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.

(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.

 

Yesterday Canadian Minister of Defense Peter MacKay announced that 34 soldiers would be deploying to Haiti as part of the U.N. stabilization mission (MINUSTAH). The announcement, which comes as MINUSTAH is reducing the overall size of its force in Haiti, appears to be as much about strengthening relations with Brazil, as it is about “peacekeeping.”  Lee Berthiaume reports for Canada’s Postmedia News:

But MacKay was quick to confirm that Canada wasn’t re-upping with the UN in any significant way, but that the mission was part of a larger effort to help Haiti while strengthening ties with the emerging political, economic and military powerhouse that is Brazil.

MacKay was joined by Minister of State for the Americas Diane Ablonczy, who highlighted “the tremendous potential and the great partners that are available to Canada in Brazil.”

Aside from the fact that MINUSTAH is not truly a “peacekeeping” force, as there is no armed conflict in Haiti, Canada wouldn’t be the first country to use MINUSTAH for diplomatic or political reasons as opposed to legitimate security concerns. In fact, as we have previously noted, diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks show the motives behind Brazil taking the lead for MINUSTAH were largely political. One such cable, from March 2008 asserts:

Brazil has stayed the course as leader of MINUSTAH in Haiti despite a lack of domestic support for the PKO [peacekeeping operation]. The MRE [Ministry of External Relations] has remained committed to the initiative because it believes that the operation serves [Foreign Minister Celso] Amorim’s obsessive international goal of qualifying Brazil for a seat on the UN Security Council. The Brazilian military remains committed as well, because the mission enhances its international prestige and provides training and operational opportunities.

And it doesn’t stop there.  In addition to being led by Brazil, MINUSTAH is comprised predominantly by troops from Latin America, making up over 70 percent of the total currently. Wikileaked cables provide insight into the U.S. strategic interests behind MINUSTAH and the advantage of having it be led by Latin American countries.

As we described shortly after Wikileaks made the relevant “cablegate” documents available, in October 2008, then-Ambassador to Haiti Janet Sanderson wrote that MINUSTAH was “an indispensable tool in realizing core USG policy interests in Haiti.” Sanderson noted that an early departure of MINUSTAH could lead to “resurgent populist and anti-market economy political forces.” Sanderson continues:

In the current context of our military commitments elsewhere, the U.S. alone could not replace this mission. This regionally-coordinated Latin American commitment to Haiti would not be possible without the UN umbrella…Without a UN-sanctioned peacekeeping and stabilization force, we would be getting far less help from our hemispheric and European partners in managing Haiti.

Further, the leadership role of Latin American countries helped further the U.S. goal of isolating Venezuela and Hugo Chávez, as a cable from June 2007 explains:

An increasingly unifying theme that completely excludes Chavez, and isolates Venezuela among the militaries and security forces of the region, is participation in international and regional peacekeeping operations.

But for Canada – at least according to MacKay, “Soldiers are good diplomats.” He reportedly went on to add: “They’re great representatives of our country. They bring with them significant experience and in many cases . . . the mission-specific training that they go through makes them wonderful representatives of our country.”

But many of the international soldiers who have taken part in MINUSTAH have been anything but “good diplomats.” As we have detailed in the past, some troops have assisted police in deadly raids in slums that resulted in innocent people (including children) killed, are accused of lynching a boy for stealing, have violently attacked demonstrators, have impregnated minors, many Haitians have accused them of stealing livestock and other possessions, and they have raped women, children, and young men, among other crimes. These are all reasons why calls for MINUSTAH’s withdrawal from Haiti are getting louder. On June 1, marking nine years of MINUSTAH’s presence in Haiti, civil society groups from all over the world and including many in Haiti issued a statement demanding the mission’s withdrawal, noting that:

MINUSTAH has failed miserably to achieve the goals set out by the United Nations Security Council, the only objective accomplished being the military occupation of the country on behalf of interests that are not those of the Haitian people.

At least Canada has stated its motives publicly.

