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.

Revelations about MINUSTAH are in the news again. First, a new study published in a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) journal affirms that a MINUSTAH camp was the origin of the cholera outbreak which has killed over 5,500 people so far.

As AP reports:

“Our findings strongly suggest that contamination of the Artibonite (river) and 1 of its tributaries downstream from a military camp triggered the epidemic,” said the report in the July issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases, a journal of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The article says there is “an exact correlation” in time and place between the arrival of a Nepalese battalion from an area of its South Asian homeland that was experiencing a cholera outbreak and the appearance of the first cases in the Meille river a few days later.

The remoteness of the Meille river in central Haiti and the absence of other factors make it unlikely that the cholera strain could have come to Haiti in any other way, the report says.

As we described in detail when suspicions first arose that Nepalese blue helmets had brought the cholera strain to Haiti, MINUSTAH rejected the claims and showed little interest in uncovering the truth about the cause of the epidemic. Cholera, meanwhile, continues to spread, recently increasing with the heavy rains:

The article published in the CDC journal comes as health workers in Haiti wrestle with a spike in the number of cholera cases brought on by several weeks of rainfall. The aid group Oxfam said earlier this month that its workers were treating more than 300 new cases a day, more than three times what they saw when the disease peaked in the fall.

This isn’t the only revelation about MINUSTAH to emerge this week. A U.S. Embassy cable recently made available by Wikileaks reveals that in 2006, then-head of mission for MINUSTAH, Edmond Mulet “urged U.S. legal action against Aristide to prevent the former president from gaining more traction with the Haitian population and returning to Haiti.” But as various legal and human rights experts have explained, there seem to be many allegations but little evidence to charge Aristide with anything. (Aristide, of course, has not been charged with anything since returning to Haiti.)

The cable also states that then-UN Secretary General Kofi Annan pressured South African president Thabo Mbeki “to ensure that Aristide remained in South Africa” – just as Annan’s successor, Ban Ki-moon, and President Obama, were to do earlier this year when it became apparent that Aristide would attempt to return to Haiti.

These aren’t the only interesting revelations in the cable. As in other cables we have previously reviewed, this one talks of MINUSTAH “fatigue”. Under a heading entitled “MINUSTAH Could Lose Steam Over Long Run,” the cable describes waning enthusiasm for the Mission from South American countries:

Over the long-term, Mulet worried that fatigue from MINUSTAH’s military and police contributors as well as Venezuela’s possible election to the Security Council could jeopardize MINUSTAH’s mandate.  Mulet explained that though Argentina is committed through February of 2007, it has considered lowering its troop commitment to Haiti. Meanwhile, Chile has already recuperated three helicopters from MINUSTAH, which has significantly limited MINUSTAH’s mobility. Mulet reported that the seven South American troop contributors are planning a meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Defense in Buenos Aires on August 4 to discuss troop levels and the MINUSTAH mandate.

This section then concludes

In addition, he worried that Venezuela’s possible election to the Security Council could jeopardize Haiti’s Chapter VII status.  Mulet said that the Venezuelan ambassador to Haiti had told him that in Caracas’ view Haiti does not require a Chapter VII mission.

As previously noted by Ansel Herz and others, the Chapter VII designation is intended for situations in which the consent of the destination country for the UN “peace keepers” is not required. According to the academic expert Herz cited [PDF], to justify a Chapter VII status

the Council must determine that the situation constitutes a threat or breach of the peace. In contrast, measures under Chapter VI do not have the same force, and military missions under Chapter VI would rest on consent by the state in question.

So the Venezuelan government may have been bothered by the Haitian government not having a say in whether and how long MINUSTAH would remain in place. This claim by Mulet also fits in with the theme we have noted previously of the U.S. government’s use of MINUSTAH as a force that excludes Venezuela. Regional groupings that include the U.S. but exclude Venezuela are becoming increasingly rare in the Western Hemisphere.

Revelations about MINUSTAH are in the news again. First, a new study published in a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) journal affirms that a MINUSTAH camp was the origin of the cholera outbreak which has killed over 5,500 people so far.

