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.

An important article this week from William Booth of the Washington Post took an in-depth look at the government and international community’s efforts to clear some of most high profile of the remaining 707 IDP camps in and around Port-au-Prince. The article focused on the Champ de Mars, home to some 17,000 people, one of the largest remaining IDP camps, and also the most visible – situated just a block from the presidential palace downtown. In a program coordinated by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), families in the camp will be given $500 rental subsidies for one year. Booth continues:

“We’re not talking about a house. We’re talking about renting a room, space on the floor, with a roof, access to water, a communal kitchen, maybe a toilet,” Fitzgerald said. As program coordinator for the International Organization for Migration, he is working alongside the Haitian government to clear the Champ de Mars camp, with a $20 million grant from the Canadian government.

Booth also notes that the program, even if successful, will only address a small part of the problem:

But the darker reality is this: The Haitian government is spending $30 million to empty six camps. There are 701 more. The Champ de Mars project will cost $20 million for 20,000 people. There would still be close to half a million displaced persons in camps. No country, no group of donor nations, no NGO is considering donating $500 million to Haiti to empty the camps.

The math does not work.

Anastasia Maloney, reporting for AlertNet, explains the details of how the beneficiaries are chosen, noting that each day long lines form to get on buses provided by the IOM to take camp residents into neighborhoods looking for accommodations:

The office can only handle around 50 cases a day, and tensions are simmering. Several people vent their frustrations at IOM officials.

“I’ve been coming here every day, every day, for weeks and I haven’t got anywhere,” said one man, clutching his paperwork.

Missed appointments with landlords can mean more weeks of waiting. Often camp residents find accommodation but it turns out to be unsafe, for example, houses built in areas at risk from flooding and landslides.

Indeed, given the fact that very few new houses have been constructed since the earthquake and only a few thousands of the hundreds of thousands of damaged homes have been repaired, it is unlikely that most of Haiti’s IDP’s will be able to find adequate shelter. Roger Annis, in a blog post on the subject, notes a troubling quote from a Haitian government representative in Le Nouvelliste:

Headlined, “Clearing the victims of the 2010 earthquake from Champ de Mars,” the article says the government’s aim is to return camp residents to their pre-earthquake living conditions, nothing more. It quotes Clément Bélizaire, representative of the Haitian government at the press conference, saying, “The government cannot look after these people over the long term. That is not its responsibility.”

As Gerardo Ducos of Amnesty International told Maloney:

“Two years after the earthquake there is still no policy in terms of housing. The vast majority of construction has been temporary shelters with a life span between two, maximum five years. There’s no plan, no strategy to make temporary shelters more permanent structures and provide people with access to basic services like water.”

Adding, “I don’t believe offering $500 to a family could be considered an adequate alternative solution to the housing crisis. What happens to the people when their rent money runs out in a year?”

Race to Zero

Annis points to a recent piece by Mark Snyder of International Action Ties, entitled “The Race to Zero: How Prioritizing Closure of IDP Camps Aids and Abets Illegal and Forcible Evictions of Haitians,” which as Annis writes “decries the emerging trend of a ‘race to zero survivor camps’ on the part of Haitian and international agencies anxious to claim ‘progress’ in closing camps, regardless of the humanitarian consequences for residents.”

The article by Snyder documents the complicity of the IOM, the very agency tasked with moving people out of the Champ de Mars, in the eviction of 43 families from the Barbancourt 17 site.

NGOs have also shifted services out of camps in an effort to, as CARE reports, “minimize the incentive to remain in the camps.” The reduction of the IDP population has been touted by the U.S. State Department and others as a sign of progress and success in Haiti, yet this “push” strategy has forced Haitians into even more precarious living conditions, as over a million Haitians are estimated to be living in damaged or destroyed buildings. Meanwhile, those that do remain in the camps face declining services.

A recent study by the Haitian water authority, DINEPA, revealed “47% of the water tests conducted in households are of poor quality, compared to 29% in early December,” and that “[o]nly 55 per cent of households in camps drink chlorinated water.” This probably results in part from DINEPA’s finding that “Only three per cent of households in camps are now receiving water provided by an NGO.”

Additionally, as Booth reports:

As of last month, there was no committed funding for emptying camp latrines, a risky gambit in a country facing a cholera epidemic. Almost all health services have been removed.

An important article this week from William Booth of the Washington Post took an in-depth look at the government and international community’s efforts to clear some of most high profile of the remaining 707 IDP camps in and around Port-au-Prince. The article focused on the Champ de Mars, home to some 17,000 people, one of the largest remaining IDP camps, and also the most visible – situated just a block from the presidential palace downtown. In a program coordinated by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), families in the camp will be given $500 rental subsidies for one year. Booth continues:

“We’re not talking about a house. We’re talking about renting a room, space on the floor, with a roof, access to water, a communal kitchen, maybe a toilet,” Fitzgerald said. As program coordinator for the International Organization for Migration, he is working alongside the Haitian government to clear the Champ de Mars camp, with a $20 million grant from the Canadian government.

Booth also notes that the program, even if successful, will only address a small part of the problem:

But the darker reality is this: The Haitian government is spending $30 million to empty six camps. There are 701 more. The Champ de Mars project will cost $20 million for 20,000 people. There would still be close to half a million displaced persons in camps. No country, no group of donor nations, no NGO is considering donating $500 million to Haiti to empty the camps.

The math does not work.

Anastasia Maloney, reporting for AlertNet, explains the details of how the beneficiaries are chosen, noting that each day long lines form to get on buses provided by the IOM to take camp residents into neighborhoods looking for accommodations:

The office can only handle around 50 cases a day, and tensions are simmering. Several people vent their frustrations at IOM officials.

“I’ve been coming here every day, every day, for weeks and I haven’t got anywhere,” said one man, clutching his paperwork.

Missed appointments with landlords can mean more weeks of waiting. Often camp residents find accommodation but it turns out to be unsafe, for example, houses built in areas at risk from flooding and landslides.

Indeed, given the fact that very few new houses have been constructed since the earthquake and only a few thousands of the hundreds of thousands of damaged homes have been repaired, it is unlikely that most of Haiti’s IDP’s will be able to find adequate shelter. Roger Annis, in a blog post on the subject, notes a troubling quote from a Haitian government representative in Le Nouvelliste:

Headlined, “Clearing the victims of the 2010 earthquake from Champ de Mars,” the article says the government’s aim is to return camp residents to their pre-earthquake living conditions, nothing more. It quotes Clément Bélizaire, representative of the Haitian government at the press conference, saying, “The government cannot look after these people over the long term. That is not its responsibility.”

As Gerardo Ducos of Amnesty International told Maloney:

“Two years after the earthquake there is still no policy in terms of housing. The vast majority of construction has been temporary shelters with a life span between two, maximum five years. There’s no plan, no strategy to make temporary shelters more permanent structures and provide people with access to basic services like water.”

Adding, “I don’t believe offering $500 to a family could be considered an adequate alternative solution to the housing crisis. What happens to the people when their rent money runs out in a year?”

Race to Zero

Annis points to a recent piece by Mark Snyder of International Action Ties, entitled “The Race to Zero: How Prioritizing Closure of IDP Camps Aids and Abets Illegal and Forcible Evictions of Haitians,” which as Annis writes “decries the emerging trend of a ‘race to zero survivor camps’ on the part of Haitian and international agencies anxious to claim ‘progress’ in closing camps, regardless of the humanitarian consequences for residents.”

The article by Snyder documents the complicity of the IOM, the very agency tasked with moving people out of the Champ de Mars, in the eviction of 43 families from the Barbancourt 17 site.

NGOs have also shifted services out of camps in an effort to, as CARE reports, “minimize the incentive to remain in the camps.” The reduction of the IDP population has been touted by the U.S. State Department and others as a sign of progress and success in Haiti, yet this “push” strategy has forced Haitians into even more precarious living conditions, as over a million Haitians are estimated to be living in damaged or destroyed buildings. Meanwhile, those that do remain in the camps face declining services.

A recent study by the Haitian water authority, DINEPA, revealed “47% of the water tests conducted in households are of poor quality, compared to 29% in early December,” and that “[o]nly 55 per cent of households in camps drink chlorinated water.” This probably results in part from DINEPA’s finding that “Only three per cent of households in camps are now receiving water provided by an NGO.”

Additionally, as Booth reports:

As of last month, there was no committed funding for emptying camp latrines, a risky gambit in a country facing a cholera epidemic. Almost all health services have been removed.

On February 13, a high-level delegation from the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) arrived in Haiti to review UN activities there, in particular the work carried out by the Stabilization Mission in Haiti, or MINUSTAH.   The UN Secretary General, the U.S. government and other international actors have consistently sought to paint the military mission in a positive light, praising, in the words of U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice, its “critical role in improving stability and governance in Haiti and in creating the conditions for security, reconstruction and development.” 

But this position has become increasingly untenable, as an increasing number of reports of alleged abuses by UN troops, including various incidents of rape and violent attacks against unarmed Haitians, have come to light.  UN soldiers are also widely considered to be responsible for introducing cholera to Haiti, an epidemic that has killed over 7000 people and infected over half a million, according to conservative estimates. 

A newly published survey on popular perceptions of MINUSTAH in Port-au-Prince confirms that MINUSTAH is viewed negatively by residents of the nation’s capital.  The survey team, under the leadership of CUNY anthropologist Dr. Mark Schuller, interviewed members of 800 households in various neighborhoods of the city, from both low and mixed income areas.  

Only 24.2% of respondents considered that MINUSTAH’s presence was “a good thing” and a majority indicated that, for the most part, they didn’t feel more secure when in close proximity to a U.N. soldier.  To the question “when should MINUSTAH leave the country?”, 72.2% of those who expressed an opinion thought that MINUSTAH should leave either now, within six months or within a year.  Only 5.9% stated that they thought MINUSTAH should not leave.

Another question in the survey asked whether respondents believed that MINUSTAH owes some form of restitution to cholera victims.  (As we’ve discussed before, numerous independent scientific studies have shown that MINUSTAH troops from Nepal are very likely responsible for introducing a devastating cholera epidemic to Haiti in October of 2010.) An overwhelming 74.5% of those surveyed considered that MINUSTAH should offer compensation, while only 4.9% opposed the idea (the rest of those surveyed said they didn’t know).  As Schuller noted in the report:

This survey question and the responses that it generated raise the larger issue of MINUSTAH’s accountability before the law and the people of Haiti. Haitians and human rights organizations have expressed their concern over the fact that MINUSTAH operates in Haiti with very little legal accountability for their criminal conduct.  Under a Status of Forces Agreement (or SOFA) that the Haitian government signed with the UN, MINUSTAH troops enjoy an almost blanket waiver of liability in Haitian courts for any crimes they commit in Haiti. Both military and civil members enjoy immunity for all acts performed in their official capacity.  MINUSTAH military members who commit a crime outside of “their official capacity” are only subject to their home country’s jurisdiction. Civilian members can only be prosecuted if the UN agrees. Haitians may not seek damages for civil liability in a Haitian court unless the UN certifies that the charges are unrelated to the member’s official duties.

The Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti and the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) are representing over 5,000 cholera victims seeking justice from the UN. In a press release Monday, the groups called on the Security Council delegation to “evaluate the cost of the UN’s failure to take responsibility for the epidemic of cholera introduced by troops from the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), in terms of Haitian lives lost and damage to the UN’s reputation.” Mario Joseph, BAI Managing Attorney said:

“Security Council members should talk to cholera victims — young children who lost their parents, families who spent all they had on medical treatment and burials, communities decimated by the disease. I am confident that if they see the cost of the UN cholera on the Haitian people, they will do what they need to do to provide the clean water infrastructure necessary to control the epidemic. If they do not, the killing will go on and on.”

When asked about allegations of abuses by MINUSTAH forces, Ambassador Susan Rice told the press that “The UN has been very clear that it takes all these allegations very seriously. We support them in that. They have to be thoroughly investigated and justice and accountability must be done. And we will be very plain and clear-eyed as we assess what the challenges are and where improvements are needed…”

Nevertheless, despite the mounting evidence of abuses, there have been no convictions of UN soldiers to date.  Last year, five Uruguayan soldiers caught on video apparently raping a teenage boy were repatriated and jailed – but then released in January. The Haitian senate has passed a resolution calling for UN immunity to be lifted in cases of abuse, yet that would still require the UN to change current policy. As the UN’s independent human rights expert, Michael Forst declared last week concerning MINUSTAH, “Immunity doesn’t mean impunity.” Despite Susan Rice’s fervent affirmations, it appears that for UN soldiers who continue to commit abuses, immunity does mean impunity.

On February 13, a high-level delegation from the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) arrived in Haiti to review UN activities there, in particular the work carried out by the Stabilization Mission in Haiti, or MINUSTAH.   The UN Secretary General, the U.S. government and other international actors have consistently sought to paint the military mission in a positive light, praising, in the words of U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice, its “critical role in improving stability and governance in Haiti and in creating the conditions for security, reconstruction and development.” 

But this position has become increasingly untenable, as an increasing number of reports of alleged abuses by UN troops, including various incidents of rape and violent attacks against unarmed Haitians, have come to light.  UN soldiers are also widely considered to be responsible for introducing cholera to Haiti, an epidemic that has killed over 7000 people and infected over half a million, according to conservative estimates. 

A newly published survey on popular perceptions of MINUSTAH in Port-au-Prince confirms that MINUSTAH is viewed negatively by residents of the nation’s capital.  The survey team, under the leadership of CUNY anthropologist Dr. Mark Schuller, interviewed members of 800 households in various neighborhoods of the city, from both low and mixed income areas.  

Only 24.2% of respondents considered that MINUSTAH’s presence was “a good thing” and a majority indicated that, for the most part, they didn’t feel more secure when in close proximity to a U.N. soldier.  To the question “when should MINUSTAH leave the country?”, 72.2% of those who expressed an opinion thought that MINUSTAH should leave either now, within six months or within a year.  Only 5.9% stated that they thought MINUSTAH should not leave.

Another question in the survey asked whether respondents believed that MINUSTAH owes some form of restitution to cholera victims.  (As we’ve discussed before, numerous independent scientific studies have shown that MINUSTAH troops from Nepal are very likely responsible for introducing a devastating cholera epidemic to Haiti in October of 2010.) An overwhelming 74.5% of those surveyed considered that MINUSTAH should offer compensation, while only 4.9% opposed the idea (the rest of those surveyed said they didn’t know).  As Schuller noted in the report:

This survey question and the responses that it generated raise the larger issue of MINUSTAH’s accountability before the law and the people of Haiti. Haitians and human rights organizations have expressed their concern over the fact that MINUSTAH operates in Haiti with very little legal accountability for their criminal conduct.  Under a Status of Forces Agreement (or SOFA) that the Haitian government signed with the UN, MINUSTAH troops enjoy an almost blanket waiver of liability in Haitian courts for any crimes they commit in Haiti. Both military and civil members enjoy immunity for all acts performed in their official capacity.  MINUSTAH military members who commit a crime outside of “their official capacity” are only subject to their home country’s jurisdiction. Civilian members can only be prosecuted if the UN agrees. Haitians may not seek damages for civil liability in a Haitian court unless the UN certifies that the charges are unrelated to the member’s official duties.

The Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti and the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) are representing over 5,000 cholera victims seeking justice from the UN. In a press release Monday, the groups called on the Security Council delegation to “evaluate the cost of the UN’s failure to take responsibility for the epidemic of cholera introduced by troops from the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), in terms of Haitian lives lost and damage to the UN’s reputation.” Mario Joseph, BAI Managing Attorney said:

“Security Council members should talk to cholera victims — young children who lost their parents, families who spent all they had on medical treatment and burials, communities decimated by the disease. I am confident that if they see the cost of the UN cholera on the Haitian people, they will do what they need to do to provide the clean water infrastructure necessary to control the epidemic. If they do not, the killing will go on and on.”

