envoy for Haiti Bill Clinton admitted the troops were the “proximate cause” of the epidemic, the U.N. has yet to apologize. And its cholera eradication plan remains woefully underfunded, as we noted last week.

The Economist writes today of the U.N.’s continuance in dodging responsibility:

In a letter to members of the United States Congress who had urged the UN to take responsibility for the cholera outbreak, Ban Ki Moon, the UN’s secretary-general, reiterated that the UN’s legal office has decided the claims are “not receivable” because of the UN’s privileges and immunities. The UN has offered little insight into its reasoning, except that consideration of the claims would involve a review of “political and policy matters”. That statement has only raised more questions, including whether “dumping disease-laden waste water in rivers is UN policy,” as a reporter asked at a press briefing last week.

Critics argue that the UN’s stance is tantamount to claiming impunity—that the UN, an organisation whose mission involves promoting the rule of law, is putting itself above it. The Haitians’ lawyers now plan to sue the UN in Haitian and United States courts. If a court decides to hear the claims, the case could have far-reaching implications for peacekeeping practices around the world.

The bacterium, meanwhile, has killed nearly 8,200 Haitians and made unwell close to 665,000, about 7% of the population. Waterborne diseases spread fast in Haiti because the country lacks proper sewerage. The rainy season is especially problematic, and although Tropical Storm Chantal did not make a direct hit on Haiti last week, the additional rain will probably cause cholera cases to spike.

The Economist goes on to note that “Mr Ban’s letter stated that pledges for the cholera initiated amounted to $207m, $31m less than the UN said would be available last December.”

Reuters cited the lawyers’ (from the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti) response to Ban’s letter:

“The U.N.’s latest explanation last week, in response to a letter of May 30 signed by 19 members of the House of Representatives, was a one-line sentence. They and the cholera victims deserve a better and more just response,” IJDH head Brian Concannon told Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“There were also disingenuous and not quite accurate claims made about the U.N.’s progress in combating cholera that haven’t had impact on the ground,” Concannon, a human rights lawyer, said in a telephone interview from Boston.  

He said the U.N. has refused to consider resolving the cholera victims’ claims outside of court, meet with victims or their lawyers, and set up a claims commission as required by its own treaty.

Reuters also noted the urgency in addressing cholera, an urgency that has accompanied the rainy seasons and hurricane seasons for close to three years now:

With the start of the rainy and hurricane season, aid agencies say cholera cases are set to increase, with a 40 percent rise in Haiti’s cholera cases already reported between May and June of this year in Haiti, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

“Predictions suggest up to 100,000 people could be affected by the end of the year, while funding gaps have led to a serious decrease in the capacity to respond,” OCHA said in its latest report on Haiti.

Even before the passing of Tropical Storm Chantal last week, cholera cases had begun rising even faster. The first week of July saw the most reported cases since January, with 13 deaths reported in just the first six days of the month. While Haiti remains vulnerable to deadly flooding and landslides from storms, the most devastating impact could very well be the assured increase of cholera in the storm’s wake.

A public apology is one of the demands in IJDH’s lawsuit against the U.N. Considering the nature of U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s response to members of Congress, as described by The Economist, it seems that a successful lawsuit may be the only way to get it.

A sad milestone has passed: it has now been 1,000 days since Haiti’s cholera outbreak began. Even though U.N. troops from Nepal have been linked to the outbreak through study after study, and even though U.N. Special Envoy for Haiti Bill Clinton admitted the troops were the “proximate cause” of the epidemic, the U.N. has yet to apologize. And its cholera eradication plan remains woefully underfunded, as we noted last week.

The Economist writes today of the U.N.’s continuance in dodging responsibility:

In a letter to members of the United States Congress who had urged the UN to take responsibility for the cholera outbreak, Ban Ki Moon, the UN’s secretary-general, reiterated that the UN’s legal office has decided the claims are “not receivable” because of the UN’s privileges and immunities. The UN has offered little insight into its reasoning, except that consideration of the claims would involve a review of “political and policy matters”. That statement has only raised more questions, including whether “dumping disease-laden waste water in rivers is UN policy,” as a reporter asked at a press briefing last week.

Critics argue that the UN’s stance is tantamount to claiming impunity—that the UN, an organisation whose mission involves promoting the rule of law, is putting itself above it. The Haitians’ lawyers now plan to sue the UN in Haitian and United States courts. If a court decides to hear the claims, the case could have far-reaching implications for peacekeeping practices around the world.