 

 

 

Yesterday Canadian Minister of Defense Peter MacKay announced that 34 soldiers would be deploying to Haiti as part of the U.N. stabilization mission (MINUSTAH). The announcement, which comes as MINUSTAH is reducing the overall size of its force in Haiti, appears to be as much about strengthening relations with Brazil, as it is about “peacekeeping.”  Lee Berthiaume reports for Canada’s Postmedia News:

But MacKay was quick to confirm that Canada wasn’t re-upping with the UN in any significant way, but that the mission was part of a larger effort to help Haiti while strengthening ties with the emerging political, economic and military powerhouse that is Brazil.

MacKay was joined by Minister of State for the Americas Diane Ablonczy, who highlighted “the tremendous potential and the great partners that are available to Canada in Brazil.”

Aside from the fact that MINUSTAH is not truly a “peacekeeping” force, as there is no armed conflict in Haiti, Canada wouldn’t be the first country to use MINUSTAH for diplomatic or political reasons as opposed to legitimate security concerns. In fact, as we have previously noted, diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks show the motives behind Brazil taking the lead for MINUSTAH were largely political. One such cable, from March 2008 asserts:

Brazil has stayed the course as leader of MINUSTAH in Haiti despite a lack of domestic support for the PKO [peacekeeping operation]. The MRE [Ministry of External Relations] has remained committed to the initiative because it believes that the operation serves [Foreign Minister Celso] Amorim’s obsessive international goal of qualifying Brazil for a seat on the UN Security Council. The Brazilian military remains committed as well, because the mission enhances its international prestige and provides training and operational opportunities.

And it doesn’t stop there.  In addition to being led by Brazil, MINUSTAH is comprised predominantly by troops from Latin America, making up over 70 percent of the total currently. Wikileaked cables provide insight into the U.S. strategic interests behind MINUSTAH and the advantage of having it be led by Latin American countries.

As we described shortly after Wikileaks made the relevant “cablegate” documents available, in October 2008, then-Ambassador to Haiti Janet Sanderson wrote that MINUSTAH was “an indispensable tool in realizing core USG policy interests in Haiti.” Sanderson noted that an early departure of MINUSTAH could lead to “resurgent populist and anti-market economy political forces.” Sanderson continues:

In the current context of our military commitments elsewhere, the U.S. alone could not replace this mission. This regionally-coordinated Latin American commitment to Haiti would not be possible without the UN umbrella…Without a UN-sanctioned peacekeeping and stabilization force, we would be getting far less help from our hemispheric and European partners in managing Haiti.

Further, the leadership role of Latin American countries helped further the U.S. goal of isolating Venezuela and Hugo Chávez, as a cable from June 2007 explains:

An increasingly unifying theme that completely excludes Chavez, and isolates Venezuela among the militaries and security forces of the region, is participation in international and regional peacekeeping operations.

But for Canada – at least according to MacKay, “Soldiers are good diplomats.” He reportedly went on to add: “They’re great representatives of our country. They bring with them significant experience and in many cases . . . the mission-specific training that they go through makes them wonderful representatives of our country.”

But many of the international soldiers who have taken part in MINUSTAH have been anything but “good diplomats.” As we have detailed in the past, some troops have assisted police in deadly raids in slums that resulted in innocent people (including children) killed, are accused of lynching a boy for stealing, have violently attacked demonstrators, have impregnated minors, many Haitians have accused them of stealing livestock and other possessions, and they have raped women, children, and young men, among other crimes. These are all reasons why calls for MINUSTAH’s withdrawal from Haiti are getting louder. On June 1, marking nine years of MINUSTAH’s presence in Haiti, civil society groups from all over the world and including many in Haiti issued a statement demanding the mission’s withdrawal, noting that:

MINUSTAH has failed miserably to achieve the goals set out by the United Nations Security Council, the only objective accomplished being the military occupation of the country on behalf of interests that are not those of the Haitian people.

At least Canada has stated its motives publicly.

 

 

 

In 2010, just months after Haiti was struck by a devastating earthquake, the United States passed legislation allocating $651 million to USAID to support relief and reconstruction efforts. Three years later, just 31 percent of these funds have been spent as delays mount and goals are scaled back, according to a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report [PDF] released yesterday. The report also criticizes USAID for a lack of transparency, especially in its reporting to Congress.