When asked about allegations of abuses by MINUSTAH forces, Ambassador Susan Rice told the press that “The UN has been very clear that it takes all these allegations very seriously. We support them in that. They have to be thoroughly investigated and justice and accountability must be done. And we will be very plain and clear-eyed as we assess what the challenges are and where improvements are needed…”

Nevertheless, despite the mounting evidence of abuses, there have been no convictions of UN soldiers to date.  Last year, five Uruguayan soldiers caught on video apparently raping a teenage boy were repatriated and jailed – but then released in January. The Haitian senate has passed a resolution calling for UN immunity to be lifted in cases of abuse, yet that would still require the UN to change current policy. As the UN’s independent human rights expert, Michael Forst declared last week concerning MINUSTAH, “Immunity doesn’t mean impunity.” Despite Susan Rice’s fervent affirmations, it appears that for UN soldiers who continue to commit abuses, immunity does mean impunity.

Water quality as well as access worsened in December as free water distribution service was discontinued and NGOs continued shifting their operations out of IDP camps, according to a water assessment by DINEPA, the Haitian government’s water and sanitation authority. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that:

The decline in water quality coincides with the end of free water distributions in camps through water trucking, in accordance with the national strategy developed by DINEPA. Only three per cent of households in camps are now receiving water provided by an NGO.

The DINEPA assessment found that “47% of the water tests conducted in households are of poor quality, compared to 29% in early December,” and that “[o]nly 55 per cent of households in camps drink chlorinated water.” This probably results in part from DINEPA’s finding that “Only three per cent of households in camps are now receiving water provided by an NGO.” A third of all camp residents’ primary access to water is from a remote source, far from their camp. According to DINEPA, nearly 40 percent of these remote sources are non-chlorinated.

Free water distribution was supposed to come to an end in December 2010, however, as the cholera epidemic had just begun at that time, the program was extended.  Although trucks were able to deliver free water to the camps, this did little to reinforce the work of DINEPA or to create sustainable access to quality water in the camps and neighborhoods. As the free water distribution came to a close, there was no effective alternative in place and DINEPA, which receives very little support from the national government, has been unable to fill in the gaps.

According to the WASH cluster, part of the decrease in water quality “can be attributed to low water chlorination activities conducted by the 82 water management committees.” These committees “have been established by NGOs as part of their exit strategy from the free water distribution system.” Indeed many of the largest NGOs discussed this change in policy in their two-year progress reports. Catholic Relief Services, which has spent nearly $12 million on water and sanitation, noted that (PDF), “In the past year, CRS has transitioned water activities out of camps and into neighborhoods, where your gift helps families resettle and rebuild.”

The American Red Cross, which has spent over $45 million on water and sanitation activities (with rather mixed results), reported that (PDF) they are “now working with local authorities on long-term solutions for ensuring safe, clean water in the communities that people are returning to.” Oxfam, which has spent over $30 million in this sector, also “began phasing out direct activities in the camps, and by the end of 2011 activities had ceased in all but two camps.” Oxfam also touts the water committees, which thus far have been unable to fill the gap created by NGOs pulling out, noting that “[t]he Water Committees now work directly with DINEPA and CAMEP – Port-au-Prince’s two main water authorities – to ensure that the water, sanitation and public health activities, previously carried out by Oxfam, are maintained.”

Although efforts to build sustainable water solutions are clearly needed, after two years of un-sustainable policies in the camps, the result is that – for over 500,000 people still living in camps – access to clean water has deteriorated greatly.  Tens of millions of dollars have been spent by NGOs on the provision of water to camp dwellers, but very little of this money has been channeled toward durable solutions. The strategy seems to be predicated on the idea that IDPs are remaining in the camps on their own volition and that many IDPs are now moving back into their old neighborhoods. As CARE, which has spent $7 million on water and sanitation activities, stated in their two-year report (PDF):

Efforts are underway by CARE and other aid agencies to shift the provision of services to neighborhoods in order to minimize the incentive to remain in the camps.

Such methods form part of the “push” strategy that, along with forced evictions, have resulted in hundreds of thousands of people leaving camps even when they have nowhere else to go – a “success” touted by the State Department , Haitian government, and others.

However, as services in the camps are stopped and high profile projects to move people out of the camps begin, the fact is that the camp population has remained remarkably stable over the last two months. The most recent OCHA report states:

Haitians left homeless by the 12 January earthquake continue to leave IDP camps. From 519,164 last November, the number of IDP went down to 515, 819 as of January, confirming a bi-monthly rate of decline of 6%, according to IOM latest Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM). This slight decrease is one of the slowest observed since IDPs have started to leave the camps in September 2010 and confirms that the exit rate from camps continues to slow down.

The decrease of just 3,345 people over two months is actually a 0.6 percent rate of decline, not 6 percent, as OCHA states, however the overall point is clear: for the vast majority of camp residents, better alternatives are not available. While it is good that NGOs and the Haitian government are finally focusing on building sustainable solutions for the provision of clean water, they should do so without abandoning the over 500,000 people that remain in camps.    

Water quality as well as access worsened in December as free water distribution service was discontinued and NGOs continued shifting their operations out of IDP camps, according to a water assessment by DINEPA, the Haitian government’s water and sanitation authority. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that:

The decline in water quality coincides with the end of free water distributions in camps through water trucking, in accordance with the national strategy developed by DINEPA. Only three per cent of households in camps are now receiving water provided by an NGO.

The DINEPA assessment found that “47% of the water tests conducted in households are of poor quality, compared to 29% in early December,” and that “[o]nly 55 per cent of households in camps drink chlorinated water.” This probably results in part from DINEPA’s finding that “Only three per cent of households in camps are now receiving water provided by an NGO.” A third of all camp residents’ primary access to water is from a remote source, far from their camp. According to DINEPA, nearly 40 percent of these remote sources are non-chlorinated.

Free water distribution was supposed to come to an end in December 2010, however, as the cholera epidemic had just begun at that time, the program was extended.  Although trucks were able to deliver free water to the camps, this did little to reinforce the work of DINEPA or to create sustainable access to quality water in the camps and neighborhoods. As the free water distribution came to a close, there was no effective alternative in place and DINEPA, which receives very little support from the national government, has been unable to fill in the gaps.

According to the WASH cluster, part of the decrease in water quality “can be attributed to low water chlorination activities conducted by the 82 water management committees.” These committees “have been established by NGOs as part of their exit strategy from the free water distribution system.” Indeed many of the largest NGOs discussed this change in policy in their two-year progress reports. Catholic Relief Services, which has spent nearly $12 million on water and sanitation, noted that (PDF), “In the past year, CRS has transitioned water activities out of camps and into neighborhoods, where your gift helps families resettle and rebuild.”

The American Red Cross, which has spent over $45 million on water and sanitation activities (with rather mixed results), reported that (PDF) they are “now working with local authorities on long-term solutions for ensuring safe, clean water in the communities that people are returning to.” Oxfam, which has spent over $30 million in this sector, also “began phasing out direct activities in the camps, and by the end of 2011 activities had ceased in all but two camps.” Oxfam also touts the water committees, which thus far have been unable to fill the gap created by NGOs pulling out, noting that “[t]he Water Committees now work directly with DINEPA and CAMEP – Port-au-Prince’s two main water authorities – to ensure that the water, sanitation and public health activities, previously carried out by Oxfam, are maintained.”

Although efforts to build sustainable water solutions are clearly needed, after two years of un-sustainable policies in the camps, the result is that – for over 500,000 people still living in camps – access to clean water has deteriorated greatly.  Tens of millions of dollars have been spent by NGOs on the provision of water to camp dwellers, but very little of this money has been channeled toward durable solutions. The strategy seems to be predicated on the idea that IDPs are remaining in the camps on their own volition and that many IDPs are now moving back into their old neighborhoods. As CARE, which has spent $7 million on water and sanitation activities, stated in their two-year report (PDF):

Efforts are underway by CARE and other aid agencies to shift the provision of services to neighborhoods in order to minimize the incentive to remain in the camps.

Such methods form part of the “push” strategy that, along with forced evictions, have resulted in hundreds of thousands of people leaving camps even when they have nowhere else to go – a “success” touted by the State Department , Haitian government, and others.

However, as services in the camps are stopped and high profile projects to move people out of the camps begin, the fact is that the camp population has remained remarkably stable over the last two months. The most recent OCHA report states:

Haitians left homeless by the 12 January earthquake continue to leave IDP camps. From 519,164 last November, the number of IDP went down to 515, 819 as of January, confirming a bi-monthly rate of decline of 6%, according to IOM latest Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM). This slight decrease is one of the slowest observed since IDPs have started to leave the camps in September 2010 and confirms that the exit rate from camps continues to slow down.

The decrease of just 3,345 people over two months is actually a 0.6 percent rate of decline, not 6 percent, as OCHA states, however the overall point is clear: for the vast majority of camp residents, better alternatives are not available. While it is good that NGOs and the Haitian government are finally focusing on building sustainable solutions for the provision of clean water, they should do so without abandoning the over 500,000 people that remain in camps.    

Peace Dividend Trust (PDT), an organization that has been in Haiti since 2009, released a study last week (PDF) on the construction sector in Haiti based on surveys with both procurement officers of international organizations and Haitian businesses. PDT created the Peace Dividend Marketplace in 2009, to help facilitate the use of local businesses. Their local business directory now contains hundreds of companies. PDT’s website states that, “its objective is to help create jobs and inspire long-term economic growth and stability in Haiti by encouraging the international community to use locally available goods and services to carry out their project work.”

The surveys reveal that while many Haitian businesses have won contracts or subcontracts since the earthquake, many others have been left out. There is also a severe disconnect in many areas between local contractors and international organizations.  While procurement officers were generally supportive of local procurement, the report does not, as the authors point out, provide an idea of the actual level of local procurement taking place since the respondents were primarily organizations that had used the PDT marketplace previously. Explaining this bias the report states, “PDT is a well-known advocate for local procurement in Port-au-Prince, hence those that were willing to take part in a survey from PDT are more likely to support local procurement themselves.”

PDT interviewed 303 Haitian construction companies and while the percentage of those that received a contract from an international organization increased from 25 percent to 45 percent since the earthquake, many reported feeling excluded from the contracting process. For instance, the survey found that “[a]pproximately 43% of the Haitian businesses surveyed believed that international organisations were neither good nor bad for the economy. Eleven per cent even stated that international organisations do the Haitian economy more harm than good.” Only half of Haitian companies believed international organizations were interested in working with local companies. PDT is advocating for a “Haiti First” policy, “in which both the Government of Haiti and the international community agree to procure locally as often as possible and adopt recognised best practices that ensure maximum development impact from local procurement.”

Interestingly, despite their professed preference for local businesses, 67 percent of procurement officers interviewed “do not believe the local market can deliver technical work to the required quality without high levels of supervision and guidance.”

Bias Towards Large Firms

A primary problem with local procurement in the construction sector appears to be a reliance on large companies. Firms with over 50 employees were twice as likely to receive a contract compared to companies with 1-5 employees. Additionally, many international organizations – 63 percent – reported using pre-qualification lists. These lists are often not open to new businesses, restricting competition and reinforcing a reliance on larger firms.

The report states that, “[t]he largest companies are seen by some to monopolise the market and leave fewer opportunities for the rest. Consistent with this, several respondents reported that they have relationships with a few particular (usually larger) companies that are always able to meet their technical needs. A common response from the conversations was that once an international organization finds a business it can trust, it is less likely to invest time in broadening its supplier base.”

Larger firms are also favored by international organizations because they don’t always require an upfront payment, which “often privileges them in the contract award process.” On the other hand, the majority of businesses interviewed – 60 percent – reported receiving delayed payments from international organizations and nearly half of procurement officers “rarely or never” give advance payments. As credit is not often available to smaller companies in Haiti, this is a serious impediment to increased local procurement.

This is a common complaint from critics of local procurement. In a country like Haiti with such high levels of inequality, the reinforcement of the status quo through the use of the largest companies, many owned by the same small group of families, can be a possible downside to poorly planned local procurement.

To help increase opportunities for smaller businesses, PDT recommends opening up pre-qualification lists and breaking up contracts into smaller parts.

Communication Problem

The divergent views between procurement officers on the one hand and local businesses on the other are a good indication that a lack of communication is preventing a greater level of local procurement. Although many local firms did not find a problem with tender documents being published only in English, the survey results suggest that making a greater effort to translate these documents into French and Creole could especially help smaller firms. It should come as little surprise that international organizations with longer track records in Haiti find it easier to procure locally. As the report states, “In general, international organisations with a larger procurement staff, including staff members who spoke Haitian Creole, and organisations that have been working in Haiti for many years find it easier to locate quality Haitian construction suppliers.”

While those companies that have received their first contract from an international organization have found other opportunities open to them, those that have been excluded are often not given any feedback. In fact, the survey found that 88 percent of companies that have not received a contract have “never received feedback for their failed bids.” Greater communication both before and after the bidding process as well as greater efforts in capacity building and longer submission deadlines could help alleviate some of these problems.

USAID and Local Procurement

Although it is clear that, at least rhetorically, many international organizations want to conduct more local procurement, it is still largely a mystery exactly how much money out of the billions spent in Haiti has gone to local firms. One aspect of this relationship not explored in the PDT report is the use of subcontractors. One of the case studies in the PDT report looks at TEMPO construction, which built a temporary building to house the parliament. Yet TEMPO was not a primary contractor but rather a subcontractor to the Washington DC-based for-profit development firm Chemonics. Chemonics has been the largest single recipient of USAID money since the earthquake. While it is positive that the firm is giving subcontracts to local businesses at least on some level, there is very little transparency on the general level of funding going to local businesses or how much money Chemonics takes off the top in “indirect costs” which go back to Washington.

USAID has committed itself to increase the use of local procurement; however this rarely takes the form of direct contracts with local NGOs or businesses. Over the last three years, the average amount of USAID funds worldwide that have gone directly to local businesses is just 0.63 percent. In Haiti, since the earthquake, this number is even lower at around 0.02 percent while companies based in the greater Washington DC area have received over 80 percent of USAID primary contract funding.

Although USAID recently made some positive steps to increase their ability to source products locally, there still remain many barriers. For instance, as Scott McCord of PDT points out in a blog post, the rule changing the Source/Origin/Nationality requirements for USAID contains an exception for the construction sector:

“The Final Rule also raises the amount, from $5 million to $10 million, for which foreign-owned (non-governmental) local firms will be eligible for construction procurement because that amount has not been raised in over fifteen years, and confirms the current requirement that USAID determine that no capable U.S. construction company is operating in the cooperating/recipient country or, if there is such a company, that it is not interested in bidding for the proposed contract.”

As McCord notes, “[w]hile the overall regulatory reform marks progress, it’s that fine print that perpetuates the idea that some bilateral donors are not necessarily operating in the best interest of the countries where they work.” Additionally, the USAID reform maintains some of the most detrimental regulations such as those affecting food aid, shipping and pharmaceuticals.

While the PDT survey provides evidence that local procurement is occurring on some level, more research must be done to understand how much money from foreign donors is really getting to local businesses. This will require much greater transparency on the part of NGOs, bilateral and multilateral donors, and private foreign contractors all of whom rarely if ever publicly break down expenditures to the level where they could be useful in determining the impact of local procurement in Haiti. 

Peace Dividend Trust (PDT), an organization that has been in Haiti since 2009, released a study last week (PDF) on the construction sector in Haiti based on surveys with both procurement officers of international organizations and Haitian businesses. PDT created the Peace Dividend Marketplace in 2009, to help facilitate the use of local businesses. Their local business directory now contains hundreds of companies. PDT’s website states that, “its objective is to help create jobs and inspire long-term economic growth and stability in Haiti by encouraging the international community to use locally available goods and services to carry out their project work.”

The surveys reveal that while many Haitian businesses have won contracts or subcontracts since the earthquake, many others have been left out. There is also a severe disconnect in many areas between local contractors and international organizations.  While procurement officers were generally supportive of local procurement, the report does not, as the authors point out, provide an idea of the actual level of local procurement taking place since the respondents were primarily organizations that had used the PDT marketplace previously. Explaining this bias the report states, “PDT is a well-known advocate for local procurement in Port-au-Prince, hence those that were willing to take part in a survey from PDT are more likely to support local procurement themselves.”