The bacterium, meanwhile, has killed nearly 8,200 Haitians and made unwell close to 665,000, about 7% of the population. Waterborne diseases spread fast in Haiti because the country lacks proper sewerage. The rainy season is especially problematic, and although Tropical Storm Chantal did not make a direct hit on Haiti last week, the additional rain will probably cause cholera cases to spike.

The Economist goes on to note that “Mr Ban’s letter stated that pledges for the cholera initiated amounted to $207m, $31m less than the UN said would be available last December.”

Reuters cited the lawyers’ (from the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti) response to Ban’s letter:

“The U.N.’s latest explanation last week, in response to a letter of May 30 signed by 19 members of the House of Representatives, was a one-line sentence. They and the cholera victims deserve a better and more just response,” IJDH head Brian Concannon told Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“There were also disingenuous and not quite accurate claims made about the U.N.’s progress in combating cholera that haven’t had impact on the ground,” Concannon, a human rights lawyer, said in a telephone interview from Boston.  

He said the U.N. has refused to consider resolving the cholera victims’ claims outside of court, meet with victims or their lawyers, and set up a claims commission as required by its own treaty.

Reuters also noted the urgency in addressing cholera, an urgency that has accompanied the rainy seasons and hurricane seasons for close to three years now:

With the start of the rainy and hurricane season, aid agencies say cholera cases are set to increase, with a 40 percent rise in Haiti’s cholera cases already reported between May and June of this year in Haiti, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

“Predictions suggest up to 100,000 people could be affected by the end of the year, while funding gaps have led to a serious decrease in the capacity to respond,” OCHA said in its latest report on Haiti.

Even before the passing of Tropical Storm Chantal last week, cholera cases had begun rising even faster. The first week of July saw the most reported cases since January, with 13 deaths reported in just the first six days of the month. While Haiti remains vulnerable to deadly flooding and landslides from storms, the most devastating impact could very well be the assured increase of cholera in the storm’s wake.

A public apology is one of the demands in IJDH’s lawsuit against the U.N. Considering the nature of U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s response to members of Congress, as described by The Economist, it seems that a successful lawsuit may be the only way to get it.

In a press release yesterday, lawyers from the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) and Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) called U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s response to 19 members of congress and victims of cholera “outrageous.”

In May, Rep. Maxine Waters and 18 of her colleagues sent a letter to Ban urging the U.N. to “take responsibility” for the introduction of cholera and to commit enough resources to eradicate the epidemic which has already killed over 8,200 Haitians. The letter followed the U.N.’s rejection of compensation claims from over 5,000 victims of cholera, represented by IJDH and BAI.

In responding to the 19 members of congress, Ban expresses his “concern about the devastating impact of the epidemic,” but fails to mention the U.N.’s responsibility for its introduction, as more and more scientific studies continue to show. Ban touts the U.N.’s work in responding to the epidemic, but also notes that funding is “far from sufficient” and that “the austere fiscal climate” could put financing for the $2.2 billion 10-year cholera elimination plan in jeopardy. The U.N. has chipped in just $23.5 million of its own funds for the plan, which continues to face a massive funding shortfall

In a separate letter from the Sectary General’s legal department to IJDH and BAI, the U.N. reiterates that the claims are “not receivable,” declining even to meet to discuss the matter further.

Yesterday, IJDH and BAI responded to the letters:

July 8, 2013, Port-au-Prince, Boston — Lawyers for victims of the cholera epidemic introduced to Haiti by poor United Nations (UN) sanitation practices in 2010 call two July 5 letters from the UN — one to members of the U.S. Congress from Secretary- General Ban Ki-Moon, the other from his legal department to the victims’ lawyers — “outrageous.” The letter to Congresswoman Maxine Waters and eighteen colleagues in the House of Representatives delivers an off-hand dismissal of serious legal questions raised by a letter from the Members, and provides a deeply disingenuous response to the Congressional concerns regarding a lack of progress by the UN in responding to its cholera epidemic. The letter to the lawyers states that the UN will not even consider the cholera victims’ claims — which are based on the UN allowing its waste disposal system to deteriorate to the extent that raw sewage was discharged directly into the top of Haiti’s largest river system — because doing so would include a “review of political and policy matters.” The UN provided no legal justification for such an extraordinary claim.

“The hypocrisy of the UN’s position is clear to the victims of UN cholera and everyone else in Haiti,” according to Attorney Mario Joseph of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, who is lead counsel for the 5000 victims and families who filed claims against the UN in November 2011. “The UN claims a mission of promoting the rule of law, and regularly lectures Haitian citizens and officials about the need to submit to the law. Yet the UN will not even explain why it is not subject to its own laws.”

