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.

As previously mentioned, a release from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) this week makes an important call for renewed efforts to combat cholera as infections rise with the rainy season. But further on, the release states that “[OCHA’s Director of Operations John] Ging also visited the Champs de Mars camp for internally displaced people (IDPs), where the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is supporting voluntary return of IDPs.”

But the movement of IDPs out of such camps is often not “voluntary.” This has been the case in Champs de Mars as in many other IDP camps. Stuart Neatby wrote in an article for Canada’s Embassy magazine last month:

Port-au-Prince’s Champ de Mars camp, the most visible of the hundreds of remaining camps of Haitians rendered homeless by the 2010 earthquake, saw its first set of forced evictions on April 4.

The tent camp in Haiti’s capital city fills the central plaza across the street from the collapsed National Palace, a key government building that used to house the office of Haiti’s president.

About 21 camp residents, including [Narcysse] Lud, woke up on March 29 to find their names on a notice warning that their makeshift shelters would be torn down. They were told they had three days to pick up all of their belongings and clear out of the camp.

The International Organization for Migration, which had maintained a census of camp residents, claimed that those to be evicted had not been within the camp during the last head count. As a result, the IOM said, the residents had no claim to stay in Champ de Mars, and the eviction was legal.

Days later, residents could only watch as local municipal workers dismantled and carted away the bits of tarp, plywood, and corrugated sheet metal that had served as their homes. Haitian National Police members, UN soldiers, and UN police officials oversaw the evictions.

Neatby notes further on that “Evicted residents interviewed had a variety of reasons for not being in the camp that night, ranging from hospital stays to visits to family.” (A response from the IOM’s Leonard Doyle is posted below the text of the article on Embassy’s website.)

Ging’s comments are especially troubling as the residents of at least two camps – Grace Village in Carrefour, and Camp Mormon in Delmas – are currently under threat of forced eviction. Amnesty International, which describes forced evictions in its 2011 human rights report on Haiti, issued an alert on May 21 that states:

Residents of Camp Mormon in the municipality of Delmas in Port-au-Prince are at imminent risk of forced eviction. Camp residents told Amnesty International delegates that at 3 am on 14 May, approximately 20 men, including local municipal officials, entered the camp and warned them that they would be forcibly evicted in 15 days time if they did not vacate the land. Some of the men were armed and they opened fire on a group of camp residents, four of whom sustained injuries whilst trying to run for cover. Prior to this incident, residents of Camp Mormon have received numerous threats of eviction and of violence if they did not comply. On 8 February, local municipal officials accompanied by armed men threatened to burn down the camp and shoot residents if they did not leave. Camp residents have filed complaints at the Prosecutor’s Office in relation to both these incidents.

No court order for the eviction or any other legal notice has ever been presented and there has been no adequate consultation with the families or any offer of provision of alternative housing. The residents of Camp Mormon live in improvised shelters, and the camp has poor sanitary conditions and no running water. The camp’s population includes a number of women who are pregnant or have recently given birth, and the majority of families are headed by women.

The alert also states that residents of neighboring Camp Mozayik were already forcibly evicted this month:

At around 4pm on 4 May, all 126 families who lived in neighbouring Camp Mozayik were forcibly evicted by local municipal authorities, without any due process and without being offered any alternative accommodation. Amnesty International is seriously concerned that the same fate awaits the families of Camp Mormon.

(Camp Mozayik was located across the street from a development site where the Arcotec company is planning a 10-story commercial property with an underground parking garage — the “Genesis Project”.)

This alert came only days after Amnesty International, IJDH, BAI, and others raised the alarm about the imminent threat to residents of Camp Grace. Amnesty’s alert May 15 (PDF) read:

Residents at Grace Village camp, in the Carrefour area of Metropolitan Port-au-Prince are at imminent risk of forced eviction. At least 30 families have already been forcibly evicted, after their shelters and belongings were destroyed during the night of 28 April. They were forced to leave their properties without any due process and without being offered any alternative accommodation.

On 14 May, when Amnesty International delegates visited the camp, at least 40 more shelters had been marked for demolition. There is no court order to legalise the imminent eviction and the affected families have not been consulted or offered alternative housing.

Since the camp was established after the 2010 earthquake, a man claiming to be the landowner has opposed the distribution of humanitarian assistance to inhabitants. In the camp there is a total lack of drinking water, sanitation services and waste disposal. As a result, two children are currently undergoing treatment for cholera in hospital.

