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.

While the UN has long denied responsibility for introducing cholera to Haiti, the UN Special Envoy to Haiti Bill Clinton acknowledged today that a MINUSTAH soldier introduced the deadly bacteria that has killed over 7,000 and sickened more than half a million. The statement by Clinton is the first by a UN official to acknowledge UN responsibility.

Independent journalist Ansel Herz reported via Twitter this afternoon that at a press conference in Mirebalais, Haiti, Bill Clinton acknowledged “that a UN peacekeeping soldier brought cholera to Haiti by accident.” Herz has just posted the audio recording of Clinton’s comments, during which he responds to a question from Herz by stating:

I don’t know that the person who introduced cholera into Haiti, the UN peacekeeping soldier from South Asia was aware that he was carrying the virus. [Ed. Note: cholera is not a virus, but bacteria].

It was the proximate cause of cholera, that is, he was carrying the cholera strain; it came from his waste stream into the waterways of Haiti and into the bodies of Haitians.

Clinton goes on to repeat the line from the UN investigation, which shifts blame off the UN and onto Haiti for not having adequate water and sanitation infrastructure. Clinton states that, “what really caused it is that you don’t have a sanitation system, you don’t have a comprehensive water system…”

This explanation, however neglects to account for the fact that as the UN’s own investigation found, “sanitation conditions at the Mirebalais MINUSTAH camp were not sufficient to prevent fecal contamination of the Meye Tributary System of the Artibonite River.” Had the UN adequately disposed of their waste, the outbreak would never have begun. Additionally, the UN failed to screen troops prior to their deployment from a cholera endemic region.

Since the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH)  and Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) filed a claim on behalf of 5,000 cholera victims in November, the UN has not responded and repeatedly denied their responsibility. The statement today marks an important shift from these repeated denials.

This acknowledgement of responsibility comes on the heels of statements made by U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN Susan Rice, which IJDH and BAI applauded in a press release earlier this week:

In a statement to the United Nations (UN) Security Council last week, U.S. Permanent Representative Susan Rice stressed the importance of UN accountability for its role in bringing cholera to Haiti, calling on the UN to “redouble its efforts to prevent any further incidents of this kind and to ensure that those responsible are held accountable.”

 

With Bill Clinton’s comments today, perhaps the UN will finally begin taking responsibility for the deadly epidemic and heed calls for financial compensation to victims and investment in critical life-saving infrastructure.

While the UN has long denied responsibility for introducing cholera to Haiti, the UN Special Envoy to Haiti Bill Clinton acknowledged today that a MINUSTAH soldier introduced the deadly bacteria that has killed over 7,000 and sickened more than half a million. The statement by Clinton is the first by a UN official to acknowledge UN responsibility.

Independent journalist Ansel Herz reported via Twitter this afternoon that at a press conference in Mirebalais, Haiti, Bill Clinton acknowledged “that a UN peacekeeping soldier brought cholera to Haiti by accident.” Herz has just posted the audio recording of Clinton’s comments, during which he responds to a question from Herz by stating:

I don’t know that the person who introduced cholera into Haiti, the UN peacekeeping soldier from South Asia was aware that he was carrying the virus. [Ed. Note: cholera is not a virus, but bacteria].

It was the proximate cause of cholera, that is, he was carrying the cholera strain; it came from his waste stream into the waterways of Haiti and into the bodies of Haitians.

Clinton goes on to repeat the line from the UN investigation, which shifts blame off the UN and onto Haiti for not having adequate water and sanitation infrastructure. Clinton states that, “what really caused it is that you don’t have a sanitation system, you don’t have a comprehensive water system…”

This explanation, however neglects to account for the fact that as the UN’s own investigation found, “sanitation conditions at the Mirebalais MINUSTAH camp were not sufficient to prevent fecal contamination of the Meye Tributary System of the Artibonite River.” Had the UN adequately disposed of their waste, the outbreak would never have begun. Additionally, the UN failed to screen troops prior to their deployment from a cholera endemic region.

Since the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH)  and Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) filed a claim on behalf of 5,000 cholera victims in November, the UN has not responded and repeatedly denied their responsibility. The statement today marks an important shift from these repeated denials.

This acknowledgement of responsibility comes on the heels of statements made by U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN Susan Rice, which IJDH and BAI applauded in a press release earlier this week:

In a statement to the United Nations (UN) Security Council last week, U.S. Permanent Representative Susan Rice stressed the importance of UN accountability for its role in bringing cholera to Haiti, calling on the UN to “redouble its efforts to prevent any further incidents of this kind and to ensure that those responsible are held accountable.”