“This report shows a significant and sobering disconnect between what was originally promised for the Haitian people, and what it appears USAID is now prepared to deliver.  The Haitian people, as well as the US taxpayer, deserve better answers about our assistance than we have received to date,” according to Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

The GAO found that inaccurate cost estimates and delays led to an increase in the amount dedicated to providing shelter from $59 million to $97 million while at the same time “decreased the projected number of houses to be built by over 80 percent, from 15,000 to 2,649.” Originally estimated to cost less than $10,000 for a completed house, actual costs have been greater than $33,000. USAID has awarded over $46 million to contractors for housing. Meanwhile, some 300,000 people remain in camps over three years after the earthquake. Overall, the humanitarian community has constructed just 7,000 new homes, about 40 percent of what is currently planned.

Further, the GAO report is critical of U.S. investments supporting the Caracol Industrial Park.  Randal C. Archibold of the New York Times reports:

A big portion of Agency for International Development money, $170.3 million, went toward a power plant and port for an industrial park in northern Haiti that was the centerpiece of United States reconstruction efforts and had been heavily promoted by the State Department and former President Bill Clinton.

But the project had mixed results. Although the aid agency completed the power plant under budget, the port, crucial to the industrial park’s long-term success, is two years behind schedule “due in part to a lack of U.S.A.I.D. expertise in port planning in Haiti,” the report said, and is now vulnerable to cost overruns.

The GAO also found that a lack of oversight of USAID operations in Haiti and that congressionally mandated reports “did not include” “detailed information on funding and sector activities” as required and that despite a significant amount of funds left to be disbursed, the reporting requirement has now ended.  “Congress lacks information on the amounts of funds obligated and disbursed and program by program progress of U.S. reconstruction activities,” concludes the report.

The findings echo those made by CEPR in a report released in April, “Breaking Open the Black Box: Increasing Aid Transparency and Accountability in Haiti” and should lead to increased support for the Assessing Progress in Haiti Act that is currently making its way through the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The bill (H. R. 1749), which requires detailed reporting on amounts obligated and spent by USAID, including use of contractors and subcontractors, was introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and has 29 cosponsors in the House. While all the cosponsors are currently Democrats, the GAO report was requested by former Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and the former ranking Democrat on the Committee, Howard Berman,.  Yesterday, Ros Lehtinen, along with the current chairman of the Committee, Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), and the current ranking Democrat, Eliot Engel (D-NY) released a joint statement registering concern about the GAO’s findings and calling for hearings on the issue, suggesting bipartisan support for greater transparency around U.S. assistance programs in Haiti.

In 2010, just months after Haiti was struck by a devastating earthquake, the United States passed legislation allocating $651 million to USAID to support relief and reconstruction efforts. Three years later, just 31 percent of these funds have been spent as delays mount and goals are scaled back, according to a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report [PDF] released yesterday. The report also criticizes USAID for a lack of transparency, especially in its reporting to Congress.

“This report shows a significant and sobering disconnect between what was originally promised for the Haitian people, and what it appears USAID is now prepared to deliver.  The Haitian people, as well as the US taxpayer, deserve better answers about our assistance than we have received to date,” according to Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

The GAO found that inaccurate cost estimates and delays led to an increase in the amount dedicated to providing shelter from $59 million to $97 million while at the same time “decreased the projected number of houses to be built by over 80 percent, from 15,000 to 2,649.” Originally estimated to cost less than $10,000 for a completed house, actual costs have been greater than $33,000. USAID has awarded over $46 million to contractors for housing. Meanwhile, some 300,000 people remain in camps over three years after the earthquake. Overall, the humanitarian community has constructed just 7,000 new homes, about 40 percent of what is currently planned.

Further, the GAO report is critical of U.S. investments supporting the Caracol Industrial Park.  Randal C. Archibold of the New York Times reports:

A big portion of Agency for International Development money, $170.3 million, went toward a power plant and port for an industrial park in northern Haiti that was the centerpiece of United States reconstruction efforts and had been heavily promoted by the State Department and former President Bill Clinton.

But the project had mixed results. Although the aid agency completed the power plant under budget, the port, crucial to the industrial park’s long-term success, is two years behind schedule “due in part to a lack of U.S.A.I.D. expertise in port planning in Haiti,” the report said, and is now vulnerable to cost overruns.

