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 Researcher Jake Johnston wrote in the Caribbean Journal yesterday:

In the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti, donors pledged billions of dollars for reconstruction efforts. With those dollars was a commitment to “build back better”; this time was supposed to be different from previous big aid campaigns. But so far less than half of donor pledges have been disbursed, and it has become clear that “building back better” remains nothing more than a slogan. While there clearly have been successes in Haiti since the earthquake and the hard work of thousands of aid workers shouldn’t be discounted, nearly half-a-million remain homeless and hundreds of thousands more are living in desperate conditions. With a visible lack of results and little hard data with which to assess progress, one question naturally arises: “where did the money go?” At the Center for Economic and Policy Research and together with many other organizations, we’ve been trying to track where exactly the money that did get spent, went. It hasn’t been easy. 

To be sure, aid projects shouldn’t be judged solely on what percent of an aid budget went to overhead, or how much went to American consultants or was spent on American products as opposed to Haitian consultants and products. Ideally, the effectiveness of projects should be based on their outcomes, not just on the breakdown of how funds are spent. But measuring outcomes often isn’t feasible. A nominally independent review of the U.S. government’s response in Haiti attempted to measure the quality and impact of aid, but “a disquieting lack of data on baselines against which to measure progress or even impact” prevented them from doing so.

As taxpayers, we have the right to know how our tax dollars are being used and if they are used effectively.  Specifically, this means looking at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which has spent well over a billion dollars in Haiti since 2010.  To their credit, it’s not difficult to obtain the first level of transparency: to which organizations USAID gave funds.  USAID factsheets reveal that close to 100 percent of humanitarian funds for Haiti were channeled through NGOs, U.N. agencies or right back to other U.S. government agencies. Included in this billion-plus dollars hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts which have gone overwhelmingly to “beltway bandits” — firms located in D.C., Maryland or Virginia. Only 0.02% by our latest tally has gone to Haitian firms.

But this isn’t the end of the line when it comes to transparency.  Once funds are given to an organization, what are they spent on? What were they meant to achieve? How much goes back to the U.S. and how much goes to local firms? In a meeting last October in Port-au-Prince a USAID official defended the awarding of contracts to so-called “beltway bandits”, telling me that while certainly some money goes off the top for their profits, much gets spent in country or is given to local subcontractors. It was a back-of-the-envelope calculation, but he estimated that each international worker sent to Haiti could cost up to $250,000 a year.  The important part, he stressed, was that this money would be spent in Haiti on electricity, security, housing, etc. “He has to live here, eat here, dance here, whatever,” the official reasoned.

Read the rest here.

CEPR Researcher Jake Johnston wrote in the Caribbean Journal yesterday:

In the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti, donors pledged billions of dollars for reconstruction efforts. With those dollars was a commitment to “build back better”; this time was supposed to be different from previous big aid campaigns. But so far less than half of donor pledges have been disbursed, and it has become clear that “building back better” remains nothing more than a slogan. While there clearly have been successes in Haiti since the earthquake and the hard work of thousands of aid workers shouldn’t be discounted, nearly half-a-million remain homeless and hundreds of thousands more are living in desperate conditions. With a visible lack of results and little hard data with which to assess progress, one question naturally arises: “where did the money go?” At the Center for Economic and Policy Research and together with many other organizations, we’ve been trying to track where exactly the money that did get spent, went. It hasn’t been easy. 

To be sure, aid projects shouldn’t be judged solely on what percent of an aid budget went to overhead, or how much went to American consultants or was spent on American products as opposed to Haitian consultants and products. Ideally, the effectiveness of projects should be based on their outcomes, not just on the breakdown of how funds are spent. But measuring outcomes often isn’t feasible. A nominally independent review of the U.S. government’s response in Haiti attempted to measure the quality and impact of aid, but “a disquieting lack of data on baselines against which to measure progress or even impact” prevented them from doing so.

As taxpayers, we have the right to know how our tax dollars are being used and if they are used effectively.  Specifically, this means looking at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which has spent well over a billion dollars in Haiti since 2010.  To their credit, it’s not difficult to obtain the first level of transparency: to which organizations USAID gave funds.  USAID factsheets reveal that close to 100 percent of humanitarian funds for Haiti were channeled through NGOs, U.N. agencies or right back to other U.S. government agencies. Included in this billion-plus dollars hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts which have gone overwhelmingly to “beltway bandits” — firms located in D.C., Maryland or Virginia. Only 0.02% by our latest tally has gone to Haitian firms.

But this isn’t the end of the line when it comes to transparency.  Once funds are given to an organization, what are they spent on? What were they meant to achieve? How much goes back to the U.S. and how much goes to local firms? In a meeting last October in Port-au-Prince a USAID official defended the awarding of contracts to so-called “beltway bandits”, telling me that while certainly some money goes off the top for their profits, much gets spent in country or is given to local subcontractors. It was a back-of-the-envelope calculation, but he estimated that each international worker sent to Haiti could cost up to $250,000 a year.  The important part, he stressed, was that this money would be spent in Haiti on electricity, security, housing, etc. “He has to live here, eat here, dance here, whatever,” the official reasoned.

Read the rest here.

Yesterday, Vijaya Ramachandran and Julie Walz of the Center for Global Development provided a nice overview of the U.S government’s review of its Haiti earthquake response. Ramachandran and Walz found that while the review includes “some frank and enlightening assessments of USG [U.S. government] response and coordination” it contained “very little discussion of aid accountability.”

As Ramachandran and Walz point out, the authors of the review couldn’t determine the effectiveness or impact of aid because of a “disquieting lack of data.” Part of the problem seems to stem from how data collection and management is viewed by aid workers and USG employees, who made up the vast majority of sources for the review. The report states:

During the Haiti response, limitations related to information management followed two major lines. First, there were limited data available for tactical and operational decisions; and second, there were overwhelming requests for data and information from policy leaders in Washington that made systematic data collection more difficult. These demands were often driven by reports in the media.

Thankfully, the authors note that at least “some” of those they interviewed understood that the former led to the latter: limited availability of data was what generated the “overwhelming” number of requests. Others told the authors that requests for information “detracted from the on-ground response” as they were forced to “’chase down’ facts.”

Of course, data is important to the on-the-ground response as well, as the report points out:

Data collection, through surveys and assessments, is an essential component for managing a disaster response. Surveys and assessments are used to identify the needs of the affected population to direct the response. Ideally, these types of data can be used to measure the overall impact of the humanitarian response.

So while chasing down data may have detracted from the response, if those same responders had had data to begin with, they might have been able to respond more effectively.

Perhaps part of the problem is also the type of data that is collected. The review authors point out that there “is a great deal of information available on output indicators, such as liters of water or tons of food delivered, but limited information on the actual impact or outcomes of these interventions.” Similarly, NGOs criticized USAID as the “focus of USAID monitoring and evaluation was on numbers as opposed to the quality of the response.” The report continues, “NGOs felt that too much emphasis was placed by USAID on quantitative results, such as the number of temporary shelters constructed, rather than the sustainability of these shelters.”

By making data collection and management a more important part of relief efforts, and incorporating greater reporting requirements into contracts and grants, not only would aid workers not have to “chase down” information after the fact, but aid could be delivered more effectively to those in need. Meanwhile, those tasked with reviewing the U.S. government’s response to a humanitarian crisis might actually be able to evaluate how effective it was.

Yesterday, Vijaya Ramachandran and Julie Walz of the Center for Global Development provided a nice overview of the U.S government’s review of its Haiti earthquake response. Ramachandran and Walz found that while the review includes “some frank and enlightening assessments of USG [U.S. government] response and coordination” it contained “very little discussion of aid accountability.”

As Ramachandran and Walz point out, the authors of the review couldn’t determine the effectiveness or impact of aid because of a “disquieting lack of data.” Part of the problem seems to stem from how data collection and management is viewed by aid workers and USG employees, who made up the vast majority of sources for the review. The report states:

During the Haiti response, limitations related to information management followed two major lines. First, there were limited data available for tactical and operational decisions; and second, there were overwhelming requests for data and information from policy leaders in Washington that made systematic data collection more difficult. These demands were often driven by reports in the media.

Thankfully, the authors note that at least “some” of those they interviewed understood that the former led to the latter: limited availability of data was what generated the “overwhelming” number of requests. Others told the authors that requests for information “detracted from the on-ground response” as they were forced to “’chase down’ facts.”

Of course, data is important to the on-the-ground response as well, as the report points out:

Data collection, through surveys and assessments, is an essential component for managing a disaster response. Surveys and assessments are used to identify the needs of the affected population to direct the response. Ideally, these types of data can be used to measure the overall impact of the humanitarian response.

So while chasing down data may have detracted from the response, if those same responders had had data to begin with, they might have been able to respond more effectively.

Perhaps part of the problem is also the type of data that is collected. The review authors point out that there “is a great deal of information available on output indicators, such as liters of water or tons of food delivered, but limited information on the actual impact or outcomes of these interventions.” Similarly, NGOs criticized USAID as the “focus of USAID monitoring and evaluation was on numbers as opposed to the quality of the response.” The report continues, “NGOs felt that too much emphasis was placed by USAID on quantitative results, such as the number of temporary shelters constructed, rather than the sustainability of these shelters.”

By making data collection and management a more important part of relief efforts, and incorporating greater reporting requirements into contracts and grants, not only would aid workers not have to “chase down” information after the fact, but aid could be delivered more effectively to those in need. Meanwhile, those tasked with reviewing the U.S. government’s response to a humanitarian crisis might actually be able to evaluate how effective it was.

This guest post is cross-posted from the Center for Global Development.

By Vijaya Ramachandran and Julie Walz

Last week, USAID finally published an evaluation report on its activities in Haiti: “Independent Review of the U.S. Government Response to the Haiti Earthquake”.  The report is dated March 28, 2011. Yes, 2011. It took over a year to post the document on the USAID website.  The review was conducted by MacFadden and Associates – which operates an $80M Indefinite Quantity Contract from USAID.  There are some frank and enlightening assessments of USG response and coordination, but very little discussion of aid accountability.