PDT interviewed 303 Haitian construction companies and while the percentage of those that received a contract from an international organization increased from 25 percent to 45 percent since the earthquake, many reported feeling excluded from the contracting process. For instance, the survey found that “[a]pproximately 43% of the Haitian businesses surveyed believed that international organisations were neither good nor bad for the economy. Eleven per cent even stated that international organisations do the Haitian economy more harm than good.” Only half of Haitian companies believed international organizations were interested in working with local companies. PDT is advocating for a “Haiti First” policy, “in which both the Government of Haiti and the international community agree to procure locally as often as possible and adopt recognised best practices that ensure maximum development impact from local procurement.”

Interestingly, despite their professed preference for local businesses, 67 percent of procurement officers interviewed “do not believe the local market can deliver technical work to the required quality without high levels of supervision and guidance.”

Bias Towards Large Firms

A primary problem with local procurement in the construction sector appears to be a reliance on large companies. Firms with over 50 employees were twice as likely to receive a contract compared to companies with 1-5 employees. Additionally, many international organizations – 63 percent – reported using pre-qualification lists. These lists are often not open to new businesses, restricting competition and reinforcing a reliance on larger firms.

The report states that, “[t]he largest companies are seen by some to monopolise the market and leave fewer opportunities for the rest. Consistent with this, several respondents reported that they have relationships with a few particular (usually larger) companies that are always able to meet their technical needs. A common response from the conversations was that once an international organization finds a business it can trust, it is less likely to invest time in broadening its supplier base.”

Larger firms are also favored by international organizations because they don’t always require an upfront payment, which “often privileges them in the contract award process.” On the other hand, the majority of businesses interviewed – 60 percent – reported receiving delayed payments from international organizations and nearly half of procurement officers “rarely or never” give advance payments. As credit is not often available to smaller companies in Haiti, this is a serious impediment to increased local procurement.

This is a common complaint from critics of local procurement. In a country like Haiti with such high levels of inequality, the reinforcement of the status quo through the use of the largest companies, many owned by the same small group of families, can be a possible downside to poorly planned local procurement.

To help increase opportunities for smaller businesses, PDT recommends opening up pre-qualification lists and breaking up contracts into smaller parts.

Communication Problem

The divergent views between procurement officers on the one hand and local businesses on the other are a good indication that a lack of communication is preventing a greater level of local procurement. Although many local firms did not find a problem with tender documents being published only in English, the survey results suggest that making a greater effort to translate these documents into French and Creole could especially help smaller firms. It should come as little surprise that international organizations with longer track records in Haiti find it easier to procure locally. As the report states, “In general, international organisations with a larger procurement staff, including staff members who spoke Haitian Creole, and organisations that have been working in Haiti for many years find it easier to locate quality Haitian construction suppliers.”

While those companies that have received their first contract from an international organization have found other opportunities open to them, those that have been excluded are often not given any feedback. In fact, the survey found that 88 percent of companies that have not received a contract have “never received feedback for their failed bids.” Greater communication both before and after the bidding process as well as greater efforts in capacity building and longer submission deadlines could help alleviate some of these problems.

USAID and Local Procurement

Although it is clear that, at least rhetorically, many international organizations want to conduct more local procurement, it is still largely a mystery exactly how much money out of the billions spent in Haiti has gone to local firms. One aspect of this relationship not explored in the PDT report is the use of subcontractors. One of the case studies in the PDT report looks at TEMPO construction, which built a temporary building to house the parliament. Yet TEMPO was not a primary contractor but rather a subcontractor to the Washington DC-based for-profit development firm Chemonics. Chemonics has been the largest single recipient of USAID money since the earthquake. While it is positive that the firm is giving subcontracts to local businesses at least on some level, there is very little transparency on the general level of funding going to local businesses or how much money Chemonics takes off the top in “indirect costs” which go back to Washington.

USAID has committed itself to increase the use of local procurement; however this rarely takes the form of direct contracts with local NGOs or businesses. Over the last three years, the average amount of USAID funds worldwide that have gone directly to local businesses is just 0.63 percent. In Haiti, since the earthquake, this number is even lower at around 0.02 percent while companies based in the greater Washington DC area have received over 80 percent of USAID primary contract funding.

Although USAID recently made some positive steps to increase their ability to source products locally, there still remain many barriers. For instance, as Scott McCord of PDT points out in a blog post, the rule changing the Source/Origin/Nationality requirements for USAID contains an exception for the construction sector:

“The Final Rule also raises the amount, from $5 million to $10 million, for which foreign-owned (non-governmental) local firms will be eligible for construction procurement because that amount has not been raised in over fifteen years, and confirms the current requirement that USAID determine that no capable U.S. construction company is operating in the cooperating/recipient country or, if there is such a company, that it is not interested in bidding for the proposed contract.”

As McCord notes, “[w]hile the overall regulatory reform marks progress, it’s that fine print that perpetuates the idea that some bilateral donors are not necessarily operating in the best interest of the countries where they work.” Additionally, the USAID reform maintains some of the most detrimental regulations such as those affecting food aid, shipping and pharmaceuticals.

While the PDT survey provides evidence that local procurement is occurring on some level, more research must be done to understand how much money from foreign donors is really getting to local businesses. This will require much greater transparency on the part of NGOs, bilateral and multilateral donors, and private foreign contractors all of whom rarely if ever publicly break down expenditures to the level where they could be useful in determining the impact of local procurement in Haiti. 

Filmmaker Michele Mitchell presented her documentary, “Haiti: Where Did the Money Go?” at a congressional briefing yesterday sponsored by Rep. Yvette Clarke, Rep. Barbara Lee, and Rep. Donald M. Payne (CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot spoke at the briefing, and CEPR helped to publicize the event.) Through visits to Haiti in 2010 and 2011 in which she conducted interviews with IDP camp residents, NGO spokespersons, aid workers, and others, and through other background research, Mitchell examines why so many people (currently half-a-million) remain stuck in tent camps with few services, despite the billions of dollars pledged for relief following the earthquake. The film is currently airing on dozens of PBS stations around the U.S.

One NGO that Mitchell focuses on, in interviews, and in on-the-ground examination of the situation in IDP camps, is the Red Cross. Mitchell notes that the Red Cross is the biggest NGO operating in Haiti, and American Red Cross (ARC) Senior Vice President International Services David Meltzer is provided with a significant portion of screen time to explain the Red Cross’ activities in Haiti, and why some services – such as shelter and sanitation – appear to be so sorely lacking. As the Huffington Post’s Laura Bassett describes:

A senior Red Cross official for international aid is interviewed extensively throughout the film, and Mitchell said she repeatedly asked ARC to answer questions and corroborate facts during the production process.

Despite the prominent role that Meltzer has in the film, and Mitchell’s apparent reaching out to the organization, staff from the American Red Cross attended the briefing yesterday, handing out copies of a document titled “Correcting [email protected]’s Errors and Distortions on the Haiti Response” (which we have posted here in PDF format). The several ARC staffers from the Washington office also interrupted a panelist (see the video here, 50:40) by complaining that the film was imbalanced and that Meltzer was not given sufficient notice ahead of the event (he was invited six days earlier, according to organizers).

But most of the “inaccuracies” to which the ARC refers actually appear to be differences of opinion, or different interpretations of observations on the ground. Despite the good deal of screen time Meltzer receives in the film, the ARC suggests, according to the Huffington Post, that its services were not “presented in a balanced and accurate manner,” and has reportedly urged PBS stations not to show the documentary. The ARC’s handout even goes so far as to refer to “Haiti: Where Did the Money Go?” as a “so-called documentary.”

Of course, scrutiny and criticism of the Red Cross’ efforts in post-quake Haiti are not new; this blog has chronicled some of them going back to just months after the quake. And Mitchell’s questions, and overall conclusion that the recovery and reconstruction effort has failed many Haitians is not a unique one. Most two-year retrospectives in the media this month made many of the same points.

Mitchell told the Huffington Post:

“The thing is, I went to Haiti twice ten months after the earthquake to see what was happening, and then at the 20-month mark, and we have pictures,” she told HuffPost. “The camp situation had deteriorated. There were camps of 5,000 people with six toilets between them. There were millions of people in tents during the hurricane, and they were terrified. I like happy endings, and I wish I could report that ‘disaster relief 2.0’ had worked, but the picture tells a different story.”

Portions of the film were previously available as web reports, yet “ARC spokesperson Laura Howe said people at the organization were ‘blindsided’ by Mitchell’s film and disappointed that they weren’t able to see it before it was delivered to PBS.”

But Red Cross staff in Haiti have not always been willing to talk to journalists, as Aljazeera’s Sebastian Walker shows in his September 2011 report, “Haiti After the Quake”. His attempts to interview Red Cross staff on camera at one IDP camp are rebuffed; the men get into a car and drive away. Mitchell, as described, had much better luck, interviewing Meltzer at length.

So what does the Red Cross find so objectionable?

First, the ARC takes issue with the statement that “The money was raised quickly and the clear implication is that it would be spent quickly,” saying, “The American Red Cross repeatedly informed the public and donors in writing that its relief and recovery efforts in Haiti would last three to five years.” This may be true, but it was appeals stressing emergency relief that doubtlessly reached the great majority of people who gave to the ARC in the days and weeks following the quake, when presumably the ARC raised the majority of funds for Haiti relief. Third party appeals also stressed this, such as from the White House (“You can also help immediately by donating to the Red Cross”) and CNN (“The American Red Cross’ primary focus during the initial response of an emergency is food, shelter and meeting other basic needs”).

The ARC objects to the narration, “We see tarps but they are torn. We did see pots, but many were being sold for food,” stating “The global Red Cross network distributed more than 1 million relief items such as tarps, tents and kitchen sets in Haiti. We continued to distribute tarps to camps up until the fall of 2011.” But the expected life span of a tarp is six months at most; the majority of the 500,000 people who remain displaced will continue to need new ones, as long as they are forced to live under them. Shelter provision has been woefully lacking for the great majority of IDP camp residents.

The ARC takes issue with the statement, “We did see water but most wasn’t clean enough to drink,” which in the context of the film refers to water in IDP camps. Surprisingly, the ARC says that it s “has never received a report – substantiated or unsubstantiated – that ‘most’ of the water ‘wasn’t clean enough to drink.” The ARC is part of the Water Sanitation and Hygiene Response (WASH) Cluster, so it should receive updated information on potable water from the UN, including bulletins from the Office  for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which reported in October 2011 [PDF] that “In August, only 7 per cent of the people [in IDP camps] had regular access to drinking water, compared to 48 per cent in March.”

But even worse, as shown in this Aljazeera report, there are camp residents who reported becoming ill after drinking water provided by the Red Cross. Ricardo Caivano, country director in Haiti for the American Red Cross, admitted in the Aljazeera interview that the water the ARC was delivering was not necessarily safe to drink, and that the Red Cross recommended boiling it first.

The ARC claims it “false” to say that “No one knows how credible or effective NGOs are because they don’t report to anyone,” saying the ARC “is congressionally chartered, is audited, must file annual tax returns with the IRS, is monitored by watchdog groups and is transparent with the public and donors who entrust their contributions with us.”

But to our knowledge, the ARC does not report to any authorities in Haiti about its activities. It is also ironic to note that ARC cites that it “is monitored by watchdog groups” in its defense. While audits of NGOs generally make sure the numbers add up, they don’t audit effectiveness or what percent of funds are spent on in-country overhead, for instance. The same can be said for the IRS Form 990 which NGOs fill out. While it is interesting to see that the CEO of the Red Cross received a million dollars in reported income, it tells you nothing about specific relief efforts.

The trend seems to be for the ARC to have become less transparent about its activities in Haiti. An NPR report on Haiti this month stated, “A spokeswoman for the American Red Cross declined to provide a local overhead breakdown.” Although ARC did provide the Chronicle of Philanthropy with updated numbers on money “pledged or spent” on Haiti relief and reconstruction in 2011, a “spokeswoman declined to specify what share has actually gone out the door.” Perhaps this is because last year in talking to the Chronicle, there was an almost $100 million difference between the amount the ARC said was “committed” to be spent in 2010, and how much actually was spent – a huge sum by any standard. (The Chronicle reported last year that the ARC “expects to have committed $245-million by the one-year anniversary of the earthquake.” They ended up spending only $148.5 million.)
 
One aid shortfall that the film focuses on is provision of latrines. The ARC used to provide updates on how many latrines they have built in Haiti, which have been pretty few, but has not done so since 2010. Their one-year report [PDF] after the earthquake stated simply that they had built “hundreds of latrines.” Their two-year report [PDF] uses a much more vague figure, stating that “364,300 people benefited from water and sanitation activities”. “Water and sanitation activities” is a very broad category, and the ARC does not break down this number further, to describe how people might have benefited.

The ARC objects to the “Claim that ‘the Red Cross is the decision maker’ in Camp Caradeux, calling it a “false conclusion.” But the filmmakers do not make this claim; this is a statement made by Wilma Vital, actually a resident of camp Toussaint L’Ouverture, which is comprised of former Camp Carradeux residents who were forcibly displaced and who do not enjoy the T-shelters, latrines, or other services now available in neighboring Camp Carradeux.

The Red Cross is the biggest NGO in Haiti. Wilma’s statement that the Red Cross “is the decision maker” where she lives, in a camp badly in need of more and better services, is her opinion, and certainly one that has merit.

The ARC objects to the statement that “NGOs effectively shut out the overwhelming majority of the public by holding meetings and discussions in English and French, not Creole, the language of the people of Haiti.” But the ARC’s response doesn’t even address this claim, as it refers only to the ARC’s efforts to distribute a selection of texts in Creole.  As the ARC must realize, the claim here is a reference to the meetings of NGOs within the UN Cluster system – where key discussions on coordinating efforts on issues like shelter, water distribution and rural needs take place.  These discussions – as everyone, including the Red Cross, is well aware – take place in French and English only.

Overall, the ARC’s response to the film is unfortunate, in that it appears defensive – an attempt at saving face instead of a sincere evaluation of both successes and shortcomings. If the ARC truly welcomes the tracking of its efforts “by watchdog groups,” it should welcome the questions raised in the [email protected] documentary. Hopefully the film will lead to a more productive debate on the role of NGO’s in Haiti’s relief and reconstruction process where it is, after all, the well being of the people of Haiti — and the country’s future capacity to be sovereign and independent — that should always be the main concern.

Filmmaker Michele Mitchell presented her documentary, “Haiti: Where Did the Money Go?” at a congressional briefing yesterday sponsored by Rep. Yvette Clarke, Rep. Barbara Lee, and Rep. Donald M. Payne (CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot spoke at the briefing, and CEPR helped to publicize the event.) Through visits to Haiti in 2010 and 2011 in which she conducted interviews with IDP camp residents, NGO spokespersons, aid workers, and others, and through other background research, Mitchell examines why so many people (currently half-a-million) remain stuck in tent camps with few services, despite the billions of dollars pledged for relief following the earthquake. The film is currently airing on dozens of PBS stations around the U.S.

One NGO that Mitchell focuses on, in interviews, and in on-the-ground examination of the situation in IDP camps, is the Red Cross. Mitchell notes that the Red Cross is the biggest NGO operating in Haiti, and American Red Cross (ARC) Senior Vice President International Services David Meltzer is provided with a significant portion of screen time to explain the Red Cross’ activities in Haiti, and why some services – such as shelter and sanitation – appear to be so sorely lacking. As the Huffington Post’s Laura Bassett describes:

A senior Red Cross official for international aid is interviewed extensively throughout the film, and Mitchell said she repeatedly asked ARC to answer questions and corroborate facts during the production process.

Despite the prominent role that Meltzer has in the film, and Mitchell’s apparent reaching out to the organization, staff from the American Red Cross attended the briefing yesterday, handing out copies of a document titled “Correcting [email protected]’s Errors and Distortions on the Haiti Response” (which we have posted here in PDF format). The several ARC staffers from the Washington office also interrupted a panelist (see the video here, 50:40) by complaining that the film was imbalanced and that Meltzer was not given sufficient notice ahead of the event (he was invited six days earlier, according to organizers).

But most of the “inaccuracies” to which the ARC refers actually appear to be differences of opinion, or different interpretations of observations on the ground. Despite the good deal of screen time Meltzer receives in the film, the ARC suggests, according to the Huffington Post, that its services were not “presented in a balanced and accurate manner,” and has reportedly urged PBS stations not to show the documentary. The ARC’s handout even goes so far as to refer to “Haiti: Where Did the Money Go?” as a “so-called documentary.”