The landowner strictly restricts the freedom of movement of the camp inhabitants by imposing a night-time curfew and forcing all adult residents to carry an entry permit issued by him. Camp residents told Amnesty International that security guards regularly threaten and beat residents, and sexually harass women and that police officers from Carrefour district support the landowner in terrorising Grace Village residents. The judicial authorities have been informed about the acts of violence but until now they have failed to ensure the protection of the camp inhabitants.

Ging’s release adds: “Out of the 1.5 million people displaced by the 2010 earthquake, nearly 1.1 million Haitians have now returned home.”

But the idea that IDPs often have suitable homes to which they can return is a frequent myth, one that is harmful to IDPs but convenient for the Haitian government and other authorities, and the IOM – all of whom want the camps cleared.

As anthropologist Mark Schuller, film maker Michele Mitchell, and many other researchers, NGOs and agencies have shown, conditions in the great majority of camps are deplorable. Far from remaining in camps in order to take advantage of services, many camp residents do not receive any services at all. OCHA reported in February that only 3 percent of households in IDP camps were receiving water from NGOs, with almost half of the water tested being “of poor quality”. After conducting surveys, Schuller found that “30 percent of the camps didn’t have a toilet.” Of those that did, they might have “5,000 people with six toilets between them,” as Michele Mitchell says she discovered in making her film.

IDP rights advocate Mark Snyder suggests the lack of service provision is sometimes a deliberate policy choice. He sums up IOM and their partners’ position as “we don’t want to make it too comfortable for the people in the camps or they will never leave.” NGO’s such as CARE have cited (PDF) “minimiz[ing] the incentive to remain in the camps” in scaling back services. In this way IOM, Haitian authorities, NGOs, UN agencies, and other members of the Shelter Cluster blur the line between what is “voluntary” and what is “coerced.” “Try living in a tent for a day,” IOM spokesperson Leonard Doyle is quoted as saying in Neatby’s article. “Who wouldn’t want to move out of there in a hurry?”

Perhaps it has been frustrating for the IOM and others seeking to clear the camps that so many IDPs continue to stay in the camps even when conditions are so wretched, but it is probably the IDPs who are more unhappy.

As previously mentioned, a release from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) this week makes an important call for renewed efforts to combat cholera as infections rise with the rainy season. But further on, the release states that “[OCHA’s Director of Operations John] Ging also visited the Champs de Mars camp for internally displaced people (IDPs), where the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is supporting voluntary return of IDPs.”

But the movement of IDPs out of such camps is often not “voluntary.” This has been the case in Champs de Mars as in many other IDP camps. Stuart Neatby wrote in an article for Canada’s Embassy magazine last month:

Port-au-Prince’s Champ de Mars camp, the most visible of the hundreds of remaining camps of Haitians rendered homeless by the 2010 earthquake, saw its first set of forced evictions on April 4.

The tent camp in Haiti’s capital city fills the central plaza across the street from the collapsed National Palace, a key government building that used to house the office of Haiti’s president.

About 21 camp residents, including [Narcysse] Lud, woke up on March 29 to find their names on a notice warning that their makeshift shelters would be torn down. They were told they had three days to pick up all of their belongings and clear out of the camp.

The International Organization for Migration, which had maintained a census of camp residents, claimed that those to be evicted had not been within the camp during the last head count. As a result, the IOM said, the residents had no claim to stay in Champ de Mars, and the eviction was legal.

Days later, residents could only watch as local municipal workers dismantled and carted away the bits of tarp, plywood, and corrugated sheet metal that had served as their homes. Haitian National Police members, UN soldiers, and UN police officials oversaw the evictions.

Neatby notes further on that “Evicted residents interviewed had a variety of reasons for not being in the camp that night, ranging from hospital stays to visits to family.” (A response from the IOM’s Leonard Doyle is posted below the text of the article on Embassy’s website.)

Ging’s comments are especially troubling as the residents of at least two camps – Grace Village in Carrefour, and Camp Mormon in Delmas – are currently under threat of forced eviction. Amnesty International, which describes forced evictions in its 2011 human rights report on Haiti, issued an alert on May 21 that states:

Residents of Camp Mormon in the municipality of Delmas in Port-au-Prince are at imminent risk of forced eviction. Camp residents told Amnesty International delegates that at 3 am on 14 May, approximately 20 men, including local municipal officials, entered the camp and warned them that they would be forcibly evicted in 15 days time if they did not vacate the land. Some of the men were armed and they opened fire on a group of camp residents, four of whom sustained injuries whilst trying to run for cover. Prior to this incident, residents of Camp Mormon have received numerous threats of eviction and of violence if they did not comply. On 8 February, local municipal officials accompanied by armed men threatened to burn down the camp and shoot residents if they did not leave. Camp residents have filed complaints at the Prosecutor’s Office in relation to both these incidents.

