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.

CEPR Research Associate Jake Johnston writes for AlterNet this week:

Over the past few decades, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has seen its staff level drop significantly at the same time as the amount of money under its discretion has rapidly increased. Over this time, USAID has stepped up its reliance on for-profit contractors to fill the void. The result, as Hillary Clinton stated in her confirmation hearing (USAID is part of the State Department), is that USAID has “turned into more of a contracting agency than an operational agency with the ability to deliver.”

To be sure, there are efforts are underway to slowly fix this. In the meantime, the status quo reigns, with perhaps nowhere serving as a better example of the pitfalls than Haiti. Since the devastating earthquake in January 2010, USAID has awarded some $450 million in contracts – with 70 percent of them going to DC-area contractors, the so-called “beltway bandits”. The largest USAID contractor in Haiti (and the world, for that matter), Chemonics has received some $177 million of this total. With such a large amount of resources going to one company, you might expect there to be vigilant oversight and strict guidelines. Unfortunately, you would be mistaken.

The USAID Inspector General released a report last week that shines some much-needed light onto the operations of USAID’s largest contractor. The report looks at the $53 million dollar Haiti Recovery Initiative run by Chemonics, the follow-up program to a $39 million program that began right after the quake. Among the findings in the audit: projects were “not on track”, the monitoring and evaluation system was weak and arbitrary, there was a lack of community involvement in project planning and they failed to get the appropriate environmental approvals before undertaking potentially damaging projects. This isn’t the first time Chemonics has been criticized for their work in Haiti . The same Inspector General found a host of similar problems with the original $39 million contract the year before, yet USAID turned around and gave Chemonics another $50 million anyway.

The same process had already played out before in Afghanistan. After USAID awarded a $100 million contract to Chemonics for work in the agricultural sector of Afghanistan, a 2005 Government Accountability Office report found significant problems with the program. Yet despite the documented problems, just like in Haiti, the next year USAID turned around and gave the same contractor another $100 million. The Inspector General also found numerous problems with that program.

To read the rest, click here.

 

CEPR Research Associate Jake Johnston writes for AlterNet this week:

Over the past few decades, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has seen its staff level drop significantly at the same time as the amount of money under its discretion has rapidly increased. Over this time, USAID has stepped up its reliance on for-profit contractors to fill the void. The result, as Hillary Clinton stated in her confirmation hearing (USAID is part of the State Department), is that USAID has “turned into more of a contracting agency than an operational agency with the ability to deliver.”

To be sure, there are efforts are underway to slowly fix this. In the meantime, the status quo reigns, with perhaps nowhere serving as a better example of the pitfalls than Haiti. Since the devastating earthquake in January 2010, USAID has awarded some $450 million in contracts – with 70 percent of them going to DC-area contractors, the so-called “beltway bandits”. The largest USAID contractor in Haiti (and the world, for that matter), Chemonics has received some $177 million of this total. With such a large amount of resources going to one company, you might expect there to be vigilant oversight and strict guidelines. Unfortunately, you would be mistaken.

The USAID Inspector General released a report last week that shines some much-needed light onto the operations of USAID’s largest contractor. The report looks at the $53 million dollar Haiti Recovery Initiative run by Chemonics, the follow-up program to a $39 million program that began right after the quake. Among the findings in the audit: projects were “not on track”, the monitoring and evaluation system was weak and arbitrary, there was a lack of community involvement in project planning and they failed to get the appropriate environmental approvals before undertaking potentially damaging projects. This isn’t the first time Chemonics has been criticized for their work in Haiti . The same Inspector General found a host of similar problems with the original $39 million contract the year before, yet USAID turned around and gave Chemonics another $50 million anyway.

The same process had already played out before in Afghanistan. After USAID awarded a $100 million contract to Chemonics for work in the agricultural sector of Afghanistan, a 2005 Government Accountability Office report found significant problems with the program. Yet despite the documented problems, just like in Haiti, the next year USAID turned around and gave the same contractor another $100 million. The Inspector General also found numerous problems with that program.

To read the rest, click here.

 

Haiti’s leading human rights attorney Mario Joseph has been the subject of death threats and police surveillance and harassment in the past several months, along with other lawyers. As the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) reports, Joseph, IJDH Managing Attorney and the director of its Haitian affiliate Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) has received as many as 3-4 death threats a day, while police in vehicles with tinted windows have monitored the BAI office in Port-au-Prince and harassed and searched people leaving. Threats against BAI and Mario have also been spray painted on walls nearby.  While IJDH notes that Joseph has been the targets of threats in the past, it says “the current intimidation appears more organized, more persistent and more closely linked to the Haitian government than previous incidents.”

U.S. Congressman John Conyers (D – MI), the Ranking Member on the House Judiciary Committee, condemned the threats this week, saying:

“As a long-time supporter of Haiti in the United States Congress, I am concerned by recent reports that suggest that Haitian attorneys and human rights advocates, including prominent attorney Mario Joesph of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), are being targeted with political intimidation and threats of physical harm as a result of their legal representation of politically vulnerable individuals and groups,” said Conyers.

“The ability of an attorney to provide legal assistance free of harassment to any client is a critically important component of a well-functioning justice system. All necessary steps should be taken to protect these attorneys and advocates, who help ensure that all Haitians have equitable access to justice and due process. My office has contacted the State Department to express my concern about these recent reports.”

As the Miami Herald reported earlier this month, Joseph and other lawyers may be the targets of political persecution by the Martelly government. Chief Prosecutor of Port-au-Prince Jean Renel Sénatus claims Haiti’s Justice Minister Jean Renel Sanon fired him after he refused to issue an arrest warrant for Joseph and 35 other “political opponents.” The Herald also reported that

Senatus also said that Josue Pierre-Louis, a presidential legal advisor and head of the six-member electoral council, asked him to serve warrants against two attorneys — Newton St. Juste and Andre Michel — who have brought corruption complaints against the presidential family and members of Haiti’s government.

Sanon, Sénatus claims, said the arrest warrants “would make the President very happy.” The reported arrest warrants followed Joseph’s summoning by Investigating Judge Jean Wilner Morin of the Port-au-Prince Trial Court in September to appear for questioning in what appears to have been another effort at harassment and intimidation.

Amnesty International issued an October 4 alert about the attorneys

Urging authorities to immediately and independently investigate the accusation of threats and intimidation towards the lawyers – ensuring that those responsible are brought to justice – and providing effective protection to the lawyers according to their wishes;

Asking the Haitian authorities to clarify why the arrest of the 36 political opponents is being sought and insist that any accusation must be carried out under internationally recognizable criminal offences;

Asking authorities to ensure that anyone charged is given a fair trial in compliance with international standards.

The National Lawyers Guild and a number of other organizations have also condemned the threats and intimidation against Joseph and the other attorneys.

Joseph and BAI have taken on a number of politically sensitive cases, including efforts to prosecute former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier – whom the Martelly administration has been reluctant to pursue, the defense of government critics, and of course the claim against the United Nations on behalf of thousands of cholera victims. Joseph has also helped impede the forced evictions of internally displaced persons from camps, and has pursued rape and gender based violence (GBV) cases on behalf of women and children living in the camps, among other cases.

Joseph said in an interview this week with the Pacifica Evening News that the threats and intimidation began after a judge dismissed political violence charges against Duvalier in January 2012, and intensified soon after Joseph filed a request for an investigation by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) into what he termed “the deterioration and contempt for human rights in Haiti” under the Martelly government. IJDH also recently released a report on the Martelly administration’s intimidation and “stonewalling” of the media, one of the concerns Joseph highlighted in his appeal to the IACHR.

It would be difficult to overstate Joseph’s importance in confronting the powerful and the work that he, BAI and IJDH have done to bring rule of law and justice to Haiti. Joseph and IJDH Director Brian Concannon were responsible for the convictions of 53 soldiers and death squad members in Haiti’s landmark Raboteau Massacre trial. Martelly provoked outrage early in his term when he nominated Bernard Gousse to be Prime Minister, since Gousse had shown sympathy for Louis Jodel Chamblain, Jean Tatoune, and others convicted for their crimes in the massacre and had previously served as Justice Minister during the unelected interim regime following the 2004 coup d’etat, in which Haiti experienced some of the worst political violence in the hemisphere.

Haiti’s leading human rights attorney Mario Joseph has been the subject of death threats and police surveillance and harassment in the past several months, along with other lawyers. As the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) reports, Joseph, IJDH Managing Attorney and the director of its Haitian affiliate Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) has received as many as 3-4 death threats a day, while police in vehicles with tinted windows have monitored the BAI office in Port-au-Prince and harassed and searched people leaving. Threats against BAI and Mario have also been spray painted on walls nearby.  While IJDH notes that Joseph has been the targets of threats in the past, it says “the current intimidation appears more organized, more persistent and more closely linked to the Haitian government than previous incidents.”

U.S. Congressman John Conyers (D – MI), the Ranking Member on the House Judiciary Committee, condemned the threats this week, saying:

“As a long-time supporter of Haiti in the United States Congress, I am concerned by recent reports that suggest that Haitian attorneys and human rights advocates, including prominent attorney Mario Joesph of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), are being targeted with political intimidation and threats of physical harm as a result of their legal representation of politically vulnerable individuals and groups,” said Conyers.

“The ability of an attorney to provide legal assistance free of harassment to any client is a critically important component of a well-functioning justice system. All necessary steps should be taken to protect these attorneys and advocates, who help ensure that all Haitians have equitable access to justice and due process. My office has contacted the State Department to express my concern about these recent reports.”

As the Miami Herald reported earlier this month, Joseph and other lawyers may be the targets of political persecution by the Martelly government. Chief Prosecutor of Port-au-Prince Jean Renel Sénatus claims Haiti’s Justice Minister Jean Renel Sanon fired him after he refused to issue an arrest warrant for Joseph and 35 other “political opponents.” The Herald also reported that

Senatus also said that Josue Pierre-Louis, a presidential legal advisor and head of the six-member electoral council, asked him to serve warrants against two attorneys — Newton St. Juste and Andre Michel — who have brought corruption complaints against the presidential family and members of Haiti’s government.

