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.

Over the next month, Haiti Relief and Reconstruction Watch blogger and CEPR International Research Associate, Jake Johnston will be in Haiti following up, on the ground, many of the issues this blog has covered since the earthquake nearly three years ago.

Port-au-Prince – In the last thirteen months, the “official” total of displaced persons in Haiti has decreased by 35 percent and over 300 camps have been closed. One could be forgiven for thinking the decrease was even larger. The sprawling tent camp near the airport, for everyone entering Haiti to see, as well as the Champ de Mars camp, are no longer. With their closure, some of the most visible signs of the stalled reconstruction effort have been erased.  As the three-year commemoration of the earthquake approaches, the reduction in the IDP population will undoubtedly be touted as one of the great successes of the relief and reconstruction effort. And yet an estimated 360,000 Haitians remain in official tent camps.

Those who remain may not be as visible; many are tucked behind high walls and off main streets but their situation remains just as dire and continues to deteriorate. The most recent OCHA Humanitarian Bulletin notes that those who remain in the camps “face worsening living conditions, as humanitarian partners pull out as a result of lack of funding.” It is estimated that at least 230,000 will still be in the camps at this time next year.

For those that have left the camps, little is known about their current status. According to OCHA, over 250,000 have left the camps due to resettlement programs, yet there has been no systematic tracking of what has happened to them. The government’s flagship relocation program, “16/6”, began over a year ago, meaning the one-year rental subsidies offered to camp residents have already run out, or will in the next few months. One former resident of the Champ de Mars camp said that his subsidy will run out next month, and with no steady employment, he expects to be back on the street soon. If so, he, and others in similar situations, would likely fall outside of the “official” camp population.

Some studies by actors involved in rental subsidy programs have shown high rates of success concerning families finding housing even after the one-year is up. The International Federation of the Red Cross, for example found that, of 354 families whose rental subsidy had run out, 63 percent had stayed in their apartment, while only 10 percent could not be found. Nevertheless, there is a need for further research on what will happen to families once their yearly rental ends. A greater focus from all involved in relocation on the long-term impacts of their programs is urgently needed.

There is also evidence that the rental subsidy option could be nearing its end. In April, studies by aid agencies estimated the amount of available rental options to be roughly 19,000 in the metropolitan Port-au-Prince area. The studies led the Shelter Cluster to recommend an increase in the rental return programs. But since that study, over 10,000 additional families have received the subsidy, meaning that the possibility of further camp population reduction through the program could be limited.

While the rental subsidy and other return programs have had limited success in reducing the number of camp residents, the long-term impacts could be extremely dangerous. Further, it remains clear that the vast majority of those that have left the “official” camps did so not because of return programs, but because of deplorable living conditions or (sometimes very violent) forced evictions. As can be seen in the table below, only 25 percent of the reduction in the camp population can be attributed to relocation efforts. For the remaining 880,000, little is known, though it is clear on the ground that there has been a proliferation of informal camps, outside the purview of the “official” totals. Of those who remain in the camps, some 80,000 are under constant threat of eviction.

Camp Reduction Relocation
Source: E-Shelter-CCCM December 2012 Fact Sheet.

One effort to follow up with former camp residents was undertaken by Mark Schuller of Northern Illinois University and in coordination with the Faculté d’Ethnologie at l’Université d’Etat d’Haïti. Only one in seven of those surveyed had left the camps due to receiving money, usually from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) or an NGO. This is even fewer than those who responded that they had left the camps due to a forced eviction (one in six). Overall, Schuller found that “the data do not point to a clear answer that after one of the largest and best funded humanitarian efforts in recent history, people are better off now than before the earthquake.”

One of the largest impediments to better livelihoods identified by Schuller was that the neighborhood revitalization programs that were supposed to accompany the relocations have yet to show results. It is possible that the influx of new residents into neighborhoods, which were already strained by the earthquake, is making them even more vulnerable to the next disaster. The $65 million dollar World Bank “Port au Prince Neighborhood Housing Reconstruction” project, partially funded by the Haiti Reconstruction Fund, has only disbursed $5 million as of November, and won’t be completed until 2015 at the earliest.

Over the next month, Haiti Relief and Reconstruction Watch blogger and CEPR International Research Associate, Jake Johnston will be in Haiti following up, on the ground, many of the issues this blog has covered since the earthquake nearly three years ago.

Port-au-Prince – In the last thirteen months, the “official” total of displaced persons in Haiti has decreased by 35 percent and over 300 camps have been closed. One could be forgiven for thinking the decrease was even larger. The sprawling tent camp near the airport, for everyone entering Haiti to see, as well as the Champ de Mars camp, are no longer. With their closure, some of the most visible signs of the stalled reconstruction effort have been erased.  As the three-year commemoration of the earthquake approaches, the reduction in the IDP population will undoubtedly be touted as one of the great successes of the relief and reconstruction effort. And yet an estimated 360,000 Haitians remain in official tent camps.

Those who remain may not be as visible; many are tucked behind high walls and off main streets but their situation remains just as dire and continues to deteriorate. The most recent OCHA Humanitarian Bulletin notes that those who remain in the camps “face worsening living conditions, as humanitarian partners pull out as a result of lack of funding.” It is estimated that at least 230,000 will still be in the camps at this time next year.

For those that have left the camps, little is known about their current status. According to OCHA, over 250,000 have left the camps due to resettlement programs, yet there has been no systematic tracking of what has happened to them. The government’s flagship relocation program, “16/6”, began over a year ago, meaning the one-year rental subsidies offered to camp residents have already run out, or will in the next few months. One former resident of the Champ de Mars camp said that his subsidy will run out next month, and with no steady employment, he expects to be back on the street soon. If so, he, and others in similar situations, would likely fall outside of the “official” camp population.

Some studies by actors involved in rental subsidy programs have shown high rates of success concerning families finding housing even after the one-year is up. The International Federation of the Red Cross, for example found that, of 354 families whose rental subsidy had run out, 63 percent had stayed in their apartment, while only 10 percent could not be found. Nevertheless, there is a need for further research on what will happen to families once their yearly rental ends. A greater focus from all involved in relocation on the long-term impacts of their programs is urgently needed.

There is also evidence that the rental subsidy option could be nearing its end. In April, studies by aid agencies estimated the amount of available rental options to be roughly 19,000 in the metropolitan Port-au-Prince area. The studies led the Shelter Cluster to recommend an increase in the rental return programs. But since that study, over 10,000 additional families have received the subsidy, meaning that the possibility of further camp population reduction through the program could be limited.

While the rental subsidy and other return programs have had limited success in reducing the number of camp residents, the long-term impacts could be extremely dangerous. Further, it remains clear that the vast majority of those that have left the “official” camps did so not because of return programs, but because of deplorable living conditions or (sometimes very violent) forced evictions. As can be seen in the table below, only 25 percent of the reduction in the camp population can be attributed to relocation efforts. For the remaining 880,000, little is known, though it is clear on the ground that there has been a proliferation of informal camps, outside the purview of the “official” totals. Of those who remain in the camps, some 80,000 are under constant threat of eviction.

Camp Reduction Relocation
Source: E-Shelter-CCCM December 2012 Fact Sheet.

One effort to follow up with former camp residents was undertaken by Mark Schuller of Northern Illinois University and in coordination with the Faculté d’Ethnologie at l’Université d’Etat d’Haïti. Only one in seven of those surveyed had left the camps due to receiving money, usually from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) or an NGO. This is even fewer than those who responded that they had left the camps due to a forced eviction (one in six). Overall, Schuller found that “the data do not point to a clear answer that after one of the largest and best funded humanitarian efforts in recent history, people are better off now than before the earthquake.”

One of the largest impediments to better livelihoods identified by Schuller was that the neighborhood revitalization programs that were supposed to accompany the relocations have yet to show results. It is possible that the influx of new residents into neighborhoods, which were already strained by the earthquake, is making them even more vulnerable to the next disaster. The $65 million dollar World Bank “Port au Prince Neighborhood Housing Reconstruction” project, partially funded by the Haiti Reconstruction Fund, has only disbursed $5 million as of November, and won’t be completed until 2015 at the earliest.

Red Cross Progress Report Raises Some Questions

The American Red Cross has issued a new progress report on its work in Haiti since the earthquake, describing how it has used the $486 million USD that it has raised. The report, while brief, and still vague in some places, seems to be intended in part as a response to recent criticism the organization has received over the pace and efficacy of its spending. ARC President and CEO Gail McGovern writes:

At this point, virtually all of the money donated to the American Red Cross has been spent, committed or allocated for planned housing and neighborhood recovery, health, clean water and sanitation and disaster preparedness projects. A relatively small amount of unallocated money—or 4 percent of all donations received—is held in reserve for unanticipated or emerging needs. That’s because even as we focus on long-term recovery, we must at the same time respond to cholera outbreaks and disasters in Haiti such as Tropical Storm Isaac and Hurricane Sandy.

By “virtually all,” McGovern means 85 percent, or $415 million, 33 percent of which it says it has “spent and committed” to “housing and neighborhood recovery”; 16 percent each to emergency relief and health, respectively; 12 percent to water and sanitation; 11 percent to disaster preparedness and risk reduction; 8 percent to “livelihoods” (undefined in the report, but previously described as including “grants, jobs and other help”); and 4 percent to cholera.

The report contains several anecdotal stories, but also some additional useful information. For example, the ARC says “We provided more than 72 percent of the funds needed for the distribution of a cholera vaccine, which more than 90,000 Haitians received this year.” It also notes that “we helped fund the construction of Mirebalais Teaching Hospital and partnered with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to rebuild a prosthetics and physical rehabilitation center.” Less useful is the statement “the American Red Cross has also spent more than $50 million on projects that have improved access to clean water and sanitation for 545,000 people,” where “improved access” is not further defined.

