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.

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.

 

After decades of bypassing the Haitian government in the provision of aid, after the 2010 earthquake there was an acknowledgement by international NGOs and donors that this time had to be different. The sentiment was summed up well by Nigel Fisher, the deputy special representative for MINUSTAH in Haiti when he told The Nation:

Tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people are here delivering aid, but they are doing functions that should be done by the Haitians…You cannot complain about failures of the Haitian state if you don’t support it to grow stronger. For decades, we have not invested in that very much.

And yet, as HRRW and other have documented time and time again, just as in the past, the Haitian government, civil society and businesses were largely bypassed again. Less than one percent (PDF) of humanitarian aid went to the Haitian government or Haitian organizations in the 18 months after the earthquake. Just over one percent of the $450 million or so in USAID contracts have gone to Haitian firms. Furthermore, there have been consistent complaints from government officials that they are not consulted by international partners. Nevertheless, donors continue to tout the “Haitian-led” reconstruction effort. Another quote from Kathie Klarreich and Linda Polman’s recent Nation article makes it clear this is nothing more than rhetoric:

A spokesman for one of the largest UN organizations in the country offered a stunningly blunt portrait of this dynamic. Asked whether the government of Haiti has ever told him what to spend donor money on, the spokesman, who insisted on remaining anonymous, said: “Never. They are not in the position, because they are financially dependent. Recently, there was a government press conference. There was nothing ‘government’ about it; we organized it and told them what to say.” He chuckled, then added: “Very sad, really.”

As for the aid community’s claim that it has been playing a supporting role and letting the Haitian government lead the reconstruction effort, he said, “It’s a lie. It’s tragic, but it’s a lie.”

 

 

 

After decades of bypassing the Haitian government in the provision of aid, after the 2010 earthquake there was an acknowledgement by international NGOs and donors that this time had to be different. The sentiment was summed up well by Nigel Fisher, the deputy special representative for MINUSTAH in Haiti when he told The Nation:

Tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people are here delivering aid, but they are doing functions that should be done by the Haitians…You cannot complain about failures of the Haitian state if you don’t support it to grow stronger. For decades, we have not invested in that very much.

And yet, as HRRW and other have documented time and time again, just as in the past, the Haitian government, civil society and businesses were largely bypassed again. Less than one percent (PDF) of humanitarian aid went to the Haitian government or Haitian organizations in the 18 months after the earthquake. Just over one percent of the $450 million or so in USAID contracts have gone to Haitian firms. Furthermore, there have been consistent complaints from government officials that they are not consulted by international partners. Nevertheless, donors continue to tout the “Haitian-led” reconstruction effort. Another quote from Kathie Klarreich and Linda Polman’s recent Nation article makes it clear this is nothing more than rhetoric:

A spokesman for one of the largest UN organizations in the country offered a stunningly blunt portrait of this dynamic. Asked whether the government of Haiti has ever told him what to spend donor money on, the spokesman, who insisted on remaining anonymous, said: “Never. They are not in the position, because they are financially dependent. Recently, there was a government press conference. There was nothing ‘government’ about it; we organized it and told them what to say.” He chuckled, then added: “Very sad, really.”

As for the aid community’s claim that it has been playing a supporting role and letting the Haitian government lead the reconstruction effort, he said, “It’s a lie. It’s tragic, but it’s a lie.”

 

 

 

Cholera as a Human Rights Issue

A new human rights report reaffirms the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti’s (MINUSTAH) responsibility for causing the cholera epidemic that has now killed over 7,600 and infected over 600,000. The Paris-based International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) “Call[s] on MINUSTAH to acknowledge its responsibility with respect to the outbreak of the cholera epidemic and establish a permanent claims commission,” and “Request[s] the office of the UN Secretary-General to take measures to award individual or communal reparations, such as financial investment in water and sanitation infrastructure in Haiti.” These recommendations echo the petition filed by the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) and the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti on behalf of over 5,000 cholera victims, the demands of an international grassroots campaign, editorials in the New York Times, the New York Daily News and other major newspapers, and op-eds such as this one in The Guardian yesterday by CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot. The Boston Globe is the latest major paper to call for the U.N. to act with “a massive investment in clean water and sanitation infrastructure. Such an effort would not just wipe out cholera, but also a host of other water-borne illnesses. Rather than merely get Haiti back to where it was before the outbreak, this effort would push the country ahead.”

The report, “Haiti: Human Security in Danger” was co-written and researched with the Haiti-based National Human Rights Defense Network and the Ecumenical Center for Human Rights and is one of the few such human rights reports on Haiti to be released in the years since the earthquake, despite the renewed international attention on Haiti that followed. In addition to a section on human rights abuses committed by MINUSTAH, including its culpability for the cholera epidemic, the report focuses on the conditions faced by IDPs, whom it describes as having been “Abandoned and left to fend for themselves,” lacking adequate housing and sanitation, safe drinking water, and cholera treatment, and subject to forced eviction and the threat of forced eviction, rape and gender-based violence, and general insecurity. Conditions in Haiti’s prisons are the focus of another section, in which the report notes that an estimated 70 percent of those in prison are in pre-trial detention (this percentage is 92 in the National Prison in Port-au-Prince) and where safe drinking water is also lacking, leading to at least 275 cholera deaths in the prisons since the outbreak began.

The report also examines Haiti’s flawed justice system, and the Haitian National Police (HNP), which it finds lacking in size, competence, and accountability. Still, the report is the latest to recommend a transition from MINUSTAH to the HNP for the purpose of maintaining national security and cut down on crime, saying, “Haiti needs an effective criminal justice system (including sufficient and competent police personnel) to combat organized crime – not a military presence,” but notes – as have previous reports such as this one from the International Crisis Group earlier this year – that plans to bolster and transform the HNP have fallen far behind stated goals, leading to a prolonged mandate for MINUSTAH.

The report also draws attention to recent threats against human rights defenders in Haiti, including BAI Director and prominent human rights attorney Mario Joseph, who has reported that he has been receiving death threats since early this year, following a judge’s proscribing charges Joseph brought against former president Jean-Claude Duvalier for crimes against humanity. The report finds the lack of accountability for Duvalier to “[highlight] the serious shortcomings of the judicial system and its lack of impartiality and independence,” and “contrary to the international obligations of Haiti to investigate serious violations of human rights and prosecute the perpetrators.” The human rights organizations call on the Haitian authorities to “Try and convict …Duvalier on appeal for crimes against humanity committed during his regime.”