Sanon, Sénatus claims, said the arrest warrants “would make the President very happy.” The reported arrest warrants followed Joseph’s summoning by Investigating Judge Jean Wilner Morin of the Port-au-Prince Trial Court in September to appear for questioning in what appears to have been another effort at harassment and intimidation.

Amnesty International issued an October 4 alert about the attorneys

Urging authorities to immediately and independently investigate the accusation of threats and intimidation towards the lawyers – ensuring that those responsible are brought to justice – and providing effective protection to the lawyers according to their wishes;

Asking the Haitian authorities to clarify why the arrest of the 36 political opponents is being sought and insist that any accusation must be carried out under internationally recognizable criminal offences;

Asking authorities to ensure that anyone charged is given a fair trial in compliance with international standards.

The National Lawyers Guild and a number of other organizations have also condemned the threats and intimidation against Joseph and the other attorneys.

Joseph and BAI have taken on a number of politically sensitive cases, including efforts to prosecute former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier – whom the Martelly administration has been reluctant to pursue, the defense of government critics, and of course the claim against the United Nations on behalf of thousands of cholera victims. Joseph has also helped impede the forced evictions of internally displaced persons from camps, and has pursued rape and gender based violence (GBV) cases on behalf of women and children living in the camps, among other cases.

Joseph said in an interview this week with the Pacifica Evening News that the threats and intimidation began after a judge dismissed political violence charges against Duvalier in January 2012, and intensified soon after Joseph filed a request for an investigation by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) into what he termed “the deterioration and contempt for human rights in Haiti” under the Martelly government. IJDH also recently released a report on the Martelly administration’s intimidation and “stonewalling” of the media, one of the concerns Joseph highlighted in his appeal to the IACHR.

It would be difficult to overstate Joseph’s importance in confronting the powerful and the work that he, BAI and IJDH have done to bring rule of law and justice to Haiti. Joseph and IJDH Director Brian Concannon were responsible for the convictions of 53 soldiers and death squad members in Haiti’s landmark Raboteau Massacre trial. Martelly provoked outrage early in his term when he nominated Bernard Gousse to be Prime Minister, since Gousse had shown sympathy for Louis Jodel Chamblain, Jean Tatoune, and others convicted for their crimes in the massacre and had previously served as Justice Minister during the unelected interim regime following the 2004 coup d’etat, in which Haiti experienced some of the worst political violence in the hemisphere.

Nearly three years after the earthquake of January 2010, durable housing solutions remain nonexistent while tens of thousands remain at risk of forced evictions. According to the International Organization for Migration, there are currently 369,000 individuals residing in 541 official IDP camps throughout Haiti. Yet over 20 percent of the remaining individuals are in constant risk of eviction. Fortunately, camp residents are organizing to fight back. Public Radio International’s The World reports:

Enter Patrice Florvilus. After the earthquake, the attorney formed an organization that represents residents of tent camps who’ve been threatened with eviction.

“Our strategy is to stop evictions by making landlords follow the law, which can mean a lengthy legal process. And that’s what the landlord wants to avoid,” Florvilus said.

It doesn’t always work, but a legal defeat can sometimes turn into a de facto victory. In one case, the mayor of Delmas ordered families off government land. A court upheld the eviction order. But then the mayor backed off — locals say because of organized opposition.

But activists have faced many difficulties, including intimidation and jail time. Meena Jagannath reported last month on the case of David Oxygène, an activist who was imprisoned for over two months. He was arrested during one of his group’s weekly protests against the Martelly government calling for improved social policies, including adequate housing.

More recently, a protest organized by camp residents to protest the lack of adequate housing was cancelled following threatening phone calls and other forms of intimidation. GlobalPost reports:

She [Alexis Erkart of Other Worlds] says fear and fatigue run high in the camps, and residents are consistently faced with the prospect of forced evictions, but have nowhere else to go.

Erkert told GlobalPost yesterday via email that yesterday’s protest was being organized by a number of camps, but that “a number of camp residents reported receiving threatening phone calls and thugs coming to the camps telling people not to participate in the protest. There was enough fear that they decided to hold off.”

“More and more camps are evicted with no housing plan in place, without viable options for the future,” said Erkert. “They have no access to the government, and limited access to the media. It makes me deeply sad that today they were stripped of one of the only means available to them to make their voices heard.”

The most recent report from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) reports that 61,000 have been evicted from camps already, with over 78,000 additional camp residents facing the threat of eviction. In addition, some 78,600 individuals were “resettled” with some support from the IOM after facing eviction, though it is likely that in many of these cases the camp residents felt like they had no other option but to face eviction or accept a small sum and fend for themselves.

On the other hand, the government and international communities’ flagship resettlement program, 16/6 has had only a minor impact on the camp population. A press release marking the one-year anniversary of the program says that some 44,000 people have been resettled through the program, significantly less than has been forcibly evicted. Also, only 60 of the remaining IDP sites are planned to benefit from return programs similar to 16/6. If carried out these would only benefit around 27,000 of the remaining 369,000 IDPs. The 16/6 plan also calls for the rehabilitation of neighborhoods and the construction of new housing, yet so far these aspects have lagged far behind the removal of residents from camps. As of April, only 5,000 news houses had been built throughout the country by NGOs and international partners.

Haiti Grassroots Watch recently reported on the failure of the large housing expo that was meant to be a jumping off point for the provision of new housing:

The project consisted of an exposition of some 60 model homes for post-earthquake reconstruction, and the building of an “Exemplar Community” for 150 families, planned for former farmland outside the capital Port-au-Prince.

Altogether, the BBBC cost over two million dollars in “reconstruction” funding. Most went for the Expo that was barely visited and whose models homes today sit empty, as well as for the Exemplar Community – a community that was never built.

But nobody carried the projects forward, nor does anyone seem to be bothered with them today. Rather than housing earthquake victim families as the government had promised, 14 months later, the 67 model homes are empty.

Some large public plazas have been cleared, the area around the National Palace is now empty and the sprawling tent camp near the airport has all but disappeared, but while the problem may have receded from public sight, the displacement crisis and lack of adequate housing is no less an issue. Meanwhile, those organizing to fight for their right to housing are facing an increasingly hostile environment.

For more information on the lack of adequate housing and forced evictions, visit the Under Tents website.

 

Nearly three years after the earthquake of January 2010, durable housing solutions remain nonexistent while tens of thousands remain at risk of forced evictions. According to the International Organization for Migration, there are currently 369,000 individuals residing in 541 official IDP camps throughout Haiti. Yet over 20 percent of the remaining individuals are in constant risk of eviction. Fortunately, camp residents are organizing to fight back. Public Radio International’s The World reports:

Enter Patrice Florvilus. After the earthquake, the attorney formed an organization that represents residents of tent camps who’ve been threatened with eviction.

“Our strategy is to stop evictions by making landlords follow the law, which can mean a lengthy legal process. And that’s what the landlord wants to avoid,” Florvilus said.

It doesn’t always work, but a legal defeat can sometimes turn into a de facto victory. In one case, the mayor of Delmas ordered families off government land. A court upheld the eviction order. But then the mayor backed off — locals say because of organized opposition.

But activists have faced many difficulties, including intimidation and jail time. Meena Jagannath reported last month on the case of David Oxygène, an activist who was imprisoned for over two months. He was arrested during one of his group’s weekly protests against the Martelly government calling for improved social policies, including adequate housing.

More recently, a protest organized by camp residents to protest the lack of adequate housing was cancelled following threatening phone calls and other forms of intimidation. GlobalPost reports:

She [Alexis Erkart of Other Worlds] says fear and fatigue run high in the camps, and residents are consistently faced with the prospect of forced evictions, but have nowhere else to go.

Erkert told GlobalPost yesterday via email that yesterday’s protest was being organized by a number of camps, but that “a number of camp residents reported receiving threatening phone calls and thugs coming to the camps telling people not to participate in the protest. There was enough fear that they decided to hold off.”

“More and more camps are evicted with no housing plan in place, without viable options for the future,” said Erkert. “They have no access to the government, and limited access to the media. It makes me deeply sad that today they were stripped of one of the only means available to them to make their voices heard.”

The most recent report from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) reports that 61,000 have been evicted from camps already, with over 78,000 additional camp residents facing the threat of eviction. In addition, some 78,600 individuals were “resettled” with some support from the IOM after facing eviction, though it is likely that in many of these cases the camp residents felt like they had no other option but to face eviction or accept a small sum and fend for themselves.

On the other hand, the government and international communities’ flagship resettlement program, 16/6 has had only a minor impact on the camp population. A press release marking the one-year anniversary of the program says that some 44,000 people have been resettled through the program, significantly less than has been forcibly evicted. Also, only 60 of the remaining IDP sites are planned to benefit from return programs similar to 16/6. If carried out these would only benefit around 27,000 of the remaining 369,000 IDPs. The 16/6 plan also calls for the rehabilitation of neighborhoods and the construction of new housing, yet so far these aspects have lagged far behind the removal of residents from camps. As of April, only 5,000 news houses had been built throughout the country by NGOs and international partners.

Haiti Grassroots Watch recently reported on the failure of the large housing expo that was meant to be a jumping off point for the provision of new housing:

The project consisted of an exposition of some 60 model homes for post-earthquake reconstruction, and the building of an “Exemplar Community” for 150 families, planned for former farmland outside the capital Port-au-Prince.

Altogether, the BBBC cost over two million dollars in “reconstruction” funding. Most went for the Expo that was barely visited and whose models homes today sit empty, as well as for the Exemplar Community – a community that was never built.

But nobody carried the projects forward, nor does anyone seem to be bothered with them today. Rather than housing earthquake victim families as the government had promised, 14 months later, the 67 model homes are empty.