The ARC notes that “we have helped build, upgrade or repair more than 14,000 transitional and permanent homes for more than 70,000 people, and have helped more than 20,000 people transition out of camps by subsidizing rents,” but does not differentiate between the “transitional” and “permanent” dwellings, nor does it provide additional information on what people who have “transition[ed] out of camps” have done after leaving, how they live and whether their new situations are sustainable and will allow them to have a dignified, safe and healthy quality of life – even in the near term. The lumping together of “transitional” and “permanent” dwellings is especially problematic since, as so many residents and observers have noted, in many cases “transitional” shelters have become de facto “permanent.”

Then there is the lack of clarity over what the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) has done, versus the American arm. While the ARC says it has “helped” to move over 20,000 individuals out of camps with rental subsidies, the most recent information from the Shelter Cluster says the ARC itself has only given out 103 subsidies, while the IFRC has given out over 5,000.

While the American Red Cross has been the biggest U.S. recipient of individuals’ donations for post-quake Haiti, it states that it has only provided shelter for less than 0.05 percent of the 1.5 million people estimated to have originally been left homeless by the earthquake. The 70,000 people the ARC says it has housed would still only be about 19 percent of the total number of people who remain in IDP camps three years after the quake. This is despite the fact that the ARC states that housing has been the biggest sector of funds “spent and committed.” Housing is the area that the ARC identifies as having the farthest to go toward reaching its “Program Objectives” (at 70 percent so far); however, at this rate the rest of the planned “housing and neighborhood recovery” program will still only affect a small number of Haiti’s IDP’s. This raises the question: why isn’t the program more ambitious? Shouldn’t the goal be to provide housing for all the remaining homeless?

Some of these questions – as well as whether the ARC’s money could be used more efficiently – could be answered with more transparency. As we have noted in the past, the Red Cross has granted some of its funds to other organizations, but has been quiet about amounts and recipients. We cited a Chronicle of Philanthropy article a year ago:

The charity has so far pledged or spent $330-million of the $486-million it received. About $171-million has been committed to other nonprofits. A spokeswoman declined to specify what share has actually gone out the door but said it was the majority of the $330-million.

In its new report, the ARC states, “An average of 91 cents of every dollar the American Red Cross spends is invested in humanitarian services and programs.” But can it be sure there is only 9 percent overhead when it effectively contracts out its work?

The American Red Cross has issued a new progress report on its work in Haiti since the earthquake, describing how it has used the $486 million USD that it has raised. The report, while brief, and still vague in some places, seems to be intended in part as a response to recent criticism the organization has received over the pace and efficacy of its spending. ARC President and CEO Gail McGovern writes:

At this point, virtually all of the money donated to the American Red Cross has been spent, committed or allocated for planned housing and neighborhood recovery, health, clean water and sanitation and disaster preparedness projects. A relatively small amount of unallocated money—or 4 percent of all donations received—is held in reserve for unanticipated or emerging needs. That’s because even as we focus on long-term recovery, we must at the same time respond to cholera outbreaks and disasters in Haiti such as Tropical Storm Isaac and Hurricane Sandy.

By “virtually all,” McGovern means 85 percent, or $415 million, 33 percent of which it says it has “spent and committed” to “housing and neighborhood recovery”; 16 percent each to emergency relief and health, respectively; 12 percent to water and sanitation; 11 percent to disaster preparedness and risk reduction; 8 percent to “livelihoods” (undefined in the report, but previously described as including “grants, jobs and other help”); and 4 percent to cholera.

The report contains several anecdotal stories, but also some additional useful information. For example, the ARC says “We provided more than 72 percent of the funds needed for the distribution of a cholera vaccine, which more than 90,000 Haitians received this year.” It also notes that “we helped fund the construction of Mirebalais Teaching Hospital and partnered with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to rebuild a prosthetics and physical rehabilitation center.” Less useful is the statement “the American Red Cross has also spent more than $50 million on projects that have improved access to clean water and sanitation for 545,000 people,” where “improved access” is not further defined.

The ARC notes that “we have helped build, upgrade or repair more than 14,000 transitional and permanent homes for more than 70,000 people, and have helped more than 20,000 people transition out of camps by subsidizing rents,” but does not differentiate between the “transitional” and “permanent” dwellings, nor does it provide additional information on what people who have “transition[ed] out of camps” have done after leaving, how they live and whether their new situations are sustainable and will allow them to have a dignified, safe and healthy quality of life – even in the near term. The lumping together of “transitional” and “permanent” dwellings is especially problematic since, as so many residents and observers have noted, in many cases “transitional” shelters have become de facto “permanent.”

Then there is the lack of clarity over what the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) has done, versus the American arm. While the ARC says it has “helped” to move over 20,000 individuals out of camps with rental subsidies, the most recent information from the Shelter Cluster says the ARC itself has only given out 103 subsidies, while the IFRC has given out over 5,000.

While the American Red Cross has been the biggest U.S. recipient of individuals’ donations for post-quake Haiti, it states that it has only provided shelter for less than 0.05 percent of the 1.5 million people estimated to have originally been left homeless by the earthquake. The 70,000 people the ARC says it has housed would still only be about 19 percent of the total number of people who remain in IDP camps three years after the quake. This is despite the fact that the ARC states that housing has been the biggest sector of funds “spent and committed.” Housing is the area that the ARC identifies as having the farthest to go toward reaching its “Program Objectives” (at 70 percent so far); however, at this rate the rest of the planned “housing and neighborhood recovery” program will still only affect a small number of Haiti’s IDP’s. This raises the question: why isn’t the program more ambitious? Shouldn’t the goal be to provide housing for all the remaining homeless?

Some of these questions – as well as whether the ARC’s money could be used more efficiently – could be answered with more transparency. As we have noted in the past, the Red Cross has granted some of its funds to other organizations, but has been quiet about amounts and recipients. We cited a Chronicle of Philanthropy article a year ago:

The charity has so far pledged or spent $330-million of the $486-million it received. About $171-million has been committed to other nonprofits. A spokeswoman declined to specify what share has actually gone out the door but said it was the majority of the $330-million.

In its new report, the ARC states, “An average of 91 cents of every dollar the American Red Cross spends is invested in humanitarian services and programs.” But can it be sure there is only 9 percent overhead when it effectively contracts out its work?

Taking Stock Three Years Later: A Prelude

January 1 was the anniversary of Haiti’s independence, and another marker – the third year since the earthquake – is coming up at the end of next week. Media outlets are examining what has been achieved – and what hasn’t – over the past three years.

The New York Times’ Deborah Sontag had a major, must-read feature article based on her investigative look at the shortcomings of the aid and reconstruction efforts, examining the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, the agency and NGO coordination “clusters” and the Caracol industrial park, among other aspects. She also reports on contractors such as Chemonics, one that has been scrutinized by this blog repeatedly:

One American taxpayer-financed program, scrutinized by the Agency for International Development’s inspector general, was intended to provide short-term jobs for Haitians and to remove significant rubble. But the program, and in particular the work carried out by two Beltway-based firms, was less than successful on both fronts, the inspector general said: It generated only a third of the jobs anticipated and it appeared to demonstrate that using manual labor to clear debris was so inefficient as to slow the rebuilding effort.

One of the firms, Chemonics International, which was awarded $150 million in post-earthquake contracts, built a $1.9 million temporary home for the Haitian Parliament. The American ambassador presented it as a gift to Haitian democracy, but many legislators were more irked than thankful because the building was delivered devoid of interior walls and furnishings, as The Global Post reported, and it took almost half a year to scrounge together the money to finish it.

The New York Times editorial board weighed in yesterday with a lengthy editorial decrying the failures of the reconstruction process, and also highlighting the ongoing cholera epidemic caused by the UN, concluding:

A recently announced 10-year and $2.2 billion effort to rid Haiti and the Dominican Republic of cholera by improving water and sanitation will require close coordination among the Haitian government, the United Nations, United States and other partners. Senator John Kerry, who has paid astute attention to Haitian issues in the Senate, will be well placed to do so if he becomes the next secretary of state. As long as the miseries continue, the need for the world to get this right remains.

Elsewhere, Ian Birrell sounds similar themes in The Guardian:

But, as the anniversary approaches, it is evident that many good intentions imploded at the expense of the people they were meant to help. Haiti stands as the latest sad example of how self-aggrandising assumptions of the global aid industry can backfire so badly. The humanitarian business should reflect hard on the failures.

After the disaster the international response was impressive. People watching horror play out in primetime donated nearly £2bn to charities; governments and official institutions pledged another £6bn. Although huge amounts still sit in bank accounts – the Red Cross alone has £310m, more than twice the total spent on permanent housing – £5.6bn has been disbursed.

But, as Sontag writes in her December 23 article, “disbursed does not necessarily meant spent. Sometimes, it simply means the money has been shifted from one bank account to another as projects have gotten bogged down. That is the case for nearly half the money for housing.”

Birrell writes:

Little wonder there is anger among local people, who were left so badly placed when hurricane Sandy struck two months ago. From the start of relief efforts in 2010 there was chaos, with hundreds of aid groups from all over the world flooding in. There had to be dozens of co-ordinating meetings each week, invariably held in English rather than French or Creole, underlining the exclusion of Haitians from the rebuilding of their own country.

The voices of local people were ignored by arrogant outsiders, undermining accountability and sustainable development. As the Centre for Global Development reported this month, only a shameful 0.6% of the money spent by bilateral and multilateral donors was given to Haitian charities and businesses. Meanwhile an estimated 40% went on supporting all the foreigners dispensing aid, with their inflated housing allowances, vehicles and drivers.

A response to Birrell’s op-ed from Jane Cocking of Oxfam UK takes issue with some of his assertions, noting that “Aid agencies are present because there is abject poverty. It does not follow that they have caused that poverty.” Unfortunately, Cocking’s letter does not recognize important points that Birrell makes – many of them also examined in Sontag’s article and in the Times editorial – that aid in Haiti has long been ill-coordinated, side-stepping the Haitian government, which it has weakened in the process — or that Haitians needed, and need, to be central to the relief and rebuilding process, from the government on down to the workers carrying out the projects.

January 1 was the anniversary of Haiti’s independence, and another marker – the third year since the earthquake – is coming up at the end of next week. Media outlets are examining what has been achieved – and what hasn’t – over the past three years.