No court order for the eviction or any other legal notice has ever been presented and there has been no adequate consultation with the families or any offer of provision of alternative housing. The residents of Camp Mormon live in improvised shelters, and the camp has poor sanitary conditions and no running water. The camp’s population includes a number of women who are pregnant or have recently given birth, and the majority of families are headed by women.

The alert also states that residents of neighboring Camp Mozayik were already forcibly evicted this month:

At around 4pm on 4 May, all 126 families who lived in neighbouring Camp Mozayik were forcibly evicted by local municipal authorities, without any due process and without being offered any alternative accommodation. Amnesty International is seriously concerned that the same fate awaits the families of Camp Mormon.

(Camp Mozayik was located across the street from a development site where the Arcotec company is planning a 10-story commercial property with an underground parking garage — the “Genesis Project”.)

This alert came only days after Amnesty International, IJDH, BAI, and others raised the alarm about the imminent threat to residents of Camp Grace. Amnesty’s alert May 15 (PDF) read:

Residents at Grace Village camp, in the Carrefour area of Metropolitan Port-au-Prince are at imminent risk of forced eviction. At least 30 families have already been forcibly evicted, after their shelters and belongings were destroyed during the night of 28 April. They were forced to leave their properties without any due process and without being offered any alternative accommodation.

On 14 May, when Amnesty International delegates visited the camp, at least 40 more shelters had been marked for demolition. There is no court order to legalise the imminent eviction and the affected families have not been consulted or offered alternative housing.

Since the camp was established after the 2010 earthquake, a man claiming to be the landowner has opposed the distribution of humanitarian assistance to inhabitants. In the camp there is a total lack of drinking water, sanitation services and waste disposal. As a result, two children are currently undergoing treatment for cholera in hospital.

The landowner strictly restricts the freedom of movement of the camp inhabitants by imposing a night-time curfew and forcing all adult residents to carry an entry permit issued by him. Camp residents told Amnesty International that security guards regularly threaten and beat residents, and sexually harass women and that police officers from Carrefour district support the landowner in terrorising Grace Village residents. The judicial authorities have been informed about the acts of violence but until now they have failed to ensure the protection of the camp inhabitants.

Ging’s release adds: “Out of the 1.5 million people displaced by the 2010 earthquake, nearly 1.1 million Haitians have now returned home.”

But the idea that IDPs often have suitable homes to which they can return is a frequent myth, one that is harmful to IDPs but convenient for the Haitian government and other authorities, and the IOM – all of whom want the camps cleared.

As anthropologist Mark Schuller, film maker Michele Mitchell, and many other researchers, NGOs and agencies have shown, conditions in the great majority of camps are deplorable. Far from remaining in camps in order to take advantage of services, many camp residents do not receive any services at all. OCHA reported in February that only 3 percent of households in IDP camps were receiving water from NGOs, with almost half of the water tested being “of poor quality”. After conducting surveys, Schuller found that “30 percent of the camps didn’t have a toilet.” Of those that did, they might have “5,000 people with six toilets between them,” as Michele Mitchell says she discovered in making her film.

IDP rights advocate Mark Snyder suggests the lack of service provision is sometimes a deliberate policy choice. He sums up IOM and their partners’ position as “we don’t want to make it too comfortable for the people in the camps or they will never leave.” NGO’s such as CARE have cited (PDF) “minimiz[ing] the incentive to remain in the camps” in scaling back services. In this way IOM, Haitian authorities, NGOs, UN agencies, and other members of the Shelter Cluster blur the line between what is “voluntary” and what is “coerced.” “Try living in a tent for a day,” IOM spokesperson Leonard Doyle is quoted as saying in Neatby’s article. “Who wouldn’t want to move out of there in a hurry?”

Perhaps it has been frustrating for the IOM and others seeking to clear the camps that so many IDPs continue to stay in the camps even when conditions are so wretched, but it is probably the IDPs who are more unhappy.

While most major U.S. media attention focuses elsewhere, NGO’s and UN agencies are sounding alarm bells about rising rates of cholera infection. A release today from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) states

Grave concerns were expressed by aid workers that this year’s epidemic, which has already affected 13,000 people, 132 of whom have died, may escalate. Detection and response capacity are significantly reduced this year due to cuts in aid budgets. The OCHA Director stressed the urgency for new and more sustainable approaches by aid agencies and local authorities, and more commitment by donors. “It is unacceptable that lives are being  lost to cholera because last year’s capacity building in the areas of prevention and response were lost due to a lack of funding,” [OCHA’s Director of Operations John] Ging said.