While rights abuses by the UN troops and police officers in MINUSTAH have not received the international attention or outrage they warrant (see previous posts here, here and here), the report is not the first human rights study to detail some of the Mission’s transgressions and institutional failings. A 2005 report by the Harvard Law School examined how MINUSTAH had repeatedly fallen short of its goals, and research in November 2004 [PDF] by the University of Miami School of Law found that “MINUSTAH forces, ostensibly there to help the HNP, sometimes complicate and intensify the imprecision and the violence,” and interviewed a shooting victim in the hospital who claimed to have been shot by UN troops while “he was walking to work.” But the FIDH report is significant in its examination of the cholera epidemic and the U.N.’s reluctance to take responsibility as a human rights concern:

FIDH regrets that no mention is made by the Security Council of the responsibility of MINUSTAH in the outbreak of the cholera epidemic in Haiti. That said, the Security Council request to the countries providing MINUSTAH troops to ensure that their nationals responsible for human rights violations in Haiti are brought to justice and convicted is a notable mention

The report also notes MINUSTAH’s past failures to implement part of its current mandate – “to promote and protect human rights” — most notably in IDP camps:

MINUSTAH  failed  to  recognize  the  seriousness  of  human  rights violations  being  committed in  the  camps  and  initially  refused  to  contribute  to  securing  the camps, considering that it was not within its mandate to do so. It was only after a UN vote in June 2010 amending the MINUSTAH mandate that this situation changed.

A new human rights report reaffirms the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti’s (MINUSTAH) responsibility for causing the cholera epidemic that has now killed over 7,600 and infected over 600,000. The Paris-based International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) “Call[s] on MINUSTAH to acknowledge its responsibility with respect to the outbreak of the cholera epidemic and establish a permanent claims commission,” and “Request[s] the office of the UN Secretary-General to take measures to award individual or communal reparations, such as financial investment in water and sanitation infrastructure in Haiti.” These recommendations echo the petition filed by the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) and the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti on behalf of over 5,000 cholera victims, the demands of an international grassroots campaign, editorials in the New York Times, the New York Daily News and other major newspapers, and op-eds such as this one in The Guardian yesterday by CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot. The Boston Globe is the latest major paper to call for the U.N. to act with “a massive investment in clean water and sanitation infrastructure. Such an effort would not just wipe out cholera, but also a host of other water-borne illnesses. Rather than merely get Haiti back to where it was before the outbreak, this effort would push the country ahead.”

The report, “Haiti: Human Security in Danger” was co-written and researched with the Haiti-based National Human Rights Defense Network and the Ecumenical Center for Human Rights and is one of the few such human rights reports on Haiti to be released in the years since the earthquake, despite the renewed international attention on Haiti that followed. In addition to a section on human rights abuses committed by MINUSTAH, including its culpability for the cholera epidemic, the report focuses on the conditions faced by IDPs, whom it describes as having been “Abandoned and left to fend for themselves,” lacking adequate housing and sanitation, safe drinking water, and cholera treatment, and subject to forced eviction and the threat of forced eviction, rape and gender-based violence, and general insecurity. Conditions in Haiti’s prisons are the focus of another section, in which the report notes that an estimated 70 percent of those in prison are in pre-trial detention (this percentage is 92 in the National Prison in Port-au-Prince) and where safe drinking water is also lacking, leading to at least 275 cholera deaths in the prisons since the outbreak began.

The report also examines Haiti’s flawed justice system, and the Haitian National Police (HNP), which it finds lacking in size, competence, and accountability. Still, the report is the latest to recommend a transition from MINUSTAH to the HNP for the purpose of maintaining national security and cut down on crime, saying, “Haiti needs an effective criminal justice system (including sufficient and competent police personnel) to combat organized crime – not a military presence,” but notes – as have previous reports such as this one from the International Crisis Group earlier this year – that plans to bolster and transform the HNP have fallen far behind stated goals, leading to a prolonged mandate for MINUSTAH.

The report also draws attention to recent threats against human rights defenders in Haiti, including BAI Director and prominent human rights attorney Mario Joseph, who has reported that he has been receiving death threats since early this year, following a judge’s proscribing charges Joseph brought against former president Jean-Claude Duvalier for crimes against humanity. The report finds the lack of accountability for Duvalier to “[highlight] the serious shortcomings of the judicial system and its lack of impartiality and independence,” and “contrary to the international obligations of Haiti to investigate serious violations of human rights and prosecute the perpetrators.” The human rights organizations call on the Haitian authorities to “Try and convict …Duvalier on appeal for crimes against humanity committed during his regime.”

While rights abuses by the UN troops and police officers in MINUSTAH have not received the international attention or outrage they warrant (see previous posts here, here and here), the report is not the first human rights study to detail some of the Mission’s transgressions and institutional failings. A 2005 report by the Harvard Law School examined how MINUSTAH had repeatedly fallen short of its goals, and research in November 2004 [PDF] by the University of Miami School of Law found that “MINUSTAH forces, ostensibly there to help the HNP, sometimes complicate and intensify the imprecision and the violence,” and interviewed a shooting victim in the hospital who claimed to have been shot by UN troops while “he was walking to work.” But the FIDH report is significant in its examination of the cholera epidemic and the U.N.’s reluctance to take responsibility as a human rights concern:

FIDH regrets that no mention is made by the Security Council of the responsibility of MINUSTAH in the outbreak of the cholera epidemic in Haiti. That said, the Security Council request to the countries providing MINUSTAH troops to ensure that their nationals responsible for human rights violations in Haiti are brought to justice and convicted is a notable mention

The report also notes MINUSTAH’s past failures to implement part of its current mandate – “to promote and protect human rights” — most notably in IDP camps:

MINUSTAH  failed  to  recognize  the  seriousness  of  human  rights violations  being  committed in  the  camps  and  initially  refused  to  contribute  to  securing  the camps, considering that it was not within its mandate to do so. It was only after a UN vote in June 2010 amending the MINUSTAH mandate that this situation changed.

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday on Hurricane Sandy’s ongoing toll on Haiti. Ingrid Arnesen writes:

Poor roads and communications have hindered damage assessments and relief efforts. Haitian government and international agencies say Sandy destroyed or damaged at least 21,000 houses, affected the livelihood of some 200,000 people, many of them subsistence farmers, and caused at least $104 million of damage.

The final toll is likely to be much higher once relief workers reach hard-hit areas cut off by flooded roads and rivers, relief organization officials say.

The government said last week it would compensate victims by sending about $25 to victims’ cellphones, and provide an additional $2 million in aid to the West Department, where Rivière Grise is, to help some 95,000 families with their losses.

Residents said the help hadn’t yet arrived. “We’ve not gotten one cent nor seen any official here,” Mr. Jean-Baptiste said.

AP reported Friday that Doctors Without Borders had noted an increase in cholera cases, with “at least 457 patients Monday,” 500 Tuesday, but down to 430 on Friday. Partners in Health has warned that such an uptick would come as CDC funding for cholera runs out, and at IDP camps such as Marassa, the Guardian reminds readers that “Aid groups such as Oxfam have helped, but humanitarian support has ebbed in the past two years.”