Some large public plazas have been cleared, the area around the National Palace is now empty and the sprawling tent camp near the airport has all but disappeared, but while the problem may have receded from public sight, the displacement crisis and lack of adequate housing is no less an issue. Meanwhile, those organizing to fight for their right to housing are facing an increasingly hostile environment.

For more information on the lack of adequate housing and forced evictions, visit the Under Tents website.

 

The USAID Inspector General (OIG) released an audit this weekend of Chemonics’ Haiti Recovery Initiative II program (HRI-II), funded by USAID. HRI-II, the successor to the HRI program which began right after the earthquake, aims to “help Haiti strengthen its economy and public institutions in the three strategic development corridors of Port-au-Prince, Saint-Marc, and Cap-Haitien,” according to the OIG. But, as the Associated Press reports today:

A newly released audit says the largest U.S. contractor working to stabilize Haiti after the 2010 earthquake is “not on track” to compete its assignments on schedule, has a weak monitoring system and is not adequately involving community members.

The audit is the second since the earthquake to find significant problems with Chemonics’ work in Haiti. The AP reported in December 2010:

And an audit this fall by USAID’s Inspector General found that more than 70 percent of the funds given to the two largest U.S. contractors for a cash for work project in Haiti was spent on equipment and materials. As a result, just 8,000 Haitians a day were being hired by June, instead of the planned 25,000 a day, according to the IG.

Nevertheless, Chemonics has been the largest single recipient of post-earthquake funding from USAID. For the two HRI programs, Chemonics has received $103.8 million. This same process played out in Afghanistan, where despite consistently failing to produce results, Chemonics continued to receive hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts.

Weak Monitoring and Evaluation

One consistent pattern that has clearly emerged in the aftermath of the earthquake is the lack of oversight of contractors by USAID. As we have described before, after years of hollowing out USAID, it has “turned into more of a contracting agency than an operational agency with the ability to deliver,” in the words of Hillary Clinton. In turn, much of the monitoring and evaluation is actually the responsibility of the contractor itself. USAID’s contract with Chemonics contains numerous reporting requirements, yet allows the contractor to fulfill most of them without any oversight. Chemonics is required to keep an “activity database,” but the contract notes that Chemonics is responsible “for ensuring that the database contains accurate, complete, and up-to-date information.” Additionally, the contract states that USAID and Chemonics “are expected to jointly develop a system of processes and tools for the monitoring and evaluation of the country program.”

As the newly released audit finds however, both the database and the evaluation tools were poorly implemented and “made it difficult to measure the program’s impact,” as well as contributed to delays which have made the program “not on track to complete all activities.”

 

The OIG notes that the performance indicators that Chemonics developed were “not well-defined” and that the “activity database” “did not have enough information for [the USAID Office of Transition Initiatives, OTI] to see whether the activity was on track to end on time and to meet its objectives. “ In one example, the OIG found that the entry in the database for the temporary parliament building built with USAID funds simply stated:

“The subcontractor will be responsible for the following:
1)Assembling and installation of steel-framed structures; 2) Connection of utilities.

Going on to note that, “No dates or estimated timelines were included.” Of course, this is the same temporary parliament building that was left vacant for months after it was “inaugurated.” As Jacob Kushner and Jean Pharés Jérôme reported in March:

But more than four months later, that location remains vacant. The building is scattered with woodwork trimmings and debris from a costly ongoing renovation paid for by the Haitian treasury because legislators say the United States never finished the job. And critics in Haiti charge that the unfinished work and empty building stand as a powerful metaphor for much of what is wrong with USAID’s approach to development in Haiti: that it lacks coordination with and input from the Haitians themselves about how best to undertake reconstruction projects.

Of course, this is not just a problem with Chemonics, but with USAID/OTI, the office that gave them the contract. As the OIG notes, “All of the problems discussed in this finding stemmed from the fact that OTI did not make monitoring and evaluation a priority early in the HRI-II’s implementation.”

Lack of Oversight

When the OIG audited Chemonics in 2010, perhaps the most damning finding was that OTI was not conducting internal financial reviews despite that the fact that Chemonics was “expending millions of dollars rapidly on [Cash-for-Work] programs in a high-risk environment.” It seems as though little has changed in the subsequent years, as the newly released audit finds that:

OTI has conducted only one evaluation for HRI-II so far, and it took place in June 2011 to discuss and draft OTI’s strategy for Haiti, to build the new HRI-II team, and to propose ideas of where to conduct activities.

This despite the fact that “According to the HRI-II contract, program monitoring efforts should include regular evaluations of the program, as well as the activities… In general, they should be conducted between two and four times a year.”

Lack of Community Involvement

The lack of involvement of the local community has been one of the main points of criticism of the aid industry in Haiti, and on this front the audit finds Chemonics at fault as well. The OIG finds, “not all activities implemented have involved community participation in a way that guarantees sustainability.” In one especially egregious example, Chemonics

used contractors from Port-au-Prince to implement a number of activities in Cap-Haitien and Saint-Marc; these contractors brought their own people to do the jobs instead of hiring locals. As a result, residents saw jobs in their neighborhoods being done by outsiders, and without an understanding of the activities, they did not see how anyone local benefitted.

The OIG also found that “urban beautification” projects failed for similar reasons. The OIG writes, “The purpose of these projects was to improve public areas by installing plants and benches, as well as doing minor masonry work, and to project “a positive image of what role the nearby Caracol industrial park and other upcoming economic investments will play in citizens’ lives.” Although Chemonics did do some plantings, “they died from lack of care.” Meanwhile:

According to the project’s final evaluation report, residents did not understand how the activity led to the beautification of the area nor did they associate it with the industrial park. Limonade’s mayor said the municipality could have been involved more in planning the activity to ensure its success.

The Financials

Despite a growing record of a failure to produce and a number of OIG audits finding significant problems in the implementation of their programs, Chemonics has continued to receive tens of millions of dollars for Haiti projects, and hundreds of millions of dollars worldwide. For fiscal year 2011, Chemonics received $735 million dollars in contracts from USAID, more than any other vendor.  According to publically available information, Chemonics has received over $175 million for their work just in Haiti since the January 2010 earthquake.

The OIG noted in their audit that:

Budget line items in the contract provided for grants under contract ($37.3 million) and “non-grant under contract” activities, such as direct procurement of goods and services ($3.3 million) for a total of $40.6 million. As of February 2012, 141 activities worth about $22.9 million had been developed and approved, leaving $17.7 million available for new activities to be approved, implemented, completed, and closed in the 7 months left.”

Yet despite having over $17 million left, and not being on track to complete their projects, USAID has allocated an additional $23.3 million to Chemonics for the HRI-II project since February 2012, according to the Federal Procurement Database System. As for how much of this gets spent in Haiti and how much goes to overhead and back to their Washington DC headquarters, there is no information available. Documents obtained from Freedom of Information Act requests submitted by HRRW have redacted any cost information and the mandated reporting requirements on who received funds were not released. The cost information was redacted because it is considered proprietary information, presumably of the contractor, yet the AP reported recently on their quest to obtain financial information from USAID contractors in Haiti:

When the AP asked for a budget breakdown, FHI 360 spokeswoman Liza Morris said, “We were pulling that for you but were told that it was proprietary by our funder.”

Who is the funder?

“Our funder,” she said, “is USAID.”

Reform and Pushback

A key piece of USAID reform initiative is supposed to be to move away from their reliance on these large for-profit contractors and shift more aid to local country systems. USAID Administrator Shah said just last week that their goal was to have 30 percent of USAID funds going to local organizations or governments by 2015. As we pointed out, this seems incredibly optimistic since at this point less than 1 percent of USAID funds are channeled directly to Haitian organizations. USAID has a long way to go, and unfortunately the road is not being made easier by the for-profit aid world. John Norris, writing in Foreign Policy, explains:

The theory behind relying more on local institutions is simple and compelling: If the goal of development is to build sustainable local capacity and ownership, why not have countries play a larger role in helping help themselves? Not only is this good development policy in countries where proper management controls are in place, it also has the potential to save American taxpayers a great deal of money.

U.S. contractors, looking at losing large amounts of revenue, were not about to take this lying down. The Professional Services Council (PSC), an umbrella group of government contracting firms, quickly hired lobbyists to push back against procurement reform and helped establish the Coalition of International Development Companies, an advocacy coalition of 50 contractors touting the role of “America’s most effective, efficient and innovative international development companies” in advancing the national interest. Perhaps it was a coincidence, but increased lobbying funded by the PSC directly preceded a sharply worded letter from the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight, Rep. Darrell Issa, to USAID questioning the wisdom of procurement reform. The letter hammered home one of the key arguments that contractors had been using against channeling more money directly to developing-country institutions: the threat of waste and corruption by foreigners.

Of course, with hundreds of millions of dollars being awarded to for-profit firms each year, and the lack of oversight and evaluation of those firms well established, the threat of waste and corruption by them is a much greater worry.

 

The USAID Inspector General (OIG) released an audit this weekend of Chemonics’ Haiti Recovery Initiative II program (HRI-II), funded by USAID. HRI-II, the successor to the HRI program which began right after the earthquake, aims to “help Haiti strengthen its economy and public institutions in the three strategic development corridors of Port-au-Prince, Saint-Marc, and Cap-Haitien,” according to the OIG. But, as the Associated Press reports today:

A newly released audit says the largest U.S. contractor working to stabilize Haiti after the 2010 earthquake is “not on track” to compete its assignments on schedule, has a weak monitoring system and is not adequately involving community members.

The audit is the second since the earthquake to find significant problems with Chemonics’ work in Haiti. The AP reported in December 2010:

And an audit this fall by USAID’s Inspector General found that more than 70 percent of the funds given to the two largest U.S. contractors for a cash for work project in Haiti was spent on equipment and materials. As a result, just 8,000 Haitians a day were being hired by June, instead of the planned 25,000 a day, according to the IG.