Here are some impressions of the report:

Let’s start with the good.

Strengthen USAID. The report very clearly calls for a strengthening USAID: improved institutional structures, more staff and capacity, investments in new technology, and a reduction in reliance on outside contractors.  It is a call that has been made many times before, as USAID has evolved from a development implementer into an organization that manages contractors and grantees.  For example, USAID’s direct-hire workforce has decreased from around 8600 in 1962 to 2900 in 2009, despite an increase in foreign assistance. The report says that USAID’s weaknesses were especially apparent because the President appointed USAID as the lead agency in the USG Haiti response.

Nix the “whole of government” approach in disaster response. The report recommends that a “whole of government” approach should not be used in future international disaster response.  It is a concern that our colleague Todd Moss has previously discussed.  Although the idea of having all federal agencies at the table seems logical, it also creates parallel chains of command and further constrains the USG’s ability to get things done.  This is especially true in a disaster situation where rapid response is needed.  After the quake, more than 12 federal agencies sent staff to Haiti.  This created problems in terms of clear lines of authority, with specific reporting structures and delineated functions between agencies.

Reduce Washington micromanagement. The report includes interesting commentary about the micro-management of disaster response by policymakers in Washington.  The report describes how requests for information on an hourly basis about small, tactical management issues detracted from the overall response, as personnel spent time reporting back to DC, rather than focusing on the situation on the ground.  The response in donations from the American public was overwhelming, yet many ignored calls to donate cash, and sent in-kind goods instead.  Management of these in-kind donations was problematic as “elected officials pressured the USG and military personnel to have their constituents’ goods included in the limited transportation space.”

The not-so-good.

Where are the data? There is very little in the report on accountability with regard to aid flows.  A quote from the “Opening Note” sums it up well:

“We had hoped to invest greater efforts in measuring more accurately the quality of aid and its impact on beneficiaries. However, a disquieting lack of data on baselines against which to measure progress or even impact forced this task to the back burner. We realized that devoting more energy to this task could take up all the time and human resources we had available. Thus, some useful lessons in that direction remain unclear.”

It is hard to understand why there is a “disquieting lack of data.”  USAID and other U.S. agencies have been operating for several decades in Haiti, as have many of the large international NGOs.  Yet, almost nothing is known about how the money has been spent in Haiti, in the years leading up to the quake and in the twenty-seven months following, when several billion dollars were channeled through intermediaries for service delivery to the Haitian people.

Why is there no discussion of NGO accountability? The report makes passing references to the lack of beneficiary and local involvement, the large number of NGOs operating in the country, and the fact that many organizations came to Haiti with no previous experience in disaster management.  Yet it states that “due to time and resource constraints, we were unable to explore these topics in great detail.”  Also, the report says that “no clear baseline or reporting mechanism was established” for NGOs receiving USAID funding.  These are big issues for the USG – especially if NGOs and private contractors continue to be the main channels through which the money is being disbursed.  The USG must look at various options to increase accountability—from easily-accessible quarterly reports to the standard accounting framework offered by the International Aid Transparency Initiative.

Vijaya Ramachandran is a senior fellow and Julie Walz is a Research Assistant at the Center for Global Development.

This guest post is cross-posted from the Center for Global Development.

By Vijaya Ramachandran and Julie Walz

Last week, USAID finally published an evaluation report on its activities in Haiti: “Independent Review of the U.S. Government Response to the Haiti Earthquake”.  The report is dated March 28, 2011. Yes, 2011. It took over a year to post the document on the USAID website.  The review was conducted by MacFadden and Associates – which operates an $80M Indefinite Quantity Contract from USAID.  There are some frank and enlightening assessments of USG response and coordination, but very little discussion of aid accountability.

Here are some impressions of the report:

Let’s start with the good.

Strengthen USAID. The report very clearly calls for a strengthening USAID: improved institutional structures, more staff and capacity, investments in new technology, and a reduction in reliance on outside contractors.  It is a call that has been made many times before, as USAID has evolved from a development implementer into an organization that manages contractors and grantees.  For example, USAID’s direct-hire workforce has decreased from around 8600 in 1962 to 2900 in 2009, despite an increase in foreign assistance. The report says that USAID’s weaknesses were especially apparent because the President appointed USAID as the lead agency in the USG Haiti response.

Nix the “whole of government” approach in disaster response. The report recommends that a “whole of government” approach should not be used in future international disaster response.  It is a concern that our colleague Todd Moss has previously discussed.  Although the idea of having all federal agencies at the table seems logical, it also creates parallel chains of command and further constrains the USG’s ability to get things done.  This is especially true in a disaster situation where rapid response is needed.  After the quake, more than 12 federal agencies sent staff to Haiti.  This created problems in terms of clear lines of authority, with specific reporting structures and delineated functions between agencies.

Reduce Washington micromanagement. The report includes interesting commentary about the micro-management of disaster response by policymakers in Washington.  The report describes how requests for information on an hourly basis about small, tactical management issues detracted from the overall response, as personnel spent time reporting back to DC, rather than focusing on the situation on the ground.  The response in donations from the American public was overwhelming, yet many ignored calls to donate cash, and sent in-kind goods instead.  Management of these in-kind donations was problematic as “elected officials pressured the USG and military personnel to have their constituents’ goods included in the limited transportation space.”

The not-so-good.

Where are the data? There is very little in the report on accountability with regard to aid flows.  A quote from the “Opening Note” sums it up well:

“We had hoped to invest greater efforts in measuring more accurately the quality of aid and its impact on beneficiaries. However, a disquieting lack of data on baselines against which to measure progress or even impact forced this task to the back burner. We realized that devoting more energy to this task could take up all the time and human resources we had available. Thus, some useful lessons in that direction remain unclear.”

It is hard to understand why there is a “disquieting lack of data.”  USAID and other U.S. agencies have been operating for several decades in Haiti, as have many of the large international NGOs.  Yet, almost nothing is known about how the money has been spent in Haiti, in the years leading up to the quake and in the twenty-seven months following, when several billion dollars were channeled through intermediaries for service delivery to the Haitian people.

Why is there no discussion of NGO accountability? The report makes passing references to the lack of beneficiary and local involvement, the large number of NGOs operating in the country, and the fact that many organizations came to Haiti with no previous experience in disaster management.  Yet it states that “due to time and resource constraints, we were unable to explore these topics in great detail.”  Also, the report says that “no clear baseline or reporting mechanism was established” for NGOs receiving USAID funding.  These are big issues for the USG – especially if NGOs and private contractors continue to be the main channels through which the money is being disbursed.  The USG must look at various options to increase accountability—from easily-accessible quarterly reports to the standard accounting framework offered by the International Aid Transparency Initiative.

Vijaya Ramachandran is a senior fellow and Julie Walz is a Research Assistant at the Center for Global Development.

The Office of the Special Envoy for Haiti released updated data this week on public sector donor disbursements since the earthquake in Haiti. The Special Envoy has been instrumental in holding donors accountable for pledges they made at the March 2010 New York donor’s conference. For the period 2010-2012, 55 public sector donors pledged $5.48 billion dollars with $2.48 billion, or 45.3 percent being disbursed so far. This represents an increase of $96 million since the last update in December 2011, the smallest such increase since the Special Envoy has been tracking donor disbursements.

Overall, the $2.48 billion has been disbursed through four main channels:

–          $1.65 billion (66.6 percent) in grants to multilateral agencies, NGOs and private contractors
–          $337.2 million (13.6 percent) in budget support to the Government of Haiti
–          $295.6 million (11.9 percent) to the World Bank, IDB and UN through the Haiti Reconstruction Fund (HRF)
–          $196.9 million (7.9 percent) in loans to the Government of Haiti

The vast majority of these funds were disbursed in 2010. According to the Special Envoy (PDF), $1.61 billion was disbursed in 2010, $843.1 million in 2011 and just $27.8 million thus far in 2012.  An important qualifier is that disbursed does not mean spent. For example, of the $295.6 million that has gone to the HRF, only $55.7 million has been spent on the ground.

As can be seen in Figure 1, many of the top donors have failed to live up to their pledges (PDF).

Figure 1.

alt

It should be noted, however that the Special Envoy did not receive updated information from Canada or Venezuela and at least in the case of Venezuela it is likely that support is much greater than reflected here. For example half of Haiti’s domestically financed capital spending in 2012 will come from concessional financing obtained through the PetroCaribe program with Venezuela, while Haiti has spent nearly $300 million on infrastructure projects since the earthquake with funds from PetroCaribe.

Pace of Disbursement Slows

This is the sixth update from the Special Envoy tracking donor pledges.  While over previous periods disbursements had increased by an average of $372 million, during this period they only increased by $96 million. The resignation of Prime Minister Garry Conille following pressure from President Martelly will likely be cited by donors in explaining the slow rate of disbursal, yet most money bypasses the Haitian government.  The slowdown in funding also comes at a time when many have been calling for increased spending on infrastructure projects especially for water and sanitation in order to control the cholera epidemic. In January, the presidents of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, together with PAHO/WHO, UNICEF, and the CDC “appealed to donor countries and agencies to fund the investments by honoring pledges made after Haiti’s 2010 earthquake and through new funds specifically targeted at water and sanitation infrastructure.”

Many donors have committed significant resources outside of their official aid pledges. According to the Special Envoy, over $12 billion has been committed and $5.68 billion spent on both the humanitarian response and recovery projects. The breakdown is as follows:

–          $2.21 billion in humanitarian funding
–          $168.1 million for the response to cholera
–          $2.48 billion in recovery funding from donor pledges
–          $760.5 million in recovery funding outside the pledges

Working With or Around the Government?