As the Haitian government appeals for new international aid in the wake of Sandy, reporter Kathie Klarreich and foreign aid investigative expert Linda Polman have a well-timed new article in The Nation that provides an important overview on the lacking international response to the cholera epidemic, Haiti’s housing crisis and the shortcomings of the relief and reconstruction effort since the 2010 earthquake:

Consider the cholera epidemic, which erupted in October 2010 and infected nearly half a million Haitians within the first year. Clean water has always been a scarce resource in the country, and its scarcity is one of the reasons the disease ripped so quickly through the population. Yet out of $175 million requested by the United Nations to help stanch the tide of the epidemic in late 2010, less than half came through. Meanwhile, a number of NGOs (including but hardly limited to UNICEF, the William J. Clinton Foundation and the British Red Cross) responded to the epidemic by launching a large-scale awareness campaign to combat cholera, stressing the importance of good hygiene—and then relocated displaced Haitians to areas lacking shower facilities and hand-washing stations. By August 2011, almost a year after cholera was introduced, only 12 percent of the tent camps equipped by NGOs had hand-washing stations, 8 percent less than the slim March 2011 figures. And only 7 percent of the camps surveyed by the UN had access to clean water, compared with 48 percent in March that year. Of 12,000 latrines needed, only 4,579—38 percent—were functional.

Writing before Hurricane Sandy hit Haiti and caused heavy flooding, Klarreich and Polman reported on Léogâne, epicenter of the 2010 earthquake, where some “80 to 90 percent of buildings” were destroyed, and which “sits at the intersection of three rivers”:

“In the Republic of NGOs, Léogâne is the City of NGOs,” said Joseph Philippe, 33, technical coordinator of the Municipal Civil Protection Committee of Léogâne.

The relief workers who flooded Léogâne, clogging the streets with their SUVs, were often young and idealistic, eager to join the effort to “build back better,” as Bill Clinton phrased it. But how these NGOs wanted to build Haiti back was often driven more by donor objectives than by the needs of the “beneficiaries,” as they are called in NGO-speak. What the people of Léogâne needed when their city was destroyed was new, safe housing on dry land. What they got instead were square boxes in the middle of a flood plain.

Léogâne sits at the intersection of three rivers. Yet not a single NGO was willing to work on shoring up the river bank and creating a sustainable drainage system, according to Philippe. It wasn’t part of their plan; it wasn’t what they’d been fundraising for. Philippe said that only the Canadian Center for International Studies and Cooperation helped reinforce the river banks with rocks, reducing the flood risk by 15 percent. Good, but hardly enough.

“The irony,” said Philippe, “is that all the projects that the NGOs did put money into will get washed away in the floods that will come. The NGOs will continue to finance projects in underdeveloped countries in an underdeveloped way.”

It is not just health NGO’s that are pulling back from efforts in Haiti. Klarreich and Polman write:

…aid groups have been focusing on trimming back their operations or simply getting out by whatever means necessary. NGOs have stopped virtually all water deliveries to the camps, and they no longer repair or clean portable toilets. Meanwhile, an aid listserv, created to share situation reports and humanitarian bulletins, is being used by some aid workers to unload their personal effects and post rental vacancies. A recent deal was in the leafy downtown neighborhood of Pacot: $1,850 a month for a four-bedroom home complete with three round-the-clock security guards. To put this in perspective, the NGOs employing these same workers are offering tent-camp dwellers a one-time relocation gift of $500, paid directly to the landlord for a year’s rent. In the absence of a widespread housing solution, this is what the international aid community has come up with.

“The emergency is over, as far as donors are concerned,” said Valerie Amos of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

In reality, however, the emergency is far from over. Nearly 400,000 people still live in tent camps, along with dogs, chickens, rats, garbage and overflowing toilets. Thousands more have retreated to earthquake-shattered houses or other makeshift structures forged out of bits of tarp and tent.

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday on Hurricane Sandy’s ongoing toll on Haiti. Ingrid Arnesen writes:

Poor roads and communications have hindered damage assessments and relief efforts. Haitian government and international agencies say Sandy destroyed or damaged at least 21,000 houses, affected the livelihood of some 200,000 people, many of them subsistence farmers, and caused at least $104 million of damage.

The final toll is likely to be much higher once relief workers reach hard-hit areas cut off by flooded roads and rivers, relief organization officials say.

The government said last week it would compensate victims by sending about $25 to victims’ cellphones, and provide an additional $2 million in aid to the West Department, where Rivière Grise is, to help some 95,000 families with their losses.

Residents said the help hadn’t yet arrived. “We’ve not gotten one cent nor seen any official here,” Mr. Jean-Baptiste said.

AP reported Friday that Doctors Without Borders had noted an increase in cholera cases, with “at least 457 patients Monday,” 500 Tuesday, but down to 430 on Friday. Partners in Health has warned that such an uptick would come as CDC funding for cholera runs out, and at IDP camps such as Marassa, the Guardian reminds readers that “Aid groups such as Oxfam have helped, but humanitarian support has ebbed in the past two years.”

As the Haitian government appeals for new international aid in the wake of Sandy, reporter Kathie Klarreich and foreign aid investigative expert Linda Polman have a well-timed new article in The Nation that provides an important overview on the lacking international response to the cholera epidemic, Haiti’s housing crisis and the shortcomings of the relief and reconstruction effort since the 2010 earthquake:

Consider the cholera epidemic, which erupted in October 2010 and infected nearly half a million Haitians within the first year. Clean water has always been a scarce resource in the country, and its scarcity is one of the reasons the disease ripped so quickly through the population. Yet out of $175 million requested by the United Nations to help stanch the tide of the epidemic in late 2010, less than half came through. Meanwhile, a number of NGOs (including but hardly limited to UNICEF, the William J. Clinton Foundation and the British Red Cross) responded to the epidemic by launching a large-scale awareness campaign to combat cholera, stressing the importance of good hygiene—and then relocated displaced Haitians to areas lacking shower facilities and hand-washing stations. By August 2011, almost a year after cholera was introduced, only 12 percent of the tent camps equipped by NGOs had hand-washing stations, 8 percent less than the slim March 2011 figures. And only 7 percent of the camps surveyed by the UN had access to clean water, compared with 48 percent in March that year. Of 12,000 latrines needed, only 4,579—38 percent—were functional.

Writing before Hurricane Sandy hit Haiti and caused heavy flooding, Klarreich and Polman reported on Léogâne, epicenter of the 2010 earthquake, where some “80 to 90 percent of buildings” were destroyed, and which “sits at the intersection of three rivers”:

“In the Republic of NGOs, Léogâne is the City of NGOs,” said Joseph Philippe, 33, technical coordinator of the Municipal Civil Protection Committee of Léogâne.

The relief workers who flooded Léogâne, clogging the streets with their SUVs, were often young and idealistic, eager to join the effort to “build back better,” as Bill Clinton phrased it. But how these NGOs wanted to build Haiti back was often driven more by donor objectives than by the needs of the “beneficiaries,” as they are called in NGO-speak. What the people of Léogâne needed when their city was destroyed was new, safe housing on dry land. What they got instead were square boxes in the middle of a flood plain.