Secretary-General Ban’s letter to Congress contains three claims of progress in fighting cholera that do not withstand scrutiny. First, the letter touts that a May 31 conference brought pledges in support of its Cholera Initiative to US$207.4 million, which is $31.1 million dollars less than the total pledge amount the Secretary-General announced for the initiative on December 11, 2012, and there are few details on how the plan will be fully- funded. Second, the letter points to the UN’s construction of wastewater treatment plants in Croix-des-Bouquets and Morne-a?-Cabrit, but both plants have been repeatedly closed — Morne-a?-Cabrit is currently closed — due to lack of international funding. Third, the letter claims that “the majority of [the] recommendations” made by a UN panel of experts to avoid future epidemics “have been adopted and are being implemented by the United Nations system” when a May 3 Report Card from Physicians for Haiti found that five of the seven recommendations were partially or completely unimplemented two years after the report’s release.

To read the entire release, click here.

 

In a press release yesterday, lawyers from the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) and Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) called U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s response to 19 members of congress and victims of cholera “outrageous.”

In May, Rep. Maxine Waters and 18 of her colleagues sent a letter to Ban urging the U.N. to “take responsibility” for the introduction of cholera and to commit enough resources to eradicate the epidemic which has already killed over 8,200 Haitians. The letter followed the U.N.’s rejection of compensation claims from over 5,000 victims of cholera, represented by IJDH and BAI.

In responding to the 19 members of congress, Ban expresses his “concern about the devastating impact of the epidemic,” but fails to mention the U.N.’s responsibility for its introduction, as more and more scientific studies continue to show. Ban touts the U.N.’s work in responding to the epidemic, but also notes that funding is “far from sufficient” and that “the austere fiscal climate” could put financing for the $2.2 billion 10-year cholera elimination plan in jeopardy. The U.N. has chipped in just $23.5 million of its own funds for the plan, which continues to face a massive funding shortfall

In a separate letter from the Sectary General’s legal department to IJDH and BAI, the U.N. reiterates that the claims are “not receivable,” declining even to meet to discuss the matter further.

Yesterday, IJDH and BAI responded to the letters:

July 8, 2013, Port-au-Prince, Boston — Lawyers for victims of the cholera epidemic introduced to Haiti by poor United Nations (UN) sanitation practices in 2010 call two July 5 letters from the UN — one to members of the U.S. Congress from Secretary- General Ban Ki-Moon, the other from his legal department to the victims’ lawyers — “outrageous.” The letter to Congresswoman Maxine Waters and eighteen colleagues in the House of Representatives delivers an off-hand dismissal of serious legal questions raised by a letter from the Members, and provides a deeply disingenuous response to the Congressional concerns regarding a lack of progress by the UN in responding to its cholera epidemic. The letter to the lawyers states that the UN will not even consider the cholera victims’ claims — which are based on the UN allowing its waste disposal system to deteriorate to the extent that raw sewage was discharged directly into the top of Haiti’s largest river system — because doing so would include a “review of political and policy matters.” The UN provided no legal justification for such an extraordinary claim.

“The hypocrisy of the UN’s position is clear to the victims of UN cholera and everyone else in Haiti,” according to Attorney Mario Joseph of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, who is lead counsel for the 5000 victims and families who filed claims against the UN in November 2011. “The UN claims a mission of promoting the rule of law, and regularly lectures Haitian citizens and officials about the need to submit to the law. Yet the UN will not even explain why it is not subject to its own laws.”

Secretary-General Ban’s letter to Congress contains three claims of progress in fighting cholera that do not withstand scrutiny. First, the letter touts that a May 31 conference brought pledges in support of its Cholera Initiative to US$207.4 million, which is $31.1 million dollars less than the total pledge amount the Secretary-General announced for the initiative on December 11, 2012, and there are few details on how the plan will be fully- funded. Second, the letter points to the UN’s construction of wastewater treatment plants in Croix-des-Bouquets and Morne-a?-Cabrit, but both plants have been repeatedly closed — Morne-a?-Cabrit is currently closed — due to lack of international funding. Third, the letter claims that “the majority of [the] recommendations” made by a UN panel of experts to avoid future epidemics “have been adopted and are being implemented by the United Nations system” when a May 3 Report Card from Physicians for Haiti found that five of the seven recommendations were partially or completely unimplemented two years after the report’s release.

To read the entire release, click here.