The Special Envoy estimates that of the $5.68 billion, only about 10 percent has “has been channeled to the Government of Haiti using its systems.” Less than 1 percent of humanitarian funding went to the government of Haiti, and while recovery funds have channeled a larger percent through government systems, it still represents less than 20 percent.

Particularly troublesome is the low percent of cholera funding (PDF) that has gone through the Haitian government. While much of the funding for cholera went to NGOs, when grants ended these NGOs were forced to pull out, in some cases without anybody filling the gaps. Rather than using the cholera response as means to strengthen the public health system in a sustainable way, as can be seen in Figure 2, the response has largely bypassed the Government of Haiti. In fact, the Red Cross received more funds from donors for the cholera response ($6.1 million) than did the Haitian government ($4.9 million).

Figure 2.

alt

It is particularly important for aid to strengthen public institutions. In Haiti, donors often say weak institutions are what prevent them from using country systems, yet as the Special Envoy has previously noted, “aid is most effective at strengthening public institutions when it is channelled through them.”

The Office of the Special Envoy for Haiti released updated data this week on public sector donor disbursements since the earthquake in Haiti. The Special Envoy has been instrumental in holding donors accountable for pledges they made at the March 2010 New York donor’s conference. For the period 2010-2012, 55 public sector donors pledged $5.48 billion dollars with $2.48 billion, or 45.3 percent being disbursed so far. This represents an increase of $96 million since the last update in December 2011, the smallest such increase since the Special Envoy has been tracking donor disbursements.

Overall, the $2.48 billion has been disbursed through four main channels:

–          $1.65 billion (66.6 percent) in grants to multilateral agencies, NGOs and private contractors
–          $337.2 million (13.6 percent) in budget support to the Government of Haiti
–          $295.6 million (11.9 percent) to the World Bank, IDB and UN through the Haiti Reconstruction Fund (HRF)
–          $196.9 million (7.9 percent) in loans to the Government of Haiti

The vast majority of these funds were disbursed in 2010. According to the Special Envoy (PDF), $1.61 billion was disbursed in 2010, $843.1 million in 2011 and just $27.8 million thus far in 2012.  An important qualifier is that disbursed does not mean spent. For example, of the $295.6 million that has gone to the HRF, only $55.7 million has been spent on the ground.

As can be seen in Figure 1, many of the top donors have failed to live up to their pledges (PDF).

Figure 1.

alt

It should be noted, however that the Special Envoy did not receive updated information from Canada or Venezuela and at least in the case of Venezuela it is likely that support is much greater than reflected here. For example half of Haiti’s domestically financed capital spending in 2012 will come from concessional financing obtained through the PetroCaribe program with Venezuela, while Haiti has spent nearly $300 million on infrastructure projects since the earthquake with funds from PetroCaribe.

Pace of Disbursement Slows

This is the sixth update from the Special Envoy tracking donor pledges.  While over previous periods disbursements had increased by an average of $372 million, during this period they only increased by $96 million. The resignation of Prime Minister Garry Conille following pressure from President Martelly will likely be cited by donors in explaining the slow rate of disbursal, yet most money bypasses the Haitian government.  The slowdown in funding also comes at a time when many have been calling for increased spending on infrastructure projects especially for water and sanitation in order to control the cholera epidemic. In January, the presidents of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, together with PAHO/WHO, UNICEF, and the CDC “appealed to donor countries and agencies to fund the investments by honoring pledges made after Haiti’s 2010 earthquake and through new funds specifically targeted at water and sanitation infrastructure.”

Many donors have committed significant resources outside of their official aid pledges. According to the Special Envoy, over $12 billion has been committed and $5.68 billion spent on both the humanitarian response and recovery projects. The breakdown is as follows:

–          $2.21 billion in humanitarian funding
–          $168.1 million for the response to cholera
–          $2.48 billion in recovery funding from donor pledges
–          $760.5 million in recovery funding outside the pledges

Working With or Around the Government?

The Special Envoy estimates that of the $5.68 billion, only about 10 percent has “has been channeled to the Government of Haiti using its systems.” Less than 1 percent of humanitarian funding went to the government of Haiti, and while recovery funds have channeled a larger percent through government systems, it still represents less than 20 percent.

Particularly troublesome is the low percent of cholera funding (PDF) that has gone through the Haitian government. While much of the funding for cholera went to NGOs, when grants ended these NGOs were forced to pull out, in some cases without anybody filling the gaps. Rather than using the cholera response as means to strengthen the public health system in a sustainable way, as can be seen in Figure 2, the response has largely bypassed the Government of Haiti. In fact, the Red Cross received more funds from donors for the cholera response ($6.1 million) than did the Haitian government ($4.9 million).

Figure 2.

alt

It is particularly important for aid to strengthen public institutions. In Haiti, donors often say weak institutions are what prevent them from using country systems, yet as the Special Envoy has previously noted, “aid is most effective at strengthening public institutions when it is channelled through them.”

“The cooperation with Venezuela is the most important in Haiti right now in terms of impact, direct impact,” President Martelly told the Associated Press in December. The most important channel for this cooperation is the PetroCaribe agreement, which most Caribbean countries are currently a part of and which the government of René Préval joined in 2006. Through the agreement Venezuela finances part of Haiti’s fuel import bill, allowing for a portion to be paid up front and the remainder to be used as a loan with a long maturity and low rates. The funds made available through PetroCaribe are, as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) explains, “under the control of the central government”. This makes PetroCaribe assistance drastically different from aid provided by traditional donors, which by and large bypasses the government. In fact, traditional budget support to the Haitian state was lower last year than the year before the earthquake.

Over the duration of the agreement, which began in 2008, Venezuela has provided nearly $1.9 billion (PDF) in petroleum products, with over $800 million being paid up front. Following the earthquake, Venezuela cancelled some $400 million of PetroCaribe debt, yet with large disbursements since the earthquake Haiti still owes some $580 million. While significant resources have already been spent, Haiti maintains a balance of $350 million in PetroCaribe funds.

The government of Haiti has predictably turned to one of its only pools of un-restricted funds to finance reconstruction and development programs. The IMF notes that the GOH has “committed to only use PetroCaribe resources to finance growth-enhancing investment projects.” The spending with PetroCaribe funds represents a significant portion of capital spending undertaken by the central government. In the latest IMF review of Haiti’s economy, the IMF estimates that PetroCaribe funds will account for nearly half of domestically-financed capital spending in 2012, amounting to 4.7 percent of GDP. While foreign financed capital spending still overshadows this (it is projected to be 14.9 percent of GDP in 2012), the PetroCaribe funds are unique in that they are directly under the control of the government.

The reconstruction projects financed with PetroCaribe funds have come under scrutiny recently as allegations emerged that Martelly received some $2.5 million in kickbacks related to contracts awarded by the Haitian government. Yet it is also true that the PetroCaribe funds represent some of the largest infrastructure related investments in Haiti since the earthquake. Overall, $380 million has been awarded to firms for infrastructure-related work (PDF) and the most recent data shows that over 73 percent has already been spent. For comparison, the Government Accountability Office found in November that of $412 million in infrastructure projects approved by USAID, only 0.8 percent had been disbursed. It is no wonder then that Martelly told the AP that Venezuela aid stacked up favorably with US assistance, which often takes more time:

“Sometimes for a simple project, it might take too long for the project to happen,” he said. “If you’re asking me which one flows better, which one is easier, I’ll tell you Venezuela.”

Amazingly, despite the clear benefits of the PetroCaribe agreement for Haiti, a steady supply of oil, concessional financing, unrestricted funds, it almost never happened.


US, Oil Majors Tried to Block PetroCaribe

Soon after former President Preval was inaugurated, he signaled his intention to join the Venezuelan-led PetroCaribe alliance. Although it had clear benefits for Haitians, the decision set off a protracted battle with Washington, Wikileaks files revealed. As Kim Ives and Dan Coughlin write in The Nation:

According to the leaked US Embassy cables, Washington and its allies, including Big Oil majors like ExxonMobil and Chevron, maneuvered aggressively behind the scenes to scuttle the PetroCaribe deal.

For the Haitian government the oil support from Venezuela was key in providing basic needs and services to 10 million Haitians, securing a guaranteed supply of oil at stable prices, and laying the basis for Haitian energy independence from the United States.

Further, Haiti “would save USD 100 million per year from the delayed payments,” noted the Embassy in a July 7, 2006, cable. Préval earmarked these funds for hospitals, schools and emergency needs, such as disaster relief. But the US Embassy opposed the deal.

“Post [the Embassy] will continue to pressure Preval against joining PetroCaribe,” Ambassador Sanderson wrote in one April 19, 2006, cable. “Ambassador will see Preval’s senior advisor Bob Manuel today. In previous meetings, he has acknowledged our concerns and is aware that a deal with Chavez would cause problems with us.”

It took some two years before the first shipment of PetroCaribe fuel came to Haiti. Since then Haiti has received over 18.5 million barrels of oil, has direct control over significant resource flows, and has invested millions in infrastructure and social projects.  Although the PetroCaribe funds have received attention lately due to the scandal involving kickbacks, perhaps the more important long-term story is the positive effect the agreement has had, allowing the government to quickly mobilize hundreds of millions of dollars to respond to the earthquake, while traditional donors faced delays and bypassed the government all together.

“The cooperation with Venezuela is the most important in Haiti right now in terms of impact, direct impact,” President Martelly told the Associated Press in December. The most important channel for this cooperation is the PetroCaribe agreement, which most Caribbean countries are currently a part of and which the government of René Préval joined in 2006. Through the agreement Venezuela finances part of Haiti’s fuel import bill, allowing for a portion to be paid up front and the remainder to be used as a loan with a long maturity and low rates. The funds made available through PetroCaribe are, as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) explains, “under the control of the central government”. This makes PetroCaribe assistance drastically different from aid provided by traditional donors, which by and large bypasses the government. In fact, traditional budget support to the Haitian state was lower last year than the year before the earthquake.