The New York Times’ Deborah Sontag had a major, must-read feature article based on her investigative look at the shortcomings of the aid and reconstruction efforts, examining the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, the agency and NGO coordination “clusters” and the Caracol industrial park, among other aspects. She also reports on contractors such as Chemonics, one that has been scrutinized by this blog repeatedly:

One American taxpayer-financed program, scrutinized by the Agency for International Development’s inspector general, was intended to provide short-term jobs for Haitians and to remove significant rubble. But the program, and in particular the work carried out by two Beltway-based firms, was less than successful on both fronts, the inspector general said: It generated only a third of the jobs anticipated and it appeared to demonstrate that using manual labor to clear debris was so inefficient as to slow the rebuilding effort.

One of the firms, Chemonics International, which was awarded $150 million in post-earthquake contracts, built a $1.9 million temporary home for the Haitian Parliament. The American ambassador presented it as a gift to Haitian democracy, but many legislators were more irked than thankful because the building was delivered devoid of interior walls and furnishings, as The Global Post reported, and it took almost half a year to scrounge together the money to finish it.

The New York Times editorial board weighed in yesterday with a lengthy editorial decrying the failures of the reconstruction process, and also highlighting the ongoing cholera epidemic caused by the UN, concluding:

A recently announced 10-year and $2.2 billion effort to rid Haiti and the Dominican Republic of cholera by improving water and sanitation will require close coordination among the Haitian government, the United Nations, United States and other partners. Senator John Kerry, who has paid astute attention to Haitian issues in the Senate, will be well placed to do so if he becomes the next secretary of state. As long as the miseries continue, the need for the world to get this right remains.

Elsewhere, Ian Birrell sounds similar themes in The Guardian:

But, as the anniversary approaches, it is evident that many good intentions imploded at the expense of the people they were meant to help. Haiti stands as the latest sad example of how self-aggrandising assumptions of the global aid industry can backfire so badly. The humanitarian business should reflect hard on the failures.

After the disaster the international response was impressive. People watching horror play out in primetime donated nearly £2bn to charities; governments and official institutions pledged another £6bn. Although huge amounts still sit in bank accounts – the Red Cross alone has £310m, more than twice the total spent on permanent housing – £5.6bn has been disbursed.

But, as Sontag writes in her December 23 article, “disbursed does not necessarily meant spent. Sometimes, it simply means the money has been shifted from one bank account to another as projects have gotten bogged down. That is the case for nearly half the money for housing.”

Birrell writes:

Little wonder there is anger among local people, who were left so badly placed when hurricane Sandy struck two months ago. From the start of relief efforts in 2010 there was chaos, with hundreds of aid groups from all over the world flooding in. There had to be dozens of co-ordinating meetings each week, invariably held in English rather than French or Creole, underlining the exclusion of Haitians from the rebuilding of their own country.

The voices of local people were ignored by arrogant outsiders, undermining accountability and sustainable development. As the Centre for Global Development reported this month, only a shameful 0.6% of the money spent by bilateral and multilateral donors was given to Haitian charities and businesses. Meanwhile an estimated 40% went on supporting all the foreigners dispensing aid, with their inflated housing allowances, vehicles and drivers.

A response to Birrell’s op-ed from Jane Cocking of Oxfam UK takes issue with some of his assertions, noting that “Aid agencies are present because there is abject poverty. It does not follow that they have caused that poverty.” Unfortunately, Cocking’s letter does not recognize important points that Birrell makes – many of them also examined in Sontag’s article and in the Times editorial – that aid in Haiti has long been ill-coordinated, side-stepping the Haitian government, which it has weakened in the process — or that Haitians needed, and need, to be central to the relief and rebuilding process, from the government on down to the workers carrying out the projects.

Tonight, in a ceremony presided over by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, BBC correspondent Mark Doyle and producer Piers Scholfield will be presented with an award from the U.N. Correspondents Association (UNCA). The award, one of many to be handed out, is described by the UNCA as being for “the best coverage of the United Nations and its agencies.” Certainly by “best” they do not mean the most flattering. The BBC radio documentary that earned Scholfield and Doyle the prize was an investigation into the source of the cholera outbreak in Haiti, which over the past two years has killed over 7,800 and sickened over 625,000. A host of scientific evidence, as well as on the ground reporting, including by Doyle and Scholfield, has pinpointed a U.N. military base as the source of the outbreak.

Just last week, Ban Ki-moon announced that the U.N. would be starting a new initiative to secure funds for a 10-year, $2.2 billion plan, set to be formally announced in January, that aims to provide Haiti and the Dominican Republic with the clean water and sanitation infrastructure needed to eradicate the disease.  Yet despite the U.N.’s pledge to support this plan, the U.N. has failed to ever accept responsibility for the epidemic. Despite a legal complaint filed with the U.N. on behalf of over 5,000 victims of cholera by the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti and Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, U.N. officials continue to avoid their own role in its introduction.

Writing in Foreign Policy on the U.N. announcement last week, Jonathan Katz and Tom Murphy note:

One of the primary means by which the U.N. has deflected blame since the beginning has been to insist that efforts to find the source of the epidemic would detract from fighting it. By relaunching an existing Haitian-Dominican effort under the guise of a U.N. initiative, the world body can once again claim to be too busy saving Haitian lives to comment on how those lives were put in danger in the first place. It took no time for this to happen. When an AP reporter asked on Dec. 11 whether humanitarian coordinator Nigel Fisher thought the U.N. caused the cholera epidemic, he refused to comment, saying: “My focus is on today.”

In announcing this new initiative the U.N. pledged just $23.5 million of their own funds, less than four percent of what they are spending on keeping MINUSTAH troops in the country this year; the same troops that introduced the disease in the first place. As Mark Doyle commented after last week’s announcement, “The United Nations is good at launching appeals for aid. It is less good at admitting its own faults.”

It is also notable that the prize is named for Ricardo Ortega. Ortega was shot and killed in Haiti in 2004 after the U.S.-backed coup against democratically elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. While it was originally reported that Aristide supporters killed Ortega, Ortega’s colleagues – on further investigation – concluded that he may have been killed by U.S. marines who were sent to Haiti following the coup. The marines would later be replaced by MINUSTAH troops. As Democracy Now reported in 2004:

On March 7th of this year, as the coup against Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide took shape, journalist Ricardo Ortega fell to the ground as he covered street protests in Port Au Prince. He had been fatally shot in the chest. His last words, as he was loaded onto a truck with other wounded, were “I cannot breathe.” It was reported at the time that he had been shot by Aristide supporters.

Ricardo was in Haiti as a freelance journalist, after being dismissed as New York correspondent for the Spanish TV station Antena 3, which had ties to the former government of Jose Maria Aznar. The reporter told friends that he was dismissed after the government complained to his superiors that his reports of the Bush administration were too critical.

Months after the death of Ricardo Ortega, his friend and colleague Jesús Martin traveled to Haiti with a crew to film a program paying tribute to his friend. But as they began to interview the witnesses to Ricardo’s killing, they were shocked to learn that he was probably killed by American marines, and not by supporters of Aristide, as had been claimed officially. Witness after witness described the arrival of a contingent of Marines on the scene, and the subsequent gunfire that came from their direction and struck the reporter. The witnesses complained that no-one had ever contacted them to find out what happened, and that no investigation had ever been conducted into the killing of Ricardo Ortega.

Democracy Now’s interview with Martin is available here.

An official Haitian government investigation also concluded that Ortega had been killed by the “foreign interposition force present in Haiti” at the time, rather than Aristide supporters. Reporters Without Borders had blamed Aristide supporters for Ortega’s death, saying that “an outburst by Aristide supporters caused the death of Ricardo Ortega,” and stating in a July 2004 report [PDF]:

Ortega’s death reminded the media that Aristide supporters would remain a threat to it as long as they were armed. Initial inves-tigation showed that the ambush in which Ortega and the other seven were killed had been carefully prepared.

But RSF admitted in 2008 that:

The conclusions of the judge, Bernard Saint-Vil, invalidate the theory, which has long been circulated, that the bullets which fatally wounded Ricardo Ortega came from the supporters of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, during demonstrations after he was ousted from power.

 

Tonight, in a ceremony presided over by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, BBC correspondent Mark Doyle and producer Piers Scholfield will be presented with an award from the U.N. Correspondents Association (UNCA). The award, one of many to be handed out, is described by the UNCA as being for “the best coverage of the United Nations and its agencies.” Certainly by “best” they do not mean the most flattering. The BBC radio documentary that earned Scholfield and Doyle the prize was an investigation into the source of the cholera outbreak in Haiti, which over the past two years has killed over 7,800 and sickened over 625,000. A host of scientific evidence, as well as on the ground reporting, including by Doyle and Scholfield, has pinpointed a U.N. military base as the source of the outbreak.

Just last week, Ban Ki-moon announced that the U.N. would be starting a new initiative to secure funds for a 10-year, $2.2 billion plan, set to be formally announced in January, that aims to provide Haiti and the Dominican Republic with the clean water and sanitation infrastructure needed to eradicate the disease.  Yet despite the U.N.’s pledge to support this plan, the U.N. has failed to ever accept responsibility for the epidemic. Despite a legal complaint filed with the U.N. on behalf of over 5,000 victims of cholera by the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti and Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, U.N. officials continue to avoid their own role in its introduction.

Writing in Foreign Policy on the U.N. announcement last week, Jonathan Katz and Tom Murphy note:

One of the primary means by which the U.N. has deflected blame since the beginning has been to insist that efforts to find the source of the epidemic would detract from fighting it. By relaunching an existing Haitian-Dominican effort under the guise of a U.N. initiative, the world body can once again claim to be too busy saving Haitian lives to comment on how those lives were put in danger in the first place. It took no time for this to happen. When an AP reporter asked on Dec. 11 whether humanitarian coordinator Nigel Fisher thought the U.N. caused the cholera epidemic, he refused to comment, saying: “My focus is on today.”