As AP reports:

“Our findings strongly suggest that contamination of the Artibonite (river) and 1 of its tributaries downstream from a military camp triggered the epidemic,” said the report in the July issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases, a journal of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The article says there is “an exact correlation” in time and place between the arrival of a Nepalese battalion from an area of its South Asian homeland that was experiencing a cholera outbreak and the appearance of the first cases in the Meille river a few days later.

The remoteness of the Meille river in central Haiti and the absence of other factors make it unlikely that the cholera strain could have come to Haiti in any other way, the report says.

As we described in detail when suspicions first arose that Nepalese blue helmets had brought the cholera strain to Haiti, MINUSTAH rejected the claims and showed little interest in uncovering the truth about the cause of the epidemic. Cholera, meanwhile, continues to spread, recently increasing with the heavy rains:

The article published in the CDC journal comes as health workers in Haiti wrestle with a spike in the number of cholera cases brought on by several weeks of rainfall. The aid group Oxfam said earlier this month that its workers were treating more than 300 new cases a day, more than three times what they saw when the disease peaked in the fall.

This isn’t the only revelation about MINUSTAH to emerge this week. A U.S. Embassy cable recently made available by Wikileaks reveals that in 2006, then-head of mission for MINUSTAH, Edmond Mulet “urged U.S. legal action against Aristide to prevent the former president from gaining more traction with the Haitian population and returning to Haiti.” But as various legal and human rights experts have explained, there seem to be many allegations but little evidence to charge Aristide with anything. (Aristide, of course, has not been charged with anything since returning to Haiti.)

The cable also states that then-UN Secretary General Kofi Annan pressured South African president Thabo Mbeki “to ensure that Aristide remained in South Africa” – just as Annan’s successor, Ban Ki-moon, and President Obama, were to do earlier this year when it became apparent that Aristide would attempt to return to Haiti.

These aren’t the only interesting revelations in the cable. As in other cables we have previously reviewed, this one talks of MINUSTAH “fatigue”. Under a heading entitled “MINUSTAH Could Lose Steam Over Long Run,” the cable describes waning enthusiasm for the Mission from South American countries:

Over the long-term, Mulet worried that fatigue from MINUSTAH’s military and police contributors as well as Venezuela’s possible election to the Security Council could jeopardize MINUSTAH’s mandate.  Mulet explained that though Argentina is committed through February of 2007, it has considered lowering its troop commitment to Haiti. Meanwhile, Chile has already recuperated three helicopters from MINUSTAH, which has significantly limited MINUSTAH’s mobility. Mulet reported that the seven South American troop contributors are planning a meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Defense in Buenos Aires on August 4 to discuss troop levels and the MINUSTAH mandate.

This section then concludes

In addition, he worried that Venezuela’s possible election to the Security Council could jeopardize Haiti’s Chapter VII status.  Mulet said that the Venezuelan ambassador to Haiti had told him that in Caracas’ view Haiti does not require a Chapter VII mission.

As previously noted by Ansel Herz and others, the Chapter VII designation is intended for situations in which the consent of the destination country for the UN “peace keepers” is not required. According to the academic expert Herz cited [PDF], to justify a Chapter VII status

the Council must determine that the situation constitutes a threat or breach of the peace. In contrast, measures under Chapter VI do not have the same force, and military missions under Chapter VI would rest on consent by the state in question.

So the Venezuelan government may have been bothered by the Haitian government not having a say in whether and how long MINUSTAH would remain in place. This claim by Mulet also fits in with the theme we have noted previously of the U.S. government’s use of MINUSTAH as a force that excludes Venezuela. Regional groupings that include the U.S. but exclude Venezuela are becoming increasingly rare in the Western Hemisphere.