 

With Bill Clinton’s comments today, perhaps the UN will finally begin taking responsibility for the deadly epidemic and heed calls for financial compensation to victims and investment in critical life-saving infrastructure.

For the previous five years an independent organization, DARA, has been publishing the Humanitarian Response Index (HRI). The DARA website explains the HRI as “the world’s only independent tool for measuring the individual performance and commitment of government donors to apply the principles of Good Humanitarian Donorship which they agreed to in 2003.” (To learn more about the HRI, see the DARA website).

Unlike other independent evaluations which have focused as much on NGO behavior as donors, the 2011 HRI Haiti report focuses almost exclusively on the donor side of the equation. The report finds a host of missed opportunities, skewed priorities, a lack of coordination and perhaps most importantly, a shortage of communication with both the Haitian government and Haitian people. The result, as the report concludes, is that:

The international community cannot claim that it has helped Haiti build back better, and missed an opportunity to redress years of neglect and inattention to the issue of building capacity, resilience and strengthening preparedness for future crises.

Coordination and Local Input

While the HRI report found that coordination among international actors was relatively good, this “came at the price of better engagement and ownership of local actors.” A problem that has been mentioned numerous times before was the holding of meetings at the UN Logistics base, which the report notes “excluded local NGOs: there was no mechanism by which the large number of Haitian NGOs could be identified or contacted, and their participation was physically limited by making their entry difficult to the logistics base and by convening cluster meetings in English.”

One interviewee told the report’s authors:

“Donors having meetings in a military base in a humanitarian crisis makes no sense and the fact that they still do it one year and a half later is even worse. It hampers participation. Haitians are totally excluded. Many people can’t enter because there are strict controls at the entrance. As Haitians it’s harder for them to get through.”

The report suggests that rather than housing UN operations on a military base, “UN agencies and clusters should have been physically based within government ministries, to expedite their re-building and support their efforts.”

Many organizations also criticized donors for being “inflexible in allowing Haitian NGOs to be subgrantees.” One exception to this was Spain, which required that NGOs partner with local organizations. Canada also set some money aside specifically to build capacity of local NGOs. The U.S. government on the other hand was “criticized…for being confusing, non-transparent and inward-looking, despite their large presence.”

As an interviewee explained:

USAID has had a complete bunker mentality. It’s impossible to have any continuity in conversations with them. OFDA had platoons of consultants rotating in and out.

Missed Opportunities

One of the primary criticisms the HRI has for donor countries was that they missed opportunities to actually “build back better”.  Although the report notes that many actors were inexperienced in large scale urban disasters, donors come in for criticism for not applying the lessons learned from previous disasters, such as integrating local organizations into the response.

Another critical missed opportunity concerns land tenure issues. While it is clear that Haiti faces an extreme housing crisis, there is very little land available for building new houses. NGOs and donors have consistently shifted blame to the Haitian government because of the lack of clarity around land tenure and their reluctance to use eminent domain. Although the report acknowledges these constraints, the authors find that it was “mostly poor planning and coordination” which caused the significant delays in building temporary and permanent shelters.  The authors continue:

The Haitian government had a short window of opportunity to declare eminent domain and squandered it, in large part because donors did not provide early and strong support for such a controversial and bold action despite similar problems occurring in past natural disasters.

Using the natural migration after the earthquake to support decentralization was another missed opportunity, according to the report. Some 700,000 residents left the capital after the earthquake, yet “the collective aid community sucked hundreds of thousands of people back into the already over-congested capital of Port-au-Prince, an unintended by-product of the many cash-for-work, other employment, and cash distributions that were focused on the area of destruction, not the areas where people had fled to.” The reason is simple. As the report states, “Most donors preferred to support the response in the capital, where their aid was more visible.”

The Cholera Response

Donors’ role in the cholera response stands as one of the biggest failures over the last two years. Introduced by MINUSTAH, the cholera epidemic has killed over 7,000 people and sickened over half-a-million. As CEPR argued in a research paper in the summer of 2011, funding for the cholera response was withdrawn right before the rainy season, resulting in an extreme spike in cases and mortality that could have been prevented. The HRI report echoes these concerns:

The cholera crisis demonstrated the typical strength of donors to provide funding while the crisis was in the news, but similarly demonstrated the weakness of donors to be transparent or communicative about their proposed solutions for the transitional phases. While cholera was killing an increasing number of Haitians in the second semester of 2011, donors individually and collectively pulled back without advice other than to encourage integrated health care.