In announcing this new initiative the U.N. pledged just $23.5 million of their own funds, less than four percent of what they are spending on keeping MINUSTAH troops in the country this year; the same troops that introduced the disease in the first place. As Mark Doyle commented after last week’s announcement, “The United Nations is good at launching appeals for aid. It is less good at admitting its own faults.”

It is also notable that the prize is named for Ricardo Ortega. Ortega was shot and killed in Haiti in 2004 after the U.S.-backed coup against democratically elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. While it was originally reported that Aristide supporters killed Ortega, Ortega’s colleagues – on further investigation – concluded that he may have been killed by U.S. marines who were sent to Haiti following the coup. The marines would later be replaced by MINUSTAH troops. As Democracy Now reported in 2004:

On March 7th of this year, as the coup against Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide took shape, journalist Ricardo Ortega fell to the ground as he covered street protests in Port Au Prince. He had been fatally shot in the chest. His last words, as he was loaded onto a truck with other wounded, were “I cannot breathe.” It was reported at the time that he had been shot by Aristide supporters.

Ricardo was in Haiti as a freelance journalist, after being dismissed as New York correspondent for the Spanish TV station Antena 3, which had ties to the former government of Jose Maria Aznar. The reporter told friends that he was dismissed after the government complained to his superiors that his reports of the Bush administration were too critical.

Months after the death of Ricardo Ortega, his friend and colleague Jesús Martin traveled to Haiti with a crew to film a program paying tribute to his friend. But as they began to interview the witnesses to Ricardo’s killing, they were shocked to learn that he was probably killed by American marines, and not by supporters of Aristide, as had been claimed officially. Witness after witness described the arrival of a contingent of Marines on the scene, and the subsequent gunfire that came from their direction and struck the reporter. The witnesses complained that no-one had ever contacted them to find out what happened, and that no investigation had ever been conducted into the killing of Ricardo Ortega.

Democracy Now’s interview with Martin is available here.

An official Haitian government investigation also concluded that Ortega had been killed by the “foreign interposition force present in Haiti” at the time, rather than Aristide supporters. Reporters Without Borders had blamed Aristide supporters for Ortega’s death, saying that “an outburst by Aristide supporters caused the death of Ricardo Ortega,” and stating in a July 2004 report [PDF]:

Ortega’s death reminded the media that Aristide supporters would remain a threat to it as long as they were armed. Initial inves-tigation showed that the ambush in which Ortega and the other seven were killed had been carefully prepared.

But RSF admitted in 2008 that:

The conclusions of the judge, Bernard Saint-Vil, invalidate the theory, which has long been circulated, that the bullets which fatally wounded Ricardo Ortega came from the supporters of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, during demonstrations after he was ousted from power.

 

As expected, the U.N. launched a new cholera eradication initiative yesterday at a press event in the late afternoon featuring U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and other speakers. The Miami Herald’s Jacqueline Charles leads off her article on the announcement by noting the U.N.’s own relatively small contribution toward funding the $2.2 billion plan (which also calls for an additional $70 million for the Dominican Republic):

The United Nations will provide support and $23.5 million in funding to help Haiti and the neighboring Dominican Republic eliminate a deadly cholera epidemic that has sickened more than 600,000 and killed more than 7,700, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Tuesday.

In addition to the U.N.’s contribution, Ban said donors will provide $215 million. But the money still falls short of the $600 million Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe said is needed to implement the plan over the next two years focusing on improving water and sanitation services.

AP’s Alexandra Olson reports:

Ban promised to “use every opportunity” in the next months to advocate for more funding for the plan.

“We know the elimination of cholera is possible. Science tells us it can be done,” Ban said. “It can and will happen in Haiti.”

Ban also announced he was enlisting Partners in Health founder Paul Farmer as a “Special Advisor” who will help raise funds for the initiative, including from “governments, multilateral organizations, the private sector and individual philanthropists.”

Ban did not refer to the cause of the epidemic – U.N. troops from Nepal, according to several scientific studies.

Several other key players from the plan’s partners were present at yesterday’s press event, including Dominican president Danilo Medina, Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, and representatives of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and UNICEF. As AFP reported:

Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe backed the UN campaign to “put an end to this terrible disease” and also did not mention the cause. “We want to reaffirm the political will of the Haitian government to do whatever it takes to eradicate cholera in the country,” he said at a ceremony with Ban.

Reuters reports Ban as saying, “Haiti has seen a dramatic fall in infection and fatality rates. But this will not be a short-term crisis. Eliminating cholera from Haiti will continue to require the full cooperation and support of the international community.”

It hasn’t been a “short-term crisis” so far, unfortunately, but that does not mean that the international community should not respond as urgently as possible in order to prevent new infections and deaths. But the plan includes what appear to be modest benchmarks. Regarding the crucial areas of water and sanitation infrastructure, for example, in the first years 2013 – 2015, the plan aims to achieve an “Accelerated rate of construction of semi-collective sewer systems and treatment wastewater plants” and “Accelerated rate of access to latrines, septic tanks, and sludge removal operations” in just “3 of 25 cities” among other goals.

As CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot notes in an op-ed for Aljazeera today, the announcement of the initiative comes more than two years after the cholera outbreak began – two years that have been marked by international pressure on the U.N. to do something about the disaster it created. Protesters in Haiti, grassroots criticism, a lawsuit on behalf of cholera victims filed by the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, a letter from 104 members of Congress, and editorials and op-eds in newspapers such as the New York Times, the Boston Globe, the Guardian of London and the London Independent have all been part of an international campaign calling on the U.N. to take responsibility. The award-winning film “Baseball in the Time of Cholera” has helped to raise awareness of U.N. culpability for causing the epidemic, and a new online petition hosted by Avaaz.org (and launched by Oliver Stone) urging the U.N. to take responsibility has gathered thousands of signatures so far in just six days.

AP reports that in a press briefing following Ban’s announcement, U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for Haiti Nigel Fisher

…would not comment on whether the U.N. peacekeeping mission is to blame for bringing cholera to Haiti. Scientific studies have suggested that U.N. peacekeepers from Nepal inadvertently introduced the disease, and protests erupted in Haiti amid reports of sanitation problems at a base that was housing the troops.

That issue “is with the legal office and as a staff member I am not authorized to say anything about the legal process at this time,” Fisher said. “My focus is on today, as it has been since the outbreak, and is on making sure that Haitians stay alive.”

Fisher and PAHO Director Mirta Roses Periago were asked about what measures the U.N. was putting in place to ensure that U.N. personnel avoid causing such an outbreak again in the future. Periago’s response was less than reassuring. As the AP reports:

Mirta Roses Periago, the director of the Pan American Health Organization, said it is not necessarily advisable to screen every peacekeeper for diseases before they are deployed. But she said PAHO has advised the secretary-general “to have special provisions for people coming from endemic areas and being sure that there is no outbreak going on at the time that people are being deployed.”

As the AP notes, “The U.N. has already spent $118 million on responding to the cholera epidemic in Haiti.” Along with the $23.5 that the U.N. announced it would contribute yesterday, this still is only just 21 percent of MINUSTAH’s budget for the current fiscal year ($676 million). This is why we have suggested that the MINUSTAH budget be put instead toward fighting cholera:  “The U.N. troops have no reason for being in Haiti,” [Weisbrot] said. “There is no conflict there. The Mission’s $676 million budget should be spent instead on eliminating cholera.”

Haiti’s president Michel Martelly expressed similar sentiments earlier this week during a trip to South Florida, as the Miami Herald reported:

In the strongest statement by any Haitian leader since the disease arrived in Haiti, 10 months after the quake, Martelly said Monday that while he won’t engage in the debate about who’s responsible for cholera in Haiti, the Untied Nations “certainly” should take responsibility.

“The U.N. knows better than me who has brought cholera to Haiti,” he said. “The U.N. itself could bring money to the table.”

UPDATE, 4:22 PM:

A statement [PDF] on the initiative was released today under the auspices of the Haiti Advocacy Working Group, signed by a dozen organizations including American Jewish World Service, the Episcopal Church, Church World Service, Oxfam America, TransAfrica, and others.

It reads, in part:

This, however, is only the beginning. Without long-term funding and leadership, the vision of this plan will not be realized. We call on all donors from across the world to commit to this project now. Support for the development of basic infrastructure and a strong health system will help the Haitian government protect and promote the universal right to the highest attainable standard of health and prevent the spread of other water-borne diseases.
 
Successful implementation will require working closely with civil society organizations and local communities. These projects must be done in concert with those who will benefit, particularly women who are overwhelmingly responsible for providing water for their families. These projects must also be designed to ensure that they will remain sustainable long after international attention and funding ends.

The signers also state: “We will be monitoring progress to ensure the plan is fully-funded and benefits the most marginalized populations.”

As expected, the U.N. launched a new cholera eradication initiative yesterday at a press event in the late afternoon featuring U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and other speakers. The Miami Herald’s Jacqueline Charles leads off her article on the announcement by noting the U.N.’s own relatively small contribution toward funding the $2.2 billion plan (which also calls for an additional $70 million for the Dominican Republic):

The United Nations will provide support and $23.5 million in funding to help Haiti and the neighboring Dominican Republic eliminate a deadly cholera epidemic that has sickened more than 600,000 and killed more than 7,700, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Tuesday.

In addition to the U.N.’s contribution, Ban said donors will provide $215 million. But the money still falls short of the $600 million Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe said is needed to implement the plan over the next two years focusing on improving water and sanitation services.

AP’s Alexandra Olson reports:

Ban promised to “use every opportunity” in the next months to advocate for more funding for the plan.

“We know the elimination of cholera is possible. Science tells us it can be done,” Ban said. “It can and will happen in Haiti.”

Ban also announced he was enlisting Partners in Health founder Paul Farmer as a “Special Advisor” who will help raise funds for the initiative, including from “governments, multilateral organizations, the private sector and individual philanthropists.”

Ban did not refer to the cause of the epidemic – U.N. troops from Nepal, according to several scientific studies.

Several other key players from the plan’s partners were present at yesterday’s press event, including Dominican president Danilo Medina, Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, and representatives of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and UNICEF. As AFP reported:

Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe backed the UN campaign to “put an end to this terrible disease” and also did not mention the cause. “We want to reaffirm the political will of the Haitian government to do whatever it takes to eradicate cholera in the country,” he said at a ceremony with Ban.