The GAO also found that a lack of oversight of USAID operations in Haiti and that congressionally mandated reports “did not include” “detailed information on funding and sector activities” as required and that despite a significant amount of funds left to be disbursed, the reporting requirement has now ended.  “Congress lacks information on the amounts of funds obligated and disbursed and program by program progress of U.S. reconstruction activities,” concludes the report.

The findings echo those made by CEPR in a report released in April, “Breaking Open the Black Box: Increasing Aid Transparency and Accountability in Haiti” and should lead to increased support for the Assessing Progress in Haiti Act that is currently making its way through the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The bill (H. R. 1749), which requires detailed reporting on amounts obligated and spent by USAID, including use of contractors and subcontractors, was introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and has 29 cosponsors in the House. While all the cosponsors are currently Democrats, the GAO report was requested by former Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and the former ranking Democrat on the Committee, Howard Berman,.  Yesterday, Ros Lehtinen, along with the current chairman of the Committee, Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), and the current ranking Democrat, Eliot Engel (D-NY) released a joint statement registering concern about the GAO’s findings and calling for hearings on the issue, suggesting bipartisan support for greater transparency around U.S. assistance programs in Haiti.

On May 31 the World Bank, PAHO and UNICEF announced $28.1 million in new funding for cholera elimination efforts in Haiti. The new funding was announced following a meeting in Washington, D.C. of the Regional Coalition to Eliminate Cholera Transmission in Hispaniola. In February 2013, a $2.2 billion, 10-year cholera elimination plan was announced by the Government of Haiti, with the support of the coalition. The plan calls for $443.7 million over the first two years. Thus far, however, there have been few details of how the plan will be funded and coordinated.

In announcing the new funding, PAHO noted that UNICEF would “take lead responsibility for the operation of a national trust fund to channel resources to cholera elimination.” While the terms of reference for the national fund are still being worked out, those familiar with the discussions told HRRW that it would be run by a steering committee led by the ministries of health of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. In contrast with previous aid and reconstruction funds that have largely bypassed the Haitian government and Haitian institutions, the new fund would have the ability to directly fund the work of the Haitian government as well as international NGOs.

“Donors are looking for improved international cooperation with Haiti and this is a model they’re looking for,” said Kate Dickson, Senior Policy Advisor at PAHO. Dickson added, “it is a model that allows the respective governments, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, to actually take the lead, accompanied by a coalition at the international level.”

This would represent a significant change from previous efforts, such as the Haiti Reconstruction Fund, which was only able to disburse funds to the U.N., World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank. It also may reflect the influence of Paul Farmer, named the U.N. Secretary General’s Special Envoy on Community Based Medicine and Lessons from Haiti. Under his previous role as Deputy U.N. Special Envoy, Farmer argued that “the way aid is channeled matters a great deal, and determines its impact on the lives of the Haitian people.”

During the meeting between coalition partners and donor groups in late May, Farmer directly addressed this, in an appeal to donors:

By December 2012, only 10% of the total $6.4 billion dollars invested in Haiti had gone through national systems.  We have learned and relearned this lesson in Haiti: unless efforts are made to increase the amount of such resources to and through public institutions, the process of building them is slowed or thwarted. When we say “through”, we mean of course, that there can be local private entities, from contractors to NGOs, that wish to be part of rebuilding… Again, we are here not only to fund the national actions plans, but to do so in a way that strengthens ownership and local capacity, while accompanying local authorities and providers. This requires, as the Americans say, “boots on the ground” – not those of soldiers but of community health workers.

Nevertheless, some traditional donors, reluctant to give up operational control of their aid funds may instead opt to work outside of the national fund. This is already evident. In December, when the U.N. Secretary General announced an initiative to support the cholera elimination plan, he stated that there had already been $238.5 million committed. However, with the recent funding commitments of $28.1 million announced last week, PAHO noted that it “brings the total funds committed to support the national plans to $209.4 million, less than half the amount needed over just the next two years.”

The Secretary General’s announcement, where he pledged to “use every opportunity” to mobilize funding for the plan, included commitments from the IDB and Spanish government for example, to support the water and sanitation sector in general.  Once plans for a national fund emerged, some donors appear to have balked at providing resources through this mechanism rather than through other channels of their choosing.  USAID also reportedly does not favor putting resources into a national fund, though it is apparently interested in coordinating with the coalition. USAID did not respond to a request for comment.