The report concludes, while noting the difficult circumstances on the ground, that:

Much more could have been done to coordinate their own efforts, and to be more transparent and less political about their aid allocations and decision-making processes. The fact that many of the billions of aid promised has still not been delivered and is nearly impossible to track is scandalous. While many mistakes have been made, there are still opportunities to set a new course for longer-term recovery and development that will take these concerns into consideration, and focus on living up to the promises made to Haiti that the international community will not abandon them, but work with them to rebuild and renew.

To read the full report, click here.

For the previous five years an independent organization, DARA, has been publishing the Humanitarian Response Index (HRI). The DARA website explains the HRI as “the world’s only independent tool for measuring the individual performance and commitment of government donors to apply the principles of Good Humanitarian Donorship which they agreed to in 2003.” (To learn more about the HRI, see the DARA website).

Unlike other independent evaluations which have focused as much on NGO behavior as donors, the 2011 HRI Haiti report focuses almost exclusively on the donor side of the equation. The report finds a host of missed opportunities, skewed priorities, a lack of coordination and perhaps most importantly, a shortage of communication with both the Haitian government and Haitian people. The result, as the report concludes, is that:

The international community cannot claim that it has helped Haiti build back better, and missed an opportunity to redress years of neglect and inattention to the issue of building capacity, resilience and strengthening preparedness for future crises.

Coordination and Local Input

While the HRI report found that coordination among international actors was relatively good, this “came at the price of better engagement and ownership of local actors.” A problem that has been mentioned numerous times before was the holding of meetings at the UN Logistics base, which the report notes “excluded local NGOs: there was no mechanism by which the large number of Haitian NGOs could be identified or contacted, and their participation was physically limited by making their entry difficult to the logistics base and by convening cluster meetings in English.”

One interviewee told the report’s authors:

“Donors having meetings in a military base in a humanitarian crisis makes no sense and the fact that they still do it one year and a half later is even worse. It hampers participation. Haitians are totally excluded. Many people can’t enter because there are strict controls at the entrance. As Haitians it’s harder for them to get through.”

The report suggests that rather than housing UN operations on a military base, “UN agencies and clusters should have been physically based within government ministries, to expedite their re-building and support their efforts.”

Many organizations also criticized donors for being “inflexible in allowing Haitian NGOs to be subgrantees.” One exception to this was Spain, which required that NGOs partner with local organizations. Canada also set some money aside specifically to build capacity of local NGOs. The U.S. government on the other hand was “criticized…for being confusing, non-transparent and inward-looking, despite their large presence.”

As an interviewee explained:

USAID has had a complete bunker mentality. It’s impossible to have any continuity in conversations with them. OFDA had platoons of consultants rotating in and out.

Missed Opportunities

One of the primary criticisms the HRI has for donor countries was that they missed opportunities to actually “build back better”.  Although the report notes that many actors were inexperienced in large scale urban disasters, donors come in for criticism for not applying the lessons learned from previous disasters, such as integrating local organizations into the response.

Another critical missed opportunity concerns land tenure issues. While it is clear that Haiti faces an extreme housing crisis, there is very little land available for building new houses. NGOs and donors have consistently shifted blame to the Haitian government because of the lack of clarity around land tenure and their reluctance to use eminent domain. Although the report acknowledges these constraints, the authors find that it was “mostly poor planning and coordination” which caused the significant delays in building temporary and permanent shelters.  The authors continue:

The Haitian government had a short window of opportunity to declare eminent domain and squandered it, in large part because donors did not provide early and strong support for such a controversial and bold action despite similar problems occurring in past natural disasters.

Using the natural migration after the earthquake to support decentralization was another missed opportunity, according to the report. Some 700,000 residents left the capital after the earthquake, yet “the collective aid community sucked hundreds of thousands of people back into the already over-congested capital of Port-au-Prince, an unintended by-product of the many cash-for-work, other employment, and cash distributions that were focused on the area of destruction, not the areas where people had fled to.” The reason is simple. As the report states, “Most donors preferred to support the response in the capital, where their aid was more visible.”

The Cholera Response

Donors’ role in the cholera response stands as one of the biggest failures over the last two years. Introduced by MINUSTAH, the cholera epidemic has killed over 7,000 people and sickened over half-a-million. As CEPR argued in a research paper in the summer of 2011, funding for the cholera response was withdrawn right before the rainy season, resulting in an extreme spike in cases and mortality that could have been prevented. The HRI report echoes these concerns:

The cholera crisis demonstrated the typical strength of donors to provide funding while the crisis was in the news, but similarly demonstrated the weakness of donors to be transparent or communicative about their proposed solutions for the transitional phases. While cholera was killing an increasing number of Haitians in the second semester of 2011, donors individually and collectively pulled back without advice other than to encourage integrated health care.