The UN Special Envoy for Haiti has released updated numbers on international aid pledges from last March’s donor conference, showing just a minor increase since the last update in early April. Although many donors claimed they were waiting for the new government to take power before releasing aid disbursements, the recent analysis shows that so far at least, little new aid money has been forthcoming from Haiti’s largest donors. In a statement released today, the Special Envoy reported that 37.8 percent ($1.74 billion) of the $4.6 billion in aid pledges had been disbursed through June, up from just 37.2 percent ($1.71 billion) through March. The United States has disbursed just $120 million of the over $900 million appropriated for Haiti, a disbursement rate of just 13.7 percent. This is lower than what had previously been reported.

In an accompanying report, looking at aid to Haiti both before and after the earthquake, Dr. Paul Farmer writes:

After the earthquake, the international community pledged significant financial resources for both the relief and recovery efforts. Yet many of us have been frustrated with the transition between the two phases. Over the past year, donors have disbursed over $1.74 billion for recovery activities, but over half—$2.84 billion—of what was pledged for 2010 and 2011 remains in donors’ hands.

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

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

The report looks beyond the levels of disbursement to see how the aid was disbursed, and if donors “have changed the way they provide their assistance in accordance with the principle of accompaniment.” The report notes:

Accompaniment complements aid effectiveness and human rights principles in a number of ways. It stresses the importance of the Haitian government and its citizens being “in the driver’s seat.” It also calls for aid to focus on the creation of a robust public sector and a healthy private sector that provide meaningful opportunities for citizens. In addition, with its strong emphasis on implementation, accompaniment is specifically focused on guiding international partners to transfer more resources and assets directly to Haitian public and private institutions as part of their support.

Relief vs. Recovery

The Special Envoy separates relief aid (immediate needs) from recovery aid (longer-term recovery)1. About $1.7 billion has been spent on relief aid, and over $2 billion on recovery aid. The differences have been stark. Just one percent of relief aid went to the Haitian government, while the largest share (34 percent) went to “donors’ own civil and military entities for disaster response.” The Special Envoy notes:

The UN appeals did not include the funding needs of the government and provided limited opportunities for Haitian organizations to seek funding. The initial appeal document included the funding needs of UN agencies and international NGOs only; no Haitian NGOs were included in the first version of the appeal.

Later 10 Haitian organizations were added to the appeal, but just two received funding, and in very limited amounts. Haitian organizations received just $0.8 million of a requested $5.4 million, which made up only 0.4 percent of the entire UN appeal.

Aid pledges for recovery, however, did provide the Haitian government with some direct budget support, which in 2010 totaled $204.1 million in direct support and another $60 million in support through the Haiti Reconstruction Fund. The total breakdown of recovery aid can be seen in Figure 8 (taken directly from the Special Envoy’s report).

OSE_figure8

Temporary Changes

While 2010 saw some changes in donor behavior, including increased budget support, there are signs that the change has been temporary. The report notes:

Over 50 percent of the budget support disbursed after the earthquake arrived in the last two months (August and September 2010) of the Haitian fiscal year, more than eight months after the earthquake. According to the IMF, only 29 percent of the budget support pledged for the 2011 fiscal year has been disbursed by donors, although over half of these funds remain in the HRF and have not yet reached the government. The delayed disbursements to budget support negatively impacted the government’s ability to effectively plan activities.

Although there were some changes, overall, the Special Envoy concludes that little has changed and that “[m]ost aid is still channelled in the form of grants directly to international multilateral agencies, and non-state service providers (NGOs and private contractors).” Yet, as Paul Farmer notes, strengthening Haiti’s public institutions is a must, and the report concludes that “aid is most effective at strengthening public institutions when it is channelled through them.”

To read the full report from the UN Special Envoy to Haiti, click here (PDF).

1. The UN Special Envoy, while distinguishing between relief and recovery aid, notes that “While in practice it may be difficult to distinguish between activities in Haiti that exclusively support either the relief or recovery efforts, there are different funding pools and associated regulations that determine how donors provide aid to each. In addition, donors also adopt different approaches to meet immediate needs—such as food, shelter, water and sanitation—than for recovery and long-term development. This report distinguishes between relief and recovery activities based on the funding pools that were used to support them.”