But, as the national fund has yet to formally take shape and the immediate needs on the ground remain pressing, for the time being many donors will continue to fund work in the water and sanitation sector through their existing funds. “Saving lives is a priority,” said PAHO’s Dickson. “We cannot wait on the mobilization of resources for the fund to be set up, we have to move now using existing funding mechanisms to ensure a timely response to any additional outbreaks.” While donors may at first be reluctant to channel resources into a national fund, by working with the coalition the hope is that program activities will be integrated into the scope of the cholera elimination plan. The risk, however, is that aid agencies and donors fall into the same mistakes that have been made in the past, bypassing the Haitian government and failing to coordinate. What is clear though is that with hurricane season beginning, and cholera continuing to spread, the needs are not just long-term but also immediate.

“The situation is worse than it was two years ago,” says Duncan McLean, a health program manager for Medecin Sans Frontieres, adding, “I’m very, very concerned about the state of cholera preparation in Haiti. The situation has become more dangerous than it was before.”

Through the first three months of the year, the number of reported cases was up 83 percent over 2012, while deaths had increased by over 100 percent. Over the last two months cases have diminished, though cholera is still sickening nearly 100 Haitians every day. Part of this decrease is because the spring rains, which led to large increases in the caseload in 2012, have not occurred this year. However, with the hurricane season starting June 1 and the potential for a late rainy season, the expected cholera spike may have just been delayed. As of May 28, over 6.5 percent of the population has been sickened by the disease and at least 8,120 Haitians have died, according to the Health Ministry

Meanwhile, funds for the short-term response have been just has hard to come by as funding for long-term development. “To treat cholera primarily as a development issue is grand, but people are dying now,” McLean told Fox News. The Miami Herald reported last month that the $37 million U.N. appeal for Haiti was just 19 percent funded and that “Water, sanitation and health activities related to cholera are so far the least funded sectors” of the appeal.

The result has been a decreased response capacity on the ground. According to data from the United Nations, the number of cholera treatment centers and treatment units has decreased drastically over the last two years, and has reached a low of just 28 for the entire country as of April 2013, down from over 300 in early 2011.  Haiti’s Ministry of Health, which has struggled to take over for departing NGOs, is sounding the alarm. “The rainy season is upon us. Alas, our resources are not as available as they need to be. We must take urgent and bold steps to meet these needs,” Marie Raymond, director general of MSPP warned.

As Farmer stated to donors last week, “there is much to be done in the immediate term, long before the goal of eradication might be met. The fatality rate among cholera patients in Haiti is still far too high; of course no one should get cholera but no one, once sick, should die from it.”

 

On May 31 the World Bank, PAHO and UNICEF announced $28.1 million in new funding for cholera elimination efforts in Haiti. The new funding was announced following a meeting in Washington, D.C. of the Regional Coalition to Eliminate Cholera Transmission in Hispaniola. In February 2013, a $2.2 billion, 10-year cholera elimination plan was announced by the Government of Haiti, with the support of the coalition. The plan calls for $443.7 million over the first two years. Thus far, however, there have been few details of how the plan will be funded and coordinated.

In announcing the new funding, PAHO noted that UNICEF would “take lead responsibility for the operation of a national trust fund to channel resources to cholera elimination.” While the terms of reference for the national fund are still being worked out, those familiar with the discussions told HRRW that it would be run by a steering committee led by the ministries of health of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. In contrast with previous aid and reconstruction funds that have largely bypassed the Haitian government and Haitian institutions, the new fund would have the ability to directly fund the work of the Haitian government as well as international NGOs.

“Donors are looking for improved international cooperation with Haiti and this is a model they’re looking for,” said Kate Dickson, Senior Policy Advisor at PAHO. Dickson added, “it is a model that allows the respective governments, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, to actually take the lead, accompanied by a coalition at the international level.”