Reuters reports Ban as saying, “Haiti has seen a dramatic fall in infection and fatality rates. But this will not be a short-term crisis. Eliminating cholera from Haiti will continue to require the full cooperation and support of the international community.”

It hasn’t been a “short-term crisis” so far, unfortunately, but that does not mean that the international community should not respond as urgently as possible in order to prevent new infections and deaths. But the plan includes what appear to be modest benchmarks. Regarding the crucial areas of water and sanitation infrastructure, for example, in the first years 2013 – 2015, the plan aims to achieve an “Accelerated rate of construction of semi-collective sewer systems and treatment wastewater plants” and “Accelerated rate of access to latrines, septic tanks, and sludge removal operations” in just “3 of 25 cities” among other goals.

As CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot notes in an op-ed for Aljazeera today, the announcement of the initiative comes more than two years after the cholera outbreak began – two years that have been marked by international pressure on the U.N. to do something about the disaster it created. Protesters in Haiti, grassroots criticism, a lawsuit on behalf of cholera victims filed by the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, a letter from 104 members of Congress, and editorials and op-eds in newspapers such as the New York Times, the Boston Globe, the Guardian of London and the London Independent have all been part of an international campaign calling on the U.N. to take responsibility. The award-winning film “Baseball in the Time of Cholera” has helped to raise awareness of U.N. culpability for causing the epidemic, and a new online petition hosted by Avaaz.org (and launched by Oliver Stone) urging the U.N. to take responsibility has gathered thousands of signatures so far in just six days.

AP reports that in a press briefing following Ban’s announcement, U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for Haiti Nigel Fisher

…would not comment on whether the U.N. peacekeeping mission is to blame for bringing cholera to Haiti. Scientific studies have suggested that U.N. peacekeepers from Nepal inadvertently introduced the disease, and protests erupted in Haiti amid reports of sanitation problems at a base that was housing the troops.

That issue “is with the legal office and as a staff member I am not authorized to say anything about the legal process at this time,” Fisher said. “My focus is on today, as it has been since the outbreak, and is on making sure that Haitians stay alive.”

Fisher and PAHO Director Mirta Roses Periago were asked about what measures the U.N. was putting in place to ensure that U.N. personnel avoid causing such an outbreak again in the future. Periago’s response was less than reassuring. As the AP reports:

Mirta Roses Periago, the director of the Pan American Health Organization, said it is not necessarily advisable to screen every peacekeeper for diseases before they are deployed. But she said PAHO has advised the secretary-general “to have special provisions for people coming from endemic areas and being sure that there is no outbreak going on at the time that people are being deployed.”

As the AP notes, “The U.N. has already spent $118 million on responding to the cholera epidemic in Haiti.” Along with the $23.5 that the U.N. announced it would contribute yesterday, this still is only just 21 percent of MINUSTAH’s budget for the current fiscal year ($676 million). This is why we have suggested that the MINUSTAH budget be put instead toward fighting cholera:  “The U.N. troops have no reason for being in Haiti,” [Weisbrot] said. “There is no conflict there. The Mission’s $676 million budget should be spent instead on eliminating cholera.”

Haiti’s president Michel Martelly expressed similar sentiments earlier this week during a trip to South Florida, as the Miami Herald reported:

In the strongest statement by any Haitian leader since the disease arrived in Haiti, 10 months after the quake, Martelly said Monday that while he won’t engage in the debate about who’s responsible for cholera in Haiti, the Untied Nations “certainly” should take responsibility.

“The U.N. knows better than me who has brought cholera to Haiti,” he said. “The U.N. itself could bring money to the table.”

UPDATE, 4:22 PM:

A statement [PDF] on the initiative was released today under the auspices of the Haiti Advocacy Working Group, signed by a dozen organizations including American Jewish World Service, the Episcopal Church, Church World Service, Oxfam America, TransAfrica, and others.

It reads, in part:

This, however, is only the beginning. Without long-term funding and leadership, the vision of this plan will not be realized. We call on all donors from across the world to commit to this project now. Support for the development of basic infrastructure and a strong health system will help the Haitian government protect and promote the universal right to the highest attainable standard of health and prevent the spread of other water-borne diseases.
 
Successful implementation will require working closely with civil society organizations and local communities. These projects must be done in concert with those who will benefit, particularly women who are overwhelmingly responsible for providing water for their families. These projects must also be designed to ensure that they will remain sustainable long after international attention and funding ends.

The signers also state: “We will be monitoring progress to ensure the plan is fully-funded and benefits the most marginalized populations.”

The cholera epidemic, brought to Haiti by UN troops over two years ago, continues to spread throughout the country claiming lives and sickening thousands. Since the passage of Hurricane Sandy in late October, over 175 Haitians have died and nearly 20,000 have fallen ill. In November, an average of 4 Haitians died each day due to the disease. Since the introduction of cholera, nearly 7,800 have died and over 625,000 have been sickened.

Today, in observance of Human Rights Day, Haitian grassroots groups Fan Rezo BAI (Women’s Network of BAI), MOLEGHAF (Movement for Liberty and Equality by Haitians for Fraternity) and KONAMAVID (National Coordination of Direct Victims) are protesting outside the UN Logistics Base in Port-au-Prince. The groups are calling on the UN to take responsibility for the epidemic and to provide reparations to the hundreds of thousands of victims across the country. (For updates, pictures and video from the protest, see @BuddhistLawyer, @melindayiti, @gaetantguevara, and @BriKouriAyiti on Twitter.)

Francois Moise of KONAMAVID comments:

“You always have human rights, they die with you. No one gives them to you, we demand justice to victims of cholera. We see people in the streets that we can’t help. We ask the UN to take responsibility for cholera that its troops sent to Haiti.”

For his part, David Oxygene of MOLEGHAF, who recently spent over two months in prison after being arrested during a previous protest, accused the UN of “violating Haitian’s human right to health and water,” adding, “the laws are violated here, the right to housing, health, education, to work, which are protected in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We don’t have any of the rights we are supposed to.”

The calls from Haitians grassroots groups build on an international campaign to hold the UN accountable. The award-winning filmmaker and director Oliver Stone created an online petition on Avaaz last week calling on the UN “to help Haitians stamp out killer cholera for good.” The petition has so far received nearly 6,000 signatures from all over the world.

In part because of the pressure from both within Haiti and internationally, the UN, together with the Haitian government and other international agencies are expected to announce tomorrow a $2.2 billion, ten-year plan to eradicate cholera from both Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The plan, while a step in the right direction, comes over two years since the UN introduced cholera and numerous questions remain as to the plan’s implementation, not least of which is where the $2.2 billion will come from. The AP reported in November that the only confirmed funding was $15 million from the World Bank.

For photos from today’s protest, click read more.

MOLEGHAF
Credit: Nicole Phillips (@BuddhistLawyer)

PacefulProtest
Credit: BriKouri Nouvel Gaye (@BriKouriAyiti)

Mario PersonaNonGrata
Credit: BriKouri Nouvel Gaye (@BriKouriAyiti)

Kolera
Credit: BriKouri Nouvel Gaye (@BriKouriAyiti)

AbaMinista
Credit: Nicole Phillips (@BuddhistLawyer)

 

The cholera epidemic, brought to Haiti by UN troops over two years ago, continues to spread throughout the country claiming lives and sickening thousands. Since the passage of Hurricane Sandy in late October, over 175 Haitians have died and nearly 20,000 have fallen ill. In November, an average of 4 Haitians died each day due to the disease. Since the introduction of cholera, nearly 7,800 have died and over 625,000 have been sickened.

Today, in observance of Human Rights Day, Haitian grassroots groups Fan Rezo BAI (Women’s Network of BAI), MOLEGHAF (Movement for Liberty and Equality by Haitians for Fraternity) and KONAMAVID (National Coordination of Direct Victims) are protesting outside the UN Logistics Base in Port-au-Prince. The groups are calling on the UN to take responsibility for the epidemic and to provide reparations to the hundreds of thousands of victims across the country. (For updates, pictures and video from the protest, see @BuddhistLawyer, @melindayiti, @gaetantguevara, and @BriKouriAyiti on Twitter.)

Francois Moise of KONAMAVID comments:

“You always have human rights, they die with you. No one gives them to you, we demand justice to victims of cholera. We see people in the streets that we can’t help. We ask the UN to take responsibility for cholera that its troops sent to Haiti.”

For his part, David Oxygene of MOLEGHAF, who recently spent over two months in prison after being arrested during a previous protest, accused the UN of “violating Haitian’s human right to health and water,” adding, “the laws are violated here, the right to housing, health, education, to work, which are protected in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We don’t have any of the rights we are supposed to.”

The calls from Haitians grassroots groups build on an international campaign to hold the UN accountable. The award-winning filmmaker and director Oliver Stone created an online petition on Avaaz last week calling on the UN “to help Haitians stamp out killer cholera for good.” The petition has so far received nearly 6,000 signatures from all over the world.

In part because of the pressure from both within Haiti and internationally, the UN, together with the Haitian government and other international agencies are expected to announce tomorrow a $2.2 billion, ten-year plan to eradicate cholera from both Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The plan, while a step in the right direction, comes over two years since the UN introduced cholera and numerous questions remain as to the plan’s implementation, not least of which is where the $2.2 billion will come from. The AP reported in November that the only confirmed funding was $15 million from the World Bank.

For photos from today’s protest, click read more.

MOLEGHAF
Credit: Nicole Phillips (@BuddhistLawyer)

PacefulProtest
Credit: BriKouri Nouvel Gaye (@BriKouriAyiti)

Mario PersonaNonGrata
Credit: BriKouri Nouvel Gaye (@BriKouriAyiti)

Kolera
Credit: BriKouri Nouvel Gaye (@BriKouriAyiti)

AbaMinista
Credit: Nicole Phillips (@BuddhistLawyer)

 

Dozens of Haitian and international organizations have marked UN Human Rights Day today by calling for an end to forced evictions, which, as Oxfam notes, “infringe on other rights in addition to the right to adequate housing” due to “the inter-relationship and interdependence of all human rights.” In a statement calling “on the international community to act against the human rights abuses taking place in Haiti in the form of arbitrary and illegal forced evictions,” groups gathered under the Under Tents campaign note that “Haiti’s displaced face not only the challenges inherent to living in tent camps, but one in five are currently at risk of forced eviction.”