An Inter Press Service article last week, titled “Funding Dries Up Even as Rains Worsen Cholera Deaths” begins

As predicted, the beginning of the rainy season in Haiti brought exponential increases in the numbers of people sickened and killed by cholera.

While the number of new cases in December was about 300 per day nationwide, this week one centre in the capital alone reported receiving 95 cases per day. And the numbers are expected to increase.

“Between the first week of April and the last week of April, the number of new patients increased by three-fold” in the capital, Gaëtan Drossart, head of mission for Doctors Without Borders or Medecins san frontières (MSF), told IPS on May 16. “In April alone, we saw over 1,600 patients at the four cholera centres MSF supports in Port-au- Prince.”

The cholera death toll is up to 7,155, with 543,042 infections over 586 days (and no UN apology so far), according to a new “cholera counter” created by advocacy group Just Foreign Policy.

Inter Press’ Jane Regan also writes that on May 1, OCHA “put the national fatality rate at above three percent, the highest since the beginning of the outbreak. And the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) announced that between 200,000 and 250,000 more people will likely contract the disease during the course of 2012” – a figure also cited in a recent New York Times editorial that said “the U.N. and the international community have a responsibility to meet the crisis head-on,” to the tune of “$800 million to $1.1 billion” to build water and sanitation infrastructure (thus echoing the demands of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, Rep. John Conyers – who is currently circulating a letter in Congress, and so many others).

Regan goes on to note a key factor that this blog, a feature New York Times article, and the Times editorial have all warned about: the scaling back of cholera treatment and prevention, just as incidences rise with the rainy season – which is what happened last year.

Despite the fact that all actors knew this year’s rainy season would bring increased cases, the number of CTCs has dropped precipitously since the outbreak. In January 2011, there were 101 centres nationwide. Today there are only 30.

The number of actors has also dropped.

MSF is one of the handful of large non-governmental organisations (NGOs) still involved in the fight against cholera. The French organisation has fielded about one-third of all cases since the outbreak began, according to their figures.

Many of the NGOs who first heeded the call when the disease struck are today long gone.

Regan reports that the few NGO’s that are left – such as Partners in Health and MSF – work overtime to fill in the gaps.

At

CTCs run by the government, staff and community outreach workers have not been paid in months. For example, at the only CTC for Gonaives, one of Haiti’s largest cities, 12 of 15 employees haven’t been paid in for the past four months.

The budget for Haiti’s ministry of health is very small compared with its neighbours. In 2009, the World Health Organization determined that total spending on health in Haiti per capita was 71 dollars. For the Dominican Republic, the figure was 495 dollars. For Jamaica it is 383, and for Guatemala, 337 dollars.

As the Times editorial notes, the situation is even more dire, as there is a new danger this year:

It gets worse: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report this month that cholera in Haiti was evolving into two strains, suggesting the disease would become much harder to uproot and that people who had already gotten sick and recovered would be vulnerable again.

The CDC report states

Thus, if the Inaba strain becomes established in Haiti, persons who previously were infected with the Ogawa serotype of V. cholerae might be relatively more susceptible to reinfection with the Inaba serotype than with the Ogawa serotype because there tends to be stronger serotype-specific protective immunity.

But so far, even this new danger doesn’t seem to be enough to make fighting cholera in Haiti a cause célèbre. Maybe a viral “Kolera 2012” campaign would do the trick?

While most major U.S. media attention focuses elsewhere, NGO’s and UN agencies are sounding alarm bells about rising rates of cholera infection. A release today from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) states

Grave concerns were expressed by aid workers that this year’s epidemic, which has already affected 13,000 people, 132 of whom have died, may escalate. Detection and response capacity are significantly reduced this year due to cuts in aid budgets. The OCHA Director stressed the urgency for new and more sustainable approaches by aid agencies and local authorities, and more commitment by donors. “It is unacceptable that lives are being  lost to cholera because last year’s capacity building in the areas of prevention and response were lost due to a lack of funding,” [OCHA’s Director of Operations John] Ging said.

An Inter Press Service article last week, titled “Funding Dries Up Even as Rains Worsen Cholera Deaths” begins

As predicted, the beginning of the rainy season in Haiti brought exponential increases in the numbers of people sickened and killed by cholera.

While the number of new cases in December was about 300 per day nationwide, this week one centre in the capital alone reported receiving 95 cases per day. And the numbers are expected to increase.

“Between the first week of April and the last week of April, the number of new patients increased by three-fold” in the capital, Gaëtan Drossart, head of mission for Doctors Without Borders or Medecins san frontières (MSF), told IPS on May 16. “In April alone, we saw over 1,600 patients at the four cholera centres MSF supports in Port-au- Prince.”