This would represent a significant change from previous efforts, such as the Haiti Reconstruction Fund, which was only able to disburse funds to the U.N., World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank. It also may reflect the influence of Paul Farmer, named the U.N. Secretary General’s Special Envoy on Community Based Medicine and Lessons from Haiti. Under his previous role as Deputy U.N. Special Envoy, Farmer argued that “the way aid is channeled matters a great deal, and determines its impact on the lives of the Haitian people.”

During the meeting between coalition partners and donor groups in late May, Farmer directly addressed this, in an appeal to donors:

By December 2012, only 10% of the total $6.4 billion dollars invested in Haiti had gone through national systems.  We have learned and relearned this lesson in Haiti: unless efforts are made to increase the amount of such resources to and through public institutions, the process of building them is slowed or thwarted. When we say “through”, we mean of course, that there can be local private entities, from contractors to NGOs, that wish to be part of rebuilding… Again, we are here not only to fund the national actions plans, but to do so in a way that strengthens ownership and local capacity, while accompanying local authorities and providers. This requires, as the Americans say, “boots on the ground” – not those of soldiers but of community health workers.

Nevertheless, some traditional donors, reluctant to give up operational control of their aid funds may instead opt to work outside of the national fund. This is already evident. In December, when the U.N. Secretary General announced an initiative to support the cholera elimination plan, he stated that there had already been $238.5 million committed. However, with the recent funding commitments of $28.1 million announced last week, PAHO noted that it “brings the total funds committed to support the national plans to $209.4 million, less than half the amount needed over just the next two years.”

The Secretary General’s announcement, where he pledged to “use every opportunity” to mobilize funding for the plan, included commitments from the IDB and Spanish government for example, to support the water and sanitation sector in general.  Once plans for a national fund emerged, some donors appear to have balked at providing resources through this mechanism rather than through other channels of their choosing.  USAID also reportedly does not favor putting resources into a national fund, though it is apparently interested in coordinating with the coalition. USAID did not respond to a request for comment.

But, as the national fund has yet to formally take shape and the immediate needs on the ground remain pressing, for the time being many donors will continue to fund work in the water and sanitation sector through their existing funds. “Saving lives is a priority,” said PAHO’s Dickson. “We cannot wait on the mobilization of resources for the fund to be set up, we have to move now using existing funding mechanisms to ensure a timely response to any additional outbreaks.” While donors may at first be reluctant to channel resources into a national fund, by working with the coalition the hope is that program activities will be integrated into the scope of the cholera elimination plan. The risk, however, is that aid agencies and donors fall into the same mistakes that have been made in the past, bypassing the Haitian government and failing to coordinate. What is clear though is that with hurricane season beginning, and cholera continuing to spread, the needs are not just long-term but also immediate.

“The situation is worse than it was two years ago,” says Duncan McLean, a health program manager for Medecin Sans Frontieres, adding, “I’m very, very concerned about the state of cholera preparation in Haiti. The situation has become more dangerous than it was before.”

Through the first three months of the year, the number of reported cases was up 83 percent over 2012, while deaths had increased by over 100 percent. Over the last two months cases have diminished, though cholera is still sickening nearly 100 Haitians every day. Part of this decrease is because the spring rains, which led to large increases in the caseload in 2012, have not occurred this year. However, with the hurricane season starting June 1 and the potential for a late rainy season, the expected cholera spike may have just been delayed. As of May 28, over 6.5 percent of the population has been sickened by the disease and at least 8,120 Haitians have died, according to the Health Ministry

Meanwhile, funds for the short-term response have been just has hard to come by as funding for long-term development. “To treat cholera primarily as a development issue is grand, but people are dying now,” McLean told Fox News. The Miami Herald reported last month that the $37 million U.N. appeal for Haiti was just 19 percent funded and that “Water, sanitation and health activities related to cholera are so far the least funded sectors” of the appeal.

The result has been a decreased response capacity on the ground. According to data from the United Nations, the number of cholera treatment centers and treatment units has decreased drastically over the last two years, and has reached a low of just 28 for the entire country as of April 2013, down from over 300 in early 2011.  Haiti’s Ministry of Health, which has struggled to take over for departing NGOs, is sounding the alarm. “The rainy season is upon us. Alas, our resources are not as available as they need to be. We must take urgent and bold steps to meet these needs,” Marie Raymond, director general of MSPP warned.