 

Despite having “not constructed a port anywhere in the world since the 1970s”, USAID allocated $72 million dollars to build one, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released last week.  The port is meant to help support the Caracol Industrial Park (CIP) which was constructed with funding from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and $170 million in funding from the U.S. for related infrastructure.  The CIP has been held up as the flagship reconstruction project undertaken by the international community in Haiti. Even after putting aside criticisms of the location, types of jobs and the environmental impact of the CIP, the “success” of the entire project hinges on the new port. A prior study found that, “the CIP will only succeed if expanded, efficient port facilities are developed nearby.”

Despite a lack of experience in building ports, USAID decided to take on this critical project. However, over two years since it began the project is delayed, is over budget and its sustainability has been thrown into doubt. The GAO found that USAID “lacks staff with technical expertise in planning, construction, and oversight of a port,” and a ports engineer and advisor position has been empty for over two years. Additionally, the feasibility study for the port, contracted out by USAID, was delayed and “did not require the contractor to obtain all the information necessary to help select a port site.” As a result, while construction was set to begin in the spring of 2013, USAID “has no current projection for when construction of the port may begin or how long it will take because more studies are needed before the port site can be selected and the port designed,” reports the GAO.

Without any in-house expertise in port construction at USAID, the mission turned to private contractors. HRRW reported in January 2012 that MWH Americas was awarded a “$2.8 million contract to conduct a feasibility study for port infrastructure in northern Haiti.” The expected completion date was May 2012. MWH Americas had previously been criticized for their work in New Orleans, with the Times-Picayune reporting that MWH had “been operating for more than two years under a dubiously awarded contract that has allowed it to overbill the city repeatedly even as the bricks-and-mortar recovery work it oversees has lagged.”

In Haiti, MWH quickly subcontracted out much of the work on the feasibility study. As HRRW reported in February, “[w]ithin two weeks of receiving the $2.8 million contract, MWH Americas turned around and gave out $1.45 million in subcontracts to four different firms, all headquartered in Washington DC or Virginia.” USAID staff told the GAO that the study was completed as required in May 2012, but that “multiple environmental issues not adequately addressed in the initial study needed additional examination.” MWH was awarded another $1 million and the completion date was extended.  Overall, the GAO reports that “the feasibility study was amended six times and extended by 9 months.”

The study was finally completed in February of 2013, after USAID consulted with other government agencies with experience in port construction. In the end, the amount awarded to MWH increased by $1.5 million. Yet even after all of this, the GAO found that “other studies strongly recommended” by other agencies “still need to be performed.” Without any expertise to oversee the contractors, the work done was inadequate, expensive and took far longer than anticipated, revealing the pitfalls of being “more of a contracting agency than an operational agency with the ability to deliver,” as Hillary Clinton described USAID during her Senate confirmation hearing in 2009. 

Now, the prospect of having a new port at all is questionable, putting the sustainability of the U.S.’s largest post-earthquake investment in jeopardy. The plan originally envisioned USAID finding a private partner to help fund a portion of the costs associated with the port in return for a multi-year concession to run the port.  However after all the delays and the increased cost estimate, the GAO found that the amount USAID will allocate for construction is a “significantly smaller portion” than planned and will leave a funding gap of between $117-$189 million. As a result, the Haitian government may need to secure other donor support in order to attract a private operator, according to the GAO.  However even if a port is eventually constructed it may be far too late.

While the initial estimate was that it would take 2.5 years to construct and would be completed in 2015, after consulting with the Army Corp of Engineers, USAID has “learned that port construction may take up to 10 years.” The CIP has been touted as source of a massive amount of jobs; the three current tenants of the park aim to employ 21,000 by 2016 and the Haitian government is in discussions with four other potential tenants. However, many of these investments were based on the construction of a new port. According to the U.S. State Department’s Senior Advisor for the CIP, “additional port capacity would be needed by 2015 to accommodate projected freight traffic to and from the CIP.” Without all the benefits promised by the U.S. and IDB, Haiti faces the prospect of these new firms simply leaving to find cheaper costs elsewhere. The IDB’s José Agustín Aguerre told the New York Times in July 2012 that, “Yes, it’s low-paying, yes, it’s unstable, yes, maybe tomorrow there will a better opportunity for firms elsewhere and they will just leave. But everyone thought this was a risk worth taking.”

But, with the risks well known, the financial commitment significant and the success of the international community’s flagship reconstruction project at stake, an agency that hadn’t built a port anywhere in the world in over 40 years got the job.