Of course, scrutiny and criticism of the Red Cross’ efforts in post-quake Haiti are not new; this blog has chronicled some of them going back to just months after the quake. And Mitchell’s questions, and overall conclusion that the recovery and reconstruction effort has failed many Haitians is not a unique one. Most two-year retrospectives in the media this month made many of the same points.

Mitchell told the Huffington Post:

“The thing is, I went to Haiti twice ten months after the earthquake to see what was happening, and then at the 20-month mark, and we have pictures,” she told HuffPost. “The camp situation had deteriorated. There were camps of 5,000 people with six toilets between them. There were millions of people in tents during the hurricane, and they were terrified. I like happy endings, and I wish I could report that ‘disaster relief 2.0’ had worked, but the picture tells a different story.”

Portions of the film were previously available as web reports, yet “ARC spokesperson Laura Howe said people at the organization were ‘blindsided’ by Mitchell’s film and disappointed that they weren’t able to see it before it was delivered to PBS.”

But Red Cross staff in Haiti have not always been willing to talk to journalists, as Aljazeera’s Sebastian Walker shows in his September 2011 report, “Haiti After the Quake”. His attempts to interview Red Cross staff on camera at one IDP camp are rebuffed; the men get into a car and drive away. Mitchell, as described, had much better luck, interviewing Meltzer at length.

So what does the Red Cross find so objectionable?

First, the ARC takes issue with the statement that “The money was raised quickly and the clear implication is that it would be spent quickly,” saying, “The American Red Cross repeatedly informed the public and donors in writing that its relief and recovery efforts in Haiti would last three to five years.” This may be true, but it was appeals stressing emergency relief that doubtlessly reached the great majority of people who gave to the ARC in the days and weeks following the quake, when presumably the ARC raised the majority of funds for Haiti relief. Third party appeals also stressed this, such as from the White House (“You can also help immediately by donating to the Red Cross”) and CNN (“The American Red Cross’ primary focus during the initial response of an emergency is food, shelter and meeting other basic needs”).

The ARC objects to the narration, “We see tarps but they are torn. We did see pots, but many were being sold for food,” stating “The global Red Cross network distributed more than 1 million relief items such as tarps, tents and kitchen sets in Haiti. We continued to distribute tarps to camps up until the fall of 2011.” But the expected life span of a tarp is six months at most; the majority of the 500,000 people who remain displaced will continue to need new ones, as long as they are forced to live under them. Shelter provision has been woefully lacking for the great majority of IDP camp residents.

The ARC takes issue with the statement, “We did see water but most wasn’t clean enough to drink,” which in the context of the film refers to water in IDP camps. Surprisingly, the ARC says that it s “has never received a report – substantiated or unsubstantiated – that ‘most’ of the water ‘wasn’t clean enough to drink.” The ARC is part of the Water Sanitation and Hygiene Response (WASH) Cluster, so it should receive updated information on potable water from the UN, including bulletins from the Office  for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which reported in October 2011 [PDF] that “In August, only 7 per cent of the people [in IDP camps] had regular access to drinking water, compared to 48 per cent in March.”

But even worse, as shown in this Aljazeera report, there are camp residents who reported becoming ill after drinking water provided by the Red Cross. Ricardo Caivano, country director in Haiti for the American Red Cross, admitted in the Aljazeera interview that the water the ARC was delivering was not necessarily safe to drink, and that the Red Cross recommended boiling it first.

The ARC claims it “false” to say that “No one knows how credible or effective NGOs are because they don’t report to anyone,” saying the ARC “is congressionally chartered, is audited, must file annual tax returns with the IRS, is monitored by watchdog groups and is transparent with the public and donors who entrust their contributions with us.”

But to our knowledge, the ARC does not report to any authorities in Haiti about its activities. It is also ironic to note that ARC cites that it “is monitored by watchdog groups” in its defense. While audits of NGOs generally make sure the numbers add up, they don’t audit effectiveness or what percent of funds are spent on in-country overhead, for instance. The same can be said for the IRS Form 990 which NGOs fill out. While it is interesting to see that the CEO of the Red Cross received a million dollars in reported income, it tells you nothing about specific relief efforts.

The trend seems to be for the ARC to have become less transparent about its activities in Haiti. An NPR report on Haiti this month stated, “A spokeswoman for the American Red Cross declined to provide a local overhead breakdown.” Although ARC did provide the Chronicle of Philanthropy with updated numbers on money “pledged or spent” on Haiti relief and reconstruction in 2011, a “spokeswoman declined to specify what share has actually gone out the door.” Perhaps this is because last year in talking to the Chronicle, there was an almost $100 million difference between the amount the ARC said was “committed” to be spent in 2010, and how much actually was spent – a huge sum by any standard. (The Chronicle reported last year that the ARC “expects to have committed $245-million by the one-year anniversary of the earthquake.” They ended up spending only $148.5 million.)
 
One aid shortfall that the film focuses on is provision of latrines. The ARC used to provide updates on how many latrines they have built in Haiti, which have been pretty few, but has not done so since 2010. Their one-year report [PDF] after the earthquake stated simply that they had built “hundreds of latrines.” Their two-year report [PDF] uses a much more vague figure, stating that “364,300 people benefited from water and sanitation activities”. “Water and sanitation activities” is a very broad category, and the ARC does not break down this number further, to describe how people might have benefited.

The ARC objects to the “Claim that ‘the Red Cross is the decision maker’ in Camp Caradeux, calling it a “false conclusion.” But the filmmakers do not make this claim; this is a statement made by Wilma Vital, actually a resident of camp Toussaint L’Ouverture, which is comprised of former Camp Carradeux residents who were forcibly displaced and who do not enjoy the T-shelters, latrines, or other services now available in neighboring Camp Carradeux.

The Red Cross is the biggest NGO in Haiti. Wilma’s statement that the Red Cross “is the decision maker” where she lives, in a camp badly in need of more and better services, is her opinion, and certainly one that has merit.

The ARC objects to the statement that “NGOs effectively shut out the overwhelming majority of the public by holding meetings and discussions in English and French, not Creole, the language of the people of Haiti.” But the ARC’s response doesn’t even address this claim, as it refers only to the ARC’s efforts to distribute a selection of texts in Creole.  As the ARC must realize, the claim here is a reference to the meetings of NGOs within the UN Cluster system – where key discussions on coordinating efforts on issues like shelter, water distribution and rural needs take place.  These discussions – as everyone, including the Red Cross, is well aware – take place in French and English only.

Overall, the ARC’s response to the film is unfortunate, in that it appears defensive – an attempt at saving face instead of a sincere evaluation of both successes and shortcomings. If the ARC truly welcomes the tracking of its efforts “by watchdog groups,” it should welcome the questions raised in the [email protected] documentary. Hopefully the film will lead to a more productive debate on the role of NGO’s in Haiti’s relief and reconstruction process where it is, after all, the well being of the people of Haiti — and the country’s future capacity to be sovereign and independent — that should always be the main concern.

In a front page Washington Post article, William Booth reports on the luxurious lifestyle that former dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier has been living since his return to Haiti last year. Although officially on house arrest, Booth reports that Duvalier “dines with his many admirers at the chic bistros of Petionville” and last week for the two year anniversary of the earthquake “Duvalier drove himself — with a police escort — to the government’s memorial ceremony to mark the second anniversary of Haiti’s cataclysmic earthquake. The audience, which included Haiti’s President Michel Martelly, his prime minister and former president Bill Clinton, rose to greet him.” (Journalists on the scene noted that both Martelly and Clinton also shook Duvalier’s hand.)

Duvalier’s presence at the ceremony in Titanyen was particularly troubling because, as Susana Ferreira pointed out in an article for TIME:

Titanyen, located north of Port-au-Prince, has been used as a body dumping ground for decades. It’s where the Tonton Macoutes, the feared militia of the 1957-86 Duvalier family dictatorship, buried many of its estimated 30,000 victims.

Booth reports that Duvalier’s attorney believes all charges will be dropped, “He will be cleared of all charges. It is almost finished now; the judge is typing up the order to throw it all out,” Reynold Georges told Booth. This should come as little surprise given that President Martelly has consistently voiced his support for amnesty for the former dictator, telling Booth “It is part of the past. We need to learn our lessons and move forward.” Additionally, as Booth points out, “Martelly’s government includes many officials with ties to Duvalier’s government.” The AP’s Trenton Daniel reported in October that:

Now, a former minister and ambassador under the regime is serving as a close adviser to Martelly. And at least five high-ranking members of the administration, including the new prime minister, are the children of senior dictatorship officials.

Miguel Vivanco, the Americas director of Human Rights Watch said when Duvalier returned a year ago, that “Duvalier’s return to Haiti should be for one purpose only: to face justice. Under the presidency of Duvalier and his Tonton Macoutes, thousands were killed and tortured, and hundreds of thousands of Haitians fled into exile. His time to be held accountable is long overdue.” Amnesty International issued a statement this week calling on the Haitian government to prosecute Duvalier.  Amnesty’s statement is even more forceful, placing blame directly on Martelly and his administration for delaying the prosecution:

“The authorities haven’t made a serious effort to look into past events that afflicted a generation of Haitians with torture, enforced disappearance, extrajudicial executions, arbitrary arrests and other serious human rights violations.”

“The investigation seems to have deliberately stalled by changing Public Prosecutors multiple times,” said Javier Zúñiga.

“It has become evident that in Haiti, the independence of the judiciary is just a mirage.”

While noting that the “Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights have re-affirmed Haiti’s obligation to investigate these crimes”, Amnesty calls not just on Haitian authorities but on other entities, including the UN, to assist in the prosecution. Thus far however, the international community, especially the U.S. government, has remained silent despite the impunity enjoyed by Duvalier. As Booth reports:

But the lawyers pursuing Duvalier say that the international community, with the exception of Canada, has been mostly silent on the prosecution — and that the new government of Haiti is against it.

The U.S. ambassador to Haiti, Kenneth Merten, said the Duvalier case “is a matter for the Haitian courts and for the Haitian people who feel aggrieved.”

The statement by Merten is especially egregious. More than simply a matter for “the Haitian people who feel aggrieved”, the case against Duvalier is a matter of international law. Jeena Shah, a fellow with the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux in Haiti, notes that, “UN High Commissioner of Human Rights Navanethem Pillay affirmed, ‘Haiti has an obligation to investigate the well-documented serious human rights violations that occurred during the rule of Mr. Duvalier, and to prosecute those responsible for them.’” Additionally, Shah writes:

More than that, the U.S. State Department has yet to declassify files documenting Duvalier’s knowledge of his regime’s abuses, which could prove integral to establishing his criminal liability at trial. While it was comfortable playing a decisive role in Haiti’s recent elections by forcing the electoral council to reverse the first round results, the State Department declined to even remind Haiti of its obligation under international law to prosecute Duvalier, calling justice for Duvalier “a matter for the people of Haiti.” However, former U.S. Congressman Bob Barr’s assistance to Duvalier is seen as a signal of support from the U.S. Intelligence Community, which has supported impunity for right-wing dictators in Latin America and the Caribbean for decades.

Bob Barr, former Republican congressman from Georgia and the 2008 Libertarian presidential candidate appeared alongside Duvalier last year when the former dictator made his first public statement. CNN reported at the time that Barr and another two American lawyers “were there to advise him on international matters.” Barr’s website says that Barr and the other lawyers “will be representing him [Duvalier] in bringing his message of hope to the world.” Barr also downplayed Duvalier’s role in gross violations of human rights, asserting that “allegations are the cheapest commodity on the market.”

In a front page Washington Post article, William Booth reports on the luxurious lifestyle that former dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier has been living since his return to Haiti last year. Although officially on house arrest, Booth reports that Duvalier “dines with his many admirers at the chic bistros of Petionville” and last week for the two year anniversary of the earthquake “Duvalier drove himself — with a police escort — to the government’s memorial ceremony to mark the second anniversary of Haiti’s cataclysmic earthquake. The audience, which included Haiti’s President Michel Martelly, his prime minister and former president Bill Clinton, rose to greet him.” (Journalists on the scene noted that both Martelly and Clinton also shook Duvalier’s hand.)

Duvalier’s presence at the ceremony in Titanyen was particularly troubling because, as Susana Ferreira pointed out in an article for TIME:

Titanyen, located north of Port-au-Prince, has been used as a body dumping ground for decades. It’s where the Tonton Macoutes, the feared militia of the 1957-86 Duvalier family dictatorship, buried many of its estimated 30,000 victims.

Booth reports that Duvalier’s attorney believes all charges will be dropped, “He will be cleared of all charges. It is almost finished now; the judge is typing up the order to throw it all out,” Reynold Georges told Booth. This should come as little surprise given that President Martelly has consistently voiced his support for amnesty for the former dictator, telling Booth “It is part of the past. We need to learn our lessons and move forward.” Additionally, as Booth points out, “Martelly’s government includes many officials with ties to Duvalier’s government.” The AP’s Trenton Daniel reported in October that:

Now, a former minister and ambassador under the regime is serving as a close adviser to Martelly. And at least five high-ranking members of the administration, including the new prime minister, are the children of senior dictatorship officials.

Miguel Vivanco, the Americas director of Human Rights Watch said when Duvalier returned a year ago, that “Duvalier’s return to Haiti should be for one purpose only: to face justice. Under the presidency of Duvalier and his Tonton Macoutes, thousands were killed and tortured, and hundreds of thousands of Haitians fled into exile. His time to be held accountable is long overdue.” Amnesty International issued a statement this week calling on the Haitian government to prosecute Duvalier.  Amnesty’s statement is even more forceful, placing blame directly on Martelly and his administration for delaying the prosecution:

“The authorities haven’t made a serious effort to look into past events that afflicted a generation of Haitians with torture, enforced disappearance, extrajudicial executions, arbitrary arrests and other serious human rights violations.”

“The investigation seems to have deliberately stalled by changing Public Prosecutors multiple times,” said Javier Zúñiga.

“It has become evident that in Haiti, the independence of the judiciary is just a mirage.”

While noting that the “Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights have re-affirmed Haiti’s obligation to investigate these crimes”, Amnesty calls not just on Haitian authorities but on other entities, including the UN, to assist in the prosecution. Thus far however, the international community, especially the U.S. government, has remained silent despite the impunity enjoyed by Duvalier. As Booth reports:

But the lawyers pursuing Duvalier say that the international community, with the exception of Canada, has been mostly silent on the prosecution — and that the new government of Haiti is against it.

The U.S. ambassador to Haiti, Kenneth Merten, said the Duvalier case “is a matter for the Haitian courts and for the Haitian people who feel aggrieved.”

The statement by Merten is especially egregious. More than simply a matter for “the Haitian people who feel aggrieved”, the case against Duvalier is a matter of international law. Jeena Shah, a fellow with the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux in Haiti, notes that, “UN High Commissioner of Human Rights Navanethem Pillay affirmed, ‘Haiti has an obligation to investigate the well-documented serious human rights violations that occurred during the rule of Mr. Duvalier, and to prosecute those responsible for them.’” Additionally, Shah writes:

More than that, the U.S. State Department has yet to declassify files documenting Duvalier’s knowledge of his regime’s abuses, which could prove integral to establishing his criminal liability at trial. While it was comfortable playing a decisive role in Haiti’s recent elections by forcing the electoral council to reverse the first round results, the State Department declined to even remind Haiti of its obligation under international law to prosecute Duvalier, calling justice for Duvalier “a matter for the people of Haiti.” However, former U.S. Congressman Bob Barr’s assistance to Duvalier is seen as a signal of support from the U.S. Intelligence Community, which has supported impunity for right-wing dictators in Latin America and the Caribbean for decades.

Bob Barr, former Republican congressman from Georgia and the 2008 Libertarian presidential candidate appeared alongside Duvalier last year when the former dictator made his first public statement. CNN reported at the time that Barr and another two American lawyers “were there to advise him on international matters.” Barr’s website says that Barr and the other lawyers “will be representing him [Duvalier] in bringing his message of hope to the world.” Barr also downplayed Duvalier’s role in gross violations of human rights, asserting that “allegations are the cheapest commodity on the market.”