The UN Special Envoy for Haiti has released updated numbers on international aid pledges from last March’s donor conference, showing just a minor increase since the last update in early April. Although many donors claimed they were waiting for the new government to take power before releasing aid disbursements, the recent analysis shows that so far at least, little new aid money has been forthcoming from Haiti’s largest donors. In a statement released today, the Special Envoy reported that 37.8 percent ($1.74 billion) of the $4.6 billion in aid pledges had been disbursed through June, up from just 37.2 percent ($1.71 billion) through March. The United States has disbursed just $120 million of the over $900 million appropriated for Haiti, a disbursement rate of just 13.7 percent. This is lower than what had previously been reported.

In an accompanying report, looking at aid to Haiti both before and after the earthquake, Dr. Paul Farmer writes:

After the earthquake, the international community pledged significant financial resources for both the relief and recovery efforts. Yet many of us have been frustrated with the transition between the two phases. Over the past year, donors have disbursed over $1.74 billion for recovery activities, but over half—$2.84 billion—of what was pledged for 2010 and 2011 remains in donors’ hands.

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

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

The report looks beyond the levels of disbursement to see how the aid was disbursed, and if donors “have changed the way they provide their assistance in accordance with the principle of accompaniment.” The report notes:

Accompaniment complements aid effectiveness and human rights principles in a number of ways. It stresses the importance of the Haitian government and its citizens being “in the driver’s seat.” It also calls for aid to focus on the creation of a robust public sector and a healthy private sector that provide meaningful opportunities for citizens. In addition, with its strong emphasis on implementation, accompaniment is specifically focused on guiding international partners to transfer more resources and assets directly to Haitian public and private institutions as part of their support.

Relief vs. Recovery

The Special Envoy separates relief aid (immediate needs) from recovery aid (longer-term recovery)1. About $1.7 billion has been spent on relief aid, and over $2 billion on recovery aid. The differences have been stark. Just one percent of relief aid went to the Haitian government, while the largest share (34 percent) went to “donors’ own civil and military entities for disaster response.” The Special Envoy notes:

The UN appeals did not include the funding needs of the government and provided limited opportunities for Haitian organizations to seek funding. The initial appeal document included the funding needs of UN agencies and international NGOs only; no Haitian NGOs were included in the first version of the appeal.

Later 10 Haitian organizations were added to the appeal, but just two received funding, and in very limited amounts. Haitian organizations received just $0.8 million of a requested $5.4 million, which made up only 0.4 percent of the entire UN appeal.

Aid pledges for recovery, however, did provide the Haitian government with some direct budget support, which in 2010 totaled $204.1 million in direct support and another $60 million in support through the Haiti Reconstruction Fund. The total breakdown of recovery aid can be seen in Figure 8 (taken directly from the Special Envoy’s report).

OSE_figure8

Temporary Changes

While 2010 saw some changes in donor behavior, including increased budget support, there are signs that the change has been temporary. The report notes:

Over 50 percent of the budget support disbursed after the earthquake arrived in the last two months (August and September 2010) of the Haitian fiscal year, more than eight months after the earthquake. According to the IMF, only 29 percent of the budget support pledged for the 2011 fiscal year has been disbursed by donors, although over half of these funds remain in the HRF and have not yet reached the government. The delayed disbursements to budget support negatively impacted the government’s ability to effectively plan activities.

Although there were some changes, overall, the Special Envoy concludes that little has changed and that “[m]ost aid is still channelled in the form of grants directly to international multilateral agencies, and non-state service providers (NGOs and private contractors).” Yet, as Paul Farmer notes, strengthening Haiti’s public institutions is a must, and the report concludes that “aid is most effective at strengthening public institutions when it is channelled through them.”

To read the full report from the UN Special Envoy to Haiti, click here (PDF).

1. The UN Special Envoy, while distinguishing between relief and recovery aid, notes that “While in practice it may be difficult to distinguish between activities in Haiti that exclusively support either the relief or recovery efforts, there are different funding pools and associated regulations that determine how donors provide aid to each. In addition, donors also adopt different approaches to meet immediate needs—such as food, shelter, water and sanitation—than for recovery and long-term development. This report distinguishes between relief and recovery activities based on the funding pools that were used to support them.”