Léogâne sits at the intersection of three rivers. Yet not a single NGO was willing to work on shoring up the river bank and creating a sustainable drainage system, according to Philippe. It wasn’t part of their plan; it wasn’t what they’d been fundraising for. Philippe said that only the Canadian Center for International Studies and Cooperation helped reinforce the river banks with rocks, reducing the flood risk by 15 percent. Good, but hardly enough.

“The irony,” said Philippe, “is that all the projects that the NGOs did put money into will get washed away in the floods that will come. The NGOs will continue to finance projects in underdeveloped countries in an underdeveloped way.”

It is not just health NGO’s that are pulling back from efforts in Haiti. Klarreich and Polman write:

…aid groups have been focusing on trimming back their operations or simply getting out by whatever means necessary. NGOs have stopped virtually all water deliveries to the camps, and they no longer repair or clean portable toilets. Meanwhile, an aid listserv, created to share situation reports and humanitarian bulletins, is being used by some aid workers to unload their personal effects and post rental vacancies. A recent deal was in the leafy downtown neighborhood of Pacot: $1,850 a month for a four-bedroom home complete with three round-the-clock security guards. To put this in perspective, the NGOs employing these same workers are offering tent-camp dwellers a one-time relocation gift of $500, paid directly to the landlord for a year’s rent. In the absence of a widespread housing solution, this is what the international aid community has come up with.

“The emergency is over, as far as donors are concerned,” said Valerie Amos of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

In reality, however, the emergency is far from over. Nearly 400,000 people still live in tent camps, along with dogs, chickens, rats, garbage and overflowing toilets. Thousands more have retreated to earthquake-shattered houses or other makeshift structures forged out of bits of tarp and tent.

Relief organizations and the Haitian government are still attempting to assess the extent of the damage that Hurricane Sandy left in its wake. The Haitian government belatedly declared a month-long state of emergency yesterday. The official death toll has been raised to 54, with 21 people still unaccounted for, as the AP reported today.

As with other recent storms to hit Haiti, Sandy’s arrival in Haiti might well have been just the start of the latest disaster. Heavy rains – let alone storms – always bring an increase in cholera infections. But as the Boston Globe reports:

…money for cholera prevention is running low.

Funding from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is set to expire in February and will not be renewed, said Cate Oswald, [Partners in Health’s] director of programs in Haiti.

The impact of the storm on Haiti’s crops is also only now being assessed, and the news is worse than many had thought it would be: “More than 70% of crops – including bananas, plantains and maize – were destroyed in the south of the country, officials said,” as the BBC reported. As we noted earlier, Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe warned Reuters that “Most of the agricultural crops that were left from Hurricane Isaac were destroyed during Sandy,” “so food security will be an issue.”

The New York Times, Miami Herald and The Guardian have all cited the Haitian government in reporting that 200,000 people had been left homeless – or at least had their homes damaged – by the storm. Newly homeless means more people thrown into a state of vulnerability: vulnerable to cholera and other illness and disease, vulnerable to rape and gender-based violence, vulnerable to hunger, and vulnerable to forced eviction when/if these people move into displaced persons settlements.

Organizations with proven track records of doing important work in Haiti have mobilized and are raising funds to provide relief, respond to the increased risk of new cholera infections, and other lingering impacts of the latest unnatural disaster to hit Haiti. These include Partners in Health; Doctors Without Borders; the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, which advocates on behalf of IDPs and victims of rape and gender-based violence; and the Under Tents campaign which fights for the right to housing in Haiti.

Relief organizations and the Haitian government are still attempting to assess the extent of the damage that Hurricane Sandy left in its wake. The Haitian government belatedly declared a month-long state of emergency yesterday. The official death toll has been raised to 54, with 21 people still unaccounted for, as the AP reported today.

As with other recent storms to hit Haiti, Sandy’s arrival in Haiti might well have been just the start of the latest disaster. Heavy rains – let alone storms – always bring an increase in cholera infections. But as the Boston Globe reports:

…money for cholera prevention is running low.

Funding from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is set to expire in February and will not be renewed, said Cate Oswald, [Partners in Health’s] director of programs in Haiti.

The impact of the storm on Haiti’s crops is also only now being assessed, and the news is worse than many had thought it would be: “More than 70% of crops – including bananas, plantains and maize – were destroyed in the south of the country, officials said,” as the BBC reported. As we noted earlier, Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe warned Reuters that “Most of the agricultural crops that were left from Hurricane Isaac were destroyed during Sandy,” “so food security will be an issue.”

The New York Times, Miami Herald and The Guardian have all cited the Haitian government in reporting that 200,000 people had been left homeless – or at least had their homes damaged – by the storm. Newly homeless means more people thrown into a state of vulnerability: vulnerable to cholera and other illness and disease, vulnerable to rape and gender-based violence, vulnerable to hunger, and vulnerable to forced eviction when/if these people move into displaced persons settlements.

Organizations with proven track records of doing important work in Haiti have mobilized and are raising funds to provide relief, respond to the increased risk of new cholera infections, and other lingering impacts of the latest unnatural disaster to hit Haiti. These include Partners in Health; Doctors Without Borders; the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, which advocates on behalf of IDPs and victims of rape and gender-based violence; and the Under Tents campaign which fights for the right to housing in Haiti.

“The whole south is under water,” Haitian Prime Minister Lamothe told the AP this weekend. Four days of rain that saw accumulations surpass 20 inches have left over 50 dead and 20 missing throughout Haiti as floods hit the South and West departments especially hard. According to the most recent update from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 52 are reported dead, with 20 and 18 in the West and South departments, respectively. OCHA notes that over 20,000 were evacuated and 90 camps damaged.

With some 370,000 Haitians still living in camps with nothing but tattered tarps to protect themselves, the rains were especially damaging. Kristen and Wawa Chege of the Mennonite Central Committee describe the situation:

whole camps flooded as streams emerged between tents, shelters fell under the weight of sitting water, dirt floors turned to mud, and precious possessions were ruined. Efforts to raise mattresses off the ground using cinder blocks, and string clothes from wires inside their tent made little difference as the rain poured in through holes in the tent, or seeped in below the walls. As one man succinctly put it, “everything is wet”.

Agriculture

In August, tropical storm Isaac inflicted massive damage to the agricultural sector in Haiti, resulting in an estimated $242 of damages. As food prices have risen, protests against the high cost of living and against the Martelly government have proliferated. The passing of hurricane Sandy will only exacerbate the problems. As Susan Ferreira reports for Reuters:

“Most of the agricultural crops that were left from Hurricane Isaac were destroyed during Sandy,” he said, “so food security will be an issue.”

A rise in food prices in Haiti triggered violent demonstrations and political instability in April 2008. Jean Debalio Jean-Jacques, the Ministry of Agriculture’s director for the southern department, said he worried that the massive crop loss “could aggravate the situation.”

“The storm took everything away,” said Jean-Jacques. “Everything the peasants had in reserve – corn, tubers – all of it was devastated. Some people had already prepared their fields for winter crops and those were devastated.”