The cholera death toll is up to 7,155, with 543,042 infections over 586 days (and no UN apology so far), according to a new “cholera counter” created by advocacy group Just Foreign Policy.

Inter Press’ Jane Regan also writes that on May 1, OCHA “put the national fatality rate at above three percent, the highest since the beginning of the outbreak. And the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) announced that between 200,000 and 250,000 more people will likely contract the disease during the course of 2012” – a figure also cited in a recent New York Times editorial that said “the U.N. and the international community have a responsibility to meet the crisis head-on,” to the tune of “$800 million to $1.1 billion” to build water and sanitation infrastructure (thus echoing the demands of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, Rep. John Conyers – who is currently circulating a letter in Congress, and so many others).

Regan goes on to note a key factor that this blog, a feature New York Times article, and the Times editorial have all warned about: the scaling back of cholera treatment and prevention, just as incidences rise with the rainy season – which is what happened last year.

Despite the fact that all actors knew this year’s rainy season would bring increased cases, the number of CTCs has dropped precipitously since the outbreak. In January 2011, there were 101 centres nationwide. Today there are only 30.

The number of actors has also dropped.

MSF is one of the handful of large non-governmental organisations (NGOs) still involved in the fight against cholera. The French organisation has fielded about one-third of all cases since the outbreak began, according to their figures.

Many of the NGOs who first heeded the call when the disease struck are today long gone.

Regan reports that the few NGO’s that are left – such as Partners in Health and MSF – work overtime to fill in the gaps.

At

CTCs run by the government, staff and community outreach workers have not been paid in months. For example, at the only CTC for Gonaives, one of Haiti’s largest cities, 12 of 15 employees haven’t been paid in for the past four months.

The budget for Haiti’s ministry of health is very small compared with its neighbours. In 2009, the World Health Organization determined that total spending on health in Haiti per capita was 71 dollars. For the Dominican Republic, the figure was 495 dollars. For Jamaica it is 383, and for Guatemala, 337 dollars.

As the Times editorial notes, the situation is even more dire, as there is a new danger this year:

It gets worse: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report this month that cholera in Haiti was evolving into two strains, suggesting the disease would become much harder to uproot and that people who had already gotten sick and recovered would be vulnerable again.

The CDC report states

Thus, if the Inaba strain becomes established in Haiti, persons who previously were infected with the Ogawa serotype of V. cholerae might be relatively more susceptible to reinfection with the Inaba serotype than with the Ogawa serotype because there tends to be stronger serotype-specific protective immunity.

But so far, even this new danger doesn’t seem to be enough to make fighting cholera in Haiti a cause célèbre. Maybe a viral “Kolera 2012” campaign would do the trick?

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) warned on Wednesday that not enough has been done to prepare for the rainy season and the corresponding surge in cholera that is expected. The international humanitarian organization stated:

While Haiti’s Ministry of Health and Populations claims to be in control of the situation, health facilities in many regions of the country remain incapable of responding to the seasonal fluctuations of the cholera epidemic. The surveillance system, which is supposed to monitor the situation and raise the alarm, is still dysfunctional, MSF said. The number of people treated by MSF alone in the capital, Port-au-Prince, has quadrupled in less than a month, reaching 1,600 cases in April.

Data from the Ministry of Health (MSPP) backs up this increase noted by MSF. While the average daily case load reported by the MSPP was around 50 throughout March and early April, in the last two weeks of reporting (April 10-23) the average number of daily cases has increased to over 150. MSPP reports that 25 people have died due to cholera through in the first 23 days of April. While these numbers are still lower than last year, they point to an increasing caseload as the rainy season begins. Last year, just as cases were spiking, many NGOs were winding down their operations as donors pulled funding. MSF notes that the same phenomenon may be occurring this year as well:

“Too little has been done in terms of prevention to think that cholera would not surge again in 2012,” said Gaëtan Drossart, MSF head of mission in Haiti. “It is concerning that the health authorities are not better prepared and that they cling to reassuring messages that bear no resemblance to reality. There are many meetings going on between the government, the United Nations and their humanitarian partners, but there are few concrete solutions,” he said.

An MSF study in the Artibonite region, where approximately 20 percent of cholera cases have been reported, has revealed a clear reduction of cholera prevention measures since 2011. More than half of the organizations working in the region last year are now gone. Additionally, health centers are short of drugs and some staff have not been paid since January.

“Rain is just one of the risk factors for contamination. But as soon as the rains end, cholera subsides, and funding stops until the next rainy season, instead of money being channeled towards cholera prevention activities. As a consequence, people are still highly vulnerable when cholera comes back,” said Maya Allan, MSF epidemiologist.