Nevertheless, Chemonics has been the largest single recipient of post-earthquake funding from USAID. For the two HRI programs, Chemonics has received $103.8 million. This same process played out in Afghanistan, where despite consistently failing to produce results, Chemonics continued to receive hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts.

Weak Monitoring and Evaluation

One consistent pattern that has clearly emerged in the aftermath of the earthquake is the lack of oversight of contractors by USAID. As we have described before, after years of hollowing out USAID, it has “turned into more of a contracting agency than an operational agency with the ability to deliver,” in the words of Hillary Clinton. In turn, much of the monitoring and evaluation is actually the responsibility of the contractor itself. USAID’s contract with Chemonics contains numerous reporting requirements, yet allows the contractor to fulfill most of them without any oversight. Chemonics is required to keep an “activity database,” but the contract notes that Chemonics is responsible “for ensuring that the database contains accurate, complete, and up-to-date information.” Additionally, the contract states that USAID and Chemonics “are expected to jointly develop a system of processes and tools for the monitoring and evaluation of the country program.”

As the newly released audit finds however, both the database and the evaluation tools were poorly implemented and “made it difficult to measure the program’s impact,” as well as contributed to delays which have made the program “not on track to complete all activities.”

 

The OIG notes that the performance indicators that Chemonics developed were “not well-defined” and that the “activity database” “did not have enough information for [the USAID Office of Transition Initiatives, OTI] to see whether the activity was on track to end on time and to meet its objectives. “ In one example, the OIG found that the entry in the database for the temporary parliament building built with USAID funds simply stated:

“The subcontractor will be responsible for the following:
1)Assembling and installation of steel-framed structures; 2) Connection of utilities.

Going on to note that, “No dates or estimated timelines were included.” Of course, this is the same temporary parliament building that was left vacant for months after it was “inaugurated.” As Jacob Kushner and Jean Pharés Jérôme reported in March:

But more than four months later, that location remains vacant. The building is scattered with woodwork trimmings and debris from a costly ongoing renovation paid for by the Haitian treasury because legislators say the United States never finished the job. And critics in Haiti charge that the unfinished work and empty building stand as a powerful metaphor for much of what is wrong with USAID’s approach to development in Haiti: that it lacks coordination with and input from the Haitians themselves about how best to undertake reconstruction projects.

Of course, this is not just a problem with Chemonics, but with USAID/OTI, the office that gave them the contract. As the OIG notes, “All of the problems discussed in this finding stemmed from the fact that OTI did not make monitoring and evaluation a priority early in the HRI-II’s implementation.”

Lack of Oversight

When the OIG audited Chemonics in 2010, perhaps the most damning finding was that OTI was not conducting internal financial reviews despite that the fact that Chemonics was “expending millions of dollars rapidly on [Cash-for-Work] programs in a high-risk environment.” It seems as though little has changed in the subsequent years, as the newly released audit finds that:

OTI has conducted only one evaluation for HRI-II so far, and it took place in June 2011 to discuss and draft OTI’s strategy for Haiti, to build the new HRI-II team, and to propose ideas of where to conduct activities.

This despite the fact that “According to the HRI-II contract, program monitoring efforts should include regular evaluations of the program, as well as the activities… In general, they should be conducted between two and four times a year.”

Lack of Community Involvement

The lack of involvement of the local community has been one of the main points of criticism of the aid industry in Haiti, and on this front the audit finds Chemonics at fault as well. The OIG finds, “not all activities implemented have involved community participation in a way that guarantees sustainability.” In one especially egregious example, Chemonics

used contractors from Port-au-Prince to implement a number of activities in Cap-Haitien and Saint-Marc; these contractors brought their own people to do the jobs instead of hiring locals. As a result, residents saw jobs in their neighborhoods being done by outsiders, and without an understanding of the activities, they did not see how anyone local benefitted.

The OIG also found that “urban beautification” projects failed for similar reasons. The OIG writes, “The purpose of these projects was to improve public areas by installing plants and benches, as well as doing minor masonry work, and to project “a positive image of what role the nearby Caracol industrial park and other upcoming economic investments will play in citizens’ lives.” Although Chemonics did do some plantings, “they died from lack of care.” Meanwhile:

According to the project’s final evaluation report, residents did not understand how the activity led to the beautification of the area nor did they associate it with the industrial park. Limonade’s mayor said the municipality could have been involved more in planning the activity to ensure its success.

The Financials

Despite a growing record of a failure to produce and a number of OIG audits finding significant problems in the implementation of their programs, Chemonics has continued to receive tens of millions of dollars for Haiti projects, and hundreds of millions of dollars worldwide. For fiscal year 2011, Chemonics received $735 million dollars in contracts from USAID, more than any other vendor.  According to publically available information, Chemonics has received over $175 million for their work just in Haiti since the January 2010 earthquake.

The OIG noted in their audit that:

Budget line items in the contract provided for grants under contract ($37.3 million) and “non-grant under contract” activities, such as direct procurement of goods and services ($3.3 million) for a total of $40.6 million. As of February 2012, 141 activities worth about $22.9 million had been developed and approved, leaving $17.7 million available for new activities to be approved, implemented, completed, and closed in the 7 months left.”

Yet despite having over $17 million left, and not being on track to complete their projects, USAID has allocated an additional $23.3 million to Chemonics for the HRI-II project since February 2012, according to the Federal Procurement Database System. As for how much of this gets spent in Haiti and how much goes to overhead and back to their Washington DC headquarters, there is no information available. Documents obtained from Freedom of Information Act requests submitted by HRRW have redacted any cost information and the mandated reporting requirements on who received funds were not released. The cost information was redacted because it is considered proprietary information, presumably of the contractor, yet the AP reported recently on their quest to obtain financial information from USAID contractors in Haiti:

When the AP asked for a budget breakdown, FHI 360 spokeswoman Liza Morris said, “We were pulling that for you but were told that it was proprietary by our funder.”

Who is the funder?

“Our funder,” she said, “is USAID.”

Reform and Pushback

A key piece of USAID reform initiative is supposed to be to move away from their reliance on these large for-profit contractors and shift more aid to local country systems. USAID Administrator Shah said just last week that their goal was to have 30 percent of USAID funds going to local organizations or governments by 2015. As we pointed out, this seems incredibly optimistic since at this point less than 1 percent of USAID funds are channeled directly to Haitian organizations. USAID has a long way to go, and unfortunately the road is not being made easier by the for-profit aid world. John Norris, writing in Foreign Policy, explains:

The theory behind relying more on local institutions is simple and compelling: If the goal of development is to build sustainable local capacity and ownership, why not have countries play a larger role in helping help themselves? Not only is this good development policy in countries where proper management controls are in place, it also has the potential to save American taxpayers a great deal of money.

U.S. contractors, looking at losing large amounts of revenue, were not about to take this lying down. The Professional Services Council (PSC), an umbrella group of government contracting firms, quickly hired lobbyists to push back against procurement reform and helped establish the Coalition of International Development Companies, an advocacy coalition of 50 contractors touting the role of “America’s most effective, efficient and innovative international development companies” in advancing the national interest. Perhaps it was a coincidence, but increased lobbying funded by the PSC directly preceded a sharply worded letter from the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight, Rep. Darrell Issa, to USAID questioning the wisdom of procurement reform. The letter hammered home one of the key arguments that contractors had been using against channeling more money directly to developing-country institutions: the threat of waste and corruption by foreigners.

Of course, with hundreds of millions of dollars being awarded to for-profit firms each year, and the lack of oversight and evaluation of those firms well established, the threat of waste and corruption by them is a much greater worry.

 

This past weekend, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah said that by 2015 the goal is to have 30 percent of aid funds going to local groups. This is in line with the goals put forth in the USAID Forward reform agenda, which aims to reach this target agency-wide by 2015. Shah also made a surprising announcement regarding local procurement in Haiti, as reported in the Miami Herald:

Before the January 2010 earthquake, Shah said less than 9 percent of USAID money was going to Haitian organizations. “We’re over the pre-earthquake level now,’’ said Shah during an interview with The Miami Herald. He wasn’t more specific.

As we have noted numerous times before, according to the available data, it appears that far less than 10 percent of USAID funds have gone directly to local organizations. A review of data on USAID contracts for work in Haiti from the Federal Procurement Database System reveals that just 1.3 percent of USAID funds have gone directly to Haitian companies, as can be seen in Table I.

Table I: USAID Contracts by Recipient Location
alt

Additionally, more than $500 million has been distributed as grants for Haiti related work. An analysis of available data from USASpending.gov shows only 0.2 percent of this amount going to Haitian organizations, as can be seen in Table II.

Table II: USAID Grants by Recipient Location
alt

Separate data released by USAID does show a slightly higher percent of funds going directly to Haitian organizations, but still far below even the 9 percent figure cited by Shah. In March, following a request made by HRRW, USAID released a list of “local partners” they work with in Haiti and how much funding they have received. The total was just over $9.4 million, still less than one percent of the nearly $1 billion spent by USAID since the earthquake.

It is possible Shah was referring to money going to Haitian organizations at the subcontractor level, yet the USAID Forward agenda envisions 30 percent going directly to local organizations, so this wouldn’t make sense. Unfortunately, as the Miami Herald noted, Shah “wasn’t more specific.”  A request for more information from USAID has thus far not been answered, but if more information becomes available, you can be sure it will be posted here.

 

 

This past weekend, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah said that by 2015 the goal is to have 30 percent of aid funds going to local groups. This is in line with the goals put forth in the USAID Forward reform agenda, which aims to reach this target agency-wide by 2015. Shah also made a surprising announcement regarding local procurement in Haiti, as reported in the Miami Herald:

Before the January 2010 earthquake, Shah said less than 9 percent of USAID money was going to Haitian organizations. “We’re over the pre-earthquake level now,’’ said Shah during an interview with The Miami Herald. He wasn’t more specific.

As we have noted numerous times before, according to the available data, it appears that far less than 10 percent of USAID funds have gone directly to local organizations. A review of data on USAID contracts for work in Haiti from the Federal Procurement Database System reveals that just 1.3 percent of USAID funds have gone directly to Haitian companies, as can be seen in Table I.