As we’ve previously described, State Department cables Wikileaked last year revealed a State offensive against unfavorable media coverage of the U.S. role in the aid effort, with Hillary Clinton instructing all embassies to “push back” against “inaccurate and unfavorable international media coverage of America’s role and intentions in Haiti.”

A newly released cable, made available through Wikileaks’ partnership with Haiti Liberté and The Nation, reveals in detail how such “push back” worked, in one case at least.

Diligently following up on Secretary Clinton’s instructions, the U.S. Embassy in Doha, Qatar noticed that “On Sunday, January 17, Al Jazeera’s English (AJE) news channel, headquartered in Doha, began running inaccurate coverage of U.S. and international relief efforts in Haiti.” In response, the Embassy took actions resulting in a State Department spokesperson appearing on Aljazeera English in Washington “within hours”; called Aljazeera English Director Tony Burman ahead of another call by Judith A. McHale, Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, and made sure Burman  “understood the serious concerns that the Undersecretary would convey”; and, after said “flakking” took place, monitored Aljazeera coverage, which it noted with satisfaction became “less and less” “inaccurate and confrontational”, “evolv[ing] markedly” “with reporting focused on the work being done by U.S. military forces – particularly airdrops – and 50 orphans who had  been sent to the United States on an expedited basis.” The coverage now included more context, the Embassy noted, including regarding logistical obstacles to U.S. efforts at aid distribution.

What may be most troubling about the State Department cables is the use of the term “inaccurate”. While the U.S. State Department may have felt that some of Aljazeera’s coverage was unfair or lopsided in its presentation, not giving the U.S. military the opportunity to explain their actions or the obstacles to a better aid effort, this is a subjective opinion, while the term “inaccurate” connotes incorrect information in the Aljazeera reports. If Aljazeera included “inaccurate” statements or reports, the cables do not reveal what these supposedly were.

So we can only guess what State found so objectionable (the cable mentions only a few examples, including reference to the U.S. “setting up a ‘mini-Green Zone'”). Were they concerned by this January 17, 2010 report, perhaps, which included Haitian quake survivors’ complaints that the U.S. should not drop food in from the air, since “they’re not animals”, and that no aid was reaching certain areas, thus far? Did State find “inaccurate” correspondent Theresa Bo’s report that Léogâne, by that point, had not “seen any rescue teams” or aid, even as small children remained trapped in the rubble, crying out for help? Other reporters who ventured to Léogâne at the time reported a similar lack of aid.

Was State offended by this January 19 report, which found, at Cité Soleil, “dozens of injured residents still waiting for basic medical care”, and that in some places “no aid, no international organization, no army” had arrived yet?

This newly Wikileaked cable is also interesting in that it reveals some ways in which media often receive flak from people in positions of power. Journalists reporting from Haiti have privately described numerous incidents of negative feedback (often from powerful institutions or individuals) regarding their reporting, as well as disinterest from their editors in stories that would investigate powerful individuals in Haiti (and their supporters in Washington), for example. Of course, in Haiti, as in many other countries, journalists also often face very real threats to their physical safety.

All of these factors should be pondered when considering, for example, why there has been so little media coverage of human rights violations committed by MINUSTAH forces, for example, or so little mention of the thousands of people killed following the 2004 coup d’etat against the democratically elected government of Haiti.

As we’ve previously described, State Department cables Wikileaked last year revealed a State offensive against unfavorable media coverage of the U.S. role in the aid effort, with Hillary Clinton instructing all embassies to “push back” against “inaccurate and unfavorable international media coverage of America’s role and intentions in Haiti.”

A newly released cable, made available through Wikileaks’ partnership with Haiti Liberté and The Nation, reveals in detail how such “push back” worked, in one case at least.