The report concludes, while noting the difficult circumstances on the ground, that:

Much more could have been done to coordinate their own efforts, and to be more transparent and less political about their aid allocations and decision-making processes. The fact that many of the billions of aid promised has still not been delivered and is nearly impossible to track is scandalous. While many mistakes have been made, there are still opportunities to set a new course for longer-term recovery and development that will take these concerns into consideration, and focus on living up to the promises made to Haiti that the international community will not abandon them, but work with them to rebuild and renew.

To read the full report, click here.

A new report from Haiti Grassroots Watch examines the State University of Haiti (UEH), more than a year after the university first came to the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC) with a proposal for rebuilding following the January 2010 earthquake. The report describes how the IHRC’s mandate ended before it ever got around to doing anything for the university – one of Haiti’s most important institutions of public education, concluding:

The fact that the Haitian government and its “friends” have not financed the reconstruction – and a sufficient operating budget – of the oldest and most important institution of higher learning in then country represents more than a “peril” to Haiti’s future.

The university’s 11 “units of teaching and research” are spread throughout Port-au-Prince, a spatial decentralization that, in a city where traffic is as notoriously difficult as it is in Haiti’s capital presents a significant logistical challenge to communication and organization by students and faculty across schools. Following the earthquake, in which many university buildings were destroyed and others damaged, and 50 faculty and 380 students killed or disappeared, centralization became a key component of the University’s reconstruction plan, which it brought to the IHRC.

The report details how

Over one year ago, the Rectorate submitted a proposal to the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC), the institution charged with approving and coordinating all reconstruction projects.

“Right in its first extraordinary meeting, on Feb. 5, 2010, the University Council decided to face the reconstruction problem… and we voted a resolution asking the Executive Council to take all measures deemed necessary to assure all the University faculties could be rehoused together,” according to the project, which HGW obtained.

“When considered as part of the challenge of reconstruction and of the re-founding of this nation, this project can be seen as a crucial asset of primary importance which will assure a better tomorrow for our population,” the same document continues.

The Rectorate proposed a provisional student and preliminary budget of US$200 million for the construction of the main campus with classroom buildings, libraries, laboratories, restaurants, and university residents to lodge 15,000 students and 1,000 professors on part of the old Habitation Damien land in Croix-des-Bouquets, north of Port-au-Prince.

(UEH Rector Jean-Vernet Henry discussed some of these ideas, and the university’s post-quake needs, in this July 2010 video interview.)

Commenting on the decentralization, Fritz Deshommes, Vice Rector for Research,
told HGW, “It’s really an aberration… despite the importance of UEH in the higher education system in Haiti, this prestigious institution has never had a campus.”

So what did the IHRC do about the University’s proposal? An insider gives HGW a glimpse into the process:

“The project was never discussed at any IHRC assembly, but every member knew about it,” [Rose Anne] Auguste [Founder of the Association for the Promotion of Integral Family Health and a former IHRC member] told HGW. “I tried to pressure the administrative council to get the project considered and discussed.”

UEH faculty and students that HRRW have met with have expressed views that the decentralization of the university has political motives. These are echoed in HGW’s interviews. “The reason that the university campus has never built is political,” Deshommes said:

“Because, if all the students were permanently together in one place, they would have the necessary material conditions to better organize themselves and make their demands heard. Then, they would be able to turn everything upside down. The political authorities understood the importance of this. A single campus is not in their interests.”

HGW presents some of the history behind this:

Ever since a 1960 strike of students at the University of Haiti, Francois Duvalier established his control over the various faculties. He issued a decree on Dec. 16, 1960, creating the “University of the State” in the place of the University of Haiti. The decree’s fascist character was apparent in the various lines. One reads in the decree that Duvalier was “considering the necessity to organize the
University on new foundations in order to prevent it from transforming into a bastion where subversive ideas would develop…”

Article 9 was even clearer. It noted that any student wanting to enroll in the university had to get a certificate from the police that he or she did not belong to any communist group or any association
under suspicion by the State.

The HGW report notes that the IHRC’s neglect of the university was despite the high priority that development experts place on public education, citing a World Bank study:

But the World Bank’s “Peril and Promise” study is also clear on the necessity to invest in public sector higher education.