Table I: USAID Contracts by Recipient Location
alt

Additionally, more than $500 million has been distributed as grants for Haiti related work. An analysis of available data from USASpending.gov shows only 0.2 percent of this amount going to Haitian organizations, as can be seen in Table II.

Table II: USAID Grants by Recipient Location
alt

Separate data released by USAID does show a slightly higher percent of funds going directly to Haitian organizations, but still far below even the 9 percent figure cited by Shah. In March, following a request made by HRRW, USAID released a list of “local partners” they work with in Haiti and how much funding they have received. The total was just over $9.4 million, still less than one percent of the nearly $1 billion spent by USAID since the earthquake.

It is possible Shah was referring to money going to Haitian organizations at the subcontractor level, yet the USAID Forward agenda envisions 30 percent going directly to local organizations, so this wouldn’t make sense. Unfortunately, as the Miami Herald noted, Shah “wasn’t more specific.”  A request for more information from USAID has thus far not been answered, but if more information becomes available, you can be sure it will be posted here.

 

 

In an interview following his meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe told Reuters that cholera is “really under control.”  Well, that certainly depends on your definition of under control. Since tropical storm Isaac swept across Haiti last month, some 83 Haitians have reportedly died from cholera and this is almost certainly an understatement, as the surveillance system has become increasingly unreliable. Over the same time, more than 8,200 Haitians have been sickened. Since April of this year, when the rainy season began, 514 have died and over 63,000 have been sickened by cholera.

As for the government’s response, according to the United Nations, “national capacity to respond to potential outbreaks, especially during the rainy season, remains very weak.” From May to June this year, just as the rainy season was beginning, three cholera treatment centers and 13 cholera treatment units were closed down, leaving just 17 and 61 left open, respectively. This is down from 38 and 205 last August. Additionally, as CCO Haiti pointed out last month, “many public health workers in the Cholera Treatment Center (CTCs) have not received salaries for several months and there are reports of strikes by front line medical staff to redress this situation. This is a serious issue negatively affecting the effectiveness of the cholera response and it needs to be urgently addressed.”

Of course, this is not entirely the government’s fault. Most of the cholera response bypassed the government entirely and now, as NGOs pull out of the field, the government has been left to pick up the slack without adequate resources. Nevertheless, to the hundreds of Haitians falling ill every day with cholera, Prime Minister Lamothe’s assertion must ring especially hollow.

Update 9/27: The post has been updated to reflect newly posted data on cholera deaths and cases.

In an interview following his meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe told Reuters that cholera is “really under control.”  Well, that certainly depends on your definition of under control. Since tropical storm Isaac swept across Haiti last month, some 83 Haitians have reportedly died from cholera and this is almost certainly an understatement, as the surveillance system has become increasingly unreliable. Over the same time, more than 8,200 Haitians have been sickened. Since April of this year, when the rainy season began, 514 have died and over 63,000 have been sickened by cholera.

As for the government’s response, according to the United Nations, “national capacity to respond to potential outbreaks, especially during the rainy season, remains very weak.” From May to June this year, just as the rainy season was beginning, three cholera treatment centers and 13 cholera treatment units were closed down, leaving just 17 and 61 left open, respectively. This is down from 38 and 205 last August. Additionally, as CCO Haiti pointed out last month, “many public health workers in the Cholera Treatment Center (CTCs) have not received salaries for several months and there are reports of strikes by front line medical staff to redress this situation. This is a serious issue negatively affecting the effectiveness of the cholera response and it needs to be urgently addressed.”

Of course, this is not entirely the government’s fault. Most of the cholera response bypassed the government entirely and now, as NGOs pull out of the field, the government has been left to pick up the slack without adequate resources. Nevertheless, to the hundreds of Haitians falling ill every day with cholera, Prime Minister Lamothe’s assertion must ring especially hollow.

Update 9/27: The post has been updated to reflect newly posted data on cholera deaths and cases.

In his mandated report on MINUSTAH, the United Nations Secretary General for the first time outlines the creation of a timetable for withdrawal of MINUSTAH personnel from Haiti. UNSG Ban Ki-moon writes:

The plan foresees a narrowing of the Mission’s activities to a core set of mandated tasks that are achievable within a reasonable time frame (envisioned to be a period of between four and five years for planning purposes) aimed at consolidating stabilization gains to a point beyond which the presence of a large peacekeeping operation will no longer be required. The Mission will work with the Government, civil society, the United Nations country team and international partners to agree on a transition compact that will set out a limited number of stabilization benchmarks that will serve as key indicators of progress in the stabilization process.

Calling for a concrete timetable for progressive withdrawal of the foreign contingents is a small, but important first step.   Last year’s authorization of MINUSTAH [PDF] lacked any details on withdrawal and instead mandated that, “future adjustments to its force configuration should be based on the overall security situation on the ground.” Ban Ki-moon is now recommending creating a “transition compact” with the Haitian government that would have specific benchmarks on the road to withdrawal. The main benchmark for reducing the number of MINUSTAH personnel would be sufficient strengthening of the Haitian National Police, while other “benchmarks will evaluate the maturity of key rule of law oversight and accountability mechanisms.”

These benchmarks have yet to be drawn up, however, and so the plan could be overly optimistic in terms of its drawdown timetable. Growth and reform of the police has been a key benchmark for MINUSTAH’s mission completion all along, yet eight years after MINUSTAH began, “the country’s still limited police force cannot guarantee the security needed to protect citizens, enforce the law and underpin political stability,” according to the International Crisis Group. (It is notable that the UNSG’s four-five year timeline is compatible with the five-year extension called for by the International Crisis Group, which it recommends in order to, as it puts it, ensure “a third peaceful handover of democratic power …at the end of the Martelly presidency,” and “the completion of the second five-year police development plan.”)

Another key benchmark for MINUSTAH is the Haitian government’s ability to organize “transparent, fair and credible elections.” Unfortunately, if past history is any guide, MINUSTAH’s involvement in elections has far from guaranteed “fair and credible elections”. On the contrary, MINUSTAH officials praised Haiti’s 2010 elections – which were marred by the exclusion of several political parties, including the most popular, Fanmi Lavalas; deadly violence; polling place disruptions; and numerous logistical problems – as “going well” and “peaceful.”Even worse, MINUSTAH’s direct involvement in overturning the 2010 presidential election results, without any statistical evidence, only added to the lack of credible elections.

The creation of a timetable for withdrawal comes after pressure both from within Haiti and from troop-contributing countries to end MINUSTAH’s nearly decade long occupation. Last summer, a group of prominent activists and intellectuals from all of the Latin American countries contributing troops to MINUSTAH asked their governments to support a rapid withdrawal of all foreign troops from Haiti.  In June, the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), which supplies over a quarter of MINUSTAH personnel, debated the future of MINUSTAH. The nations agreed to form a working group “for the purposes of elaborating a scheme on the strategy, form, conditions, stages, and timeline of a Plan of Reduction of Contingents of the Military Component of the Mission.” Meanwhile, Haitian legislators have become increasingly outspoken against MINUSTAH, perhaps reflecting the fact that surveys have shown a vast majority of Haitians support the rapid withdrawal of MINUSTAH troops.

Less Troops, More Focus on Police

As part of the consolidation of MINUSTAH personnel, the UNSG recommends that the “military component will gradually hand over responsibility for security to formed police units and, ultimately, to the national police.” To begin with, MINUSTAH military personnel concentrate their presence in five “security hubs”, while police units would take over in the departments that the military moved out of.

In the report, Ban Ki-moon recommends continuing the gradual drawdown of MINUSTAH personnel, which began last year. Last year, the Security Council authorized a reduction in the number of troops, reversing the large increase seen in the aftermath of the earthquake. This year, Ban Ki-moon suggests going further, reducing troops by 1,070 from 7,340 to 6,270 and by reducing police by 640 from 3,241 to 2,601. The total reduction is equal to about 16 percent of the total force and brings MINUSTAH to its lowest authorized size since 2005.

Still No Accountability for Abuses and Cholera

The steps recommended by Ban Ki-moon are positive, albeit small, yet there is still no movement from MINUSTAH to address the numerous alleged abuses that have been committed under their watch.  As we have written about extensively, there have been a number of cases of sexual abuse and exploitation by MINUSTAH personnel. But notably absent from the Secretary General’s report was any mention of these cases, despite the fact that since 2010 there have been 10 internal UN investigations into sexual exploitation, abuse, or other serious crimes committed by MINUSTAH personnel.

The 20 page report also fails to make any mention of the UN’s role in introducing cholera to Haiti, despite a growing consensus among the scientific community that has linked the UN base in Mirebalais to the introduction of the pathogen. As of September 6, a total of 7,558 deaths and over 590,000 cases have been reported, though this is likely an underestimate. A shift in UN resources from troops, police, armored vehicles and other military and security aspects of the Mission, to cholera mitigation and prevention, could go a long way toward controlling and eventually eliminating the epidemic. As the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has noted – and as the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti and others have campaigned for – it is estimated that MINUSTAH’s budget for one year is all that would be needed to modernize Haiti’s water and sanitation system. As the UNSG report itself notes, the need is urgent: “The integration of efforts to combat cholera into the national health system is experiencing significant challenges, in part caused by delays in the decentralization of response efforts and structural weaknesses within the health system.”