In Abricots on Haiti’s southwestern tip, the community was still recovering from the effects of 2010’s Hurricane Tomas and a recent dry spell when Sandy hit.

“We’ll have famine in the coming days,” said Abricots Mayor Kechner Toussaint. “It’s an agricultural disaster.”

Ferreira adds that humanitarian workers are concerned because stocks of supplies have not been replenished since tropical storm Isaac.

Cholera

As occurred following Isaac, the most deadly aspect of Sandy could be the resulting increase in cholera cases that will occur in the weeks ahead. Nearly 90 people died from cholera in the month following Isaac, as infection rates greatly increased due to the rain. Since the beginning of the epidemic in October 2010, some 7,600 have died and nearly 600,000 have fallen ill.

According to Dr. Juan Carlos Gustavo Alonso of the Pan American Health Organization, aid organizations are already seeing a spike in cholera cases, especially in the west department where most of the remaining IDPs are located. Over 80 cases have been reported just from the IDP camps in the capital.

Despite overwhelming evidence that United Nations troops were responsible for cholera’s introduction, two years have passed without the UN taking responsibility.

Disaster Risk Reduction

Although the full extent of the damage from Sandy has yet to be fully evaluated, the damage will likely be at least as great as that from Isaac. Prime Minister Lamothe said that the Haitian government would be issuing a plea for disaster aid in the coming days. The devastation brought on by Sandy and Isaac highlights the need for greater disaster risk reduction programs to ensure Haiti is not so susceptible to natural disasters.

The Haiti Reconstruction Fund, which has been the largest single recipient of donor contributions, has two projects which focus on disaster risk reduction in the south department, one of the hardest hit areas. While the UN’s $8 million dollar program has mostly been completed, the Inter-American Development Bank’s $14 million, 5-year project has yet to get off the ground. The project targets disaster mitigation works in Les Cayes and Camp Perrin. Both those communities were hit hard by flooding last week from Sandy.

While it will be important to react to the current disaster to ensure cholera’s spread is mitigated, IDPs receive the support they need, and the agricultural sector is strengthened, the hurricane also shines a light on Haiti’s vulnerability to natural disasters and the need for greater preparation and prevention measures.

 

“The whole south is under water,” Haitian Prime Minister Lamothe told the AP this weekend. Four days of rain that saw accumulations surpass 20 inches have left over 50 dead and 20 missing throughout Haiti as floods hit the South and West departments especially hard. According to the most recent update from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 52 are reported dead, with 20 and 18 in the West and South departments, respectively. OCHA notes that over 20,000 were evacuated and 90 camps damaged.

With some 370,000 Haitians still living in camps with nothing but tattered tarps to protect themselves, the rains were especially damaging. Kristen and Wawa Chege of the Mennonite Central Committee describe the situation:

whole camps flooded as streams emerged between tents, shelters fell under the weight of sitting water, dirt floors turned to mud, and precious possessions were ruined. Efforts to raise mattresses off the ground using cinder blocks, and string clothes from wires inside their tent made little difference as the rain poured in through holes in the tent, or seeped in below the walls. As one man succinctly put it, “everything is wet”.

Agriculture

In August, tropical storm Isaac inflicted massive damage to the agricultural sector in Haiti, resulting in an estimated $242 of damages. As food prices have risen, protests against the high cost of living and against the Martelly government have proliferated. The passing of hurricane Sandy will only exacerbate the problems. As Susan Ferreira reports for Reuters:

“Most of the agricultural crops that were left from Hurricane Isaac were destroyed during Sandy,” he said, “so food security will be an issue.”

A rise in food prices in Haiti triggered violent demonstrations and political instability in April 2008. Jean Debalio Jean-Jacques, the Ministry of Agriculture’s director for the southern department, said he worried that the massive crop loss “could aggravate the situation.”

“The storm took everything away,” said Jean-Jacques. “Everything the peasants had in reserve – corn, tubers – all of it was devastated. Some people had already prepared their fields for winter crops and those were devastated.”

In Abricots on Haiti’s southwestern tip, the community was still recovering from the effects of 2010’s Hurricane Tomas and a recent dry spell when Sandy hit.

“We’ll have famine in the coming days,” said Abricots Mayor Kechner Toussaint. “It’s an agricultural disaster.”

Ferreira adds that humanitarian workers are concerned because stocks of supplies have not been replenished since tropical storm Isaac.

Cholera

As occurred following Isaac, the most deadly aspect of Sandy could be the resulting increase in cholera cases that will occur in the weeks ahead. Nearly 90 people died from cholera in the month following Isaac, as infection rates greatly increased due to the rain. Since the beginning of the epidemic in October 2010, some 7,600 have died and nearly 600,000 have fallen ill.

According to Dr. Juan Carlos Gustavo Alonso of the Pan American Health Organization, aid organizations are already seeing a spike in cholera cases, especially in the west department where most of the remaining IDPs are located. Over 80 cases have been reported just from the IDP camps in the capital.

Despite overwhelming evidence that United Nations troops were responsible for cholera’s introduction, two years have passed without the UN taking responsibility.

Disaster Risk Reduction

Although the full extent of the damage from Sandy has yet to be fully evaluated, the damage will likely be at least as great as that from Isaac. Prime Minister Lamothe said that the Haitian government would be issuing a plea for disaster aid in the coming days. The devastation brought on by Sandy and Isaac highlights the need for greater disaster risk reduction programs to ensure Haiti is not so susceptible to natural disasters.

The Haiti Reconstruction Fund, which has been the largest single recipient of donor contributions, has two projects which focus on disaster risk reduction in the south department, one of the hardest hit areas. While the UN’s $8 million dollar program has mostly been completed, the Inter-American Development Bank’s $14 million, 5-year project has yet to get off the ground. The project targets disaster mitigation works in Les Cayes and Camp Perrin. Both those communities were hit hard by flooding last week from Sandy.

While it will be important to react to the current disaster to ensure cholera’s spread is mitigated, IDPs receive the support they need, and the agricultural sector is strengthened, the hurricane also shines a light on Haiti’s vulnerability to natural disasters and the need for greater preparation and prevention measures.

 

A press statement [PDF] released today, co-signed by CEPR and a number of other organizations, states:

On the second anniversary of the outbreak of the cholera epidemic in Haiti, human rights groups, faith-based organizations, policy institutes, and humanitarian organizations renew their call for the United Nations and U.S. government to help Haiti install the clean water and sanitation infrastructure necessary to control the ongoing epidemic.

The cholera epidemic in Haiti has received less U.S. attention during the presidential campaign season, but it remains a critical problem for this Caribbean neighbor that is not being adequately addressed and is undermining broader aid efforts.  Last month, 260 new cholera cases were reported daily, and 2-3 children died a day.  Since the epidemic broke out in October 2010, 7,564 Haitians have reportedly died from cholera and some 600,000 persons (6% of the Haitian population) have been infected. The number is undoubtedly much higher, as cases in more remote areas are often unreported. As the World Health Organization has stated, those without access to safe drinking water, proper sanitation, and hygiene constitute the majority of cholera cases.