MSF concludes, “Only major improvements of Haiti’s water and sanitation systems will provide durable solutions to the epidemic, but that will take time.” This point has been echoed by Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), UNICEF and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC).  It was also recently made by the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), which together with Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), filed a legal complaint against the UN for introducing cholera. The case argues for the UN to pay damages as well as invest $1 billion to help build adequate water and sanitation infrastructure in Haiti. Yesterday the groups put out a press release noting recent comments from the UN’s Nigel Fisher:

Rights groups in Haiti and the United States commend last week’s acknowledgment by United Nations official Nigel Fisher that the current efforts to alleviate cholera in Haiti are “patchwork, band-aid work on a fundamental problem.”  Fisher, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Haiti, acknowledged in a May 3rd interview with the UN News Centre that “What we are doing in the short-term … is necessary, but we all agree that the long-term solution is investment in improved drinking water sources and in waste management.”

“Mr. Fisher’s statement is a strong step in the right direction towards a sustainable response to the UN cholera epidemic,” said Brian Concannon Jr., Director of the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) and an attorney on a case filed by 5,000 cholera victims against the UN last November.  He added, “Now the UN needs to take responsibility for its harmful actions and actually start installing the comprehensive water and sanitation infrastructure that is the only long-term solution to the cholera epidemic.”

BAI Director, Mario Joseph pointed out that the UN spends significant resources on MINUSTAH, the 10,000 or so troops in Haiti ostensible under a UN “peace keeping” mission. Joseph states:

“If the UN shortened the peacekeeping mission’s mandate by just one year, that would save $800 million.  Fewer ‘boots on the ground’ and more wells in the ground would save tens of thousands of lives every decade.  That is peace keeping.”

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) warned on Wednesday that not enough has been done to prepare for the rainy season and the corresponding surge in cholera that is expected. The international humanitarian organization stated:

While Haiti’s Ministry of Health and Populations claims to be in control of the situation, health facilities in many regions of the country remain incapable of responding to the seasonal fluctuations of the cholera epidemic. The surveillance system, which is supposed to monitor the situation and raise the alarm, is still dysfunctional, MSF said. The number of people treated by MSF alone in the capital, Port-au-Prince, has quadrupled in less than a month, reaching 1,600 cases in April.

Data from the Ministry of Health (MSPP) backs up this increase noted by MSF. While the average daily case load reported by the MSPP was around 50 throughout March and early April, in the last two weeks of reporting (April 10-23) the average number of daily cases has increased to over 150. MSPP reports that 25 people have died due to cholera through in the first 23 days of April. While these numbers are still lower than last year, they point to an increasing caseload as the rainy season begins. Last year, just as cases were spiking, many NGOs were winding down their operations as donors pulled funding. MSF notes that the same phenomenon may be occurring this year as well:

“Too little has been done in terms of prevention to think that cholera would not surge again in 2012,” said Gaëtan Drossart, MSF head of mission in Haiti. “It is concerning that the health authorities are not better prepared and that they cling to reassuring messages that bear no resemblance to reality. There are many meetings going on between the government, the United Nations and their humanitarian partners, but there are few concrete solutions,” he said.

An MSF study in the Artibonite region, where approximately 20 percent of cholera cases have been reported, has revealed a clear reduction of cholera prevention measures since 2011. More than half of the organizations working in the region last year are now gone. Additionally, health centers are short of drugs and some staff have not been paid since January.

“Rain is just one of the risk factors for contamination. But as soon as the rains end, cholera subsides, and funding stops until the next rainy season, instead of money being channeled towards cholera prevention activities. As a consequence, people are still highly vulnerable when cholera comes back,” said Maya Allan, MSF epidemiologist.

MSF concludes, “Only major improvements of Haiti’s water and sanitation systems will provide durable solutions to the epidemic, but that will take time.” This point has been echoed by Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), UNICEF and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC).  It was also recently made by the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), which together with Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), filed a legal complaint against the UN for introducing cholera. The case argues for the UN to pay damages as well as invest $1 billion to help build adequate water and sanitation infrastructure in Haiti. Yesterday the groups put out a press release noting recent comments from the UN’s Nigel Fisher:

Rights groups in Haiti and the United States commend last week’s acknowledgment by United Nations official Nigel Fisher that the current efforts to alleviate cholera in Haiti are “patchwork, band-aid work on a fundamental problem.”  Fisher, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Haiti, acknowledged in a May 3rd interview with the UN News Centre that “What we are doing in the short-term … is necessary, but we all agree that the long-term solution is investment in improved drinking water sources and in waste management.”