Next Step: A UN Security Council Resolution on the Renewal of MINUSTAH’s Mandate

The main purpose of the UN Secretary General’s report is to guide the internal discussion around the UN Security Council’s decision to renew the one-year mandate of MINUSTAH.  The decision is made official via a U.N. Security Council Resolution which will normally be voted on shortly before the expiration of MINUSTAH’s mandate on October 15.  It will be interesting to see whether the resolution, which generally includes a long list of concerns and recommendations, will incorporate the UNSG ‘s recommendations and, for the first time, establish a firm timeline for withdrawal along with specific benchmarks linked to the reduction of troop levels.  If benchmarks are elaborated, will they take into account calls for greater accountability and transparency around MINUSTAH actions?  And will the resolution flag critical issues omitted from the Secretary General report, such as measures to address the cholera situation and human rights abuses perpetrated by MINUSTAH personnel?  Stay tuned…

In his mandated report on MINUSTAH, the United Nations Secretary General for the first time outlines the creation of a timetable for withdrawal of MINUSTAH personnel from Haiti. UNSG Ban Ki-moon writes:

The plan foresees a narrowing of the Mission’s activities to a core set of mandated tasks that are achievable within a reasonable time frame (envisioned to be a period of between four and five years for planning purposes) aimed at consolidating stabilization gains to a point beyond which the presence of a large peacekeeping operation will no longer be required. The Mission will work with the Government, civil society, the United Nations country team and international partners to agree on a transition compact that will set out a limited number of stabilization benchmarks that will serve as key indicators of progress in the stabilization process.

Calling for a concrete timetable for progressive withdrawal of the foreign contingents is a small, but important first step.   Last year’s authorization of MINUSTAH [PDF] lacked any details on withdrawal and instead mandated that, “future adjustments to its force configuration should be based on the overall security situation on the ground.” Ban Ki-moon is now recommending creating a “transition compact” with the Haitian government that would have specific benchmarks on the road to withdrawal. The main benchmark for reducing the number of MINUSTAH personnel would be sufficient strengthening of the Haitian National Police, while other “benchmarks will evaluate the maturity of key rule of law oversight and accountability mechanisms.”

These benchmarks have yet to be drawn up, however, and so the plan could be overly optimistic in terms of its drawdown timetable. Growth and reform of the police has been a key benchmark for MINUSTAH’s mission completion all along, yet eight years after MINUSTAH began, “the country’s still limited police force cannot guarantee the security needed to protect citizens, enforce the law and underpin political stability,” according to the International Crisis Group. (It is notable that the UNSG’s four-five year timeline is compatible with the five-year extension called for by the International Crisis Group, which it recommends in order to, as it puts it, ensure “a third peaceful handover of democratic power …at the end of the Martelly presidency,” and “the completion of the second five-year police development plan.”)

Another key benchmark for MINUSTAH is the Haitian government’s ability to organize “transparent, fair and credible elections.” Unfortunately, if past history is any guide, MINUSTAH’s involvement in elections has far from guaranteed “fair and credible elections”. On the contrary, MINUSTAH officials praised Haiti’s 2010 elections – which were marred by the exclusion of several political parties, including the most popular, Fanmi Lavalas; deadly violence; polling place disruptions; and numerous logistical problems – as “going well” and “peaceful.”Even worse, MINUSTAH’s direct involvement in overturning the 2010 presidential election results, without any statistical evidence, only added to the lack of credible elections.

The creation of a timetable for withdrawal comes after pressure both from within Haiti and from troop-contributing countries to end MINUSTAH’s nearly decade long occupation. Last summer, a group of prominent activists and intellectuals from all of the Latin American countries contributing troops to MINUSTAH asked their governments to support a rapid withdrawal of all foreign troops from Haiti.  In June, the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), which supplies over a quarter of MINUSTAH personnel, debated the future of MINUSTAH. The nations agreed to form a working group “for the purposes of elaborating a scheme on the strategy, form, conditions, stages, and timeline of a Plan of Reduction of Contingents of the Military Component of the Mission.” Meanwhile, Haitian legislators have become increasingly outspoken against MINUSTAH, perhaps reflecting the fact that surveys have shown a vast majority of Haitians support the rapid withdrawal of MINUSTAH troops.

Less Troops, More Focus on Police

As part of the consolidation of MINUSTAH personnel, the UNSG recommends that the “military component will gradually hand over responsibility for security to formed police units and, ultimately, to the national police.” To begin with, MINUSTAH military personnel concentrate their presence in five “security hubs”, while police units would take over in the departments that the military moved out of.

In the report, Ban Ki-moon recommends continuing the gradual drawdown of MINUSTAH personnel, which began last year. Last year, the Security Council authorized a reduction in the number of troops, reversing the large increase seen in the aftermath of the earthquake. This year, Ban Ki-moon suggests going further, reducing troops by 1,070 from 7,340 to 6,270 and by reducing police by 640 from 3,241 to 2,601. The total reduction is equal to about 16 percent of the total force and brings MINUSTAH to its lowest authorized size since 2005.

Still No Accountability for Abuses and Cholera

The steps recommended by Ban Ki-moon are positive, albeit small, yet there is still no movement from MINUSTAH to address the numerous alleged abuses that have been committed under their watch.  As we have written about extensively, there have been a number of cases of sexual abuse and exploitation by MINUSTAH personnel. But notably absent from the Secretary General’s report was any mention of these cases, despite the fact that since 2010 there have been 10 internal UN investigations into sexual exploitation, abuse, or other serious crimes committed by MINUSTAH personnel.

The 20 page report also fails to make any mention of the UN’s role in introducing cholera to Haiti, despite a growing consensus among the scientific community that has linked the UN base in Mirebalais to the introduction of the pathogen. As of September 6, a total of 7,558 deaths and over 590,000 cases have been reported, though this is likely an underestimate. A shift in UN resources from troops, police, armored vehicles and other military and security aspects of the Mission, to cholera mitigation and prevention, could go a long way toward controlling and eventually eliminating the epidemic. As the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has noted – and as the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti and others have campaigned for – it is estimated that MINUSTAH’s budget for one year is all that would be needed to modernize Haiti’s water and sanitation system. As the UNSG report itself notes, the need is urgent: “The integration of efforts to combat cholera into the national health system is experiencing significant challenges, in part caused by delays in the decentralization of response efforts and structural weaknesses within the health system.”

Next Step: A UN Security Council Resolution on the Renewal of MINUSTAH’s Mandate

The main purpose of the UN Secretary General’s report is to guide the internal discussion around the UN Security Council’s decision to renew the one-year mandate of MINUSTAH.  The decision is made official via a U.N. Security Council Resolution which will normally be voted on shortly before the expiration of MINUSTAH’s mandate on October 15.  It will be interesting to see whether the resolution, which generally includes a long list of concerns and recommendations, will incorporate the UNSG ‘s recommendations and, for the first time, establish a firm timeline for withdrawal along with specific benchmarks linked to the reduction of troop levels.  If benchmarks are elaborated, will they take into account calls for greater accountability and transparency around MINUSTAH actions?  And will the resolution flag critical issues omitted from the Secretary General report, such as measures to address the cholera situation and human rights abuses perpetrated by MINUSTAH personnel?  Stay tuned…

Last week, four Uruguayan peacekeepers who were repatriated from Haiti nearly one year ago after video evidence emerged showing the assault of an 18-year old Haitian man, apparently inside the Uruguayan’s Port Salut base, were finally charged. The prosecutor, however, is charging the four soldiers with “coercion” as opposed to sexual abuse.

As AFP reported last week:

“The evidence on record does not support findings of sexual assault. The indictment concerns only the crime of coercion,” said the prosecutor in the case, Enrique Rodriguez.

The Latin American nation’s penal code states that coercion — a crime punishable by three months to three years in prison — involves the use of physical or psychological restraint to force someone to take or abstain from an action against their will.

“In this case, force was used to oblige another person to tolerate an action against their will,” Rodriguez said, noting that the judge has not yet ruled in the case.      

The Uruguayan press, reporting on the charges notes that the judge, even if he finds the accused soldiers guilty, could still forgo giving prison sentences.

The case stands as just the latest example of the problems of holding the UN Peacekeeping mission in Haiti accountable for abuses, from the introduction of cholera to the sexual abuse of Haitians. Under the UN’s Status of Forces Agreement, those accused of abuse are repatriated quickly, where they face judges of their home country as opposed to local Haitian courts where they could face significantly longer and tougher sentences. In March, three Pakistani police were found guilty of rape, yet were sentenced to just one year in prison by a Pakistani military tribunal. Despite evidence implicating MINUSTAH personnel in a cover-up of the abuse, the case in local courts has stalled. In another example of injustice, over 100 Sri Lankan troops were returned to Sri Lanka in 2007 after evidence emerged of their involvement in sexual exploitation and prostitution with Haitian children and women. There is no sign that the troops have faced any form of punishment since.

In responding to the allegations of continued abuse by MINUSTAH personnel, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General in Haiti, Mariano Fernández Amunátegui stated:

I will not evade the cases of sexual exploitation and abuse, against which the United Nations are committed to enforce its zero tolerance policy. They are outrageous and totally unacceptable, and they are severely punished. Impunity does not prevail.

Yet the diminished sentences and charges relating to MINUSTAH troops continues to undermine the UN’s claim that it enforces a “zero tolerance” policy or that those found guilty are “severely punished.”

AFP notes that after the news of the charges broke in Uruguay, it “prompted protests outside the Uruguayan base at Port-Salut to demand the withdrawal of the UN forces.” Over the last few years, there have been increased calls both from within Haiti as well as troop contributing countries for the withdrawal of MINUSTAH. One body that is becoming more critical of MINUSTAH’s presence is the Haitian legislature. The recently released report from the UN Secretary General on MINUSTAH notes that:

Parliamentarians shared frank and mostly critical views on MINUSTAH. They called for the mission to compensate cholera victims and to swiftly punish those within MINUSTAH responsible for incidents of sexual exploitation and abuse of Haitians.

MINUSTAH’s current mandate ends in October, yet the extension for at least another year is almost assured. In the previous renewal, the Security Council “expressed its intention to renew the mission’s mandate beyond 2012.”

 

Last week, four Uruguayan peacekeepers who were repatriated from Haiti nearly one year ago after video evidence emerged showing the assault of an 18-year old Haitian man, apparently inside the Uruguayan’s Port Salut base, were finally charged. The prosecutor, however, is charging the four soldiers with “coercion” as opposed to sexual abuse.