There have been a host of assessments in the media over the past week examining the state of recovery in Haiti two years after the earthquake. All of these present a mixed review, usually noting early on, as this one from Reuters’ Kevin Gray and Joseph Guyler Delva does, that “More than a half a million people still live in a critical situation in crowded tent camps, many without running water or electricity.” Gray and Guyler Delva also mention that “throngs of Haitians line the streets every day in a jarring reminder that 70 percent of the population is either unemployed or underemployed.”

Reuters goes on:

“It’s been two years and I’m still here in the camps,” said Jerome Mezil, a 28-year-old who lives in the Sainte-Therese tent camp in the capital’s Petionville district.

Some tent camp dwellers say they fear life outside the camps will be even tougher.

Indeed, this echoes what respondents told the International Organization for Migration last year regarding their decision to leave camps: “Poor conditions in the IDP site”, “eviction”, “high incidence of crime/insecurity in the IDP site”, and “rain/hurricane” were cited by 77.9 percent of respondents. These answers contradict claims by the Washington Post that “most were pulled away [from tent cities] by programs that gave them rent subsidies or assistance to repair a home.”

While some headlines seemed to present an almost rosy view of things two years later, the Miami Herald’s assessment begins

Half the money world governments pledged to Haiti never showed up. Half the money American private donors raised for Haiti hasn’t been spent. And many millions went to things like gasoline, car rentals and salaries.
 …
So while families continue to live in plastic tents, some organizations are running dry and major reconstruction projects are taking years longer than anticipated. Even after the billions were spent and billions more promised, experts say it will be another 10 years of spending before people see serious results.

Progress?

Many assessments also note the progress, however limited: half the rubble has been cleared. Roads have been built. A new university is opening. A clear sign of progress: a large new teaching hospital is being opened by Partners in Health in Mirebalais.

The Washington Post reported that “Haiti is providing free education for 900,000 children, many who have never been in a classroom before,” although describing that “the government hasn’t figured out how to pay for it.”

A recent report in Haiti Liberte stated

[Martelly’s education advisor Dimitri] Nau admitted that over 54% of the 903,000 students the government claims are going to school for free were already attending Haiti’s free national school system, and that their $2.50 to $5 annual registration fee was paid for by the Clinton Foundation, not the FNE.

Also reporting that

Senator Steven Benoit said that the taxes being levied on international calls and money transfers are “illegal.” He said that only two state institutions were authorized to collect such a tax: the General Directorate of Taxes (DGI) and the General Customs Administration (AGD).

and Reuters reported

In a potential blow to Martelly, reports surfaced recently that some $26 million have vanished from a new government education fund he set up. Martelly hoped new charges on cellular phone calls and remittances from abroad would help fund new schools.

The Washington Post also cites the “building [of] a Marriott hotel,” and “South Koreans, lured by generous subsidies and tax breaks …coming to make shirts and pants” as indicators of progress.

A Global Post report by Donovan Webster has a rare mention of another form of progress – one that Haitian organizations and grassroots activists are responsible for:

THE LOCAL AGENCY called Kofaviv (which is a Creole-French acronym for The Commission of Women Victims for Victims) is a friendly, welcoming place on the edge of the main city. They are an established organization, working against domestic violence and rape. As I sit and wait for one of the office staff, Sofanie Louis, a woman is sitting inside a pleasant-looking, glass-walled boardroom — its long wooden table down the middle — and she is talking about how she has been enduring domestic violence.

Finally, the interview is ended, and Sofanie Louis is free to talk.

“Kofaviv has 60 agents in the communities and camps,” she says. “And really, now that things have settled down, we don’t see nearly the violence and rape. Still, it exists, but maybe the statistics are half what they were.”

Still, she is not forthcoming with numbers and statistics.

NGO’s and International Aid

“International aid charities have spent about two-thirds of the money they raised after the deadly earthquake that rattled Haiti nearly two years ago,” the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s Marisa López-Rivera and Caroline Preston report. They go on to write:

Over all, 60 groups and their international affiliates raised a total of $2.1-billion, including $1.43-billion from Americans, according to a Chronicle tally. Fifteen of 53 groups that provided updated information to The Chronicle had either spent all of their money or had less than $200,000 left.

These include Relief International, which “spent 81 percent of the $599,344 it collected after the disaster,” Habitat for Humanity International, which “spent all of the $36.4-million it received,” and Food for the Poor, which, “spent all of the $20.7-million it raised in the first 10 months after the disaster.”

The Miami Herald mentioned some areas where NGO spending has gone:

Agencies also burned through money on soaring rents and overpriced supplies. After the quake, landlords charged $7,000 or more to rent a single house and quadrupled the prices of materials.

Consider: Project Medishare, the University of Miami hospital, spends $30,000 a month on electricity alone. It costs another $3,500 a month to rent an SUV in Haiti.

Oxfam is among the few groups that spell out how much it spent just on management: $14.4 million. It also spent $150,000 a month trucking water and $30,000 per month on warehouse fees.

The Herald also notes

The American Red Cross built about 5,000 transitional houses and fixed the same number of broken ones. By this time last year, The Red Cross had built 133 homes. Now it boasts 4,900.

But that organization and other large non-governmental organizations are continuously under fire here for having large balances. The American Red Cross alone has $150 million left, which it plans to use on long-term projects.

As for the Red Cross, which also features prominently in the new film “Haiti: Where Did the Money Go?”, the Chronicle of Philanthropy reports on a new trend: the American Red Cross is

now acting like a grant maker, awarding some of its donations to other nonprofits.

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

The Center for Public Integrity looks at how many NGO’s are perceived in Haiti: “as “vòlè” (thieves or crooks), “malonèt” (liars) and “kowonpi” (corrupt).”

(CPI also has a handy infographic titled “Haiti by the Numbers”, with data mostly from the Office of the UN Special Envoy for Haiti.)

Donovan Webster in the Global Post: examines problems with international aid, using food assistance as a jumping-off point:

But the economy of rice in Haiti says everything about the condition the country is in. The US government subsidizes and “donates” ton after ton of rice in Haiti and in so doing has through the last several decades completely undercut Haitian rice farmers and left them destitute and migrating into cities where they live in hovels that were destroyed by the quake.

As recently as the early 1980s, Haiti was producing just about all of its own rice. Now more than 60 percent is imported from the US, making it the fourth largest recipient of American rice exports in the world. That was before the quake and now with donated rice coming in as well, Haiti is even more awash in rice while American agribusiness makes billions of dollars every year through generous government subsidies.

(To avoid this problem, and directly support Haitian rice farmers, we proposed only months after the earthquake that the U.S. government and other international donors buy up the Haitian rice crop at a fair price as part of food assistance. The proposal met with relatively little interest in the U.S. Congress.)

USA Today’s Marisol Bello cites CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot, who explains that

governments did not pledge enough aid for reconstruction, estimated to cost more than $10 billion, and money that has been pledged isn’t being doled out fast enough.

The U.N. says $2.4 billion has been disbursed to aid groups and for-profit development companies, but Weisbrot says that doesn’t mean the money has been spent.

A report by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Eleanor Bell states:

It’s estimated that there’s 10,000 NGOs operating in Haiti, the highest number per capita in the world. Yet two years on little has changed.

Investigative journalist Michele Mitchell tackles the subject in her documentary, Haiti: Where did all the money go?

It debuts tomorrow on American television. After visits to hundred of camps she makes the extraordinary claim that life for Haitians is worse now than before the quake.

MICHELE MITCHELL: The conditions have actually deteriorated significantly. Those tarps are torn and those pots and pans that were given out, those are being sold for food.

And food is not being distributed anymore in these camps and medical care is very difficult to find. Sanitation is pathetic. All of these things mean that for whatever money was spent, it wasn’t spent very well at all.

These problems with aid, observed in detail over the past two years (and before), prompted TransAfrica, the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, Let Haiti Live and the Center for Constitutional Rights to recommend:

effective oversight to aid distribution to hold public agencies and non-governmental organizations (“NGOs”) accountable for the money they have received in the name of Haitians, and more emphasis on Haitian-led recovery efforts

and

reallocation of funds spent on United Nations soldiers to secure basic services for Haitians, such as building the clean water and sanitation infrastructure necessary to control the cholera epidemic.

Among other recommendations.

“Haitians are never at the table to determine how money should be spent, and they certainly aren’t participating in evaluating the success so far,” Let Haiti Live’s Melinda Miles states in the press release, “despite the evidence that Haitian-led efforts are the most successful.”

Cholera

Many reports note that Haitians also continue to struggle with the cholera epidemic, something that is not a direct legacy of the earthquake (contrary to a Tweet from UNICEF), with some 7,000 having died from the disease and over 520,000 infected. Partners in Health believes it has identified the first cholera victim, a mentally ill man who bathed and drank water from the Meille River, AP reports.

ABC News’ Brian Ross and Matthew Mosk have a new report citing scientists on the epidemic’s origins, and noting that the strain is “more virulent, more capable of causing severe disease, and more transmissible,” as Harvard’s John Mekalanos describes it. While the report cites UN officials as continuing to deny that MINUSTAH troops were responsible for the outbreak, epidemiologist Renaud Piarroux is quoted as saying there is “no doubt”:

“The scientific debate on the origin of cholera in Haiti existed, but it has been resolved by the accumulation of evidence that unfortunately leave no doubt about the implication of the Nepalese contingent of the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti.”

UPI quotes the Pan American Health Organization as calling the cholera epidemic “one of the largest epidemics of the disease in modern history to affect a single country,” and warning of an increase in cases with the onset of the rainy season in the Spring. Despite this, the Chronicle of Philanthropy notes

Medical charities worry that they won’t be able to respond effectively if cholera resurges or if the country experiences another major health crisis.

International Medical Corps now has roughly 40 staff members in Haiti, compared with 700 in June. This month it plans to hand over to the government the last of the cholera treatment centers it has been overseeing.

There have been a host of assessments in the media over the past week examining the state of recovery in Haiti two years after the earthquake. All of these present a mixed review, usually noting early on, as this one from Reuters’ Kevin Gray and Joseph Guyler Delva does, that “More than a half a million people still live in a critical situation in crowded tent camps, many without running water or electricity.” Gray and Guyler Delva also mention that “throngs of Haitians line the streets every day in a jarring reminder that 70 percent of the population is either unemployed or underemployed.”

Reuters goes on:

“It’s been two years and I’m still here in the camps,” said Jerome Mezil, a 28-year-old who lives in the Sainte-Therese tent camp in the capital’s Petionville district.

Some tent camp dwellers say they fear life outside the camps will be even tougher.

Indeed, this echoes what respondents told the International Organization for Migration last year regarding their decision to leave camps: “Poor conditions in the IDP site”, “eviction”, “high incidence of crime/insecurity in the IDP site”, and “rain/hurricane” were cited by 77.9 percent of respondents. These answers contradict claims by the Washington Post that “most were pulled away [from tent cities] by programs that gave them rent subsidies or assistance to repair a home.”

While some headlines seemed to present an almost rosy view of things two years later, the Miami Herald’s assessment begins

Half the money world governments pledged to Haiti never showed up. Half the money American private donors raised for Haiti hasn’t been spent. And many millions went to things like gasoline, car rentals and salaries.
 …
So while families continue to live in plastic tents, some organizations are running dry and major reconstruction projects are taking years longer than anticipated. Even after the billions were spent and billions more promised, experts say it will be another 10 years of spending before people see serious results.

Progress?

Many assessments also note the progress, however limited: half the rubble has been cleared. Roads have been built. A new university is opening. A clear sign of progress: a large new teaching hospital is being opened by Partners in Health in Mirebalais.

The Washington Post reported that “Haiti is providing free education for 900,000 children, many who have never been in a classroom before,” although describing that “the government hasn’t figured out how to pay for it.”

A recent report in Haiti Liberte stated

[Martelly’s education advisor Dimitri] Nau admitted that over 54% of the 903,000 students the government claims are going to school for free were already attending Haiti’s free national school system, and that their $2.50 to $5 annual registration fee was paid for by the Clinton Foundation, not the FNE.

Also reporting that

Senator Steven Benoit said that the taxes being levied on international calls and money transfers are “illegal.” He said that only two state institutions were authorized to collect such a tax: the General Directorate of Taxes (DGI) and the General Customs Administration (AGD).

and Reuters reported

In a potential blow to Martelly, reports surfaced recently that some $26 million have vanished from a new government education fund he set up. Martelly hoped new charges on cellular phone calls and remittances from abroad would help fund new schools.

The Washington Post also cites the “building [of] a Marriott hotel,” and “South Koreans, lured by generous subsidies and tax breaks …coming to make shirts and pants” as indicators of progress.

A Global Post report by Donovan Webster has a rare mention of another form of progress – one that Haitian organizations and grassroots activists are responsible for:

THE LOCAL AGENCY called Kofaviv (which is a Creole-French acronym for The Commission of Women Victims for Victims) is a friendly, welcoming place on the edge of the main city. They are an established organization, working against domestic violence and rape. As I sit and wait for one of the office staff, Sofanie Louis, a woman is sitting inside a pleasant-looking, glass-walled boardroom — its long wooden table down the middle — and she is talking about how she has been enduring domestic violence.

Finally, the interview is ended, and Sofanie Louis is free to talk.

“Kofaviv has 60 agents in the communities and camps,” she says. “And really, now that things have settled down, we don’t see nearly the violence and rape. Still, it exists, but maybe the statistics are half what they were.”

Still, she is not forthcoming with numbers and statistics.

NGO’s and International Aid

“International aid charities have spent about two-thirds of the money they raised after the deadly earthquake that rattled Haiti nearly two years ago,” the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s Marisa López-Rivera and Caroline Preston report. They go on to write:

Over all, 60 groups and their international affiliates raised a total of $2.1-billion, including $1.43-billion from Americans, according to a Chronicle tally. Fifteen of 53 groups that provided updated information to The Chronicle had either spent all of their money or had less than $200,000 left.

These include Relief International, which “spent 81 percent of the $599,344 it collected after the disaster,” Habitat for Humanity International, which “spent all of the $36.4-million it received,” and Food for the Poor, which, “spent all of the $20.7-million it raised in the first 10 months after the disaster.”

The Miami Herald mentioned some areas where NGO spending has gone:

Agencies also burned through money on soaring rents and overpriced supplies. After the quake, landlords charged $7,000 or more to rent a single house and quadrupled the prices of materials.

Consider: Project Medishare, the University of Miami hospital, spends $30,000 a month on electricity alone. It costs another $3,500 a month to rent an SUV in Haiti.

Oxfam is among the few groups that spell out how much it spent just on management: $14.4 million. It also spent $150,000 a month trucking water and $30,000 per month on warehouse fees.

The Herald also notes

The American Red Cross built about 5,000 transitional houses and fixed the same number of broken ones. By this time last year, The Red Cross had built 133 homes. Now it boasts 4,900.

But that organization and other large non-governmental organizations are continuously under fire here for having large balances. The American Red Cross alone has $150 million left, which it plans to use on long-term projects.

As for the Red Cross, which also features prominently in the new film “Haiti: Where Did the Money Go?”, the Chronicle of Philanthropy reports on a new trend: the American Red Cross is

now acting like a grant maker, awarding some of its donations to other nonprofits.

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

The Center for Public Integrity looks at how many NGO’s are perceived in Haiti: “as “vòlè” (thieves or crooks), “malonèt” (liars) and “kowonpi” (corrupt).”

(CPI also has a handy infographic titled “Haiti by the Numbers”, with data mostly from the Office of the UN Special Envoy for Haiti.)

Donovan Webster in the Global Post: examines problems with international aid, using food assistance as a jumping-off point:

But the economy of rice in Haiti says everything about the condition the country is in. The US government subsidizes and “donates” ton after ton of rice in Haiti and in so doing has through the last several decades completely undercut Haitian rice farmers and left them destitute and migrating into cities where they live in hovels that were destroyed by the quake.