As Farmer stated to donors last week, “there is much to be done in the immediate term, long before the goal of eradication might be met. The fatality rate among cholera patients in Haiti is still far too high; of course no one should get cholera but no one, once sick, should die from it.”

 

The Associated Press’ Trenton Daniel takes a look at high levels of malnutrition and food insecurity in Haiti, reporting that

Three years after an earthquake killed hundreds of thousands and the U.S. promised that Haiti would “build back better,” hunger is worse than ever. Despite billions of dollars from around the world pledged toward rebuilding efforts, the country’s food problems underscore just how vulnerable its 10 million people remain.

In 1997 some 1.2 million Haitians didn’t have enough food to eat. A decade later the number had more than doubled. Today, that figure is 6.7 million, or a staggering 67 percent of the population that goes without food some days, can’t afford a balanced diet or has limited access to food, according to surveys by the government’s National Coordination of Food Security. As many as 1.5 million of those face malnutrition and other hunger-related problems.

The AP article follows the release last week of a USAID-sponsored “Famine Early Warning System Network” report that warns that

The early depletion of food supplies from bad harvests, the growing dependence for poor households on market, and a reduction in agricultural employment opportunities have contributed to the increasingly widespread acute food insecurity throughout the country. Many municipalities are currently in Crisis

Late rains, seed shortages (driving up seed prices), and withering crops that were planted early are factors contributing to climbing food prices, the report states.

Daniel surveys some of the government’s responses to the challenge. One of the more hopeful efforts to tackle hunger in Haiti that Daniel describes is the Petrocaribe-funded program “Aba Grangou”:

Shortly after taking office, President Michel Martelly launched a nationwide program led by his wife, Sophia, called Aba Grangou, Creole for “end hunger.” Financed with $30 million from Venezuela’s PetroCaribe fund, the program aims to halve the number of people who are hungry in Haiti by 2016 and eradicate hunger and malnutrition altogether by 2025. Some 2.2 million children are supposed to take part in a school food program financed by the fund.

Eberwein, whose government agency oversees Aba Grangou, said 60,000 mothers have received cash transfers for keeping their children in school. A half million food kits were distributed after Hurricane Sandy, along with 45,000 seed kits to replenish damaged crops, he said. Mid- to long-term solutions require creating jobs.

But the villagers in the Belle Anse area say they’ve seen scant evidence of the program, as if officials have forgotten the deaths in 2008 of at least 26 severely malnourished children in this very region. That same year, the government collapsed after soaring food prices triggered riots.

The article notes that USAID, which has awarded $1.15 billion in contracts and grants to for work in Haiti since the 2010 earthquake, has devoted only two-thirds as much ($20 million) to a post-Hurricane Sandy food program as the Petrocaribe-funded Aba Grangou. Not to worry – AP cites an expert who assures readers that were people not receiving the aid, they would riot:

USAID has allocated nearly $20 million to international aid groups to focus on food problems since Hurricane Sandy, but villagers in southern Haiti said they have seen little evidence of that.

Despite the discrepancy, one public health expert said there’s sufficient proof that at least some of the aid is reaching the population. Were it not, Richard Garfield said, Haiti would see mass migration and unrest.

“Overall aid has gotten to people pretty well. If aid hadn’t gotten to people that place would be so much more of a mess,” said Garfield, a professor emeritus at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and now a specialist in emergency response at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “You’d see starvation and riots … The absence of terrible things is about the best positive thing that we can say.

But has been discussed repeatedly in news articles, on this blog, and elsewhere – and as former president Clinton has admitted – U.S. food assistance policies are in large part responsible for the destabilization of Haitian agriculture and the related prevalence of food insecurity and malnutrition. As we have previously noted, Chemonics, by far the largest single recipient of USAID funds, used to be a sister company to Comet Rice, which was a central player in this tragedy.

Proposed reforms to such food aid practices made by the Obama administration could assist an additional four million people for the same amount of funds, according to USAID; the Center for Global Development (CGD) estimates as many as 10 million more. As CGD’s Beth Schwanke describes, these proposals would “relax in-kind and cargo preference requirements on emergency aid, shift $250 million of non-emergency food aid into a new account without in-kind restrictions, and eliminate monetization.” But these and other proposed reforms [PDF] are being strongly opposed by vested interests that profit from the current system, at Haitians’ expense.