Two years after the epidemic started, not enough action has been taken to assist the Government of Haiti in acquiring essential water and sanitation infrastructure.  A regional coalition that includes the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization is developing a plan with the Government of Haiti to build water and sanitation systems that will cost $2.2 billion. Despite this encouraging progress, the plan still needs to be finalized and funded before implementation can begin.

The U.N. especially has a legal and moral responsibility to play a leadership role in helping end the epidemic.  Independent scientific studies have established that cholera was brought to Haiti by troops from the U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) and that the waste disposal practices at the U.N. base allowed the bacteria to contaminate Haiti’s largest river system.  The undersigned groups call on the U.N. to commit long-term resources to work with the Government of Haiti to build water and sanitation systems that are critical to halting the continued spread of the disease.

This July, 104 members of Congress sent a letter to Susan Rice, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., requesting that she urge the world body to act decisively to address Haiti’s cholera crisis. Congressional members Chris Smith and Albio Sires made a similar plea to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  The undersigned groups urge Ambassador Rice and Secretary Clinton to fulfill these important appeals and to call on the U.N. to help Haiti acquire the necessary funding to develop the water and sanitation infrastructure needed to stop the epidemic.

Signatory Groups:

Alternative Chance

American Jewish World Service

Canada Haiti Action Network

Center for Economic and Policy Research

Center for Gender & Refugee Studies

Environmental Justice Initiative for Haiti

Grassroots International

Hastings to Haiti Partnership

Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti

Just Foreign Policy

li,li,li! Read

Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office

New Media Advocacy Project

Other Worlds

The Haiti Support Group

TransAfrica Forum

 

A press statement [PDF] released today, co-signed by CEPR and a number of other organizations, states:

On the second anniversary of the outbreak of the cholera epidemic in Haiti, human rights groups, faith-based organizations, policy institutes, and humanitarian organizations renew their call for the United Nations and U.S. government to help Haiti install the clean water and sanitation infrastructure necessary to control the ongoing epidemic.

The cholera epidemic in Haiti has received less U.S. attention during the presidential campaign season, but it remains a critical problem for this Caribbean neighbor that is not being adequately addressed and is undermining broader aid efforts.  Last month, 260 new cholera cases were reported daily, and 2-3 children died a day.  Since the epidemic broke out in October 2010, 7,564 Haitians have reportedly died from cholera and some 600,000 persons (6% of the Haitian population) have been infected. The number is undoubtedly much higher, as cases in more remote areas are often unreported. As the World Health Organization has stated, those without access to safe drinking water, proper sanitation, and hygiene constitute the majority of cholera cases.

Two years after the epidemic started, not enough action has been taken to assist the Government of Haiti in acquiring essential water and sanitation infrastructure.  A regional coalition that includes the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization is developing a plan with the Government of Haiti to build water and sanitation systems that will cost $2.2 billion. Despite this encouraging progress, the plan still needs to be finalized and funded before implementation can begin.

The U.N. especially has a legal and moral responsibility to play a leadership role in helping end the epidemic.  Independent scientific studies have established that cholera was brought to Haiti by troops from the U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) and that the waste disposal practices at the U.N. base allowed the bacteria to contaminate Haiti’s largest river system.  The undersigned groups call on the U.N. to commit long-term resources to work with the Government of Haiti to build water and sanitation systems that are critical to halting the continued spread of the disease.

This July, 104 members of Congress sent a letter to Susan Rice, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., requesting that she urge the world body to act decisively to address Haiti’s cholera crisis. Congressional members Chris Smith and Albio Sires made a similar plea to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  The undersigned groups urge Ambassador Rice and Secretary Clinton to fulfill these important appeals and to call on the U.N. to help Haiti acquire the necessary funding to develop the water and sanitation infrastructure needed to stop the epidemic.

Signatory Groups:

Alternative Chance

American Jewish World Service

Canada Haiti Action Network

Center for Economic and Policy Research

Center for Gender & Refugee Studies

Environmental Justice Initiative for Haiti

Grassroots International

Hastings to Haiti Partnership

Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti

Just Foreign Policy

li,li,li! Read

Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office

New Media Advocacy Project

Other Worlds

The Haiti Support Group

TransAfrica Forum

 

As both Clintons and a coterie of celebrities and foreign investors flew into northern Haiti yesterday, some took the opportunity to praise Sae-A, the giant Korean garment manufacturer that opened a factory in the new Caracol industrial park. Hillary Clinton, for one, told reporters:

And I too want to thank Sae-A, because Sae-A took a decision that was something of a risk, never having worked in Haiti before, after a tremendous natural disaster that was so devastating. But they brought their expertise and they brought their commitment. And Chairman Kim, we thank you for everything that you and the leadership of Sae-A is doing.

But Sae-A’s decision to set up shop in Caracol could hardly be described as risky, as almost the entire cost of the project was borne by other actors. The New York Times, in an in-depth July investigation into the new park, reported that the land was provided free of charge by the Haitian government, the physical infrastructure was provided by the Inter-American Development Bank for around $100 million, and the United States government chipped in $124 million for  infrastructure, energy and housing services. The industrial park tenants are also granted significant tax-exemptions, and will only have to pay docking fees, which are estimated to be just $17,500 a year, hardly a boon to Haiti’s coffers. Sae-A, which reported over $1.1 billion in export business last year, committed to spending just $39.2 million on the factory. 

Additionally, U.S. legislation provides duty-free access to the U.S. market, which was used by Clinton to “woo” the apparel industry. Deborah Sontag of the Times sums it up:

In exchange, thanks to a deal that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton helped broker, Sae-A looked forward to tax exemptions, duty-free access to the United States, abundant cheap labor, factory sheds, a power plant, a new port and an expatriate residence outfitted with special kimchi refrigerators.

Of course, it is also the case that if labor costs go up, subsidies end, or business doesn’t boom, Sae-A can simply walk away. Though non-binding, a memorandum of understanding between the Haitian Ministry of Economy and Finance, the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation, the IADB, and the United States Department of State includes the following provision:

It shall be acknowledged by the Participants that the continuation of participation under this MOU for Sae-A is contingent upon the existence of adequate infrastructure, labor force, labor policies, favorable access to export markets, access to sufficient funding and any other circumstances that affect the feasibility of investment by Sae-A.

Sae-A and other global apparel companies often compete in a race to the bottom, leaving countries in search of lower labor costs after wages rise. Due to rising expenses in Guatemala, Sae-A has closed their factory there. A local paper carried the story with the headline, “A Maquila Closes and Goes to Haiti.” A Sae-A spokesperson also told the New York Times that once trade preferences for Nicaragua end in 2014, “a lot of product orders now going to factories in Nicaragua can go through the Haiti operation.” But what’s preventing this from happening in Haiti down the road?