Diligently following up on Secretary Clinton’s instructions, the U.S. Embassy in Doha, Qatar noticed that “On Sunday, January 17, Al Jazeera’s English (AJE) news channel, headquartered in Doha, began running inaccurate coverage of U.S. and international relief efforts in Haiti.” In response, the Embassy took actions resulting in a State Department spokesperson appearing on Aljazeera English in Washington “within hours”; called Aljazeera English Director Tony Burman ahead of another call by Judith A. McHale, Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, and made sure Burman  “understood the serious concerns that the Undersecretary would convey”; and, after said “flakking” took place, monitored Aljazeera coverage, which it noted with satisfaction became “less and less” “inaccurate and confrontational”, “evolv[ing] markedly” “with reporting focused on the work being done by U.S. military forces – particularly airdrops – and 50 orphans who had  been sent to the United States on an expedited basis.” The coverage now included more context, the Embassy noted, including regarding logistical obstacles to U.S. efforts at aid distribution.

What may be most troubling about the State Department cables is the use of the term “inaccurate”. While the U.S. State Department may have felt that some of Aljazeera’s coverage was unfair or lopsided in its presentation, not giving the U.S. military the opportunity to explain their actions or the obstacles to a better aid effort, this is a subjective opinion, while the term “inaccurate” connotes incorrect information in the Aljazeera reports. If Aljazeera included “inaccurate” statements or reports, the cables do not reveal what these supposedly were.

So we can only guess what State found so objectionable (the cable mentions only a few examples, including reference to the U.S. “setting up a ‘mini-Green Zone'”). Were they concerned by this January 17, 2010 report, perhaps, which included Haitian quake survivors’ complaints that the U.S. should not drop food in from the air, since “they’re not animals”, and that no aid was reaching certain areas, thus far? Did State find “inaccurate” correspondent Theresa Bo’s report that Léogâne, by that point, had not “seen any rescue teams” or aid, even as small children remained trapped in the rubble, crying out for help? Other reporters who ventured to Léogâne at the time reported a similar lack of aid.

Was State offended by this January 19 report, which found, at Cité Soleil, “dozens of injured residents still waiting for basic medical care”, and that in some places “no aid, no international organization, no army” had arrived yet?

This newly Wikileaked cable is also interesting in that it reveals some ways in which media often receive flak from people in positions of power. Journalists reporting from Haiti have privately described numerous incidents of negative feedback (often from powerful institutions or individuals) regarding their reporting, as well as disinterest from their editors in stories that would investigate powerful individuals in Haiti (and their supporters in Washington), for example. Of course, in Haiti, as in many other countries, journalists also often face very real threats to their physical safety.

All of these factors should be pondered when considering, for example, why there has been so little media coverage of human rights violations committed by MINUSTAH forces, for example, or so little mention of the thousands of people killed following the 2004 coup d’etat against the democratically elected government of Haiti.

Heavy rains dumped up to six inches of rain across Port-au-Prince and throughout much of Haiti Monday night. Continued rain is predicted through Thursday. The storms left 23 dead, injured many and left thousands more displaced. A damage assessment by the Département de la protection civile and the IOM found that 32 of 187 camps were flooded and that nearly 500 families were affected in Cite Soleil, one of the worst hit areas. Some camps were under up to four feet of water. The assessment also noted an increase in the number of cases of cholera, and that “latrines have been reported to overflow in some camps.”

The deadly storm comes just a week into the Atlantic hurricane season and less than a week after the UN’s Nigel Fisher proclaimed that Haiti was better prepared than last year. Following the storm, Jacqueline Charles of the Miami Herald spoke with Elise Young of ActionAid:

ActionAid called for better coordination between the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Haitian government and nongovernmental organizations to prevent further disaster this hurricane season. The new devastation, ActionAid said, highlights the need for newly elected President Michel Martelly to immediately implement a long-term housing strategy for Haitians, hundreds of thousands of whom remain under flimsy tents and tarps nearly 17 months after a catastrophic earthquake.

“Disaster mitigation must be prioritized not only in Port-au-Prince, but in vulnerable communities throughout the country that are at risk of severe flooding,’’ Elise Young, an analyst with ActionAid, told The Miami Herald.