As AFP reported last week:

“The evidence on record does not support findings of sexual assault. The indictment concerns only the crime of coercion,” said the prosecutor in the case, Enrique Rodriguez.

The Latin American nation’s penal code states that coercion — a crime punishable by three months to three years in prison — involves the use of physical or psychological restraint to force someone to take or abstain from an action against their will.

“In this case, force was used to oblige another person to tolerate an action against their will,” Rodriguez said, noting that the judge has not yet ruled in the case.      

The Uruguayan press, reporting on the charges notes that the judge, even if he finds the accused soldiers guilty, could still forgo giving prison sentences.

The case stands as just the latest example of the problems of holding the UN Peacekeeping mission in Haiti accountable for abuses, from the introduction of cholera to the sexual abuse of Haitians. Under the UN’s Status of Forces Agreement, those accused of abuse are repatriated quickly, where they face judges of their home country as opposed to local Haitian courts where they could face significantly longer and tougher sentences. In March, three Pakistani police were found guilty of rape, yet were sentenced to just one year in prison by a Pakistani military tribunal. Despite evidence implicating MINUSTAH personnel in a cover-up of the abuse, the case in local courts has stalled. In another example of injustice, over 100 Sri Lankan troops were returned to Sri Lanka in 2007 after evidence emerged of their involvement in sexual exploitation and prostitution with Haitian children and women. There is no sign that the troops have faced any form of punishment since.

In responding to the allegations of continued abuse by MINUSTAH personnel, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General in Haiti, Mariano Fernández Amunátegui stated:

I will not evade the cases of sexual exploitation and abuse, against which the United Nations are committed to enforce its zero tolerance policy. They are outrageous and totally unacceptable, and they are severely punished. Impunity does not prevail.

Yet the diminished sentences and charges relating to MINUSTAH troops continues to undermine the UN’s claim that it enforces a “zero tolerance” policy or that those found guilty are “severely punished.”

AFP notes that after the news of the charges broke in Uruguay, it “prompted protests outside the Uruguayan base at Port-Salut to demand the withdrawal of the UN forces.” Over the last few years, there have been increased calls both from within Haiti as well as troop contributing countries for the withdrawal of MINUSTAH. One body that is becoming more critical of MINUSTAH’s presence is the Haitian legislature. The recently released report from the UN Secretary General on MINUSTAH notes that:

Parliamentarians shared frank and mostly critical views on MINUSTAH. They called for the mission to compensate cholera victims and to swiftly punish those within MINUSTAH responsible for incidents of sexual exploitation and abuse of Haitians.

MINUSTAH’s current mandate ends in October, yet the extension for at least another year is almost assured. In the previous renewal, the Security Council “expressed its intention to renew the mission’s mandate beyond 2012.”

 

The latest news from the Associated Press suggests Tropical Storm Isaac may not reach hurricane strength before hitting Haiti:

Tropical Storm Isaac strengthened slightly as it spun toward the Dominican Republic and vulnerable Haiti on Friday, threatening to bring punishing rains but unlikely to gain enough steam to strike as a hurricane.

Forecasters now expect the storm to stay below hurricane force until it’s in the Gulf of Mexico, staying to the west of Tampa, Florida, where the Republican National Convention starts on Monday, though there is still an outside chance it could hit there.

In Haiti, the government and international aid groups announced plans to evacuate several thousand people from one of the settlement camps that sprang up in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake.

Isaac was expected to dump eight to 12 inches (20 to 30 centimeters) of rain on the island of Hispaniola that is shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

“That kind of rain is going to cause some life-threatening flash floods and mudslides,” said Dennis Feltgen, a spokesman for the Hurricane Center in Miami.

AP’s Trenton Daniel goes on to describe the Haitian government’s emergency measures and the reactions that some Haitians had to them:

In flood-prone Haiti, where the storm’s eye is likely to blow ashore late Friday, Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe urged people to avoid crossing rivers, to tape their windows, and to stay calm, saying “panic creates more problems.”

Lamothe and other Haitian officials said the government had set aside about $50,000 in emergency funds and had buses and 32 boats on standby for evacuations.

But among many Haitians, the notion of disaster preparedness in a country where most people get by on about $2 a day was met with a shrug.

“We don’t have houses that can bear a hurricane,” said Jeanette Lauredan, who lives in a tent camp in the crowded Delmas district of Port-au-Prince.

About 400,000 people remain in settlement camps comprised of shacks and tarps in the wake of Haiti’s devastating 2010 earthquake.

While much less loss of life and destruction may result with Isaac hitting Haiti as a tropical storm, rather than a hurricane, the toll is still likely to be devastating – in part because cholera infections are likely to spike, as we noted yesterday. It is in large part the lack of adequate shelter that has been provided to Haiti’s displaced earthquake survivors that this new cholera upsurge may result. Partners in Health’s Cate Oswald writes from Haiti that:

“We’re ensuring that each hospital has enough cholera treatment materials on hand and that we have identified alternative locations within our hospitals for any cholera treatment areas still under tents — in case of heavy rains and wind — and in the case that we start to see a surge in the number of cholera cases. We have staff on hand at all facilities, as always, ready to respond to any additional needs. The Red Cross is working hard with the Haitian government to get people still living in tent camps to emergency shelters.”

Oxfam Country Director Andrew Pugh said in a press release today, “Nothing short of a miracle can keep people safe from this kind of storm when their only shelter is a tent. Haiti’s disaster preparedness and response capacities have improved since the earthquake, but much remains to be done to help the poorest people cope with hurricane-strength threats.”

But this has been the case for the past two-and-a-half years. Helping people cope, and prepare for “hurricane-strength threats” is what the international community, NGO’s, and the Haitian government should have been doing ever since the earthquake. Yet the international community and many NGO’s have scaled back efforts to fight cholera during the dry seasons both years since the outbreak began. And Haiti is threatened by hurricanes every year, during a hurricane season that lasts from June – November, and it often gets hit hard. Hurricane Jeanne in 2004 killed some 3,000 people in Haiti. Three years later, as Haiti struggled to obtain debt cancellation from its biggest lenders, the Inter-American Development Bank, World Bank and other institutions, we noted that the country was still trying to recover from Jeanne’s impact. The case we made then for Haiti’s urgent need for funds – from debt cancellation – to cope with the regular deluge from tropical storms and hurricanes, are even more relevant for why Haiti needs international support today:

Funds made available through debt cancellation would also give Haiti the opportunity to address urgent humanitarian needs in the wake of recent natural disasters. Over 57 people died as a result of Tropical Storm Noel [in 2007], and the storm caused floods and landslides. Some of the poorest urban areas, including Cité-Soleil in Port-au-Prince, were among the worst hit.

Prior to Noel, Haiti had already been hit by Hurricane Dean in August, and then wracked by weeks of flooding, with over 700 homes destroyed and more than 4,000 seriously damaged, “leaving around 4,000 families in distress and 3,000 persons living in temporary shelters,” according to the International Organization for Migration.

A New York Times editorial today laments this failure to adequately help Haiti prepare for the inevitable, almost yearly “unnatural disaster”:

Government officials and aid groups on Thursday had little to offer the most vulnerable Haitians as time ran out, besides asking people to remain calm as they braced for the storm’s impact. The 390,000 people whose homes are plastic sheets and sticks, or battered tents, or quake-damaged houses long ago condemned as too dangerous to occupy and impossible to repair, could not have been comforted. The slogan “Build back better” — so often repeated as the principle guiding the immense international aid and reconstruction effort — must seem like a cruel joke.

The editorial laments the still insufficient international response to Haiti’s many ongoing and still urgent needs:

The United Nations humanitarian agency reported recently that a $231 million program by the United Nations and international donors to meet shelter, sanitation, food and other emergency needs in 2012 had raised $47 million by July 24, so the budget was cut to $128 million. At the end of July, it still needed $81 million to get to the end of the year. While progress has been made, the lack of basic, permanent housing remains the greatest failure in postquake Haiti. Now, as another potential disaster looms, many of the displaced may be victims again.

The latest news from the Associated Press suggests Tropical Storm Isaac may not reach hurricane strength before hitting Haiti:

Tropical Storm Isaac strengthened slightly as it spun toward the Dominican Republic and vulnerable Haiti on Friday, threatening to bring punishing rains but unlikely to gain enough steam to strike as a hurricane.

Forecasters now expect the storm to stay below hurricane force until it’s in the Gulf of Mexico, staying to the west of Tampa, Florida, where the Republican National Convention starts on Monday, though there is still an outside chance it could hit there.

In Haiti, the government and international aid groups announced plans to evacuate several thousand people from one of the settlement camps that sprang up in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake.

Isaac was expected to dump eight to 12 inches (20 to 30 centimeters) of rain on the island of Hispaniola that is shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

“That kind of rain is going to cause some life-threatening flash floods and mudslides,” said Dennis Feltgen, a spokesman for the Hurricane Center in Miami.

AP’s Trenton Daniel goes on to describe the Haitian government’s emergency measures and the reactions that some Haitians had to them:

In flood-prone Haiti, where the storm’s eye is likely to blow ashore late Friday, Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe urged people to avoid crossing rivers, to tape their windows, and to stay calm, saying “panic creates more problems.”

Lamothe and other Haitian officials said the government had set aside about $50,000 in emergency funds and had buses and 32 boats on standby for evacuations.

But among many Haitians, the notion of disaster preparedness in a country where most people get by on about $2 a day was met with a shrug.

“We don’t have houses that can bear a hurricane,” said Jeanette Lauredan, who lives in a tent camp in the crowded Delmas district of Port-au-Prince.

About 400,000 people remain in settlement camps comprised of shacks and tarps in the wake of Haiti’s devastating 2010 earthquake.