Mr. Aguerre, of the IADB sums it up:

Yes, it’s low-paying, yes, it’s unstable, yes, maybe tomorrow there will a better opportunity for firms elsewhere and they will just leave. But everyone thought this was a risk worth taking.

So, though there may not be much risk for Sae-A, there is a definite risk for the people of Haiti. There’s also conceivably a risk for the U.S. government, which is touting this as the “centerpiece” of their reconstruction efforts, as well as for the IADB, Haitian government and other entities that are providing financial backing for the project.

 

As both Clintons and a coterie of celebrities and foreign investors flew into northern Haiti yesterday, some took the opportunity to praise Sae-A, the giant Korean garment manufacturer that opened a factory in the new Caracol industrial park. Hillary Clinton, for one, told reporters:

And I too want to thank Sae-A, because Sae-A took a decision that was something of a risk, never having worked in Haiti before, after a tremendous natural disaster that was so devastating. But they brought their expertise and they brought their commitment. And Chairman Kim, we thank you for everything that you and the leadership of Sae-A is doing.

But Sae-A’s decision to set up shop in Caracol could hardly be described as risky, as almost the entire cost of the project was borne by other actors. The New York Times, in an in-depth July investigation into the new park, reported that the land was provided free of charge by the Haitian government, the physical infrastructure was provided by the Inter-American Development Bank for around $100 million, and the United States government chipped in $124 million for  infrastructure, energy and housing services. The industrial park tenants are also granted significant tax-exemptions, and will only have to pay docking fees, which are estimated to be just $17,500 a year, hardly a boon to Haiti’s coffers. Sae-A, which reported over $1.1 billion in export business last year, committed to spending just $39.2 million on the factory. 

Additionally, U.S. legislation provides duty-free access to the U.S. market, which was used by Clinton to “woo” the apparel industry. Deborah Sontag of the Times sums it up:

In exchange, thanks to a deal that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton helped broker, Sae-A looked forward to tax exemptions, duty-free access to the United States, abundant cheap labor, factory sheds, a power plant, a new port and an expatriate residence outfitted with special kimchi refrigerators.

Of course, it is also the case that if labor costs go up, subsidies end, or business doesn’t boom, Sae-A can simply walk away. Though non-binding, a memorandum of understanding between the Haitian Ministry of Economy and Finance, the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation, the IADB, and the United States Department of State includes the following provision:

It shall be acknowledged by the Participants that the continuation of participation under this MOU for Sae-A is contingent upon the existence of adequate infrastructure, labor force, labor policies, favorable access to export markets, access to sufficient funding and any other circumstances that affect the feasibility of investment by Sae-A.

Sae-A and other global apparel companies often compete in a race to the bottom, leaving countries in search of lower labor costs after wages rise. Due to rising expenses in Guatemala, Sae-A has closed their factory there. A local paper carried the story with the headline, “A Maquila Closes and Goes to Haiti.” A Sae-A spokesperson also told the New York Times that once trade preferences for Nicaragua end in 2014, “a lot of product orders now going to factories in Nicaragua can go through the Haiti operation.” But what’s preventing this from happening in Haiti down the road?

Mr. Aguerre, of the IADB sums it up:

Yes, it’s low-paying, yes, it’s unstable, yes, maybe tomorrow there will a better opportunity for firms elsewhere and they will just leave. But everyone thought this was a risk worth taking.

So, though there may not be much risk for Sae-A, there is a definite risk for the people of Haiti. There’s also conceivably a risk for the U.S. government, which is touting this as the “centerpiece” of their reconstruction efforts, as well as for the IADB, Haitian government and other entities that are providing financial backing for the project.

 

Hillary and Bill Clinton arrived in Haiti today with a delegation of foreign investors and celebrities to showcase the Caracol industrial park, “the centerpiece of the U.S. effort to help the country recover from the 2010 earthquake,” reports Trenton Daniel for the AP.  Government officials and international partners have touted the park’s potential to create thousands of jobs, but there have been a host of criticisms on social, environmental and labor issues. Speaking with the AP, sociologist Alex Dupuy notes:

“This is not a strategy that is meant to provide Haiti with any measure of sustainable development … The only reason those industries come to Haiti is because the country has the lowest wages in the region,” Dupuy said.

Sae-A will pay employees Haiti’s minimum wage, which is $5 a day. Workers will be eligible for bonuses based on performance.

Reports from the ground indicate that the factory is not complying with the minimum wage law, however. Etant Dupain, writing on the Let Haiti Live website, notes:

Before the official inauguration, several thousand employees have been working in the Caracol park for the last three months at a wage of 150 gourdes ($3.75 US) a day. Since October 1st, the new minimum wage law has gone into effect, with the government setting the minimum at 300 gourdes a day. Despite this, the managers of the factory operating at Caracol aren’t respecting the new official minimum wage.

The new minimum wage would be 200 gourdes, with piece rate employees earning 300. Caracol would be far from the only factory in Haiti not adequately compensating their employees. The most recent Better Work Haiti report, released last week, found that 21 of 22 factories covered in their analysis (Caracol is not covered yet) were non-compliant with minimum wage laws. This refers to the old minimum wage. Better Work is a joint program of the International Labor Organization, International Finance Corporation and the U.S. Department of Labor. Of course, whether employees are earning $3 or $5 a day, it is still far below what the AFL-CIO’s Solidarity Center determined to be a “living wage” for workers in the garment industry.

 

Hillary and Bill Clinton arrived in Haiti today with a delegation of foreign investors and celebrities to showcase the Caracol industrial park, “the centerpiece of the U.S. effort to help the country recover from the 2010 earthquake,” reports Trenton Daniel for the AP.  Government officials and international partners have touted the park’s potential to create thousands of jobs, but there have been a host of criticisms on social, environmental and labor issues. Speaking with the AP, sociologist Alex Dupuy notes:

“This is not a strategy that is meant to provide Haiti with any measure of sustainable development … The only reason those industries come to Haiti is because the country has the lowest wages in the region,” Dupuy said.

Sae-A will pay employees Haiti’s minimum wage, which is $5 a day. Workers will be eligible for bonuses based on performance.

Reports from the ground indicate that the factory is not complying with the minimum wage law, however. Etant Dupain, writing on the Let Haiti Live website, notes:

Before the official inauguration, several thousand employees have been working in the Caracol park for the last three months at a wage of 150 gourdes ($3.75 US) a day. Since October 1st, the new minimum wage law has gone into effect, with the government setting the minimum at 300 gourdes a day. Despite this, the managers of the factory operating at Caracol aren’t respecting the new official minimum wage.