Over the duration of the agreement, which began in 2008, Venezuela has provided nearly $1.9 billion (PDF) in petroleum products, with over $800 million being paid up front. Following the earthquake, Venezuela cancelled some $400 million of PetroCaribe debt, yet with large disbursements since the earthquake Haiti still owes some $580 million. While significant resources have already been spent, Haiti maintains a balance of $350 million in PetroCaribe funds.

The government of Haiti has predictably turned to one of its only pools of un-restricted funds to finance reconstruction and development programs. The IMF notes that the GOH has “committed to only use PetroCaribe resources to finance growth-enhancing investment projects.” The spending with PetroCaribe funds represents a significant portion of capital spending undertaken by the central government. In the latest IMF review of Haiti’s economy, the IMF estimates that PetroCaribe funds will account for nearly half of domestically-financed capital spending in 2012, amounting to 4.7 percent of GDP. While foreign financed capital spending still overshadows this (it is projected to be 14.9 percent of GDP in 2012), the PetroCaribe funds are unique in that they are directly under the control of the government.

The reconstruction projects financed with PetroCaribe funds have come under scrutiny recently as allegations emerged that Martelly received some $2.5 million in kickbacks related to contracts awarded by the Haitian government. Yet it is also true that the PetroCaribe funds represent some of the largest infrastructure related investments in Haiti since the earthquake. Overall, $380 million has been awarded to firms for infrastructure-related work (PDF) and the most recent data shows that over 73 percent has already been spent. For comparison, the Government Accountability Office found in November that of $412 million in infrastructure projects approved by USAID, only 0.8 percent had been disbursed. It is no wonder then that Martelly told the AP that Venezuela aid stacked up favorably with US assistance, which often takes more time:

“Sometimes for a simple project, it might take too long for the project to happen,” he said. “If you’re asking me which one flows better, which one is easier, I’ll tell you Venezuela.”

Amazingly, despite the clear benefits of the PetroCaribe agreement for Haiti, a steady supply of oil, concessional financing, unrestricted funds, it almost never happened.


US, Oil Majors Tried to Block PetroCaribe

Soon after former President Preval was inaugurated, he signaled his intention to join the Venezuelan-led PetroCaribe alliance. Although it had clear benefits for Haitians, the decision set off a protracted battle with Washington, Wikileaks files revealed. As Kim Ives and Dan Coughlin write in The Nation:

According to the leaked US Embassy cables, Washington and its allies, including Big Oil majors like ExxonMobil and Chevron, maneuvered aggressively behind the scenes to scuttle the PetroCaribe deal.

For the Haitian government the oil support from Venezuela was key in providing basic needs and services to 10 million Haitians, securing a guaranteed supply of oil at stable prices, and laying the basis for Haitian energy independence from the United States.

Further, Haiti “would save USD 100 million per year from the delayed payments,” noted the Embassy in a July 7, 2006, cable. Préval earmarked these funds for hospitals, schools and emergency needs, such as disaster relief. But the US Embassy opposed the deal.

“Post [the Embassy] will continue to pressure Preval against joining PetroCaribe,” Ambassador Sanderson wrote in one April 19, 2006, cable. “Ambassador will see Preval’s senior advisor Bob Manuel today. In previous meetings, he has acknowledged our concerns and is aware that a deal with Chavez would cause problems with us.”

It took some two years before the first shipment of PetroCaribe fuel came to Haiti. Since then Haiti has received over 18.5 million barrels of oil, has direct control over significant resource flows, and has invested millions in infrastructure and social projects.  Although the PetroCaribe funds have received attention lately due to the scandal involving kickbacks, perhaps the more important long-term story is the positive effect the agreement has had, allowing the government to quickly mobilize hundreds of millions of dollars to respond to the earthquake, while traditional donors faced delays and bypassed the government all together.

The Haiti Reconstruction Fund (HRF) was a center piece of the international community’s pledge to “build back better”, yet its latest financial report reveals that despite receiving a significant share of donor disbursements, very little has thus far been spent on the ground. Additionally, without the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC), unallocated resources from the HRF remain unutilized, collecting interest in bank accounts.

The HRF, established in March 2010, aims to coordinate and fund priority projects for Haiti’s reconstruction. The Fund has received 18 percent of all donor disbursements as of December 2011 and describes itself as the “largest source of unprogrammed funding for the reconstruction of Haiti”. The HRF allocates funding to projects that have been approved by the now defunct IHRC.

According to its February 2012 financial report, the HRF has received $377 million from donors, allocating $274 million (73 percent) to 16 projects. When the HRF allocates money for a project, the funds are transferred to a “partner entity”; either the UN, World Bank or Inter-American Development Bank, which then carries out the project. The financial report shows that while the Fund has transferred a large amount of resources, the partner entities have disbursed very little of it on the ground.

Figure 1 (click to enlarge)

haiti-recon-fund-4-2012

As can be seen in Figure 1, only $55.7 million has been disbursed by partners out of over $259 million transferred, a disbursement rate of just 20.3 percent.  The IDB has yet to disburse any of the funds from the HRF, while the UN and World Bank have disbursement rates of 24 percent and 28 percent respectively. While the World Bank and IDB have not charged any fees as of yet, the UN charges 7 percent of total program costs to cover “indirect costs”. So far, these fees have amounted to $9.5 million, or about 3.7 percent of the total funds transferred.   Additionally, the administrative budget of the HRF itself has cost about $3 million.

Looking Forward

While HRF funded projects have been slow to get going, they maintain additional resources which could be mobilized if projects are identified. The February financial report shows $116 million dollars are being held in the trust, which thus far has earned $770,000 in “investment income”.   Yet there is little reason to believe these additional funds will be mobilized anytime soon. As Josef Leitman, the head of the HRF, recently noted:

“Of the $396 million mobilized by the international community, $275 million has been allocated to 17 projects approved by the HRC [IHRC]…Since there is no longer a HRC [IHRC], things now go through the Prime Minister. We currently have a balance of more than $100 million in cash, but have not received any request for funding since last August.

The money is to finance reconstruction, but there is no formal proposal from the Haitian government…In the meantime, funds remain in the bank and are not being allocated in the citizens’ interests. This is nothing to be proud of.”

While the HRF was meant to coordinate and mobilize resources, major reconstruction projects have been slow to develop. With the passing of the IHRC mandate and the resignation of Prime Minister Conille, the HRF is without a “Government counterpart” to “receive, evaluate, select, and transmit new financing requests” (although this may soon change if the Chamber of Deputies approves PM nominee Laurent Lamothe, as the Senate just did). As such, the HRF is currently little more than a bank where donors have stashed over $100 million that remains unused. On the other hand, the vast majority of the money that has been allocated for specific projects remains in the coffers of partner entities, proving yet again that “building back better” remains nothing more than a slogan.

The Haiti Reconstruction Fund (HRF) was a center piece of the international community’s pledge to “build back better”, yet its latest financial report reveals that despite receiving a significant share of donor disbursements, very little has thus far been spent on the ground. Additionally, without the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC), unallocated resources from the HRF remain unutilized, collecting interest in bank accounts.

The HRF, established in March 2010, aims to coordinate and fund priority projects for Haiti’s reconstruction. The Fund has received 18 percent of all donor disbursements as of December 2011 and describes itself as the “largest source of unprogrammed funding for the reconstruction of Haiti”. The HRF allocates funding to projects that have been approved by the now defunct IHRC.

According to its February 2012 financial report, the HRF has received $377 million from donors, allocating $274 million (73 percent) to 16 projects. When the HRF allocates money for a project, the funds are transferred to a “partner entity”; either the UN, World Bank or Inter-American Development Bank, which then carries out the project. The financial report shows that while the Fund has transferred a large amount of resources, the partner entities have disbursed very little of it on the ground.

Figure 1 (click to enlarge)

haiti-recon-fund-4-2012

As can be seen in Figure 1, only $55.7 million has been disbursed by partners out of over $259 million transferred, a disbursement rate of just 20.3 percent.  The IDB has yet to disburse any of the funds from the HRF, while the UN and World Bank have disbursement rates of 24 percent and 28 percent respectively. While the World Bank and IDB have not charged any fees as of yet, the UN charges 7 percent of total program costs to cover “indirect costs”. So far, these fees have amounted to $9.5 million, or about 3.7 percent of the total funds transferred.   Additionally, the administrative budget of the HRF itself has cost about $3 million.

Looking Forward

While HRF funded projects have been slow to get going, they maintain additional resources which could be mobilized if projects are identified. The February financial report shows $116 million dollars are being held in the trust, which thus far has earned $770,000 in “investment income”.   Yet there is little reason to believe these additional funds will be mobilized anytime soon. As Josef Leitman, the head of the HRF, recently noted:

“Of the $396 million mobilized by the international community, $275 million has been allocated to 17 projects approved by the HRC [IHRC]…Since there is no longer a HRC [IHRC], things now go through the Prime Minister. We currently have a balance of more than $100 million in cash, but have not received any request for funding since last August.

The money is to finance reconstruction, but there is no formal proposal from the Haitian government…In the meantime, funds remain in the bank and are not being allocated in the citizens’ interests. This is nothing to be proud of.”

While the HRF was meant to coordinate and mobilize resources, major reconstruction projects have been slow to develop. With the passing of the IHRC mandate and the resignation of Prime Minister Conille, the HRF is without a “Government counterpart” to “receive, evaluate, select, and transmit new financing requests” (although this may soon change if the Chamber of Deputies approves PM nominee Laurent Lamothe, as the Senate just did). As such, the HRF is currently little more than a bank where donors have stashed over $100 million that remains unused. On the other hand, the vast majority of the money that has been allocated for specific projects remains in the coffers of partner entities, proving yet again that “building back better” remains nothing more than a slogan.

Following a request from HRRW, USAID yesterday released information on the amount of relief and reconstruction funds that have gone to local partners in Haiti. The info, available here, is a positive step towards transparency and provides the only official information on the level of local contracting by USAID in Haiti. As can be seen in figure 1, about $9.5 million has gone to local organizations and firms since the earthquake. An additional $18.3 million has been awarded to Haitian-American firms, according to USAID data.