A briefing note [PDF] released by Oxfam today notes that “the right to decent housing” is enshrined in both Haitian and international law:

The right to private property is acknowledged and guaranteed by the Haitian constitution of 1987, but the constitution, as well as many international legal instruments, also recognizes the right to decent housing. These include the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, whose ratification by the Haitian parliament on 31 January 2012 was hailed as an important step in broadening the scope of human-rights protection in the country.

But it also notes that “By the end of October 2012, the displaced population was estimated at 358,000 people, living in 496 camps and informal sites.” Oxfam presents some of the scale of those whose rights have been violated in forced evictions and precarious IDP camp situations so far:

Up to August 2012, around 61,000 people had been evicted from 152 camps. Another 78,000 people housed in 121 camps are currently threatened with eviction. Of the 121 camps currently under threat of forced evictions, around 96 per cent of these camps are located on private property. According to Oxfam’s latest survey, 86 per cent of the people in the camps lack the financial resources to leave, and the majority do not have jobs in the formal economy. The internally displaced persons (IDPs) who remain in camps live in extreme poverty, with 60 percent reporting that they ate one meal or fewer per day.

The Under Tents statement also notes the failings of the Haitian government and private landowners to protect these rights:

The level of violence involved and the disregard for the rights of the displaced demonstrated during these evictions are a scandal. The Inter-American Commission of Human Rights recommended in November 2010 that the Government of Haiti issue a moratorium on all evictions from IDP (Internally Displaced People’s) camps. The Commission’s precautionary principles recommend that those who have been unlawfully evicted be transferred to places with a minimum of sanitary and security conditions, and have effective recourse before tribunals and other competent authorities. The Haitian government has not complied with the Commission’s binding recommendations to date. Haitians displaced by the earthquake are entitled to special legal protection under the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement (Guiding Principles), which prohibit forced evictions unless necessary to protect the safety and health of those affected. The Haitian government has a duty to provide these citizens with due process protection such as consultation and adequate notice of eviction, as well as an alternate place to live that meets international standards. Neither private landowners nor the Haitian government, from the local police to the Minister of Justice, are respecting these protections.

A video report by Aljazeera English presents a human face alongside the numbers presented by the Under Tents statement and by Oxfam’s briefing note, profiling IDP camp residents such as Judith Bertrand who told Aljazeera, “I hear all the time that billions were given for the people, and instead of helping us to leave the camps, I realize that they have left us here to die.”

Both Oxfam and Under Tents describe some of the violence involved in past forced evictions, with Oxfam describing how “In the Place Mausolée camp, a fire in the middle of the night forced residents to leave without being able to take their personnel belongings. A 12-year-old girl perished in the blaze.” Under Tents noted that in the

December 2011 government-led eviction of Place Jérémie, a camp on public land …Although families were supposed to receive $500 to relocate (already an amount insufficient for families to find sustainable housing), police came to the camp in the middle of the night, armed with machetes and batons, destroyed tents and violently evicted residents. The housing rights coalition Force for Reflection and Action on Housing (FRAKKA) reported that the majority of families received $25 in compensation.

Victims of forced evictions suffer an extensive list of human rights abuses: destruction of their tent ‘homes’; theft of their belongings; violent attacks by law enforcement and private thugs; arbitrary arrest; and the withholding of food, water, medical care, and sanitation services. In recent evictions documented by FRAKKA and other grassroots activists, residents have been shot at or beaten by police, their property has been destroyed, and in several cases, entire camps have been set on fire. In October, one woman was raped during the attempted eviction of Camp Lamèfrape.

Once displaced from camps, people’s right to decent housing continues to be violated, as Under Tents notes that

evicted families often have no option but to inhabit dangerous and substandard housing. Within one year of the earthquake, families had returned to 64% of houses marked for demolition and 85% of houses needing significant repair. Others have been pushed to live on dangerous hillsides, in slum neighborhoods, or to the outskirts of the city where no infrastructure exists.

Dozens of Haitian and international organizations have marked UN Human Rights Day today by calling for an end to forced evictions, which, as Oxfam notes, “infringe on other rights in addition to the right to adequate housing” due to “the inter-relationship and interdependence of all human rights.” In a statement calling “on the international community to act against the human rights abuses taking place in Haiti in the form of arbitrary and illegal forced evictions,” groups gathered under the Under Tents campaign note that “Haiti’s displaced face not only the challenges inherent to living in tent camps, but one in five are currently at risk of forced eviction.”

A briefing note [PDF] released by Oxfam today notes that “the right to decent housing” is enshrined in both Haitian and international law:

The right to private property is acknowledged and guaranteed by the Haitian constitution of 1987, but the constitution, as well as many international legal instruments, also recognizes the right to decent housing. These include the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, whose ratification by the Haitian parliament on 31 January 2012 was hailed as an important step in broadening the scope of human-rights protection in the country.

But it also notes that “By the end of October 2012, the displaced population was estimated at 358,000 people, living in 496 camps and informal sites.” Oxfam presents some of the scale of those whose rights have been violated in forced evictions and precarious IDP camp situations so far:

Up to August 2012, around 61,000 people had been evicted from 152 camps. Another 78,000 people housed in 121 camps are currently threatened with eviction. Of the 121 camps currently under threat of forced evictions, around 96 per cent of these camps are located on private property. According to Oxfam’s latest survey, 86 per cent of the people in the camps lack the financial resources to leave, and the majority do not have jobs in the formal economy. The internally displaced persons (IDPs) who remain in camps live in extreme poverty, with 60 percent reporting that they ate one meal or fewer per day.

The Under Tents statement also notes the failings of the Haitian government and private landowners to protect these rights:

The level of violence involved and the disregard for the rights of the displaced demonstrated during these evictions are a scandal. The Inter-American Commission of Human Rights recommended in November 2010 that the Government of Haiti issue a moratorium on all evictions from IDP (Internally Displaced People’s) camps. The Commission’s precautionary principles recommend that those who have been unlawfully evicted be transferred to places with a minimum of sanitary and security conditions, and have effective recourse before tribunals and other competent authorities. The Haitian government has not complied with the Commission’s binding recommendations to date. Haitians displaced by the earthquake are entitled to special legal protection under the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement (Guiding Principles), which prohibit forced evictions unless necessary to protect the safety and health of those affected. The Haitian government has a duty to provide these citizens with due process protection such as consultation and adequate notice of eviction, as well as an alternate place to live that meets international standards. Neither private landowners nor the Haitian government, from the local police to the Minister of Justice, are respecting these protections.

A video report by Aljazeera English presents a human face alongside the numbers presented by the Under Tents statement and by Oxfam’s briefing note, profiling IDP camp residents such as Judith Bertrand who told Aljazeera, “I hear all the time that billions were given for the people, and instead of helping us to leave the camps, I realize that they have left us here to die.”

Both Oxfam and Under Tents describe some of the violence involved in past forced evictions, with Oxfam describing how “In the Place Mausolée camp, a fire in the middle of the night forced residents to leave without being able to take their personnel belongings. A 12-year-old girl perished in the blaze.” Under Tents noted that in the

December 2011 government-led eviction of Place Jérémie, a camp on public land …Although families were supposed to receive $500 to relocate (already an amount insufficient for families to find sustainable housing), police came to the camp in the middle of the night, armed with machetes and batons, destroyed tents and violently evicted residents. The housing rights coalition Force for Reflection and Action on Housing (FRAKKA) reported that the majority of families received $25 in compensation.

Victims of forced evictions suffer an extensive list of human rights abuses: destruction of their tent ‘homes’; theft of their belongings; violent attacks by law enforcement and private thugs; arbitrary arrest; and the withholding of food, water, medical care, and sanitation services. In recent evictions documented by FRAKKA and other grassroots activists, residents have been shot at or beaten by police, their property has been destroyed, and in several cases, entire camps have been set on fire. In October, one woman was raped during the attempted eviction of Camp Lamèfrape.

Once displaced from camps, people’s right to decent housing continues to be violated, as Under Tents notes that

evicted families often have no option but to inhabit dangerous and substandard housing. Within one year of the earthquake, families had returned to 64% of houses marked for demolition and 85% of houses needing significant repair. Others have been pushed to live on dangerous hillsides, in slum neighborhoods, or to the outskirts of the city where no infrastructure exists.

A new report [PDF] on gender-based violence (GBV) in Haiti “suggests that adolescent girls are  disproportionately suffering social and violent aftershocks of the earthquake,” including “unwanted and early pregnancies, illegal abortions, and child abandonment” which have increased, while “reports link cases to sexual violence and increased ‘survival sex’ in teenage girls.”

The report, “BEYOND SHOCK – Charting the landscape of sexual violence in post-quake Haiti: Progress, Challenges & Emerging Trends 2010-2012,” was released by the organizations Poto Fanm-Fi (Women and Girls Pillar) and Poto Fi, and is based on information from over 60 agencies, field providers and additional groups and “perspectives from international groups with Haiti initiatives.” It includes findings from a field research survey of some 2000 pregnant adolescents and family members.

Whereas much media attention has focused on particular forms of GBV – most notably rape, and often rape committed by strangers (the vulnerability of women and girls in IDP camps has been frequently stressed as well) — the report presents a broader picture of GBV, noting, for example, that “Overall, domestic violence cases make up 90% of all GBV reported cases since 2010, dwarfing rape?only cases by a broad ratio of 3:1. This was similar to the ratio before 2010, and calls for greater national action to prevent domestic violence.”

The report stresses the vulnerability of minors:

Adolescents and younger girls make up over 60% of reported rape cases since 2010 – the majority. As one Haitian advocates put it, “The adults get beaten; the younger ones get raped.” Both victims and perpetrators have gotten younger, say advocates. Reports of incest have increased; a possible sign families are more confident reporting crimes against children.