The new minimum wage would be 200 gourdes, with piece rate employees earning 300. Caracol would be far from the only factory in Haiti not adequately compensating their employees. The most recent Better Work Haiti report, released last week, found that 21 of 22 factories covered in their analysis (Caracol is not covered yet) were non-compliant with minimum wage laws. This refers to the old minimum wage. Better Work is a joint program of the International Labor Organization, International Finance Corporation and the U.S. Department of Labor. Of course, whether employees are earning $3 or $5 a day, it is still far below what the AFL-CIO’s Solidarity Center determined to be a “living wage” for workers in the garment industry.

 

It has now been over two years since the first cholera death in Haiti after more than a century. Over 7,500 people in Haiti have died from the disease so far, and over 600,000 have been sickened. While there has been a drop in cholera cases in 2012 over 2011, Oliver Schulz, Doctors Without Borders’ Head of Mission in Haiti says, “We continue to see an average of 250 new cases each week in our facilities, but this is still a high number.”

Doctors Without Borders notes that

Reduced international funding is limiting the response of the humanitarian agencies working in the areas of medical care and providing access to clean water and sanitation.

“This year, MSF had to keep most of our CTCs open throughout the year because cholera  is far from being controlled. The measures to prevent and treat cholera are still not enough,” lamented Schulz.

In fact, the response capability of the Ministry of Health remains extremely low two years after the onset of the epidemic. As a result, during the most recent peak last May, MSF treated more than 70 percent of the total number of patients registered in Port-au-Prince.

Despite the overwhelming evidence pointing to UN (MINUSTAH) troops as the cause of the disease outbreak, the UN has refused to accept responsibility. Notably, its own report on the origins of the epidemic attempted to place blame on Haiti’s poor sanitation and water infrastructure, rather than UN negligence. But BBC now reports that one of the authors of that report, Daniele Lantagne, is much more convinced that UN behavior is responsible:

The 2011 UN report – co-signed by [Lantagne] – acknowledged that inadequate toilets in the Nepalese UN camp in the mountain town of Mirabalais [sic] could have leaked the cholera bacterium into the nearby Meye River which flows into the country’s main waterways.

But the report stressed that the outbreak “was not the fault” of any “group or individual”.

The Panel of Experts added that the subsequent spread of the disease across Haiti was due to many factors – including the country’s deeply inadequate water supply and almost non-existent sewage disposal systems.

Now, Dr Lantagne says the new genome data (in addition to other evidence) has changed her view since she had co-authored the UN report which effectively said no-one was to blame.

 

 

“We can now say,” Dr Lantagne said, “that the most likely source of the introduction of cholera into Haiti was someone infected with the Nepal strain of cholera and associated with the United Nations Mirabalais camp.”

A few scientists have also sought to shift attention from the UN to environmental causes. Rita Colwell attributed the epidemic to a “perfect storm” of converging environmental factors. But epidemiologist Renaud Piarroux refutes Colwell’s hypothesis in a new article:

The cholera epidemic is therefore not the consequence of the “perfect storm” described by Rita Colwell, a renowned expert on cholera. For this scientist, a “perfect storm” of environmental circumstances in 2010 enabled the bacteria to surface, as the impoverished country was hit by a massive earthquake, a hurricane and a “very hot summer season.”

In reality, the epidemic started in an area spared by the earthquake, following a summer which was not especially hot and, last but not least, at the time Hurricane Tomas stroke the country, thousands of cholera cases and hundreds of deaths were already recorded.

As the BBC notes, thousands of cholera victims and their relatives are suing the UN for its role in causing the epidemic. A central goal for the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti and other groups seeking justice on cholera is to obtain adequate funding to bring Haiti’s water and sanitation system up to international standards. As Doctors Without Borders states:

Only long-term imporovements to water and sanitation will make it possible to contain cholera.

“This will take time, and this is why medical care for cholera patients remains a key challenge that the Haitian authorities need to address right now,” Schulz explained

It has now been over two years since the first cholera death in Haiti after more than a century. Over 7,500 people in Haiti have died from the disease so far, and over 600,000 have been sickened. While there has been a drop in cholera cases in 2012 over 2011, Oliver Schulz, Doctors Without Borders’ Head of Mission in Haiti says, “We continue to see an average of 250 new cases each week in our facilities, but this is still a high number.”

Doctors Without Borders notes that

Reduced international funding is limiting the response of the humanitarian agencies working in the areas of medical care and providing access to clean water and sanitation.

“This year, MSF had to keep most of our CTCs open throughout the year because cholera  is far from being controlled. The measures to prevent and treat cholera are still not enough,” lamented Schulz.

In fact, the response capability of the Ministry of Health remains extremely low two years after the onset of the epidemic. As a result, during the most recent peak last May, MSF treated more than 70 percent of the total number of patients registered in Port-au-Prince.

Despite the overwhelming evidence pointing to UN (MINUSTAH) troops as the cause of the disease outbreak, the UN has refused to accept responsibility. Notably, its own report on the origins of the epidemic attempted to place blame on Haiti’s poor sanitation and water infrastructure, rather than UN negligence. But BBC now reports that one of the authors of that report, Daniele Lantagne, is much more convinced that UN behavior is responsible:

The 2011 UN report – co-signed by [Lantagne] – acknowledged that inadequate toilets in the Nepalese UN camp in the mountain town of Mirabalais [sic] could have leaked the cholera bacterium into the nearby Meye River which flows into the country’s main waterways.

But the report stressed that the outbreak “was not the fault” of any “group or individual”.

The Panel of Experts added that the subsequent spread of the disease across Haiti was due to many factors – including the country’s deeply inadequate water supply and almost non-existent sewage disposal systems.

Now, Dr Lantagne says the new genome data (in addition to other evidence) has changed her view since she had co-authored the UN report which effectively said no-one was to blame.

 

 

“We can now say,” Dr Lantagne said, “that the most likely source of the introduction of cholera into Haiti was someone infected with the Nepal strain of cholera and associated with the United Nations Mirabalais camp.”

A few scientists have also sought to shift attention from the UN to environmental causes. Rita Colwell attributed the epidemic to a “perfect storm” of converging environmental factors. But epidemiologist Renaud Piarroux refutes Colwell’s hypothesis in a new article:

The cholera epidemic is therefore not the consequence of the “perfect storm” described by Rita Colwell, a renowned expert on cholera. For this scientist, a “perfect storm” of environmental circumstances in 2010 enabled the bacteria to surface, as the impoverished country was hit by a massive earthquake, a hurricane and a “very hot summer season.”

In reality, the epidemic started in an area spared by the earthquake, following a summer which was not especially hot and, last but not least, at the time Hurricane Tomas stroke the country, thousands of cholera cases and hundreds of deaths were already recorded.

As the BBC notes, thousands of cholera victims and their relatives are suing the UN for its role in causing the epidemic. A central goal for the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti and other groups seeking justice on cholera is to obtain adequate funding to bring Haiti’s water and sanitation system up to international standards. As Doctors Without Borders states:

Only long-term imporovements to water and sanitation will make it possible to contain cholera.

“This will take time, and this is why medical care for cholera patients remains a key challenge that the Haitian authorities need to address right now,” Schulz explained

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