Figure I

Firm Name Sector Amount
GHESKIO
Health
 $       3,589,938
St. Damien Hospital
Health
 $       1,081,000
Hopital Adventiste d’Haiti
Health
 $         990,000
La Fondation Héritage pour Haïti (Transparency International)
Non-Profit
 $         800,000
Mérové-Pierre – Cabinet d’Experts-Comptables (MPA)
Auditing
 $         740,208
L’Hôpital de la Communauté Haïtienne
Health
 $         400,000
Hopital l’Ofatma
Health
 $         400,000
Experts Conseils & Associates
Auditing
 $         393,890
Jurimedia
Non-Profit
 $         300,000
Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture
Non-Profit
 $         250,000
The American Chamber of Commerce in Haiti
Non-Profit
 $         238,420
PAGS Cabinet d’Experts-Comptables
Auditing
 $         145,000
ECCOMAR
Construction
 $           63,000
National Transport Service (Natrans)
Transportation
 $           60,000
TOTAL
TOTAL

 $      9,451,45

Source: USAID

Although ascertaining the total spending by USAID in Haiti since the earthquake is not an easy feat, the $9.5 million that has gone to local firms represents a small fraction of total spending by USAID. In fiscal years 2010 and 2011, USAID reported spending over $700 million on humanitarian programs (not counting funding through USAID/OTI, which is included in Figure II). Additionally, the most recent data compiled by HRRW reveals nearly $400 million in contracts that have been awarded since the earthquake. As can be seen in figure II, only 0.02 percent of these contracts have gone directly to local firms, while over 75 percent have gone to firms located in the Beltway (DC, Maryland, Virginia). The largest of these beltway contractors is Chemonics International, which has received $173.7 million from USAID since the earthquake. The company came under criticism in recent weeks regarding the temporary parliament building that was constructed under a Chemonics contract. Haitian lawmakers told GlobalPost that the building was nothing more than a “shell”, and that it would cost the government as much to finish it as USAID had spent on building it. The building remains vacant four months after it was inaugurated by USAID and Haitian officials.

Figure II

Area Total Percent of Overall
Beltway
 $         307,139,288
77.46%
Haiti
 $                 66,190
0.02%
All Other
 $          89,306,291
22.52%
TOTAL
 $      396,511,768
100.00%

Source: Federal Procurement Data System, Author’s Calculations

It is likely that Figure II doesn’t capture the entirety of local procurement as no data is available on the level of local sub-contracting. On the USAID Forward website, the organization admits they lack the ability to systematically track the level of local subcontracting and grant making:

Unfortunately, the Agency does not have the systems in place to track sub-grants and sub-contracts so it is not possible to state precisely the number of partners or the percentage of USAID funds that flow to local nonprofit organizations (or, for that matter, to local private businesses) through these indirect arrangements.

As HRRW has previously reported, this is especially problematic because a leaked contract between USAID and Chemonics contains very detailed reporting requirements. Chemonics is required to “track and report on the overall monthly commitments and disbursements for all activities and non-activity expenditures.” Further, the contract states that Chemonics “is required to provide a detailed budget and vouchers for all subcontractors.” A USAID Inspector General report from 2010 found that while other branches of USAID had conducted financial reviews of their partners, USAID/OTI had not:

Although DAI and Chemonics were also expending millions of dollars rapidly on CFW [Cash-for-Work] programs in a high-risk environment, USAID/OTI had not yet performed these internal control reviews.

USAID Procurement Reform

Procurement reform is a main plank of the USAID Forward program, which aims to strengthen local capacity by allocating more grants to local NGOs and increase the “percentage of total dollars through direct contracts with local private businesses.” USAID has consistently touted their efforts in this regard, with USAID administrator Rajiv Shah telling NPR on the two-year anniversary of the earthquake that “USAID is working with 500 Haitian organizations after a real intensive effort to go out there and meet these groups and make sure we work directly with them.” While increasing local procurement and local capacity building appears to have the support from USAID leadership, there is scant evidence in the data compiled by HRRW and released by USAID to support the rhetoric. If USAID does indeed work with 500 local organizations, they haven’t publically released any data to support that and the information released yesterday would seem to directly contradict it.

The release of information is a welcome step for transparency on the part of USAID. However, until greater controls are implemented with regard to prime contractors and USAID can accurately track the amount of sub-grants and contracts going to local organizations; it will remain nearly impossible to determine if USAID actions truly match their lofty rhetoric.

Following a request from HRRW, USAID yesterday released information on the amount of relief and reconstruction funds that have gone to local partners in Haiti. The info, available here, is a positive step towards transparency and provides the only official information on the level of local contracting by USAID in Haiti. As can be seen in figure 1, about $9.5 million has gone to local organizations and firms since the earthquake. An additional $18.3 million has been awarded to Haitian-American firms, according to USAID data.

Figure I

Firm Name Sector Amount
GHESKIO
Health
 $       3,589,938
St. Damien Hospital
Health
 $       1,081,000
Hopital Adventiste d’Haiti
Health
 $         990,000
La Fondation Héritage pour Haïti (Transparency International)
Non-Profit
 $         800,000
Mérové-Pierre – Cabinet d’Experts-Comptables (MPA)
Auditing
 $         740,208
L’Hôpital de la Communauté Haïtienne
Health
 $         400,000
Hopital l’Ofatma
Health
 $         400,000
Experts Conseils & Associates
Auditing
 $         393,890
Jurimedia
Non-Profit
 $         300,000
Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture
Non-Profit
 $         250,000
The American Chamber of Commerce in Haiti
Non-Profit
 $         238,420
PAGS Cabinet d’Experts-Comptables
Auditing
 $         145,000
ECCOMAR
Construction
 $           63,000
National Transport Service (Natrans)
Transportation
 $           60,000
TOTAL
TOTAL

 $      9,451,45

Source: USAID

Although ascertaining the total spending by USAID in Haiti since the earthquake is not an easy feat, the $9.5 million that has gone to local firms represents a small fraction of total spending by USAID. In fiscal years 2010 and 2011, USAID reported spending over $700 million on humanitarian programs (not counting funding through USAID/OTI, which is included in Figure II). Additionally, the most recent data compiled by HRRW reveals nearly $400 million in contracts that have been awarded since the earthquake. As can be seen in figure II, only 0.02 percent of these contracts have gone directly to local firms, while over 75 percent have gone to firms located in the Beltway (DC, Maryland, Virginia). The largest of these beltway contractors is Chemonics International, which has received $173.7 million from USAID since the earthquake. The company came under criticism in recent weeks regarding the temporary parliament building that was constructed under a Chemonics contract. Haitian lawmakers told GlobalPost that the building was nothing more than a “shell”, and that it would cost the government as much to finish it as USAID had spent on building it. The building remains vacant four months after it was inaugurated by USAID and Haitian officials.

Figure II

Area Total Percent of Overall
Beltway
 $         307,139,288
77.46%
Haiti
 $                 66,190
0.02%
All Other
 $          89,306,291
22.52%
TOTAL
 $      396,511,768
100.00%

Source: Federal Procurement Data System, Author’s Calculations

It is likely that Figure II doesn’t capture the entirety of local procurement as no data is available on the level of local sub-contracting. On the USAID Forward website, the organization admits they lack the ability to systematically track the level of local subcontracting and grant making:

Unfortunately, the Agency does not have the systems in place to track sub-grants and sub-contracts so it is not possible to state precisely the number of partners or the percentage of USAID funds that flow to local nonprofit organizations (or, for that matter, to local private businesses) through these indirect arrangements.

As HRRW has previously reported, this is especially problematic because a leaked contract between USAID and Chemonics contains very detailed reporting requirements. Chemonics is required to “track and report on the overall monthly commitments and disbursements for all activities and non-activity expenditures.” Further, the contract states that Chemonics “is required to provide a detailed budget and vouchers for all subcontractors.” A USAID Inspector General report from 2010 found that while other branches of USAID had conducted financial reviews of their partners, USAID/OTI had not:

Although DAI and Chemonics were also expending millions of dollars rapidly on CFW [Cash-for-Work] programs in a high-risk environment, USAID/OTI had not yet performed these internal control reviews.

USAID Procurement Reform

Procurement reform is a main plank of the USAID Forward program, which aims to strengthen local capacity by allocating more grants to local NGOs and increase the “percentage of total dollars through direct contracts with local private businesses.” USAID has consistently touted their efforts in this regard, with USAID administrator Rajiv Shah telling NPR on the two-year anniversary of the earthquake that “USAID is working with 500 Haitian organizations after a real intensive effort to go out there and meet these groups and make sure we work directly with them.” While increasing local procurement and local capacity building appears to have the support from USAID leadership, there is scant evidence in the data compiled by HRRW and released by USAID to support the rhetoric. If USAID does indeed work with 500 local organizations, they haven’t publically released any data to support that and the information released yesterday would seem to directly contradict it.

The release of information is a welcome step for transparency on the part of USAID. However, until greater controls are implemented with regard to prime contractors and USAID can accurately track the amount of sub-grants and contracts going to local organizations; it will remain nearly impossible to determine if USAID actions truly match their lofty rhetoric.

The rainy season is returning to Haiti, and so is an expected increase in cholera infections. There have been as many deaths – 13 –  in the last eight reported days as there were in all of January or February this year. Yet red tape and funding shortfalls are hampering prevention and treatment efforts.

NPR health correspondent Richard Knox presented a lengthy report yesterday on a cholera vaccination program that has yet to be implemented, despite consensus from the Haitian government, the World Health Organization, the Pan American Health Organization, and the CDC that it could be effective. The program, which will provide vaccines to some 100,000 people, is now awaiting the conclusions of a national ethics committee, “which wants assurance that the vaccine is no longer considered experimental.” The organizations administering the program, Partners in Health and GHESKIO, had hoped to get it underway in January.