“Mr. Fisher’s statement is a strong step in the right direction towards a sustainable response to the UN cholera epidemic,” said Brian Concannon Jr., Director of the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) and an attorney on a case filed by 5,000 cholera victims against the UN last November.  He added, “Now the UN needs to take responsibility for its harmful actions and actually start installing the comprehensive water and sanitation infrastructure that is the only long-term solution to the cholera epidemic.”

BAI Director, Mario Joseph pointed out that the UN spends significant resources on MINUSTAH, the 10,000 or so troops in Haiti ostensible under a UN “peace keeping” mission. Joseph states:

“If the UN shortened the peacekeeping mission’s mandate by just one year, that would save $800 million.  Fewer ‘boots on the ground’ and more wells in the ground would save tens of thousands of lives every decade.  That is peace keeping.”

An article by Tate Watkins in The American Interest attempts to explain some of the reasons why, as the title puts it, Haiti’s rebuilding “is…taking so long?”

Among the factors Watkins details are the often quick staff turn-overs at NGO’s and agencies, the differing priorities of foreign NGO’s and agencies versus those of Haitian organizations and the Haitian government, the disproportionately tiny number of contracts going to Haitian contractors, and bureaucratic hurdles. Watkins also focuses on what he sees as another key factor, and one that is less-often mentioned in the media (and which indeed may be much less-often noticed by foreign journalists): foreign aid workers and contractors’ disconnect from the local people where they work.

Many foreign organizations prohibit staff from traveling through certain areas of Port-au-Prince, or they’re forbidden to visit without an SUV with locked doors and windows, a local driver, and a security detail. Private security companies and insurance policies often dictate such travel guidelines. Offices and housing for foreign NGOs and aid agencies working in Haiti are concentrated in Pétion-Ville, an affluent section of the capital home to classy hotels and vibrant restaurants. But the concentration of expats also presents a cluster of targets for crime; the relatively upscale area can be just as dangerous as many other parts of the city. In March 2010, for example, two Swiss employees of the NGO Doctors Without Borders were kidnapped in Pétion-Ville after a night on the town and held for one week. The organization would not disclose whether it paid a ransom for their release.

[Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods co-founder Sasha] Kramer says many of the security measures that foreign organizations take actually increase risks for aid workers, because the restrictions hinder international staff’s ability to forge relationships with locals and build community ties—further hampering their ability to work effectively and efficiently.

She describes it from locals’ point of view: “You come into my neighborhood and you’re already afraid of me? Well, that’s offensive. So I think it engenders a feeling immediately of sort of defensiveness in communities, understandably.” And aid projects suffer as well. She says that she’s sensed tremendous frustration among international employees working with large NGOs who feel disconnected from the people they’re here trying to help.

Community leaders in Cite Soleil, which has long held the unenviable distinction of being perhaps Haiti’s largest and “poorest” (often labeled “worst”) slum, will describe the profound impact this disconnect has on the community’s citizens. In Cite Soleil’s case, the neighborhood is treated as a pariah not just by foreign aid workers, not just by the MINUSTAH troops who patrol its streets and who have mounted numerous deadly raids on its streets, and not just by the elites, who seem to fear (as even Wikileaked documents attest) its citizens more than any others – but by many working class Haitians themselves.

Of course, this dynamic is nothing new. It’s been part of the mindset and standard operating procedure of various NGO’s and foreign agencies for a long time, as described in accounts such as anthropologist Timothy Schwartz’s book Travesty in Haiti, among others. And it tragically emerged as a major reason for wasted opportunities and lives lost in the initial days and weeks after the 2010 earthquake, heightened by exaggerated media reports of “looting” and potential chaos. The U.S. government, which secured a leading role for itself in the emergency relief effort, prioritized a military response over a non-military one, and generally treated the Haitian population as objects of fear to whom aid should be delivered, rather than active participants who could perhaps best act in the rescue and relief operations in their own communities.

This dynamic of fear and distrust, which estranges aid workers from the local population, may also help to explain the incredible disconnect that some in the NGO community seem to exhibit in their behavior, as documented by Michele Mitchell in her film “Haiti: Where Did the Money Go?” Mitchell records NGO staff dining at a posh restaurant where steak costs $34 and wine sells for $72 a bottle, across the street from an IDP camp where the very people these aid workers are supposed to serve struggle for daily survival. This estrangement is certainly deepened by another factor that Tate describes:

Most large NGOs don’t emphasize the need for staff to learn Haitian Creole; proficiency in spoken and written French is a more likely job skill requirement. Some organizations don’t bother with training staff in the local language at all. An estimated 10-20 percent of Haitians speak French. It is not the language of the people. In months following the earthquake, various media outlets reported that Haitians working for aid organizations were seldom granted access to the U.N. base where meetings about relief strategies were held. Even when Haitians were granted access, the meetings were held in only English and French.