 

Despite having “not constructed a port anywhere in the world since the 1970s”, USAID allocated $72 million dollars to build one, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released last week.  The port is meant to help support the Caracol Industrial Park (CIP) which was constructed with funding from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and $170 million in funding from the U.S. for related infrastructure.  The CIP has been held up as the flagship reconstruction project undertaken by the international community in Haiti. Even after putting aside criticisms of the location, types of jobs and the environmental impact of the CIP, the “success” of the entire project hinges on the new port. A prior study found that, “the CIP will only succeed if expanded, efficient port facilities are developed nearby.”

Despite a lack of experience in building ports, USAID decided to take on this critical project. However, over two years since it began the project is delayed, is over budget and its sustainability has been thrown into doubt. The GAO found that USAID “lacks staff with technical expertise in planning, construction, and oversight of a port,” and a ports engineer and advisor position has been empty for over two years. Additionally, the feasibility study for the port, contracted out by USAID, was delayed and “did not require the contractor to obtain all the information necessary to help select a port site.” As a result, while construction was set to begin in the spring of 2013, USAID “has no current projection for when construction of the port may begin or how long it will take because more studies are needed before the port site can be selected and the port designed,” reports the GAO.

Without any in-house expertise in port construction at USAID, the mission turned to private contractors. HRRW reported in January 2012 that MWH Americas was awarded a “$2.8 million contract to conduct a feasibility study for port infrastructure in northern Haiti.” The expected completion date was May 2012. MWH Americas had previously been criticized for their work in New Orleans, with the Times-Picayune reporting that MWH had “been operating for more than two years under a dubiously awarded contract that has allowed it to overbill the city repeatedly even as the bricks-and-mortar recovery work it oversees has lagged.”

In Haiti, MWH quickly subcontracted out much of the work on the feasibility study. As HRRW reported in February, “[w]ithin two weeks of receiving the $2.8 million contract, MWH Americas turned around and gave out $1.45 million in subcontracts to four different firms, all headquartered in Washington DC or Virginia.” USAID staff told the GAO that the study was completed as required in May 2012, but that “multiple environmental issues not adequately addressed in the initial study needed additional examination.” MWH was awarded another $1 million and the completion date was extended.  Overall, the GAO reports that “the feasibility study was amended six times and extended by 9 months.”

The study was finally completed in February of 2013, after USAID consulted with other government agencies with experience in port construction. In the end, the amount awarded to MWH increased by $1.5 million. Yet even after all of this, the GAO found that “other studies strongly recommended” by other agencies “still need to be performed.” Without any expertise to oversee the contractors, the work done was inadequate, expensive and took far longer than anticipated, revealing the pitfalls of being “more of a contracting agency than an operational agency with the ability to deliver,” as Hillary Clinton described USAID during her Senate confirmation hearing in 2009. 

Now, the prospect of having a new port at all is questionable, putting the sustainability of the U.S.’s largest post-earthquake investment in jeopardy. The plan originally envisioned USAID finding a private partner to help fund a portion of the costs associated with the port in return for a multi-year concession to run the port.  However after all the delays and the increased cost estimate, the GAO found that the amount USAID will allocate for construction is a “significantly smaller portion” than planned and will leave a funding gap of between $117-$189 million. As a result, the Haitian government may need to secure other donor support in order to attract a private operator, according to the GAO.  However even if a port is eventually constructed it may be far too late.

While the initial estimate was that it would take 2.5 years to construct and would be completed in 2015, after consulting with the Army Corp of Engineers, USAID has “learned that port construction may take up to 10 years.” The CIP has been touted as source of a massive amount of jobs; the three current tenants of the park aim to employ 21,000 by 2016 and the Haitian government is in discussions with four other potential tenants. However, many of these investments were based on the construction of a new port. According to the U.S. State Department’s Senior Advisor for the CIP, “additional port capacity would be needed by 2015 to accommodate projected freight traffic to and from the CIP.” Without all the benefits promised by the U.S. and IDB, Haiti faces the prospect of these new firms simply leaving to find cheaper costs elsewhere. The IDB’s José Agustín Aguerre told the New York Times in July 2012 that, “Yes, it’s low-paying, yes, it’s unstable, yes, maybe tomorrow there will a better opportunity for firms elsewhere and they will just leave. But everyone thought this was a risk worth taking.”

But, with the risks well known, the financial commitment significant and the success of the international community’s flagship reconstruction project at stake, an agency that hadn’t built a port anywhere in the world in over 40 years got the job.

 

Want to search in the archives?

¿Quieres buscar en los archivos?

Click Here Haga clic aquí