Knox reports:

Meanwhile, the spring rains are beginning. Cholera cases are starting to climb, because the floods spread the cholera bacterium around.

“We know it’s going to rain, we know it’s going to flood,” says Dr. Vanessa Rouzier, “so we are afraid we are wasting precious time.”

Rouzier works with GHESKIO, a Haitian medical group that is organizing the vaccination project in Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital. The rural arm is sponsored by Partners in Health in the Artibonite River valley, where cholera first appeared.

The two groups have been planning the demonstration project for more than a year.

Greater challenges to the overall aid effort are posed by a shortfall in funds. UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Haiti Nigel Fisher yesterday warned that, as Reuters reported, “a lack [of] aid money for Haiti was putting hundreds of thousands of displaced people at risk by forcing humanitarian agencies to cut services.” The same thing happened in the run up to last year’s rainy season, resulting in an immense spike in cholera cases. The Miami Herald’s Jacqueline Charles wrote:

United Nations humanitarian agencies and the Haitian government launched an urgent appeal Tuesday for roughly $60 million in funding to provide services from April to June to camp dwellers, and to help Haiti cope with an ongoing cholera epidemic that is expected to surge with the onset of the rainy season. The appeal comes as a lack of funding continue to force aid organizations to pack up and leave, and as at least one group — the International Red Cross — considers building a hotel and conference center with it remaining funds as part of its exit strategy.

“Haitians are still living in deteriorating shelters and tents literally falling apart while donors sit on cash intended to help them,” said Elise Young, senior policy analyst at ActionAid USA, an antipoverty agency working in several camps for victims of the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake. “A very tangible indication of the lack of donation disbursements is the decline in cholera prevention and response.’’

Philippe Verstraeten, head of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Haiti, said the lack of financial resources at the disposal of the humanitarian community is curtailing its ability to help Haiti’s most vulnerable population affected by a series of shocks, including the earthquake, food insecurity and the cholera epidemic.

Meanwhile, of the $231 million Haiti’s humanitarian community is seeking for 2012, only 8.5 percent has been funded, the UN’s chief humanitarian coordinator Nigel Fisher said Tuesday. A $382 million humanitarian request made in 2011 only received 55 percent funding. “Underfunding threatens to stunt growing relocation initiatives to safe housing that already benefited hundreds of thousands,” Fisher said. “It threatens to reverse gains achieved in the fight against cholera through the promotion of sanitary and hygiene practices. It threatens the very existence of hundreds of thousands of [internally displaced persons] still living in camps.

Fisher said the $53.9 million urgent appeal launched Tuesday is needed for the next three months to provide among other things: potable water and hygiene services in camps; flood protection; and cholera response. Funds also will go toward protecting vulnerable camp populations from sexual abuse and violence.

Both the stalled vaccination program and the under-funded UN humanitarian appeal are reminders that there are humanitarian emergencies that urgently need the international community’s and the Haitian government’s attention. It’s well past the time that they treat these as the emergencies that they are.

The rainy season is returning to Haiti, and so is an expected increase in cholera infections. There have been as many deaths – 13 –  in the last eight reported days as there were in all of January or February this year. Yet red tape and funding shortfalls are hampering prevention and treatment efforts.

NPR health correspondent Richard Knox presented a lengthy report yesterday on a cholera vaccination program that has yet to be implemented, despite consensus from the Haitian government, the World Health Organization, the Pan American Health Organization, and the CDC that it could be effective. The program, which will provide vaccines to some 100,000 people, is now awaiting the conclusions of a national ethics committee, “which wants assurance that the vaccine is no longer considered experimental.” The organizations administering the program, Partners in Health and GHESKIO, had hoped to get it underway in January.

Knox reports:

Meanwhile, the spring rains are beginning. Cholera cases are starting to climb, because the floods spread the cholera bacterium around.

“We know it’s going to rain, we know it’s going to flood,” says Dr. Vanessa Rouzier, “so we are afraid we are wasting precious time.”

Rouzier works with GHESKIO, a Haitian medical group that is organizing the vaccination project in Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital. The rural arm is sponsored by Partners in Health in the Artibonite River valley, where cholera first appeared.

The two groups have been planning the demonstration project for more than a year.

Greater challenges to the overall aid effort are posed by a shortfall in funds. UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Haiti Nigel Fisher yesterday warned that, as Reuters reported, “a lack [of] aid money for Haiti was putting hundreds of thousands of displaced people at risk by forcing humanitarian agencies to cut services.” The same thing happened in the run up to last year’s rainy season, resulting in an immense spike in cholera cases. The Miami Herald’s Jacqueline Charles wrote:

United Nations humanitarian agencies and the Haitian government launched an urgent appeal Tuesday for roughly $60 million in funding to provide services from April to June to camp dwellers, and to help Haiti cope with an ongoing cholera epidemic that is expected to surge with the onset of the rainy season. The appeal comes as a lack of funding continue to force aid organizations to pack up and leave, and as at least one group — the International Red Cross — considers building a hotel and conference center with it remaining funds as part of its exit strategy.

“Haitians are still living in deteriorating shelters and tents literally falling apart while donors sit on cash intended to help them,” said Elise Young, senior policy analyst at ActionAid USA, an antipoverty agency working in several camps for victims of the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake. “A very tangible indication of the lack of donation disbursements is the decline in cholera prevention and response.’’

Philippe Verstraeten, head of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Haiti, said the lack of financial resources at the disposal of the humanitarian community is curtailing its ability to help Haiti’s most vulnerable population affected by a series of shocks, including the earthquake, food insecurity and the cholera epidemic.

Meanwhile, of the $231 million Haiti’s humanitarian community is seeking for 2012, only 8.5 percent has been funded, the UN’s chief humanitarian coordinator Nigel Fisher said Tuesday. A $382 million humanitarian request made in 2011 only received 55 percent funding. “Underfunding threatens to stunt growing relocation initiatives to safe housing that already benefited hundreds of thousands,” Fisher said. “It threatens to reverse gains achieved in the fight against cholera through the promotion of sanitary and hygiene practices. It threatens the very existence of hundreds of thousands of [internally displaced persons] still living in camps.

Fisher said the $53.9 million urgent appeal launched Tuesday is needed for the next three months to provide among other things: potable water and hygiene services in camps; flood protection; and cholera response. Funds also will go toward protecting vulnerable camp populations from sexual abuse and violence.

Both the stalled vaccination program and the under-funded UN humanitarian appeal are reminders that there are humanitarian emergencies that urgently need the international community’s and the Haitian government’s attention. It’s well past the time that they treat these as the emergencies that they are.

A new report by AP investigative reporter Martha Mendoza and Haiti correspondent Trenton Daniel sheds light on the Red Cross’ plans to possibly build a hotel on the 10 acres of land near the Toussaint L’Ouverture airport that it uses for its base camp.

The article reports:

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is considering building a hotel and conference center in Haiti on part of a $10.5 million property that it bought after the 2010 earthquake.

The hope is that profits could sustain the work of Haiti’s local Red Cross in the coming years, the head of the international group’s Haitian delegation said Monday.

The 10-acre compound, known as the “Hilton Property,” was purchased from Comme Il Faut, Haiti’s local cigarette company, in the months after the quake, Eduard Tschan told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

The charity paid in a single payment, using funds donated by national Red Cross agencies for quake recovery. At the time, Haiti’s recovery was the largest operation in the organization’s history, with 3,000 people working here.

Now that its work is winding down, the international Red Cross is putting together an exit strategy and as part of that process is trying to figure out what to do with this property.

The article goes on to describe some of the ideas that the Red Cross is apparently considering for the land:

It’s a valuable spot, near the international airport in a growing city. Tschan said two ideas are being studied: selling the acreage not being used by the Haitian Red Cross or finding a business partner and building a hotel and conference center that would provide profits to sustain the Haitian Red Cross.

“There is great potential with this property,” Tschan said.

He said that if a marketing feasibility study determines a hotel or conference center seems viable, the Red Cross will open the project to bidders.

“Ideally it would be a local company,” he said.

CharityWatch president Daniel Borochoff, who evaluates nonprofit organizations, said the hotel plan is risky and highly unusual. More typically, charities invest in low risk securities, he said.

“It’s not clear it would work,” he said. “And if they lose the money it’s going to be a problem.”

Borochoff said a hotel and conference center could tie up funds that might be needed quickly in future disasters, and noted donors hadn’t been informed.

“What would happen if donors learned that instead of giving money to treat cholera or build shelters, it’s going to build a hotel? I understand it’s an investment, but that takes some explaining,” he said.

AP goes on to note that other luxury hotels are already being built in the area.AP’s investigation raises several important questions. First, how much “acreage [is] not being used by the Haitian Red Cross”, and is there room for IDP’s there? A Google Earth look at the site suggests that there probably is a good deal of unused space:

Haitian Red Cross/IFRC Base Camp

Considering the hundreds of people who have recently been forcibly evicted – with some recently having been burned out of their camps in suspicious arsons – couldn’t this be space that the Red Cross could offer them, rather than using it for a commercial venture that might not even be viable?

The Red Cross’ post-quake spending and use of funds, as the largest NGO operating in Haiti, has been controversial almost since the beginning. News that some “funds donated by national Red Cross agencies for quake recovery” – much of which almost certainly came from individuals who believed their money would be used for emergency relief – might instead be used for a risky commercial venture (and one that caters to NGO’s and tourists) could provoke more controversy.

Earlier this year, the American Red Cross came under renewed scrutiny with the release of the film “Haiti: Where Did the Money Go?” which examines conditions in IDP camps and questions the American Red Cross, Catholic Relief Services, and other large NGO’s about their spending and activities in Haiti. The American Red Cross responded defensively, attacking the film and objecting to, among others, the assertion in the film that “The money was raised quickly and the clear implication is that it would be spent quickly.” In its response, the ARC stated

The American Red Cross repeatedly informed the public and donors in writing that its relief and recovery efforts in Haiti would last three to five years.  …Our current program planning extends until December 2014, still in that window.  [email protected] provides no evidence or basis for its claim that the American Red Cross implied that the money would be spent quickly.  The key is to spend it wisely.