While much less loss of life and destruction may result with Isaac hitting Haiti as a tropical storm, rather than a hurricane, the toll is still likely to be devastating – in part because cholera infections are likely to spike, as we noted yesterday. It is in large part the lack of adequate shelter that has been provided to Haiti’s displaced earthquake survivors that this new cholera upsurge may result. Partners in Health’s Cate Oswald writes from Haiti that:

“We’re ensuring that each hospital has enough cholera treatment materials on hand and that we have identified alternative locations within our hospitals for any cholera treatment areas still under tents — in case of heavy rains and wind — and in the case that we start to see a surge in the number of cholera cases. We have staff on hand at all facilities, as always, ready to respond to any additional needs. The Red Cross is working hard with the Haitian government to get people still living in tent camps to emergency shelters.”

Oxfam Country Director Andrew Pugh said in a press release today, “Nothing short of a miracle can keep people safe from this kind of storm when their only shelter is a tent. Haiti’s disaster preparedness and response capacities have improved since the earthquake, but much remains to be done to help the poorest people cope with hurricane-strength threats.”

But this has been the case for the past two-and-a-half years. Helping people cope, and prepare for “hurricane-strength threats” is what the international community, NGO’s, and the Haitian government should have been doing ever since the earthquake. Yet the international community and many NGO’s have scaled back efforts to fight cholera during the dry seasons both years since the outbreak began. And Haiti is threatened by hurricanes every year, during a hurricane season that lasts from June – November, and it often gets hit hard. Hurricane Jeanne in 2004 killed some 3,000 people in Haiti. Three years later, as Haiti struggled to obtain debt cancellation from its biggest lenders, the Inter-American Development Bank, World Bank and other institutions, we noted that the country was still trying to recover from Jeanne’s impact. The case we made then for Haiti’s urgent need for funds – from debt cancellation – to cope with the regular deluge from tropical storms and hurricanes, are even more relevant for why Haiti needs international support today:

Funds made available through debt cancellation would also give Haiti the opportunity to address urgent humanitarian needs in the wake of recent natural disasters. Over 57 people died as a result of Tropical Storm Noel [in 2007], and the storm caused floods and landslides. Some of the poorest urban areas, including Cité-Soleil in Port-au-Prince, were among the worst hit.

Prior to Noel, Haiti had already been hit by Hurricane Dean in August, and then wracked by weeks of flooding, with over 700 homes destroyed and more than 4,000 seriously damaged, “leaving around 4,000 families in distress and 3,000 persons living in temporary shelters,” according to the International Organization for Migration.

A New York Times editorial today laments this failure to adequately help Haiti prepare for the inevitable, almost yearly “unnatural disaster”:

Government officials and aid groups on Thursday had little to offer the most vulnerable Haitians as time ran out, besides asking people to remain calm as they braced for the storm’s impact. The 390,000 people whose homes are plastic sheets and sticks, or battered tents, or quake-damaged houses long ago condemned as too dangerous to occupy and impossible to repair, could not have been comforted. The slogan “Build back better” — so often repeated as the principle guiding the immense international aid and reconstruction effort — must seem like a cruel joke.

The editorial laments the still insufficient international response to Haiti’s many ongoing and still urgent needs:

The United Nations humanitarian agency reported recently that a $231 million program by the United Nations and international donors to meet shelter, sanitation, food and other emergency needs in 2012 had raised $47 million by July 24, so the budget was cut to $128 million. At the end of July, it still needed $81 million to get to the end of the year. While progress has been made, the lack of basic, permanent housing remains the greatest failure in postquake Haiti. Now, as another potential disaster looms, many of the displaced may be victims again.

There has been much discussion in the media over the past day regarding whether Tropical Storm Isaac might rain on the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, and possibly cause delays or a cancellation. Receiving less attention is that 400,000 some people in Haiti are still living in tents, under tarps and various forms of makeshift housing – people who became internally displaced persons (IDP’s) after the 2010 earthquake, and they are also in the storm’s projected path.

Aside from the more obvious threats that flooding and strong winds could mean for IDP camps and other vulnerable communities, Isaac could also bring a spike in cholera infections. As we have pointed out before, along with countless news articles, medical reports, and NGO press releases, Haiti’s cholera infections surge with rainy weather, and tropical storms and hurricanes pose an especially ominous threat. The lack of adequate sanitation and safe drinking water in IDP camps means that drinking water sources are likely to be contaminated by waste water when flooding occurs – along with the tents, tarps, and much bedding and other possessions. And it is not just the IDPs who face increased dangers with heavy rain. As the cholera response has been scaled back, access to cholera treatment centers in rural Haiti has decreased. While flooding and mudslides pose extreme danger on their own, they can also prevent those in need from traveling to secure the care that is needed.

We wrote two weeks ago that the Haitian health ministry reported a slower rate of infection this summer, which it attributed to unusually dry weather, but that they predicted an increase in the coming months as the hurricane season begins. The Pan American Health Organization estimates that Haiti could see up to 170,000 new cases this year, which would mean an average of about 20,000 cases per month over the next five months – 5,000 more cases per month than in the previous three months. We further noted that the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs was reporting a “very weak” “capacity to respond to potential outbreaks,” such as could occur with a drenching tropical storm.

The United Nations, meanwhile, whose troops caused the epidemic in October 2010, has yet to take responsibility by taking steps to contain and control cholera.

The Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti issued a press release today urging United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Šimonovi?, who was set to travel to Haiti this week, “to examine the human rights implications of the cholera epidemic brought to Haiti by UN troops,” noting that

Cholera has killed more than 7,500 Haitians and infected over 580,000 since it was introduced by UN peacekeepers in October 2010. Despite overwhelming evidence that the UN caused the epidemic, the world body continues to deny responsibility and has not adequately responded to stop cholera’s killing.

“We applaud Assistant Secretary-General Šimonoviæ’s emphasis on rule of law as a necessary for the enjoyment of human rights in Haiti,” said Mario Joseph, Haiti’s leading human rights lawyer, who represents cholera victims in their claims at the UN. “To be a credible advocate for rule of law, however, the UN must demonstrate by example and be accountable for the cholera epidemic it caused.”

IJDH’s Brian Concannon adds

“The UN cholera is a massive violation of the internationally-recognized right to water for millions of Haitians, and of the right to life for thousands. …We hope that Assistant Secretary-General Šimonoviæ sees that the UN has a historic opportunity to advance the enforceability of water and sanitation rights globally, and save thousands of lives, by acting consistently with its professed ideals.”

But Šimonovi?, who was supposed “to discuss deep-rooted human rights challenges” with Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, the President of the Senate, Dieuseul Simon Desras, and others, canceled the trip due to Isaac, noting that “tropical storm Isaac is expected to grow into a hurricane by the time it hits Hispaniola on Friday 24.” Haiti’s 400,000 IDP’s, meanwhile, do not have the luxury of simply canceling their pending appointment with Isaac.

There has been much discussion in the media over the past day regarding whether Tropical Storm Isaac might rain on the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, and possibly cause delays or a cancellation. Receiving less attention is that 400,000 some people in Haiti are still living in tents, under tarps and various forms of makeshift housing – people who became internally displaced persons (IDP’s) after the 2010 earthquake, and they are also in the storm’s projected path.

Aside from the more obvious threats that flooding and strong winds could mean for IDP camps and other vulnerable communities, Isaac could also bring a spike in cholera infections. As we have pointed out before, along with countless news articles, medical reports, and NGO press releases, Haiti’s cholera infections surge with rainy weather, and tropical storms and hurricanes pose an especially ominous threat. The lack of adequate sanitation and safe drinking water in IDP camps means that drinking water sources are likely to be contaminated by waste water when flooding occurs – along with the tents, tarps, and much bedding and other possessions. And it is not just the IDPs who face increased dangers with heavy rain. As the cholera response has been scaled back, access to cholera treatment centers in rural Haiti has decreased. While flooding and mudslides pose extreme danger on their own, they can also prevent those in need from traveling to secure the care that is needed.

We wrote two weeks ago that the Haitian health ministry reported a slower rate of infection this summer, which it attributed to unusually dry weather, but that they predicted an increase in the coming months as the hurricane season begins. The Pan American Health Organization estimates that Haiti could see up to 170,000 new cases this year, which would mean an average of about 20,000 cases per month over the next five months – 5,000 more cases per month than in the previous three months. We further noted that the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs was reporting a “very weak” “capacity to respond to potential outbreaks,” such as could occur with a drenching tropical storm.

The United Nations, meanwhile, whose troops caused the epidemic in October 2010, has yet to take responsibility by taking steps to contain and control cholera.

The Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti issued a press release today urging United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Šimonovi?, who was set to travel to Haiti this week, “to examine the human rights implications of the cholera epidemic brought to Haiti by UN troops,” noting that

Cholera has killed more than 7,500 Haitians and infected over 580,000 since it was introduced by UN peacekeepers in October 2010. Despite overwhelming evidence that the UN caused the epidemic, the world body continues to deny responsibility and has not adequately responded to stop cholera’s killing.

“We applaud Assistant Secretary-General Šimonoviæ’s emphasis on rule of law as a necessary for the enjoyment of human rights in Haiti,” said Mario Joseph, Haiti’s leading human rights lawyer, who represents cholera victims in their claims at the UN. “To be a credible advocate for rule of law, however, the UN must demonstrate by example and be accountable for the cholera epidemic it caused.”

IJDH’s Brian Concannon adds

“The UN cholera is a massive violation of the internationally-recognized right to water for millions of Haitians, and of the right to life for thousands. …We hope that Assistant Secretary-General Šimonoviæ sees that the UN has a historic opportunity to advance the enforceability of water and sanitation rights globally, and save thousands of lives, by acting consistently with its professed ideals.”

But Šimonovi?, who was supposed “to discuss deep-rooted human rights challenges” with Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, the President of the Senate, Dieuseul Simon Desras, and others, canceled the trip due to Isaac, noting that “tropical storm Isaac is expected to grow into a hurricane by the time it hits Hispaniola on Friday 24.” Haiti’s 400,000 IDP’s, meanwhile, do not have the luxury of simply canceling their pending appointment with Isaac.

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