Regarding rapes, the report finds that “Contrary to early media reports, data suggest the majority of rapes since 2010 were committed by persons known to the victims  ??neighbors and acquaintances?? not escaped criminals.”

The report also confirms a “boom” in pregnancies resulting from rapes and “survival sex” following the quake: “64% of 981 adolescents reported they got pregnant from rape.” Perhaps not surprisingly, the report finds that many adolescents and girls do not receive treatment or services following attacks, or once they are pregnant, but the numbers are staggering:

•  60% of 1317 girls reported that they had received post?rape counseling; 40% had not. 

•  69% of 1035 girls reported seeking access to post?rape health services after rape, but many did not do so within the 72 hour reporting window for reporting rape. Their cases are not “officially” documented.

•  70% of 1277 girls reported having sought and received a pregnancy test after rape. Among the 30% who did not seek the test were girls from the rural zone of Cap Rouge and girls under age 14.

•  43% of 843 respondents stated they sought to end their pregnancy (with abortion); 57% did not.

•  Over 90% of over 1000 girls cited shock, anger, depression and post?trauma as reasons they sought counseling for rape. A significant minority noted that wished to die; a small number had tried suicide. 

The report describes the economic factors behind GBV in the wake of the earthquake and other recent disasters. The press release states that “lack of shelter and food – have increased girls’ risk of GBV and trading sex since 2010. Many respondents, especially rural girls, stated that they often missed a daily meal,” and the report itself notes that it

identifies youth and economic vulnerability, along with gender, as the broad risk factors for sexual violence. Specific factors include lack of housing for women?headed households and poor families with adolescent girls, lack of safe housing for GBV victims, rising food insecurity, and a 2012 surge in urban violent crime and gang activity – all reflections of a worsening economic picture that impacts on both genders and is a key engine of sexual violence. The economic situation has been exacerbated by chronic natural disasters, including hurricanes Sandy and Isaac, and a cholera epidemic.

Despite these shocking statistics, the report “reveals that less than 1% of international bank funding has been dedicated to fighting sexual violence, limiting an otherwise robust and expanding effort by grassroots groups and Haiti’s government to fight gender?based violence.” As with so much other aid for Haiti, “Outside funding has largely flowed to non?government agencies, leaving Haiti’s women’s ministry with too little funding and political muscle to oversee a national effort by many small and larger actors.”

The authors (Anne-christine d’Adesky with PotoFanm+Fi) find that women’s housing and income generation are important solutions to this bleak situation, along with holistic services for victims. They say the report also “documents how Haitian civil society has coped and led despite herculean obstacles. The report offers a portrait of the rebuilding of Haiti’s feminist movement and profiles grassroots women’s and GBV leaders that provide a range of voices, perspectives, and reflections on the post?quake period.” They add, “On the positive side, the earthquake has led to increased advocacy against sexual violence. The report presents data showing that local community groups provided better camp security before takeover by a UN agency, suggesting social ties are key to reducing violence.”

A new report [PDF] on gender-based violence (GBV) in Haiti “suggests that adolescent girls are  disproportionately suffering social and violent aftershocks of the earthquake,” including “unwanted and early pregnancies, illegal abortions, and child abandonment” which have increased, while “reports link cases to sexual violence and increased ‘survival sex’ in teenage girls.”

The report, “BEYOND SHOCK – Charting the landscape of sexual violence in post-quake Haiti: Progress, Challenges & Emerging Trends 2010-2012,” was released by the organizations Poto Fanm-Fi (Women and Girls Pillar) and Poto Fi, and is based on information from over 60 agencies, field providers and additional groups and “perspectives from international groups with Haiti initiatives.” It includes findings from a field research survey of some 2000 pregnant adolescents and family members.

Whereas much media attention has focused on particular forms of GBV – most notably rape, and often rape committed by strangers (the vulnerability of women and girls in IDP camps has been frequently stressed as well) — the report presents a broader picture of GBV, noting, for example, that “Overall, domestic violence cases make up 90% of all GBV reported cases since 2010, dwarfing rape?only cases by a broad ratio of 3:1. This was similar to the ratio before 2010, and calls for greater national action to prevent domestic violence.”

The report stresses the vulnerability of minors:

Adolescents and younger girls make up over 60% of reported rape cases since 2010 – the majority. As one Haitian advocates put it, “The adults get beaten; the younger ones get raped.” Both victims and perpetrators have gotten younger, say advocates. Reports of incest have increased; a possible sign families are more confident reporting crimes against children.

Regarding rapes, the report finds that “Contrary to early media reports, data suggest the majority of rapes since 2010 were committed by persons known to the victims  ??neighbors and acquaintances?? not escaped criminals.”

The report also confirms a “boom” in pregnancies resulting from rapes and “survival sex” following the quake: “64% of 981 adolescents reported they got pregnant from rape.” Perhaps not surprisingly, the report finds that many adolescents and girls do not receive treatment or services following attacks, or once they are pregnant, but the numbers are staggering:

•  60% of 1317 girls reported that they had received post?rape counseling; 40% had not. 

•  69% of 1035 girls reported seeking access to post?rape health services after rape, but many did not do so within the 72 hour reporting window for reporting rape. Their cases are not “officially” documented.

•  70% of 1277 girls reported having sought and received a pregnancy test after rape. Among the 30% who did not seek the test were girls from the rural zone of Cap Rouge and girls under age 14.

•  43% of 843 respondents stated they sought to end their pregnancy (with abortion); 57% did not.

•  Over 90% of over 1000 girls cited shock, anger, depression and post?trauma as reasons they sought counseling for rape. A significant minority noted that wished to die; a small number had tried suicide. 

The report describes the economic factors behind GBV in the wake of the earthquake and other recent disasters. The press release states that “lack of shelter and food – have increased girls’ risk of GBV and trading sex since 2010. Many respondents, especially rural girls, stated that they often missed a daily meal,” and the report itself notes that it

identifies youth and economic vulnerability, along with gender, as the broad risk factors for sexual violence. Specific factors include lack of housing for women?headed households and poor families with adolescent girls, lack of safe housing for GBV victims, rising food insecurity, and a 2012 surge in urban violent crime and gang activity – all reflections of a worsening economic picture that impacts on both genders and is a key engine of sexual violence. The economic situation has been exacerbated by chronic natural disasters, including hurricanes Sandy and Isaac, and a cholera epidemic.

Despite these shocking statistics, the report “reveals that less than 1% of international bank funding has been dedicated to fighting sexual violence, limiting an otherwise robust and expanding effort by grassroots groups and Haiti’s government to fight gender?based violence.” As with so much other aid for Haiti, “Outside funding has largely flowed to non?government agencies, leaving Haiti’s women’s ministry with too little funding and political muscle to oversee a national effort by many small and larger actors.”

The authors (Anne-christine d’Adesky with PotoFanm+Fi) find that women’s housing and income generation are important solutions to this bleak situation, along with holistic services for victims. They say the report also “documents how Haitian civil society has coped and led despite herculean obstacles. The report offers a portrait of the rebuilding of Haiti’s feminist movement and profiles grassroots women’s and GBV leaders that provide a range of voices, perspectives, and reflections on the post?quake period.” They add, “On the positive side, the earthquake has led to increased advocacy against sexual violence. The report presents data showing that local community groups provided better camp security before takeover by a UN agency, suggesting social ties are key to reducing violence.”

In the coming weeks, Haiti, together with international partners, will call on donors to fund a $2.2 billion 10-year plan to upgrade the water, sanitation and health infrastructure in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. As Jonathan Watts of The Guardian reports, the plan “will be unveiled with the backing of foreign aid groups and the UN, which is accused of one of the greatest failures in the history of international intervention.” That failure, of course, is the introduction of cholera to Haiti, which a number of scientific studies have linked to the sanitation facilities at a MINUSTAH base located on a tributary of the country’s main water supply. The epidemic has thus far killed over 7,730 people in Haiti and sickened some 620,000 more, 6 percent of the entire population. While fatality levels are down from their peaks, over 125 people have died in just the last month.

As the AP’s Martha Mendoza and Trenton Daniel report, the plan – which is set to be released under the auspices of the Haitian and Dominican governments, the Pan American Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and UNICEF — includes “building water supply systems, sewer systems and wastewater treatment plants, as well as improving access to latrines, especially in schools.” It also aims to provide significant capacity building support to the Haitian government, to ensure proper oversight and maintenance of the new facilities. The plan aims to provide 85 percent of Haitians with improved drinking water and 90 percent with improved sanitation facilities by 2022. In 2008, just 17 percent of Haitians had access to adequate sanitation facilities and 63 percent to adequate drinking water. The goal, as Dr. Jordan Tappero of the CDC tells the AP, is “to eliminate transmission of cholera.”

Yet the $2.2 billion plan is almost completely un-funded, with just $5 million promised by the World Bank so far. Watts reports that, “The government will ask for more than $500m (£315m) for the next two years in a short-term emergency response to the epidemic. Another $1.5bn or so will be requested for the following eight years to eliminate the disease.”

While the Haitian government and international groups can call on donors, NGOs and private corporations to fund the plan, these entities have failed to even live up to their post-earthquake aid pledges. A recent analysis by the United Nations Special Envoy revealed that just 53 percent of the $5.33 billion pledged has been disbursed.  Additionally, funding is already drying up for treatment efforts. Partners in Health (PIH) has warned that although “the emergency isn’t over” and that cholera “is still a leading cause of death in Haiti,” their funding from the U.S. will run out in February. PIH’s Dr. Louise Ivers is quoted in Watts’ article: “Haiti had never seen a case of cholera before October, 2010, yet somehow needless cholera deaths are beginning to be accepted as the new norm. That is an outrage that we cannot accept.”