Plans to build a hotel might fit it into a similar planning window. Whether or not this would be money spent wisely – let alone used to best serve those most affected by Haiti’s recent crises of natural disasters and cholera epidemic – is another matter.

A new report by AP investigative reporter Martha Mendoza and Haiti correspondent Trenton Daniel sheds light on the Red Cross’ plans to possibly build a hotel on the 10 acres of land near the Toussaint L’Ouverture airport that it uses for its base camp.

The article reports:

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is considering building a hotel and conference center in Haiti on part of a $10.5 million property that it bought after the 2010 earthquake.

The hope is that profits could sustain the work of Haiti’s local Red Cross in the coming years, the head of the international group’s Haitian delegation said Monday.

The 10-acre compound, known as the “Hilton Property,” was purchased from Comme Il Faut, Haiti’s local cigarette company, in the months after the quake, Eduard Tschan told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

The charity paid in a single payment, using funds donated by national Red Cross agencies for quake recovery. At the time, Haiti’s recovery was the largest operation in the organization’s history, with 3,000 people working here.

Now that its work is winding down, the international Red Cross is putting together an exit strategy and as part of that process is trying to figure out what to do with this property.

The article goes on to describe some of the ideas that the Red Cross is apparently considering for the land:

It’s a valuable spot, near the international airport in a growing city. Tschan said two ideas are being studied: selling the acreage not being used by the Haitian Red Cross or finding a business partner and building a hotel and conference center that would provide profits to sustain the Haitian Red Cross.

“There is great potential with this property,” Tschan said.

He said that if a marketing feasibility study determines a hotel or conference center seems viable, the Red Cross will open the project to bidders.

“Ideally it would be a local company,” he said.

CharityWatch president Daniel Borochoff, who evaluates nonprofit organizations, said the hotel plan is risky and highly unusual. More typically, charities invest in low risk securities, he said.

“It’s not clear it would work,” he said. “And if they lose the money it’s going to be a problem.”

Borochoff said a hotel and conference center could tie up funds that might be needed quickly in future disasters, and noted donors hadn’t been informed.

“What would happen if donors learned that instead of giving money to treat cholera or build shelters, it’s going to build a hotel? I understand it’s an investment, but that takes some explaining,” he said.

AP goes on to note that other luxury hotels are already being built in the area.AP’s investigation raises several important questions. First, how much “acreage [is] not being used by the Haitian Red Cross”, and is there room for IDP’s there? A Google Earth look at the site suggests that there probably is a good deal of unused space:

Haitian Red Cross/IFRC Base Camp

Considering the hundreds of people who have recently been forcibly evicted – with some recently having been burned out of their camps in suspicious arsons – couldn’t this be space that the Red Cross could offer them, rather than using it for a commercial venture that might not even be viable?

The Red Cross’ post-quake spending and use of funds, as the largest NGO operating in Haiti, has been controversial almost since the beginning. News that some “funds donated by national Red Cross agencies for quake recovery” – much of which almost certainly came from individuals who believed their money would be used for emergency relief – might instead be used for a risky commercial venture (and one that caters to NGO’s and tourists) could provoke more controversy.

Earlier this year, the American Red Cross came under renewed scrutiny with the release of the film “Haiti: Where Did the Money Go?” which examines conditions in IDP camps and questions the American Red Cross, Catholic Relief Services, and other large NGO’s about their spending and activities in Haiti. The American Red Cross responded defensively, attacking the film and objecting to, among others, the assertion in the film that “The money was raised quickly and the clear implication is that it would be spent quickly.” In its response, the ARC stated

The American Red Cross repeatedly informed the public and donors in writing that its relief and recovery efforts in Haiti would last three to five years.  …Our current program planning extends until December 2014, still in that window.  [email protected] provides no evidence or basis for its claim that the American Red Cross implied that the money would be spent quickly.  The key is to spend it wisely.

Plans to build a hotel might fit it into a similar planning window. Whether or not this would be money spent wisely – let alone used to best serve those most affected by Haiti’s recent crises of natural disasters and cholera epidemic – is another matter.

In early March, social scientists Athena Kolbe and Robert Muggah released a study, backed by Canada’s International Development Research Centre and the Igarapé Institute of Brazil, showing increasing crime rates in the capital of Port-au-Prince. Based on household surveys, the authors found that “[f]or the first time since 2007, the incidence of violent crime and victimization has shown a consistent increase”. While the homicide rate in Haiti’s capital is lower than in many other Caribbean cities, the authors note the current rate in Haiti makes it one of the highest recorded rates since the post-coup period of 2004. At the same time, the authors found a reversal in citizens’ support for the Haitian National Police.

In an interview with HRRW, Kolbe, a clinical social worker affiliated with the University of Michigan, explains the social context of the current study and explores some of the causes and implications of the results. Kolbe finds that most of the victims of violence and criminal activities were residents of low-income neighborhoods where the population has experienced “social and political marginalization.” The ending of aid programs has also had a “profound impact on the people who need the services the most.” Kolbe notes that the bypassing of the Haitian government by NGOs and donor governments has created a situation where these entities and not the Haitian state “provide basic social and municipal services.” With a government that cannot guarantee its citizens access to services, Kolbe notes that “simply increasing the number of police on the street isn’t going to solve Haiti’s crime problem.” What is needed is to “focus efforts on improving the conditions in society that create the climate where crime is a viable option.”

Read more for the full interview:


HRRW: You have been conducting household surveys in Haiti for many years now, could you discuss the most recent findings in relation to the previous studies you have undertaken? For instance, how do the current levels of crime compare to the post-2004 coup time period? Do you see any similarities?

AK: In the 22 months after President Aristide was forced from the country in 2004 we saw a great deal of crime and violence in Haiti. At that time the murder rate for Port-au-Prince was 219 per 100,000 per year. Beginning at the very end of 2006 and early 2007 we saw a decrease in crime in Haiti; this was a steady decrease both in the use of violence by armed political groups and state actors as well as a decrease in crime overall. There was a slight increase in property crime just after the earthquake but this decreased and through August 2011 we had a very low crime rate in Haiti.

In fact we can compare Port-au-Prince to Detroit, which is where I live when I’m not in Haiti. Since 2007 the crude rate of all forms of crime that we measure (assault, property crimes, murder, and illegal detention or kidnapping) was lower in Port-au-Prince than it was in Detroit.  This was very encouraging, but it has changed, which was what motivated our report. We see a lot more armed robberies and of course more murders, more than at any other time since the end of 2006.

HRRW: Do the survey results give an indication of who is committing the violent crime? And what groups have been the most affected?

AK: When we are trying to figure out if crime is politically motivated, we can look at who is doing the crime as well as who is being victimized. Unlike the 2004-2006 period there is little crime reported to have been perpetrated by armed political groups or police officers. The crimes that people have reported to us are primarily committed by criminals or unknown persons. And of course there are some crimes by neighbors, family members, friends and the like, which you would expect to see in a survey of crime victimization in any country.

People who live in popular zones – the densely populated poor areas in urban cities – are the most at risk to be a victim of a crime, particularly murder or armed robbery. Popular zone residents are in a unique and difficult situation. These areas have few social and municipal services. They often don’t have the same kind of physical access that other neighborhoods have. For instance, because these areas are so densely populated people live everywhere and thus, the “roads” are just corridors between homes.  This limits vehicle access to a lot of homes which impacts everything from providing access for disabled residents to adequate policing serves and even the access to water delivery trucks. (Truck water is a common way to get water to your home when you don’t have piped water and is markedly less expensive than buying water by the bucket at a water kiosk, which is the only other option for most popular zone residents).

Residents of popular zones also experience social and political marginalization. They’ve been demonized in the press as “chimeres.” They live in neighborhoods that are designated as “red zones” — the most dangerous areas of the city where some UN, embassy and NGO staffers are prohibited from traveling.  Even when crime was low last year and the property crime rate in Bel Air was less than that of Detroit, these areas still had such negative reputation that some NGOs wouldn’t enter to provide services to the residents.  A lot of popular zone residents feel a great deal of shame and embarrassment in admitting where they are from, and this is understandable as the attitude among some is that people from Martissant or Cité Soleil are less trustworthy, more violent, and less capable. People are rightly concerned that if they disclose they are from Cité Soleil that it will prevent them from getting a job or being respected and trusted by others.

HRRW: In a previous household survey, you found that violence, sexual violence and theft were all significantly higher in IDP camps. In the recent survey you also point to the declining aid services being offered as a factor in the increasing crime rate. Could you explain this relationship further?

AK: Over the past two decades, the emphasis on foreign aid disbursement in Haiti has been to divert aid funds to NGOs or other non-state partners rather than funding the Haitian government directly. This means that everything from loans to straight up foreign aid packages are often disseminated in a way that doesn’t directly give the money to the Haitian government. There are reasons for this policy, which are beyond the scope of what we have time to cover today, but suffice it to say that by giving foreign aid through NGOs, the donor governments have created a situation in which the Haitian people are relying on NGOs and international organizations like MINUSTAH to provide basic social and municipal services. So when the funding for post-earthquake relief within these organizations started to get used up and when, in the last quarter of 2011, organizations started to reduce or eliminate services in urban areas, it had a profound impact on the people who need the services the most.

There needs to be a delicate balance of both empowerment and accountability so that the Haitian government is able to develop the capacity to deliver services to its people and to assure that the services actually get delivered.  I don’t think anyone believes that Haiti will be in a good place if NGOs permanently replace the Haitian government in providing essential state services to the Haitian people.