“Markets require profit and this can crowd out important educational duties and opportunities,” the study says. “The disturbing truth is that these enormous disparities are poised to grow even more extreme, impelled in large part by the progress of the knowledge revolution and the continuing brain drain… For this reason the Task Force urges policymakers and donors – public and private, national and international – to waste no time. They must work with educational leaders and other key stakeholders to reposition higher education in developing countries.”

Read the full HGW report here.

A new report from Haiti Grassroots Watch examines the State University of Haiti (UEH), more than a year after the university first came to the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC) with a proposal for rebuilding following the January 2010 earthquake. The report describes how the IHRC’s mandate ended before it ever got around to doing anything for the university – one of Haiti’s most important institutions of public education, concluding:

The fact that the Haitian government and its “friends” have not financed the reconstruction – and a sufficient operating budget – of the oldest and most important institution of higher learning in then country represents more than a “peril” to Haiti’s future.

The university’s 11 “units of teaching and research” are spread throughout Port-au-Prince, a spatial decentralization that, in a city where traffic is as notoriously difficult as it is in Haiti’s capital presents a significant logistical challenge to communication and organization by students and faculty across schools. Following the earthquake, in which many university buildings were destroyed and others damaged, and 50 faculty and 380 students killed or disappeared, centralization became a key component of the University’s reconstruction plan, which it brought to the IHRC.

The report details how

Over one year ago, the Rectorate submitted a proposal to the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC), the institution charged with approving and coordinating all reconstruction projects.

“Right in its first extraordinary meeting, on Feb. 5, 2010, the University Council decided to face the reconstruction problem… and we voted a resolution asking the Executive Council to take all measures deemed necessary to assure all the University faculties could be rehoused together,” according to the project, which HGW obtained.

“When considered as part of the challenge of reconstruction and of the re-founding of this nation, this project can be seen as a crucial asset of primary importance which will assure a better tomorrow for our population,” the same document continues.

The Rectorate proposed a provisional student and preliminary budget of US$200 million for the construction of the main campus with classroom buildings, libraries, laboratories, restaurants, and university residents to lodge 15,000 students and 1,000 professors on part of the old Habitation Damien land in Croix-des-Bouquets, north of Port-au-Prince.

(UEH Rector Jean-Vernet Henry discussed some of these ideas, and the university’s post-quake needs, in this July 2010 video interview.)

Commenting on the decentralization, Fritz Deshommes, Vice Rector for Research,
told HGW, “It’s really an aberration… despite the importance of UEH in the higher education system in Haiti, this prestigious institution has never had a campus.”

So what did the IHRC do about the University’s proposal? An insider gives HGW a glimpse into the process:

“The project was never discussed at any IHRC assembly, but every member knew about it,” [Rose Anne] Auguste [Founder of the Association for the Promotion of Integral Family Health and a former IHRC member] told HGW. “I tried to pressure the administrative council to get the project considered and discussed.”

UEH faculty and students that HRRW have met with have expressed views that the decentralization of the university has political motives. These are echoed in HGW’s interviews. “The reason that the university campus has never built is political,” Deshommes said:

“Because, if all the students were permanently together in one place, they would have the necessary material conditions to better organize themselves and make their demands heard. Then, they would be able to turn everything upside down. The political authorities understood the importance of this. A single campus is not in their interests.”

HGW presents some of the history behind this:

Ever since a 1960 strike of students at the University of Haiti, Francois Duvalier established his control over the various faculties. He issued a decree on Dec. 16, 1960, creating the “University of the State” in the place of the University of Haiti. The decree’s fascist character was apparent in the various lines. One reads in the decree that Duvalier was “considering the necessity to organize the
University on new foundations in order to prevent it from transforming into a bastion where subversive ideas would develop…”

Article 9 was even clearer. It noted that any student wanting to enroll in the university had to get a certificate from the police that he or she did not belong to any communist group or any association
under suspicion by the State.

The HGW report notes that the IHRC’s neglect of the university was despite the high priority that development experts place on public education, citing a World Bank study:

But the World Bank’s “Peril and Promise” study is also clear on the necessity to invest in public sector higher education.

“Markets require profit and this can crowd out important educational duties and opportunities,” the study says. “The disturbing truth is that these enormous disparities are poised to grow even more extreme, impelled in large part by the progress of the knowledge revolution and the continuing brain drain… For this reason the Task Force urges policymakers and donors – public and private, national and international – to waste no time. They must work with educational leaders and other key stakeholders to reposition higher education in developing countries.”

Read the full HGW report here.

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.

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