The lack of funding, and the UN’s culpability, is why, as The Guardian reports, “many victims and activists believe the UN must take a greater responsibility” in ensuring cholera’s eradication. Last year, on behalf of thousands of victims of the epidemic, the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti and Bureau des Avocats Internationaux filed a claim with the UN seeking damages for the victims but also hundreds of millions of dollars for improving Haiti’s water and sanitation infrastructure.  The UN has thus far not responded. Pressure is also building in the Haitian legislature and among grassroots groups, as Camille Chalmers tells The Guardian, “If the UN doesn’t take responsibility, there’ll be protests.”

In the coming weeks, Haiti, together with international partners, will call on donors to fund a $2.2 billion 10-year plan to upgrade the water, sanitation and health infrastructure in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. As Jonathan Watts of The Guardian reports, the plan “will be unveiled with the backing of foreign aid groups and the UN, which is accused of one of the greatest failures in the history of international intervention.” That failure, of course, is the introduction of cholera to Haiti, which a number of scientific studies have linked to the sanitation facilities at a MINUSTAH base located on a tributary of the country’s main water supply. The epidemic has thus far killed over 7,730 people in Haiti and sickened some 620,000 more, 6 percent of the entire population. While fatality levels are down from their peaks, over 125 people have died in just the last month.

As the AP’s Martha Mendoza and Trenton Daniel report, the plan – which is set to be released under the auspices of the Haitian and Dominican governments, the Pan American Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and UNICEF — includes “building water supply systems, sewer systems and wastewater treatment plants, as well as improving access to latrines, especially in schools.” It also aims to provide significant capacity building support to the Haitian government, to ensure proper oversight and maintenance of the new facilities. The plan aims to provide 85 percent of Haitians with improved drinking water and 90 percent with improved sanitation facilities by 2022. In 2008, just 17 percent of Haitians had access to adequate sanitation facilities and 63 percent to adequate drinking water. The goal, as Dr. Jordan Tappero of the CDC tells the AP, is “to eliminate transmission of cholera.”

Yet the $2.2 billion plan is almost completely un-funded, with just $5 million promised by the World Bank so far. Watts reports that, “The government will ask for more than $500m (£315m) for the next two years in a short-term emergency response to the epidemic. Another $1.5bn or so will be requested for the following eight years to eliminate the disease.”

While the Haitian government and international groups can call on donors, NGOs and private corporations to fund the plan, these entities have failed to even live up to their post-earthquake aid pledges. A recent analysis by the United Nations Special Envoy revealed that just 53 percent of the $5.33 billion pledged has been disbursed.  Additionally, funding is already drying up for treatment efforts. Partners in Health (PIH) has warned that although “the emergency isn’t over” and that cholera “is still a leading cause of death in Haiti,” their funding from the U.S. will run out in February. PIH’s Dr. Louise Ivers is quoted in Watts’ article: “Haiti had never seen a case of cholera before October, 2010, yet somehow needless cholera deaths are beginning to be accepted as the new norm. That is an outrage that we cannot accept.”

The lack of funding, and the UN’s culpability, is why, as The Guardian reports, “many victims and activists believe the UN must take a greater responsibility” in ensuring cholera’s eradication. Last year, on behalf of thousands of victims of the epidemic, the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti and Bureau des Avocats Internationaux filed a claim with the UN seeking damages for the victims but also hundreds of millions of dollars for improving Haiti’s water and sanitation infrastructure.  The UN has thus far not responded. Pressure is also building in the Haitian legislature and among grassroots groups, as Camille Chalmers tells The Guardian, “If the UN doesn’t take responsibility, there’ll be protests.”

Cholera Continues to Spread After Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy dumped up to 20 inches of rain of parts of Haiti last month and, in addition to the immediate devastation on crops, people, roads and homes, it has led to an increase in the number of cholera cases throughout the country. On November 16, the International Organization for Migration confirmed that 3,593 new cholera cases had been counted since the hurricane. These numbers, however, lag far behind what the Haitian Ministry of Health (MSPP) has recorded since Sandy. There are now three weeks of data post hurricane, and as can be seen in Table 1, there have been over 9,000 new cases recorded by the MSPP.

Table I.
alt

As can be seen, the increase has been dramatic; both in terms of the number of cases recorded (a 46 percent increase) as well the number of deaths (an 85 percent increase). In fact, since the passage of Hurricane Sandy, the death rate has increased as well, from 0.7 percent to 1 percent. While still much lower than the death rate in the immediate aftermath of the outbreak of cholera, this is nevertheless a worrying sign. As Dr. Juan Carlos Gustavo Alonso of the Pan American Health Organization noted after Sandy, the west department, which includes most of the remaining 370,000 IDPs, has seen the greatest increase in cases. In fact, according to MSPP data, since Sandy, over 37 percent of all cases were in Port-au-Prince, which includes Carrefour, Cité Soleil, Delmas, Kenscoff, Petion Ville, Port-au-Prince, and Tabarre. Given the declining humanitarian services in the camps, and the fact that funding for cholera is now running out, the increase in the capital is especially worrisome. Additionally, Sandy crippled the cholera response infrastructure in the country, destroying 61 cholera treatment units.

Since its introduction into Haiti by UN troops in October 2010, cholera has now killed at least 7,699 people and sickened over 615,000 more. Last year, Haiti recorded more cholera cases than the rest of the world combined. As has been pointed out previously, these are likely underestimates, as the MSPP cholera data is often lacking reports from many areas.

In recent weeks, a number of op-eds and editorials have been written calling on the UN to take responsibility for the introduction of the disease. Last week CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot wrote in The Guardian:

If Haiti were any other country in this hemisphere, a human-created disaster of this proportion would be a big international scandal and everyone would know about it. Not to mention the institution responsible for inflicting this damage – in this case, the UN – would be held accountable. At the very least, they would have to get rid of the epidemic.

In this case, getting rid of the epidemic could be easily accomplished. Cholera is transmitted mainly through drinking water that is contaminated by the deadly bacteria. To get rid of it, you need to create an infrastructure where people have clean drinking water and adequate sanitation. The Pan American Health Organization estimates that this would cost about $1bn for Haiti. In fact, that is close to what the UN has been spending in just one year to keep its 10,000 troops in the country.

The UN is still denying its responsibility, despite studies published by the New England Journal of Medicine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and even by the UN itself (pdf) tracking the origin of Haiti’s cholera bacteria to UN soldiers. A study by a team of 15 scientists last year produced even more conclusive evidence, using whole genome sequence typing and two other methods that matched the cholera strain in Haiti to a sample from Nepal that was taken at the time that the Nepalese UN troops arrived in the country.

In short, there is proof beyond reasonable doubt that the UN mission is responsible for bringing this disease to Haiti.

Adding their voices to the growing chorus calling for the UN to take responsibility was the Boston Globe editorial board and the Director of the International Human Rights Clinic at Western New England University School of Law, Lauren Carasik.

 

Hurricane Sandy dumped up to 20 inches of rain of parts of Haiti last month and, in addition to the immediate devastation on crops, people, roads and homes, it has led to an increase in the number of cholera cases throughout the country. On November 16, the International Organization for Migration confirmed that 3,593 new cholera cases had been counted since the hurricane. These numbers, however, lag far behind what the Haitian Ministry of Health (MSPP) has recorded since Sandy. There are now three weeks of data post hurricane, and as can be seen in Table 1, there have been over 9,000 new cases recorded by the MSPP.

Table I.
alt

As can be seen, the increase has been dramatic; both in terms of the number of cases recorded (a 46 percent increase) as well the number of deaths (an 85 percent increase). In fact, since the passage of Hurricane Sandy, the death rate has increased as well, from 0.7 percent to 1 percent. While still much lower than the death rate in the immediate aftermath of the outbreak of cholera, this is nevertheless a worrying sign. As Dr. Juan Carlos Gustavo Alonso of the Pan American Health Organization noted after Sandy, the west department, which includes most of the remaining 370,000 IDPs, has seen the greatest increase in cases. In fact, according to MSPP data, since Sandy, over 37 percent of all cases were in Port-au-Prince, which includes Carrefour, Cité Soleil, Delmas, Kenscoff, Petion Ville, Port-au-Prince, and Tabarre. Given the declining humanitarian services in the camps, and the fact that funding for cholera is now running out, the increase in the capital is especially worrisome. Additionally, Sandy crippled the cholera response infrastructure in the country, destroying 61 cholera treatment units.

Since its introduction into Haiti by UN troops in October 2010, cholera has now killed at least 7,699 people and sickened over 615,000 more. Last year, Haiti recorded more cholera cases than the rest of the world combined. As has been pointed out previously, these are likely underestimates, as the MSPP cholera data is often lacking reports from many areas.

In recent weeks, a number of op-eds and editorials have been written calling on the UN to take responsibility for the introduction of the disease. Last week CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot wrote in The Guardian:

If Haiti were any other country in this hemisphere, a human-created disaster of this proportion would be a big international scandal and everyone would know about it. Not to mention the institution responsible for inflicting this damage – in this case, the UN – would be held accountable. At the very least, they would have to get rid of the epidemic.

In this case, getting rid of the epidemic could be easily accomplished. Cholera is transmitted mainly through drinking water that is contaminated by the deadly bacteria. To get rid of it, you need to create an infrastructure where people have clean drinking water and adequate sanitation. The Pan American Health Organization estimates that this would cost about $1bn for Haiti. In fact, that is close to what the UN has been spending in just one year to keep its 10,000 troops in the country.

The UN is still denying its responsibility, despite studies published by the New England Journal of Medicine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and even by the UN itself (pdf) tracking the origin of Haiti’s cholera bacteria to UN soldiers. A study by a team of 15 scientists last year produced even more conclusive evidence, using whole genome sequence typing and two other methods that matched the cholera strain in Haiti to a sample from Nepal that was taken at the time that the Nepalese UN troops arrived in the country.

In short, there is proof beyond reasonable doubt that the UN mission is responsible for bringing this disease to Haiti.

Adding their voices to the growing chorus calling for the UN to take responsibility was the Boston Globe editorial board and the Director of the International Human Rights Clinic at Western New England University School of Law, Lauren Carasik.

 

Want to search in the archives?

¿Quieres buscar en los archivos?

Click Here Haga clic aquí