The Associated Press’ Trenton Daniel takes a look at high levels of malnutrition and food insecurity in Haiti, reporting that

Three years after an earthquake killed hundreds of thousands and the U.S. promised that Haiti would “build back better,” hunger is worse than ever. Despite billions of dollars from around the world pledged toward rebuilding efforts, the country’s food problems underscore just how vulnerable its 10 million people remain.

In 1997 some 1.2 million Haitians didn’t have enough food to eat. A decade later the number had more than doubled. Today, that figure is 6.7 million, or a staggering 67 percent of the population that goes without food some days, can’t afford a balanced diet or has limited access to food, according to surveys by the government’s National Coordination of Food Security. As many as 1.5 million of those face malnutrition and other hunger-related problems.

The AP article follows the release last week of a USAID-sponsored “Famine Early Warning System Network” report that warns that

The early depletion of food supplies from bad harvests, the growing dependence for poor households on market, and a reduction in agricultural employment opportunities have contributed to the increasingly widespread acute food insecurity throughout the country. Many municipalities are currently in Crisis

Late rains, seed shortages (driving up seed prices), and withering crops that were planted early are factors contributing to climbing food prices, the report states.

Daniel surveys some of the government’s responses to the challenge. One of the more hopeful efforts to tackle hunger in Haiti that Daniel describes is the Petrocaribe-funded program “Aba Grangou”:

Shortly after taking office, President Michel Martelly launched a nationwide program led by his wife, Sophia, called Aba Grangou, Creole for “end hunger.” Financed with $30 million from Venezuela’s PetroCaribe fund, the program aims to halve the number of people who are hungry in Haiti by 2016 and eradicate hunger and malnutrition altogether by 2025. Some 2.2 million children are supposed to take part in a school food program financed by the fund.

Eberwein, whose government agency oversees Aba Grangou, said 60,000 mothers have received cash transfers for keeping their children in school. A half million food kits were distributed after Hurricane Sandy, along with 45,000 seed kits to replenish damaged crops, he said. Mid- to long-term solutions require creating jobs.

But the villagers in the Belle Anse area say they’ve seen scant evidence of the program, as if officials have forgotten the deaths in 2008 of at least 26 severely malnourished children in this very region. That same year, the government collapsed after soaring food prices triggered riots.

The article notes that USAID, which has awarded $1.15 billion in contracts and grants to for work in Haiti since the 2010 earthquake, has devoted only two-thirds as much ($20 million) to a post-Hurricane Sandy food program as the Petrocaribe-funded Aba Grangou. Not to worry – AP cites an expert who assures readers that were people not receiving the aid, they would riot:

USAID has allocated nearly $20 million to international aid groups to focus on food problems since Hurricane Sandy, but villagers in southern Haiti said they have seen little evidence of that.

Despite the discrepancy, one public health expert said there’s sufficient proof that at least some of the aid is reaching the population. Were it not, Richard Garfield said, Haiti would see mass migration and unrest.

“Overall aid has gotten to people pretty well. If aid hadn’t gotten to people that place would be so much more of a mess,” said Garfield, a professor emeritus at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and now a specialist in emergency response at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “You’d see starvation and riots … The absence of terrible things is about the best positive thing that we can say.

But has been discussed repeatedly in news articles, on this blog, and elsewhere – and as former president Clinton has admitted – U.S. food assistance policies are in large part responsible for the destabilization of Haitian agriculture and the related prevalence of food insecurity and malnutrition. As we have previously noted, Chemonics, by far the largest single recipient of USAID funds, used to be a sister company to Comet Rice, which was a central player in this tragedy.

Proposed reforms to such food aid practices made by the Obama administration could assist an additional four million people for the same amount of funds, according to USAID; the Center for Global Development (CGD) estimates as many as 10 million more. As CGD’s Beth Schwanke describes, these proposals would “relax in-kind and cargo preference requirements on emergency aid, shift $250 million of non-emergency food aid into a new account without in-kind restrictions, and eliminate monetization.” But these and other proposed reforms [PDF] are being strongly opposed by vested interests that profit from the current system, at Haitians’ expense.

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