As recently as the early 1980s, Haiti was producing just about all of its own rice. Now more than 60 percent is imported from the US, making it the fourth largest recipient of American rice exports in the world. That was before the quake and now with donated rice coming in as well, Haiti is even more awash in rice while American agribusiness makes billions of dollars every year through generous government subsidies.

(To avoid this problem, and directly support Haitian rice farmers, we proposed only months after the earthquake that the U.S. government and other international donors buy up the Haitian rice crop at a fair price as part of food assistance. The proposal met with relatively little interest in the U.S. Congress.)

USA Today’s Marisol Bello cites CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot, who explains that

governments did not pledge enough aid for reconstruction, estimated to cost more than $10 billion, and money that has been pledged isn’t being doled out fast enough.

The U.N. says $2.4 billion has been disbursed to aid groups and for-profit development companies, but Weisbrot says that doesn’t mean the money has been spent.

A report by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Eleanor Bell states:

It’s estimated that there’s 10,000 NGOs operating in Haiti, the highest number per capita in the world. Yet two years on little has changed.

Investigative journalist Michele Mitchell tackles the subject in her documentary, Haiti: Where did all the money go?

It debuts tomorrow on American television. After visits to hundred of camps she makes the extraordinary claim that life for Haitians is worse now than before the quake.

MICHELE MITCHELL: The conditions have actually deteriorated significantly. Those tarps are torn and those pots and pans that were given out, those are being sold for food.

And food is not being distributed anymore in these camps and medical care is very difficult to find. Sanitation is pathetic. All of these things mean that for whatever money was spent, it wasn’t spent very well at all.

These problems with aid, observed in detail over the past two years (and before), prompted TransAfrica, the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, Let Haiti Live and the Center for Constitutional Rights to recommend:

effective oversight to aid distribution to hold public agencies and non-governmental organizations (“NGOs”) accountable for the money they have received in the name of Haitians, and more emphasis on Haitian-led recovery efforts

and

reallocation of funds spent on United Nations soldiers to secure basic services for Haitians, such as building the clean water and sanitation infrastructure necessary to control the cholera epidemic.

Among other recommendations.

“Haitians are never at the table to determine how money should be spent, and they certainly aren’t participating in evaluating the success so far,” Let Haiti Live’s Melinda Miles states in the press release, “despite the evidence that Haitian-led efforts are the most successful.”

Cholera

Many reports note that Haitians also continue to struggle with the cholera epidemic, something that is not a direct legacy of the earthquake (contrary to a Tweet from UNICEF), with some 7,000 having died from the disease and over 520,000 infected. Partners in Health believes it has identified the first cholera victim, a mentally ill man who bathed and drank water from the Meille River, AP reports.

ABC News’ Brian Ross and Matthew Mosk have a new report citing scientists on the epidemic’s origins, and noting that the strain is “more virulent, more capable of causing severe disease, and more transmissible,” as Harvard’s John Mekalanos describes it. While the report cites UN officials as continuing to deny that MINUSTAH troops were responsible for the outbreak, epidemiologist Renaud Piarroux is quoted as saying there is “no doubt”:

“The scientific debate on the origin of cholera in Haiti existed, but it has been resolved by the accumulation of evidence that unfortunately leave no doubt about the implication of the Nepalese contingent of the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti.”

UPI quotes the Pan American Health Organization as calling the cholera epidemic “one of the largest epidemics of the disease in modern history to affect a single country,” and warning of an increase in cases with the onset of the rainy season in the Spring. Despite this, the Chronicle of Philanthropy notes

Medical charities worry that they won’t be able to respond effectively if cholera resurges or if the country experiences another major health crisis.

International Medical Corps now has roughly 40 staff members in Haiti, compared with 700 in June. This month it plans to hand over to the government the last of the cholera treatment centers it has been overseeing.

In the weeks prior to the 2nd anniversary of Haiti’s January 12, 2010 earthquake, an unprecedented U.S. State Department public relations offensive has unfolded. On December 28 the U.S. State Department released 11 fact sheets, celebrating the achievements of the U.S. humanitarian and development assistance in Haiti in areas ranging from shelter to food security.  To make sure the message got through to journalists, on January 6th the U.S. government partnered up with UN entities and held a joint press teleconference on Haiti to discuss the “amazing” work done removing rubble and providing clean water and shelter to those made homeless by the quake.

The effort continued with an op-ed by Cheryl Mills, Counselor and Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that appeared on January 9thin the Huffington Post.  The piece was then sent out widely by the State Department public affairs office. Finally, on the day of the anniversary, additional op-eds were published by Rajiv Shah, the head of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Mark Feierstein, Assistant Administrator, Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean at USAID.  Shah and Feierstein appeared to have received the same memo: their talking points were strikingly similar and the two articles had nearly the same titles “Haiti Is on the Move” and “Haiti ‘a country undeniably on the move’”.

Clearly, there is heightened concern – within the U.S. foreign policy machine – about the perception of U.S. efforts in Haiti, given the increased press scrutiny generated by the 2nd quake anniversary commemorations.  A lot of money has been spent – $2.2 billion by the US alone according to their fact sheet on funding – and it’s important to show some results after two years.  And, apparently, there are plenty of results on display, as Cheryl Mills has emphasized in her piece, which rolls out ten impressive-sounding achievements.  But are these achievements real, and – if they are – do they really represent significant steps forward?   Let’s try to go beyond the hype by taking a closer look at Cheryl Mills’ article “Haiti – Two Years Post-Earthquake: What You May Not Know,” and providing the reader with a few additional facts that Mills and the U.S. State Department may prefer you not know: 

1. Cheryl Mills:  “Almost two-thirds of the estimated 1.5 million Haitians living in tent shelters after the January 2010 earthquake have left camps, many returning to houses that have undergone structural improvements or moving into temporary shelters and permanent homes.”

Haiti Relief and Reconstruction Watch:  Certainly a reduction in the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) sounds like a positive development, but did you check to see where the folks who left the camps went, and why they left?   According to an International Organization of Migration (IOM) study from last March (by which time the vast majority of the IDP population reduction had already taken place) found that many people were leaving the camps for even more precarious living situations, not for new homes or T-shelters.  Between June 2010 and March 2011 over 230,000 people were evicted, accounting for much of the decline in the IDP population.

CM:  “The U.S. government, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), has completed more than 28,500 temporary shelters, housing approximately 143,000 people. The U.S. government has also funded repairs to more than 6,000 “yellow” structures — those that were deemed structurally safe if repairs are made. Today, more than 40,000 have returned to those homes.”

HRRW:  The so called temporary shelters – or “T-Shelters” – were originally meant to be completed before the first hurricane season, but as a recent independent evaluation found the plans have still not been completed and the shelters ended up costing $530 million, as compared to $187 million as originally planned. Additionally, the evaluation found that Haitians were generally excluded from the planning and implementation of temporary shelter solutions. As one interviewee told the evaluation team, “Affected people were not consulted nor their capacities considered, the response was what those with the [foreign] money decided.” As for the yellow houses, the fact that repairs have begun is a positive development, however, a USAID commissioned study found that 84,951 yellow buildings and an additional 73,846 buildings coded red and still in need of repair or demolition were being occupied by over one million Haitians.

2. CM:  “Over half of the estimated 10 million cubic meters of rubble created by the earthquake has been removed — almost 50 percent of which was removed through efforts of the U.S. government.”

HRRW:  Agencies have been pointing to the clearing of half the rubble as a sign of progress for months now, and – though it is undeniable that much has been removed – it may not actually be half. While the US Government, UN and many other agencies say 5 million cubic meters have been removed out of a total of 10, the World Bank estimates that 4 million cubic meters have been removed out of a total of 11. That’s closer to one-third than one half.

While rubble has been removed, the process has delayed efforts to provide shelter and move forward with the reconstruction of Port-au-Prince and outlying areas. A USAID Inspector General (IG) report on the provision of shelter found that debris was often an impediment. USAID officials told the IG that they had not foreseen the problems with rubble, despite previous warnings from grantees. As a result the IG found:

USAID/OFDA did not fund significant rubble removal activities in conjunction with its shelter grants. Some grants included funding for rubble removal through cash-for-work activities, which did not include heavy machinery. Only in November 2010 did USAID/OFDA sign a grant modification to the CHF shelter grant that incorporated the use of heavy equipment to remove rubble in conjunction with shelter construction in a Port-au-Prince neighborhood.

3. CM:  “In 2011, Haitians went to the polls and elected a new President, Michel Martelly, to succeed Rene Preval. This election marked the first democratic transfer of power from one democratically elected government leader to a member of the opposition.”

HRRW:  When we think back to Haiti’s last elections, a lot of words come to mind.  “Democratic” isn’t one of them.  As various organizations and U.S. members of Congress noted, the elections were deeply flawed before they even took place, as a result of the decision to exclude Haiti’s largest political party, Fanmi Lavalas.  Organized in haste, and near the peak of the cholera crisis, the election process itself had extremely low turnout and was rife with irregularities.  The U.S. made matters worse by forcing Haitian authorities to change the final results of the first round of the presidential elections, switching Celestin for Martelly, based on an arbitrary analysis. The bulk of the funding for these flawed elections came from the U.S.  But the U.S. seems to be in the habit of taking counter-intuitive positions on elections in the region.

4.  CM:  “For the first time in more than 25 years, Haiti is poised to have all three branches — executive, legislative and judiciary — of government in place. President Martelly has appointed three members of the Supreme Court, including the Court’s president — a position that was vacant for six years and is central to the judiciary’s oversight body.”

HRRW: Government positions may indeed be filled, however in addition to Martelly, the fatally flawed elections that occurred last November also brought many in the legislature into positions of power. Now this flawed process appears set to repeat itself. The disgraced electoral council has been disbanded by Martelly but it remains to be seen if Martelly will establish a Permanent Electoral Council as called for in Haiti’s constitution, or if like his predecessor, he will exercise significant control over the electoral authority. Martelly also has been consistently antagonistic in his relationship with the legislature, originally insisting on two candidates for prime minister that had little support in parliament.

5. CM: “The Haitian Ministry of Health, supported by the international community including USG through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and USAID, led the international community’s response to prevent and treat cholera — bringing the case mortality rate below the international standard of one percent.”

HRRW: The overall mortality rate since the beginning of the epidemic is 1.3 percent, and even with the onset of the dry season lowering the current rate, the Pan American Health Organization recently referred to the epidemic as “one of the largest cholera outbreaks in modern history to affect a single country.” The Guardian wrote today, “Last year, the head of Médecins Sans Frontières, Unni Karunakara, said the human cost of the cholera outbreak in Haiti was ‘a damning indictment’ of the international aid system, as cholera is a disease that’s easily treated and controlled – and given the thousands of NGOs working in what is one of the world’s smallest countries.” Last year when cases dropped many NGOs pulled out of the field and donor funds dried up, only to see cases spike again with the onset of the rainy season. Health experts warn a similar situation could occur this year. To truly eradicate cholera from Haiti it will take serious investment in water and sanitation infrastructure, of which little has been thus far.

It is important to note that the U.S. blocked $54 million in Inter-American Development Bank loans for such infrastructure for several years during the 2000’s, out of political motives (it was opposed to the democratically-elected government at the time). Haiti’s hampered ability to improve its drinking water made the potential of a water-borne disease epidemic much more likely, as Paul Farmer and other experts have noted.

It’s also important to remember that the cholera epidemic – that has infected at least 520,000 and killed at least 7,000 – is a new phenomenon that was brought by the international community, in this case the MINUSTAH military peacekeeping force.  MINUSTAH – an entity that receives funding and strong political support from the U.S. – is unpopular in Haiti as a result of its responsibility for introducing cholera and the many abuses that its soldiers have committed over the years.  Many question why MINUSTAH is still in Haiti at all, given the low rate of violent crime and the many other pressing needs in the country.

6. CM: “According to the UN Special Envoy for Haiti’s website, of the 4.5 billion pledged for Haiti for 2010-2011, approximately 2.4 billion had been spent by December 2011. In October, the legislative mandate for the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC) ended. During its tenure, the Commission approved 89 projects across 8 sectors valued at more than 3 billion dollars. Even in the absence of a legislatively mandated coordination mechanism, the 12 largest donors continue to leverage the relationships built through the IHRC to coordinate among themselves and work with the Government of Haiti through resident representatives.”

HRRW:  Of the $4.5 billion pledged over 2010-2011, only 53 percent has been disbursed (and not “spent” as Cheryl Mills asserts). What does disbursed mean? Donors have “disbursed” nearly $400 million to the Haiti Reconstruction Fund, yet only $55 million of that has been spent. And while it’s true that the IHRC approved 89 projects worth over $3 billion, an April review found that only four had been completed and an additional 41 projects were either in the contracting or funding phase. Overall — although not all projects provided financial updates — just $117.7 million had been reported as spent out of the $3.2 billion in projects, a rate of just 3.7 per cent.

7. CM:  “The Government of Haiti, with the support of stakeholders, including the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), is providing schooling to 260,000 elementary students for a total of 750,000 elementary students enrolled this school year.”

HRRW: President Martelly has made a lot of noise about his plan to send everyone to school for free; it’s hard to miss the billboards around Port-au-Prince letting you know. But the IDB program began under the previous administration of René Preval and has simply continued. Meanwhile, the Haitian government’s plan has so far come up empty, angering teachers and administrators who still have not received the government subsidies. As the Washington Post reported yesterday regarding the education plan, “the government hasn’t figured out how to pay for it.” Meanwhile the millions collected from international phone calls and money transfers meant to be channeled towards education remain clouded in mystery.

8. CM:  “The Government of Haiti is overhauling its state-owned electricity company, Electricite D’Haiti (EDH), which provides electricity to just 12 percent of the population and requires more than 100 million a year in government subsidy to operate. The Government of Haiti has appointed new Haitian leadership and an internationally respected turnaround management team funded by the U.S. government. In the first three months, the new management has helped the utility company improve its operations, its transparency and its fiscal efficiency, identifying more than 1.6 million in monthly savings. The new management will not only improve and expand services, but also help reduce the substantial government subsidy for EDH’s operations, freeing these resources up for other critical needs.”

HRRW:  EDH is badly in need of reform, and hopefully these measures will help improve the critical services this company provides without accelerating the march toward privatization that many outside actors, including the U.S. government, appear to support.  However, the company is – at the moment – on a financially unsustainable path as EDH’s Director, Garry Valdemar, has himself acknowledged.  According to a recent article on the on-line news site Defend Haiti, he stated the following: 

“Today, the revenues of EDH can cover about 30% of the operating budget, which includes wages, purchase of energy and fuel for power plants can operate […] the situation is that the EDH receives about 6 million U.S. dollars per month for expenses that are around 17 million, financially, the company is not sustainable.”

9. CM:  “The U.S. government is doing development differently in Haiti, consistent with the principles of the Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development and its focus on catalyzing economic growth:

”Caracol Industrial Park: In November, President Martelly, President Clinton, and Inter-American Development Bank President Luis Moreno and more than a 1,000 members of the local community took part in an official ceremony laying the Park’s foundation, on track for its March opening. The speed and efficiency of implementation rivals the fast-moving construction schedules of industrial projects across the Americas, Europe and Asia. The 250-hectare Caracol Industrial Park in northern Haiti is a 300 million public-private partnership supported by increased U.S. trade preferences under the Haiti Economic Lift Program (HELP) Act and the coordination mechanisms created by the IHRC. The USG helped convene the GOH, the IDB and Korea’s largest apparel manufacturer, Sae-A, the Park’s anchor tenant. Sae-A has committed to create 20,000 direct jobs and invest 78 million over six years, one of the largest investments in Haiti’s modern history. With the arrival of other tenants, the Park has the potential to create 65,000 direct jobs, with additional opportunities expected for vendors, repair shops, farmers and other small businesses. USG investments will provide for electrification, new housing, and port facilities. IDB investments will provide for the construction of the park facilities and roads. The GOH is contributing the land and managing the project top to bottom with a team of Haitian professionals.”

HRRW:  The Caracol Industrial Park is one of USAID’s showcase projects in Haiti but many question whether apparel factories will really be a development model to provide sustainable livelihoods for Haitians.  The same week the cornerstone of the industrial park was laid, a report by Better Work Haiti (a project of the ILO funded in part by the US) found that a half-dozen factory workers had recently been fired in retaliation for their union organizing. Meanwhile, the minimum wage in the factories remains low, well below estimates as to what a true living wage should be.