“You find people who’ve been here a year and can’t say a single word of Creole,” says Kramer. “That, I think, is shocking, and a real shame.”

Read the rest here.

An article by Tate Watkins in The American Interest attempts to explain some of the reasons why, as the title puts it, Haiti’s rebuilding “is…taking so long?”

Among the factors Watkins details are the often quick staff turn-overs at NGO’s and agencies, the differing priorities of foreign NGO’s and agencies versus those of Haitian organizations and the Haitian government, the disproportionately tiny number of contracts going to Haitian contractors, and bureaucratic hurdles. Watkins also focuses on what he sees as another key factor, and one that is less-often mentioned in the media (and which indeed may be much less-often noticed by foreign journalists): foreign aid workers and contractors’ disconnect from the local people where they work.

Many foreign organizations prohibit staff from traveling through certain areas of Port-au-Prince, or they’re forbidden to visit without an SUV with locked doors and windows, a local driver, and a security detail. Private security companies and insurance policies often dictate such travel guidelines. Offices and housing for foreign NGOs and aid agencies working in Haiti are concentrated in Pétion-Ville, an affluent section of the capital home to classy hotels and vibrant restaurants. But the concentration of expats also presents a cluster of targets for crime; the relatively upscale area can be just as dangerous as many other parts of the city. In March 2010, for example, two Swiss employees of the NGO Doctors Without Borders were kidnapped in Pétion-Ville after a night on the town and held for one week. The organization would not disclose whether it paid a ransom for their release.

[Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods co-founder Sasha] Kramer says many of the security measures that foreign organizations take actually increase risks for aid workers, because the restrictions hinder international staff’s ability to forge relationships with locals and build community ties—further hampering their ability to work effectively and efficiently.

She describes it from locals’ point of view: “You come into my neighborhood and you’re already afraid of me? Well, that’s offensive. So I think it engenders a feeling immediately of sort of defensiveness in communities, understandably.” And aid projects suffer as well. She says that she’s sensed tremendous frustration among international employees working with large NGOs who feel disconnected from the people they’re here trying to help.

Community leaders in Cite Soleil, which has long held the unenviable distinction of being perhaps Haiti’s largest and “poorest” (often labeled “worst”) slum, will describe the profound impact this disconnect has on the community’s citizens. In Cite Soleil’s case, the neighborhood is treated as a pariah not just by foreign aid workers, not just by the MINUSTAH troops who patrol its streets and who have mounted numerous deadly raids on its streets, and not just by the elites, who seem to fear (as even Wikileaked documents attest) its citizens more than any others – but by many working class Haitians themselves.

Of course, this dynamic is nothing new. It’s been part of the mindset and standard operating procedure of various NGO’s and foreign agencies for a long time, as described in accounts such as anthropologist Timothy Schwartz’s book Travesty in Haiti, among others. And it tragically emerged as a major reason for wasted opportunities and lives lost in the initial days and weeks after the 2010 earthquake, heightened by exaggerated media reports of “looting” and potential chaos. The U.S. government, which secured a leading role for itself in the emergency relief effort, prioritized a military response over a non-military one, and generally treated the Haitian population as objects of fear to whom aid should be delivered, rather than active participants who could perhaps best act in the rescue and relief operations in their own communities.

This dynamic of fear and distrust, which estranges aid workers from the local population, may also help to explain the incredible disconnect that some in the NGO community seem to exhibit in their behavior, as documented by Michele Mitchell in her film “Haiti: Where Did the Money Go?” Mitchell records NGO staff dining at a posh restaurant where steak costs $34 and wine sells for $72 a bottle, across the street from an IDP camp where the very people these aid workers are supposed to serve struggle for daily survival. This estrangement is certainly deepened by another factor that Tate describes:

Most large NGOs don’t emphasize the need for staff to learn Haitian Creole; proficiency in spoken and written French is a more likely job skill requirement. Some organizations don’t bother with training staff in the local language at all. An estimated 10-20 percent of Haitians speak French. It is not the language of the people. In months following the earthquake, various media outlets reported that Haitians working for aid organizations were seldom granted access to the U.N. base where meetings about relief strategies were held. Even when Haitians were granted access, the meetings were held in only English and French.

“You find people who’ve been here a year and can’t say a single word of Creole,” says Kramer. “That, I think, is shocking, and a real shame.”

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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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