We know that globally crime is tied to certain social and economic conditions; when quality of life improves and economic and political uncertainty decrease, crime also decreases. Simply increasing the number of police on the street isn’t going to solve Haiti’s crime problem, we need to also focus efforts on improving the conditions in society that create the climate where crime is a viable option.  MINUSTAH needs to invest in what is known to reduce crime, such as creating economic opportunity, promoting education, building infrastructure, improving municipal capacity, and the like.

HRRW: Both you and Mario Andersol, head of the HNP, cite political instability as a leading factor in the rising violence. Could you explain this relationship further and how does the previous election, which saw record low turnout, the exclusion of the largest political party and unprecedented international interference, play into this?

AK: We have a difficult situation in Haiti right now. [Fanmi] Lavalas, which some international actors had hoped would slowly fade away, continues to be an influential and popular political party, particularly amongst the poor majority. I’m not sure what people thought the outcome would be when Lavalas was excluded from the ballot. And the current administration is struggling in other ways as well; for instance the prime minister recently resigned after only four months in office. This is a time of political instability and when things are unstable people lose faith in state institutions. The way to rebuild this trust in the state is for those who lead the state to demonstrate significant progress towards a social contract that is inclusive of poor and historically marginalized populations.   Trust is rebuilt in a number of ways including fighting the culture of impunity by holding people – regardless of their power or wealth—responsible when they commit crimes, by giving low income neighborhoods access to municipal services like trash collection, and by directly and specifically acknowledging the need for improvement.

HRRW: Since at least the 2004 coup, HNP reform has been a stated priority of the U.S. government and other international donors, yet widespread problems with police competence and accountability remain, coupled with a poorly functioning judiciary. What do you think is needed for the HNP to actually become effective and accountable?

AK: The HNP has improved immensely since 2007. The Haitian government needs to continue this forward movement by holding police officers responsible when they act unprofessionally or unethically, by keeping the police independent so they aren’t controlled or used by politicians, by upholding high standards of behavior and for recruitment.  In the past people have been integrated into the Haitian National Police despite histories that included violence, crime, human rights violations, and involvement in coups. The police should not be politicized in this way.  No one who has committed human rights violations or been involved in a coup or an illegal armed group should become a police officer. For Haiti this is a sensitive matter and there needs to be a clear line drawn, at least for the time being.

In early March, social scientists Athena Kolbe and Robert Muggah released a study, backed by Canada’s International Development Research Centre and the Igarapé Institute of Brazil, showing increasing crime rates in the capital of Port-au-Prince. Based on household surveys, the authors found that “[f]or the first time since 2007, the incidence of violent crime and victimization has shown a consistent increase”. While the homicide rate in Haiti’s capital is lower than in many other Caribbean cities, the authors note the current rate in Haiti makes it one of the highest recorded rates since the post-coup period of 2004. At the same time, the authors found a reversal in citizens’ support for the Haitian National Police.

In an interview with HRRW, Kolbe, a clinical social worker affiliated with the University of Michigan, explains the social context of the current study and explores some of the causes and implications of the results. Kolbe finds that most of the victims of violence and criminal activities were residents of low-income neighborhoods where the population has experienced “social and political marginalization.” The ending of aid programs has also had a “profound impact on the people who need the services the most.” Kolbe notes that the bypassing of the Haitian government by NGOs and donor governments has created a situation where these entities and not the Haitian state “provide basic social and municipal services.” With a government that cannot guarantee its citizens access to services, Kolbe notes that “simply increasing the number of police on the street isn’t going to solve Haiti’s crime problem.” What is needed is to “focus efforts on improving the conditions in society that create the climate where crime is a viable option.”

Read more for the full interview:


HRRW: You have been conducting household surveys in Haiti for many years now, could you discuss the most recent findings in relation to the previous studies you have undertaken? For instance, how do the current levels of crime compare to the post-2004 coup time period? Do you see any similarities?

AK: In the 22 months after President Aristide was forced from the country in 2004 we saw a great deal of crime and violence in Haiti. At that time the murder rate for Port-au-Prince was 219 per 100,000 per year. Beginning at the very end of 2006 and early 2007 we saw a decrease in crime in Haiti; this was a steady decrease both in the use of violence by armed political groups and state actors as well as a decrease in crime overall. There was a slight increase in property crime just after the earthquake but this decreased and through August 2011 we had a very low crime rate in Haiti.

In fact we can compare Port-au-Prince to Detroit, which is where I live when I’m not in Haiti. Since 2007 the crude rate of all forms of crime that we measure (assault, property crimes, murder, and illegal detention or kidnapping) was lower in Port-au-Prince than it was in Detroit.  This was very encouraging, but it has changed, which was what motivated our report. We see a lot more armed robberies and of course more murders, more than at any other time since the end of 2006.

HRRW: Do the survey results give an indication of who is committing the violent crime? And what groups have been the most affected?

AK: When we are trying to figure out if crime is politically motivated, we can look at who is doing the crime as well as who is being victimized. Unlike the 2004-2006 period there is little crime reported to have been perpetrated by armed political groups or police officers. The crimes that people have reported to us are primarily committed by criminals or unknown persons. And of course there are some crimes by neighbors, family members, friends and the like, which you would expect to see in a survey of crime victimization in any country.

People who live in popular zones – the densely populated poor areas in urban cities – are the most at risk to be a victim of a crime, particularly murder or armed robbery. Popular zone residents are in a unique and difficult situation. These areas have few social and municipal services. They often don’t have the same kind of physical access that other neighborhoods have. For instance, because these areas are so densely populated people live everywhere and thus, the “roads” are just corridors between homes.  This limits vehicle access to a lot of homes which impacts everything from providing access for disabled residents to adequate policing serves and even the access to water delivery trucks. (Truck water is a common way to get water to your home when you don’t have piped water and is markedly less expensive than buying water by the bucket at a water kiosk, which is the only other option for most popular zone residents).

Residents of popular zones also experience social and political marginalization. They’ve been demonized in the press as “chimeres.” They live in neighborhoods that are designated as “red zones” — the most dangerous areas of the city where some UN, embassy and NGO staffers are prohibited from traveling.  Even when crime was low last year and the property crime rate in Bel Air was less than that of Detroit, these areas still had such negative reputation that some NGOs wouldn’t enter to provide services to the residents.  A lot of popular zone residents feel a great deal of shame and embarrassment in admitting where they are from, and this is understandable as the attitude among some is that people from Martissant or Cité Soleil are less trustworthy, more violent, and less capable. People are rightly concerned that if they disclose they are from Cité Soleil that it will prevent them from getting a job or being respected and trusted by others.

HRRW: In a previous household survey, you found that violence, sexual violence and theft were all significantly higher in IDP camps. In the recent survey you also point to the declining aid services being offered as a factor in the increasing crime rate. Could you explain this relationship further?

AK: Over the past two decades, the emphasis on foreign aid disbursement in Haiti has been to divert aid funds to NGOs or other non-state partners rather than funding the Haitian government directly. This means that everything from loans to straight up foreign aid packages are often disseminated in a way that doesn’t directly give the money to the Haitian government. There are reasons for this policy, which are beyond the scope of what we have time to cover today, but suffice it to say that by giving foreign aid through NGOs, the donor governments have created a situation in which the Haitian people are relying on NGOs and international organizations like MINUSTAH to provide basic social and municipal services. So when the funding for post-earthquake relief within these organizations started to get used up and when, in the last quarter of 2011, organizations started to reduce or eliminate services in urban areas, it had a profound impact on the people who need the services the most.

There needs to be a delicate balance of both empowerment and accountability so that the Haitian government is able to develop the capacity to deliver services to its people and to assure that the services actually get delivered.  I don’t think anyone believes that Haiti will be in a good place if NGOs permanently replace the Haitian government in providing essential state services to the Haitian people.

We know that globally crime is tied to certain social and economic conditions; when quality of life improves and economic and political uncertainty decrease, crime also decreases. Simply increasing the number of police on the street isn’t going to solve Haiti’s crime problem, we need to also focus efforts on improving the conditions in society that create the climate where crime is a viable option.  MINUSTAH needs to invest in what is known to reduce crime, such as creating economic opportunity, promoting education, building infrastructure, improving municipal capacity, and the like.

HRRW: Both you and Mario Andersol, head of the HNP, cite political instability as a leading factor in the rising violence. Could you explain this relationship further and how does the previous election, which saw record low turnout, the exclusion of the largest political party and unprecedented international interference, play into this?

AK: We have a difficult situation in Haiti right now. [Fanmi] Lavalas, which some international actors had hoped would slowly fade away, continues to be an influential and popular political party, particularly amongst the poor majority. I’m not sure what people thought the outcome would be when Lavalas was excluded from the ballot. And the current administration is struggling in other ways as well; for instance the prime minister recently resigned after only four months in office. This is a time of political instability and when things are unstable people lose faith in state institutions. The way to rebuild this trust in the state is for those who lead the state to demonstrate significant progress towards a social contract that is inclusive of poor and historically marginalized populations.   Trust is rebuilt in a number of ways including fighting the culture of impunity by holding people – regardless of their power or wealth—responsible when they commit crimes, by giving low income neighborhoods access to municipal services like trash collection, and by directly and specifically acknowledging the need for improvement.

HRRW: Since at least the 2004 coup, HNP reform has been a stated priority of the U.S. government and other international donors, yet widespread problems with police competence and accountability remain, coupled with a poorly functioning judiciary. What do you think is needed for the HNP to actually become effective and accountable?

AK: The HNP has improved immensely since 2007. The Haitian government needs to continue this forward movement by holding police officers responsible when they act unprofessionally or unethically, by keeping the police independent so they aren’t controlled or used by politicians, by upholding high standards of behavior and for recruitment.  In the past people have been integrated into the Haitian National Police despite histories that included violence, crime, human rights violations, and involvement in coups. The police should not be politicized in this way.  No one who has committed human rights violations or been involved in a coup or an illegal armed group should become a police officer. For Haiti this is a sensitive matter and there needs to be a clear line drawn, at least for the time being.

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