Nevertheless, the U.S. government has also worked with factory owners and multinational companies to prevent a hike in Haiti’s minimum wage, as The Nation reported last year.

There are also problems with the industrial park’s location. As Haiti Grassroots Watch has pointed out in a detailed analysis of the project, among other faults, it is being built “steps from an area formerly slated to become a ‘marine protected area.’”

MC:  “Agriculture: Through USG investments in agriculture and food security, more than 9,700 farmers have benefited from improved seeds, fertilizer, technologies, and techniques. This has resulted in a 64 percent increase in rice yields, a 338 percent increase in corn yields, a 97 percent increase in bean crop yields and a 21 percent increase in plantain yields for these farmers. As a result of a full value chain approach, incomes are up over 50 percent for 8,750 small farmers.”

HRRW:  The agricultural sector certainly needs support, but the U.S. government has historically (and continues to this day) undermined Haitian agriculture through food aid. This is a point former President Bill Clinton made last year, discussing US food aid policies before the Senate, Clinton said, “It may have been good for some of my farmers in Arkansas, but it has not worked. It was a mistake,” adding, “I had to live everyday with the consequences of the loss of capacity to produce a rice crop in Haiti to feed those people because of what I did; nobody else.” Although some efforts by the World Food Program and France have increased the local purchases of food aid, helping to stimulate as opposed to undermine local production, the U.S. has lagged behind its peers.

There is some evidence that even the U.S. government support to the agricultural sector has been problematic. Jacob Kushner reported this week that many have rejected the USAID program:

Many Haitian farmers rejected the program, however, after they discovered that 475 tons of seeds were hybrids donated by Monsanto, the world’s largest developer of genetically modified seeds. Unlike traditional crops, hybrids do not produce new seeds that can be collected and planted the following growing season, meaning farmers in Haiti would need to begin purchasing the seeds from Monsanto or another company once donations stopped.

“In Haiti, people each year conserve their own feed for the next year. But USAID doesn’t want to promote this kind of agriculture,” Jean-Baptiste said.

10. MC:  “Haiti is experiencing continued and increasing international investment interest. A multi-day conference on business development opportunities in Haiti drew around 1,000 business leaders from the private sector as well as officials from 29 countries spanning the Americas, Asia and Europe. Marriot and Digicel announced the construction of a new 45 million Marriot hotel in Port-Au-Prince, with the construction by several developers of more than 750 hotel rooms in the pipeline — representing the largest growth in the industry for the Caribbean region, which includes popular tourist destinations in Mexico, the Dominican Republic and the Turks and Caicos Islands.”

HRRW: Indeed the reconstruction effort has often seemed more geared towards business opportunities for international investors rather than the Haitian private sector. An analysis of USAID contracts awarded since the earthquake show that some 83 percent of the funds have gone to Beltway firms. On the other hand, direct contracts to Haitian firms account for just 0.02 percent of funds.

At the same time, support for the Haitian public sector has declined, in fact there was less direct budget support in 2011 than in 2009, before the earthquake.

UPDATE 1/16: This post has been edited slightly for clarity.

In the weeks prior to the 2nd anniversary of Haiti’s January 12, 2010 earthquake, an unprecedented U.S. State Department public relations offensive has unfolded. On December 28 the U.S. State Department released 11 fact sheets, celebrating the achievements of the U.S. humanitarian and development assistance in Haiti in areas ranging from shelter to food security.  To make sure the message got through to journalists, on January 6th the U.S. government partnered up with UN entities and held a joint press teleconference on Haiti to discuss the “amazing” work done removing rubble and providing clean water and shelter to those made homeless by the quake.

The effort continued with an op-ed by Cheryl Mills, Counselor and Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that appeared on January 9thin the Huffington Post.  The piece was then sent out widely by the State Department public affairs office. Finally, on the day of the anniversary, additional op-eds were published by Rajiv Shah, the head of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Mark Feierstein, Assistant Administrator, Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean at USAID.  Shah and Feierstein appeared to have received the same memo: their talking points were strikingly similar and the two articles had nearly the same titles “Haiti Is on the Move” and “Haiti ‘a country undeniably on the move’”.

Clearly, there is heightened concern – within the U.S. foreign policy machine – about the perception of U.S. efforts in Haiti, given the increased press scrutiny generated by the 2nd quake anniversary commemorations.  A lot of money has been spent – $2.2 billion by the US alone according to their fact sheet on funding – and it’s important to show some results after two years.  And, apparently, there are plenty of results on display, as Cheryl Mills has emphasized in her piece, which rolls out ten impressive-sounding achievements.  But are these achievements real, and – if they are – do they really represent significant steps forward?   Let’s try to go beyond the hype by taking a closer look at Cheryl Mills’ article “Haiti – Two Years Post-Earthquake: What You May Not Know,” and providing the reader with a few additional facts that Mills and the U.S. State Department may prefer you not know: 

1. Cheryl Mills:  “Almost two-thirds of the estimated 1.5 million Haitians living in tent shelters after the January 2010 earthquake have left camps, many returning to houses that have undergone structural improvements or moving into temporary shelters and permanent homes.”

Haiti Relief and Reconstruction Watch:  Certainly a reduction in the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) sounds like a positive development, but did you check to see where the folks who left the camps went, and why they left?   According to an International Organization of Migration (IOM) study from last March (by which time the vast majority of the IDP population reduction had already taken place) found that many people were leaving the camps for even more precarious living situations, not for new homes or T-shelters.  Between June 2010 and March 2011 over 230,000 people were evicted, accounting for much of the decline in the IDP population.

CM:  “The U.S. government, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), has completed more than 28,500 temporary shelters, housing approximately 143,000 people. The U.S. government has also funded repairs to more than 6,000 “yellow” structures — those that were deemed structurally safe if repairs are made. Today, more than 40,000 have returned to those homes.”

HRRW:  The so called temporary shelters – or “T-Shelters” – were originally meant to be completed before the first hurricane season, but as a recent independent evaluation found the plans have still not been completed and the shelters ended up costing $530 million, as compared to $187 million as originally planned. Additionally, the evaluation found that Haitians were generally excluded from the planning and implementation of temporary shelter solutions. As one interviewee told the evaluation team, “Affected people were not consulted nor their capacities considered, the response was what those with the [foreign] money decided.” As for the yellow houses, the fact that repairs have begun is a positive development, however, a USAID commissioned study found that 84,951 yellow buildings and an additional 73,846 buildings coded red and still in need of repair or demolition were being occupied by over one million Haitians.

2. CM:  “Over half of the estimated 10 million cubic meters of rubble created by the earthquake has been removed — almost 50 percent of which was removed through efforts of the U.S. government.”

HRRW:  Agencies have been pointing to the clearing of half the rubble as a sign of progress for months now, and – though it is undeniable that much has been removed – it may not actually be half. While the US Government, UN and many other agencies say 5 million cubic meters have been removed out of a total of 10, the World Bank estimates that 4 million cubic meters have been removed out of a total of 11. That’s closer to one-third than one half.

While rubble has been removed, the process has delayed efforts to provide shelter and move forward with the reconstruction of Port-au-Prince and outlying areas. A USAID Inspector General (IG) report on the provision of shelter found that debris was often an impediment. USAID officials told the IG that they had not foreseen the problems with rubble, despite previous warnings from grantees. As a result the IG found:

USAID/OFDA did not fund significant rubble removal activities in conjunction with its shelter grants. Some grants included funding for rubble removal through cash-for-work activities, which did not include heavy machinery. Only in November 2010 did USAID/OFDA sign a grant modification to the CHF shelter grant that incorporated the use of heavy equipment to remove rubble in conjunction with shelter construction in a Port-au-Prince neighborhood.

3. CM:  “In 2011, Haitians went to the polls and elected a new President, Michel Martelly, to succeed Rene Preval. This election marked the first democratic transfer of power from one democratically elected government leader to a member of the opposition.”

HRRW:  When we think back to Haiti’s last elections, a lot of words come to mind.  “Democratic” isn’t one of them.  As various organizations and U.S. members of Congress noted, the elections were deeply flawed before they even took place, as a result of the decision to exclude Haiti’s largest political party, Fanmi Lavalas.  Organized in haste, and near the peak of the cholera crisis, the election process itself had extremely low turnout and was rife with irregularities.  The U.S. made matters worse by forcing Haitian authorities to change the final results of the first round of the presidential elections, switching Celestin for Martelly, based on an arbitrary analysis. The bulk of the funding for these flawed elections came from the U.S.  But the U.S. seems to be in the habit of taking counter-intuitive positions on elections in the region.

4.  CM:  “For the first time in more than 25 years, Haiti is poised to have all three branches — executive, legislative and judiciary — of government in place. President Martelly has appointed three members of the Supreme Court, including the Court’s president — a position that was vacant for six years and is central to the judiciary’s oversight body.”

HRRW: Government positions may indeed be filled, however in addition to Martelly, the fatally flawed elections that occurred last November also brought many in the legislature into positions of power. Now this flawed process appears set to repeat itself. The disgraced electoral council has been disbanded by Martelly but it remains to be seen if Martelly will establish a Permanent Electoral Council as called for in Haiti’s constitution, or if like his predecessor, he will exercise significant control over the electoral authority. Martelly also has been consistently antagonistic in his relationship with the legislature, originally insisting on two candidates for prime minister that had little support in parliament.

5. CM: “The Haitian Ministry of Health, supported by the international community including USG through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and USAID, led the international community’s response to prevent and treat cholera — bringing the case mortality rate below the international standard of one percent.”

HRRW: The overall mortality rate since the beginning of the epidemic is 1.3 percent, and even with the onset of the dry season lowering the current rate, the Pan American Health Organization recently referred to the epidemic as “one of the largest cholera outbreaks in modern history to affect a single country.” The Guardian wrote today, “Last year, the head of Médecins Sans Frontières, Unni Karunakara, said the human cost of the cholera outbreak in Haiti was ‘a damning indictment’ of the international aid system, as cholera is a disease that’s easily treated and controlled – and given the thousands of NGOs working in what is one of the world’s smallest countries.” Last year when cases dropped many NGOs pulled out of the field and donor funds dried up, only to see cases spike again with the onset of the rainy season. Health experts warn a similar situation could occur this year. To truly eradicate cholera from Haiti it will take serious investment in water and sanitation infrastructure, of which little has been thus far.

It is important to note that the U.S. blocked $54 million in Inter-American Development Bank loans for such infrastructure for several years during the 2000’s, out of political motives (it was opposed to the democratically-elected government at the time). Haiti’s hampered ability to improve its drinking water made the potential of a water-borne disease epidemic much more likely, as Paul Farmer and other experts have noted.

It’s also important to remember that the cholera epidemic – that has infected at least 520,000 and killed at least 7,000 – is a new phenomenon that was brought by the international community, in this case the MINUSTAH military peacekeeping force.  MINUSTAH – an entity that receives funding and strong political support from the U.S. – is unpopular in Haiti as a result of its responsibility for introducing cholera and the many abuses that its soldiers have committed over the years.  Many question why MINUSTAH is still in Haiti at all, given the low rate of violent crime and the many other pressing needs in the country.

6. CM: “According to the UN Special Envoy for Haiti’s website, of the 4.5 billion pledged for Haiti for 2010-2011, approximately 2.4 billion had been spent by December 2011. In October, the legislative mandate for the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC) ended. During its tenure, the Commission approved 89 projects across 8 sectors valued at more than 3 billion dollars. Even in the absence of a legislatively mandated coordination mechanism, the 12 largest donors continue to leverage the relationships built through the IHRC to coordinate among themselves and work with the Government of Haiti through resident representatives.”

HRRW:  Of the $4.5 billion pledged over 2010-2011, only 53 percent has been disbursed (and not “spent” as Cheryl Mills asserts). What does disbursed mean? Donors have “disbursed” nearly $400 million to the Haiti Reconstruction Fund, yet only $55 million of that has been spent. And while it’s true that the IHRC approved 89 projects worth over $3 billion, an April review found that only four had been completed and an additional 41 projects were either in the contracting or funding phase. Overall — although not all projects provided financial updates — just $117.7 million had been reported as spent out of the $3.2 billion in projects, a rate of just 3.7 per cent.

7. CM:  “The Government of Haiti, with the support of stakeholders, including the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), is providing schooling to 260,000 elementary students for a total of 750,000 elementary students enrolled this school year.”

HRRW: President Martelly has made a lot of noise about his plan to send everyone to school for free; it’s hard to miss the billboards around Port-au-Prince letting you know. But the IDB program began under the previous administration of René Preval and has simply continued. Meanwhile, the Haitian government’s plan has so far come up empty, angering teachers and administrators who still have not received the government subsidies. As the Washington Post reported yesterday regarding the education plan, “the government hasn’t figured out how to pay for it.” Meanwhile the millions collected from international phone calls and money transfers meant to be channeled towards education remain clouded in mystery.

8. CM:  “The Government of Haiti is overhauling its state-owned electricity company, Electricite D’Haiti (EDH), which provides electricity to just 12 percent of the population and requires more than 100 million a year in government subsidy to operate. The Government of Haiti has appointed new Haitian leadership and an internationally respected turnaround management team funded by the U.S. government. In the first three months, the new management has helped the utility company improve its operations, its transparency and its fiscal efficiency, identifying more than 1.6 million in monthly savings. The new management will not only improve and expand services, but also help reduce the substantial government subsidy for EDH’s operations, freeing these resources up for other critical needs.”

HRRW:  EDH is badly in need of reform, and hopefully these measures will help improve the critical services this company provides without accelerating the march toward privatization that many outside actors, including the U.S. government, appear to support.  However, the company is – at the moment – on a financially unsustainable path as EDH’s Director, Garry Valdemar, has himself acknowledged.  According to a recent article on the on-line news site Defend Haiti, he stated the following: 

“Today, the revenues of EDH can cover about 30% of the operating budget, which includes wages, purchase of energy and fuel for power plants can operate […] the situation is that the EDH receives about 6 million U.S. dollars per month for expenses that are around 17 million, financially, the company is not sustainable.”

9. CM:  “The U.S. government is doing development differently in Haiti, consistent with the principles of the Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development and its focus on catalyzing economic growth:

”Caracol Industrial Park: In November, President Martelly, President Clinton, and Inter-American Development Bank President Luis Moreno and more than a 1,000 members of the local community took part in an official ceremony laying the Park’s foundation, on track for its March opening. The speed and efficiency of implementation rivals the fast-moving construction schedules of industrial projects across the Americas, Europe and Asia. The 250-hectare Caracol Industrial Park in northern Haiti is a 300 million public-private partnership supported by increased U.S. trade preferences under the Haiti Economic Lift Program (HELP) Act and the coordination mechanisms created by the IHRC. The USG helped convene the GOH, the IDB and Korea’s largest apparel manufacturer, Sae-A, the Park’s anchor tenant. Sae-A has committed to create 20,000 direct jobs and invest 78 million over six years, one of the largest investments in Haiti’s modern history. With the arrival of other tenants, the Park has the potential to create 65,000 direct jobs, with additional opportunities expected for vendors, repair shops, farmers and other small businesses. USG investments will provide for electrification, new housing, and port facilities. IDB investments will provide for the construction of the park facilities and roads. The GOH is contributing the land and managing the project top to bottom with a team of Haitian professionals.”

HRRW:  The Caracol Industrial Park is one of USAID’s showcase projects in Haiti but many question whether apparel factories will really be a development model to provide sustainable livelihoods for Haitians.  The same week the cornerstone of the industrial park was laid, a report by Better Work Haiti (a project of the ILO funded in part by the US) found that a half-dozen factory workers had recently been fired in retaliation for their union organizing. Meanwhile, the minimum wage in the factories remains low, well below estimates as to what a true living wage should be.

Nevertheless, the U.S. government has also worked with factory owners and multinational companies to prevent a hike in Haiti’s minimum wage, as The Nation reported last year.

There are also problems with the industrial park’s location. As Haiti Grassroots Watch has pointed out in a detailed analysis of the project, among other faults, it is being built “steps from an area formerly slated to become a ‘marine protected area.’”

MC:  “Agriculture: Through USG investments in agriculture and food security, more than 9,700 farmers have benefited from improved seeds, fertilizer, technologies, and techniques. This has resulted in a 64 percent increase in rice yields, a 338 percent increase in corn yields, a 97 percent increase in bean crop yields and a 21 percent increase in plantain yields for these farmers. As a result of a full value chain approach, incomes are up over 50 percent for 8,750 small farmers.”

HRRW:  The agricultural sector certainly needs support, but the U.S. government has historically (and continues to this day) undermined Haitian agriculture through food aid. This is a point former President Bill Clinton made last year, discussing US food aid policies before the Senate, Clinton said, “It may have been good for some of my farmers in Arkansas, but it has not worked. It was a mistake,” adding, “I had to live everyday with the consequences of the loss of capacity to produce a rice crop in Haiti to feed those people because of what I did; nobody else.” Although some efforts by the World Food Program and France have increased the local purchases of food aid, helping to stimulate as opposed to undermine local production, the U.S. has lagged behind its peers.

There is some evidence that even the U.S. government support to the agricultural sector has been problematic. Jacob Kushner reported this week that many have rejected the USAID program:

Many Haitian farmers rejected the program, however, after they discovered that 475 tons of seeds were hybrids donated by Monsanto, the world’s largest developer of genetically modified seeds. Unlike traditional crops, hybrids do not produce new seeds that can be collected and planted the following growing season, meaning farmers in Haiti would need to begin purchasing the seeds from Monsanto or another company once donations stopped.

“In Haiti, people each year conserve their own feed for the next year. But USAID doesn’t want to promote this kind of agriculture,” Jean-Baptiste said.

10. MC:  “Haiti is experiencing continued and increasing international investment interest. A multi-day conference on business development opportunities in Haiti drew around 1,000 business leaders from the private sector as well as officials from 29 countries spanning the Americas, Asia and Europe. Marriot and Digicel announced the construction of a new 45 million Marriot hotel in Port-Au-Prince, with the construction by several developers of more than 750 hotel rooms in the pipeline — representing the largest growth in the industry for the Caribbean region, which includes popular tourist destinations in Mexico, the Dominican Republic and the Turks and Caicos Islands.”

HRRW: Indeed the reconstruction effort has often seemed more geared towards business opportunities for international investors rather than the Haitian private sector. An analysis of USAID contracts awarded since the earthquake show that some 83 percent of the funds have gone to Beltway firms. On the other hand, direct contracts to Haitian firms account for just 0.02 percent of funds.

At the same time, support for the Haitian public sector has declined, in fact there was less direct budget support in 2011 than in 2009, before the earthquake.

UPDATE 1/16: This post has been edited slightly for clarity.

As the two year mark approaches, many are justifiably asking, where did the money go? With billions pledged by donors, and billions more in private donations, it is a natural question. As important as the level of disbursement is the question of where that money has gone and whether it has been spent appropriately.  Independent evaluations have shown that many NGOs were responding more to their donors than to those whom they are supposedly in Haiti to help. Last year, the United Nations Special Envoy to Haiti (OSE) released a report, “Has Aid Changed? Channeling Assistance to Haiti Before and After the Earthquake,” which analyzed whether donors “have changed the way they provide their assistance in accordance with the principle of accompaniment” which “is specifically focused on guiding international partners to transfer more resources and assets directly to Haitian public and private institutions as part of their support.”

Yet the vast majority of aid projects and donor support bypassed the Haitian government. In fact, there was less direct budget support in 2011 than there was in 2009 before the earthquake. Additionally, many aid projects were undertaken outside the purview of the government. Rather than reinforcing the government’s capabilities, these types of projects have historically undermined them.  Despite this, there are examples of aid done right; the construction of a new teaching hospital in Mirebalais by Partners in Health is one such example.

Partners in Health/Zanmi Lasante (PIH) had been in Haiti for 25 years before the earthquake and has a history of working closely with the government. Dr. Paul Farmer of PIH, writing in the introduction of the OSE report referenced earlier, stresses the importance of working with, not around Haitian institutions:

We know from our shared experiences in Haiti and elsewhere that the way aid is channelled matters a great deal, and determines its impact on the lives of the Haitian people. For example, with over 99 percent of relief funding circumventing Haitian public institutions, the already challenging task of moving from relief to recovery—which requires government leadership, above all—becomes almost impossible.

We have heard from the Haitian people time and again that creating jobs and supporting the government to ensure access to basic services are essential to restoring dignity. And we have learned that in order to make progress in these two areas we need to directly invest in Haitian people and their public and private institutions. The Haitian proverb sak vide pa kanpe—“an empty sack cannot stand”—applies here. To revitalize Haitian institutions, we must channel money through them.

It should be little surprise then that the largest reconstruction project undertaken by PIH is one of the few projects in Haiti that has truly adhered to the principal of accompaniment. Prior to the earthquake, PIH had been planning to build a community hospital in Mirebalais. After the earthquake, PIH received a request from the Haitian Ministry of Public Health and Population, with whom they had a previous relationship, to scale up the project. The result is that:

When it opens its doors in 2012, the 180,000-square foot, 320-bed hospital will offer a level of care never before available at a public facility in Haiti. And at a time when Haiti desperately needs skilled professionals, Mirebalais National Teaching Hospital will provide high-quality education for the next generation of Haitian nurses, medical students, and resident physicians.

The hospital is expected to be the largest employer in the area, and:

Once the hospital is running at full capacity, it will have over 30 outpatient consultation rooms, six operating rooms, and space to host trainings with over 200 participants. It will offer innovative technology — some of which was previously unavailable in Haiti — including digital radiography, a full-body CT scanner, teleconferencing capabilities, solar panels that will fully power the hospital during the day, on-site waste water treatment, and wall-mounted oxygen for over 60 percent of inpatient beds. The hospital is also designed to withstand earthquakes and high-winds from tropical storms.

In agreement with the government of Haiti, PIH is covering the costs of operating the hospital until 2021 when the responsibility will be transferred to the Haitian government.

When HRRW visited the construction area in October, a PIH employee explained that they hope to stand this project up as an example of how aid can be done right in Haiti and as proof that it can be done. By working with the government, involving Haitian communities and building a sustainable institution, when the new hospital in Mirebalais opens in a few months, it will indeed be an example of aid done right.

As the two year mark approaches, many are justifiably asking, where did the money go? With billions pledged by donors, and billions more in private donations, it is a natural question. As important as the level of disbursement is the question of where that money has gone and whether it has been spent appropriately.  Independent evaluations have shown that many NGOs were responding more to their donors than to those whom they are supposedly in Haiti to help. Last year, the United Nations Special Envoy to Haiti (OSE) released a report, “Has Aid Changed? Channeling Assistance to Haiti Before and After the Earthquake,” which analyzed whether donors “have changed the way they provide their assistance in accordance with the principle of accompaniment” which “is specifically focused on guiding international partners to transfer more resources and assets directly to Haitian public and private institutions as part of their support.”

Yet the vast majority of aid projects and donor support bypassed the Haitian government. In fact, there was less direct budget support in 2011 than there was in 2009 before the earthquake. Additionally, many aid projects were undertaken outside the purview of the government. Rather than reinforcing the government’s capabilities, these types of projects have historically undermined them.  Despite this, there are examples of aid done right; the construction of a new teaching hospital in Mirebalais by Partners in Health is one such example.

Partners in Health/Zanmi Lasante (PIH) had been in Haiti for 25 years before the earthquake and has a history of working closely with the government. Dr. Paul Farmer of PIH, writing in the introduction of the OSE report referenced earlier, stresses the importance of working with, not around Haitian institutions:

We know from our shared experiences in Haiti and elsewhere that the way aid is channelled matters a great deal, and determines its impact on the lives of the Haitian people. For example, with over 99 percent of relief funding circumventing Haitian public institutions, the already challenging task of moving from relief to recovery—which requires government leadership, above all—becomes almost impossible.

We have heard from the Haitian people time and again that creating jobs and supporting the government to ensure access to basic services are essential to restoring dignity. And we have learned that in order to make progress in these two areas we need to directly invest in Haitian people and their public and private institutions. The Haitian proverb sak vide pa kanpe—“an empty sack cannot stand”—applies here. To revitalize Haitian institutions, we must channel money through them.

It should be little surprise then that the largest reconstruction project undertaken by PIH is one of the few projects in Haiti that has truly adhered to the principal of accompaniment. Prior to the earthquake, PIH had been planning to build a community hospital in Mirebalais. After the earthquake, PIH received a request from the Haitian Ministry of Public Health and Population, with whom they had a previous relationship, to scale up the project. The result is that:

When it opens its doors in 2012, the 180,000-square foot, 320-bed hospital will offer a level of care never before available at a public facility in Haiti. And at a time when Haiti desperately needs skilled professionals, Mirebalais National Teaching Hospital will provide high-quality education for the next generation of Haitian nurses, medical students, and resident physicians.

The hospital is expected to be the largest employer in the area, and:

Once the hospital is running at full capacity, it will have over 30 outpatient consultation rooms, six operating rooms, and space to host trainings with over 200 participants. It will offer innovative technology — some of which was previously unavailable in Haiti — including digital radiography, a full-body CT scanner, teleconferencing capabilities, solar panels that will fully power the hospital during the day, on-site waste water treatment, and wall-mounted oxygen for over 60 percent of inpatient beds. The hospital is also designed to withstand earthquakes and high-winds from tropical storms.

In agreement with the government of Haiti, PIH is covering the costs of operating the hospital until 2021 when the responsibility will be transferred to the Haitian government.

When HRRW visited the construction area in October, a PIH employee explained that they hope to stand this project up as an example of how aid can be done right in Haiti and as proof that it can be done. By working with the government, involving Haitian communities and building a sustainable institution, when the new hospital in Mirebalais opens in a few months, it will indeed be an example of aid done right.

As media coverage intensifies around the two-year anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti, there appears to be a serious effort on the part of the largest donors and aid organizations to present the relief and recovery in Haiti as an unmitigated success. One notable exception is Oxfam, which released a two-year report critical of the reconstruction effort.  The State Department, on the other hand, issued 11 separate fact sheets on the U.S. response in Haiti; none of them suggested that the U.S. had learned from its mistakes, or indeed that any mistakes had been made at all. One of the key statistics that is most frequently touted to suggest that big advances have been made is the decline in the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) living in camps.  In a State Department blog post (also published on the Huffington Post) Cheryl Mills, chief of staff to Hillary Clinton, points to the reduction of IDP numbers as a clear sign of progress:

Almost two-thirds of the estimated 1.5 million Haitians living in tent shelters after the January 2010 earthquake have left camps, many returning to houses that have undergone structural improvements or moving into temporary shelters and permanent homes.

Of course, a reduction in people living in IDP camps seems like an entirely positive development. Yet a closer look at this development reveals significant problems with both the relief and reconstruction effort and a much more tepid success story.

In March, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which tracks the IDP camp population, found that there were 680,000 people living in the camps. So by March the majority of the decrease Mills cites had already taken place. Yet what the IOM found was that many people were leaving the camps for even more precarious living situations, not for new homes or T-shelters. The IOM study shows that only seven percent indicated that an “assistance package was provided” (2.0%), “my home was repaired” (4.7%) or “transitional shelter was provided” (0.3%) as reasons for leaving IDP sites. On the other hand, “Poor conditions in the IDP site”, “eviction”, “high incidence of crime/insecurity in the IDP site”, and “rain/hurricane” were cited by 77.9 percent of respondents. Between June 2010 and March 2011, some 230,000 people were evicted from IDP camps and more than 100,000 still face the constant threat of eviction.

Confirming this trend, a USAID sponsored study found that over one million people were living in “extremely dangerous” housing. Timothy Schwartz, the report’s author writes:

It means that as many as 570,178 people (114,493 residential groups or families) are living in 84,951 homes that may collapse in foul weather or in the event of another tremor. That’s yellow buildings. For Red buildings it means that 465,996* people (100,430 residential groups) are living in 73,846 buildings that might collapse at any moment.  Discussing the growing problem of people returning to unsafe yellow and red buildings, Dr. Miyamoto emphasized the gravity of the situation,

“Occupied yellow and red houses are extremely dangerous since many are a collapse hazard.  People occupy these houses despite communications and warnings from MTPTC engineers since they have nowhere to go but the camps. People do not want to stay in these tents. Security is poor and they are exposed to diseases. I see little children sleeping next to the heavily cracked walls every day.”

Lots of numbers will be thrown around in the coming days, indeed many already have. There are signs of progress in Haiti; there is no denying that much rubble has been removed (although at least half the post-quake rubble remains), disbursements from donors have quickened over the last few months and the rate of cholera infection has slowed with the dry season. But much work remains to be done and there have been significant problems with the relief and reconstruction efforts, not least the exclusion of Haitian voices.

A 66 percent reduction in IDP population sounds like a great success story and it no doubt will be cited in numerous news articles and official press releases, but like the rest of the stats you may come across in two-year coverage, a closer look is needed.

As media coverage intensifies around the two-year anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti, there appears to be a serious effort on the part of the largest donors and aid organizations to present the relief and recovery in Haiti as an unmitigated success. One notable exception is Oxfam, which released a two-year report critical of the reconstruction effort.  The State Department, on the other hand, issued 11 separate fact sheets on the U.S. response in Haiti; none of them suggested that the U.S. had learned from its mistakes, or indeed that any mistakes had been made at all. One of the key statistics that is most frequently touted to suggest that big advances have been made is the decline in the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) living in camps.  In a State Department blog post (also published on the Huffington Post) Cheryl Mills, chief of staff to Hillary Clinton, points to the reduction of IDP numbers as a clear sign of progress:

Almost two-thirds of the estimated 1.5 million Haitians living in tent shelters after the January 2010 earthquake have left camps, many returning to houses that have undergone structural improvements or moving into temporary shelters and permanent homes.

Of course, a reduction in people living in IDP camps seems like an entirely positive development. Yet a closer look at this development reveals significant problems with both the relief and reconstruction effort and a much more tepid success story.

In March, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which tracks the IDP camp population, found that there were 680,000 people living in the camps. So by March the majority of the decrease Mills cites had already taken place. Yet what the IOM found was that many people were leaving the camps for even more precarious living situations, not for new homes or T-shelters. The IOM study shows that only seven percent indicated that an “assistance package was provided” (2.0%), “my home was repaired” (4.7%) or “transitional shelter was provided” (0.3%) as reasons for leaving IDP sites. On the other hand, “Poor conditions in the IDP site”, “eviction”, “high incidence of crime/insecurity in the IDP site”, and “rain/hurricane” were cited by 77.9 percent of respondents. Between June 2010 and March 2011, some 230,000 people were evicted from IDP camps and more than 100,000 still face the constant threat of eviction.

Confirming this trend, a USAID sponsored study found that over one million people were living in “extremely dangerous” housing. Timothy Schwartz, the report’s author writes:

It means that as many as 570,178 people (114,493 residential groups or families) are living in 84,951 homes that may collapse in foul weather or in the event of another tremor. That’s yellow buildings. For Red buildings it means that 465,996* people (100,430 residential groups) are living in 73,846 buildings that might collapse at any moment.  Discussing the growing problem of people returning to unsafe yellow and red buildings, Dr. Miyamoto emphasized the gravity of the situation,

“Occupied yellow and red houses are extremely dangerous since many are a collapse hazard.  People occupy these houses despite communications and warnings from MTPTC engineers since they have nowhere to go but the camps. People do not want to stay in these tents. Security is poor and they are exposed to diseases. I see little children sleeping next to the heavily cracked walls every day.”

Lots of numbers will be thrown around in the coming days, indeed many already have. There are signs of progress in Haiti; there is no denying that much rubble has been removed (although at least half the post-quake rubble remains), disbursements from donors have quickened over the last few months and the rate of cholera infection has slowed with the dry season. But much work remains to be done and there have been significant problems with the relief and reconstruction efforts, not least the exclusion of Haitian voices.

A 66 percent reduction in IDP population sounds like a great success story and it no doubt will be cited in numerous news articles and official press releases, but like the rest of the stats you may come across in two-year coverage, a closer look is needed.

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