This year, although the camp population may be lower than last year, hurricane preparedness is complicated by the high number of people living in damaged housing. Charles reports:

Mellicker said that reality makes “this year much more complex because of the migration patterns to unrepaired homes that are either red or yellow.’’ A home designated as red is one that should be demolished and the yellow label means in need of repair.

A controversial USAID-commissioned report said that 64 percent of red homes have been reoccupied in the Greater Port-au-Prince area.

As we pointed out last week, the USAID-commissioned report contained a warning that over one million people were living in badly damaged housing. Indeed, 13 of the deaths from the storm were in Petionville and were caused by the collapse of houses, according to Le Nouvelliste.

The rains have also added to the resurgence of the cholera epidemic, spreading quickly in the capital but also in other parts of the country. Last week, warnings from Doctors Without Borders, Oxfam and other relief organizations noted a serious increase of cases in the capital. The Pan American Health Organization warned on June 3 that most Cholera Treatment Centers (CTCs) they’ve contacted in the capital were at full capacity. CTCs and CTUs in the South department are also nearing capacity.

It is certainly questionable why, in the two months prior to the beginning of the hurricane season, the number of CTCs was cut in half. One reason is that since early February, the UN’s cholera appeal has only received about seven million dollars, or 4 percent of the appeal.  After Martelly’s presidential win, many predicted that aid would soon be on the way.  The international community, which had abandoned Preval and pushed forward with a fatally flawed electoral process, had been awaiting a new president to finally distribute their grandiose aid pledges, it was argued. With experts predicting an active hurricane season and a deteriorating health situation, Martelly’s reaction to the continued rains will be important to watch. He has already been more visible than Preval, making a live address on Monday night as the rain was still pounding and then going to some of the most affected areas yesterday. Yet without a concrete housing strategy and with donor support still slow to materialize, Martelly may find himself subject to much of the same criticism that Preval faced last summer, as the needs of those still living in such extreme vulnerability continue to go unmet.

Heavy rains dumped up to six inches of rain across Port-au-Prince and throughout much of Haiti Monday night. Continued rain is predicted through Thursday. The storms left 23 dead, injured many and left thousands more displaced. A damage assessment by the Département de la protection civile and the IOM found that 32 of 187 camps were flooded and that nearly 500 families were affected in Cite Soleil, one of the worst hit areas. Some camps were under up to four feet of water. The assessment also noted an increase in the number of cases of cholera, and that “latrines have been reported to overflow in some camps.”

The deadly storm comes just a week into the Atlantic hurricane season and less than a week after the UN’s Nigel Fisher proclaimed that Haiti was better prepared than last year. Following the storm, Jacqueline Charles of the Miami Herald spoke with Elise Young of ActionAid:

ActionAid called for better coordination between the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Haitian government and nongovernmental organizations to prevent further disaster this hurricane season. The new devastation, ActionAid said, highlights the need for newly elected President Michel Martelly to immediately implement a long-term housing strategy for Haitians, hundreds of thousands of whom remain under flimsy tents and tarps nearly 17 months after a catastrophic earthquake.

“Disaster mitigation must be prioritized not only in Port-au-Prince, but in vulnerable communities throughout the country that are at risk of severe flooding,’’ Elise Young, an analyst with ActionAid, told The Miami Herald.

This year, although the camp population may be lower than last year, hurricane preparedness is complicated by the high number of people living in damaged housing. Charles reports:

Mellicker said that reality makes “this year much more complex because of the migration patterns to unrepaired homes that are either red or yellow.’’ A home designated as red is one that should be demolished and the yellow label means in need of repair.

A controversial USAID-commissioned report said that 64 percent of red homes have been reoccupied in the Greater Port-au-Prince area.

As we pointed out last week, the USAID-commissioned report contained a warning that over one million people were living in badly damaged housing. Indeed, 13 of the deaths from the storm were in Petionville and were caused by the collapse of houses, according to Le Nouvelliste.

The rains have also added to the resurgence of the cholera epidemic, spreading quickly in the capital but also in other parts of the country. Last week, warnings from Doctors Without Borders, Oxfam and other relief organizations noted a serious increase of cases in the capital. The Pan American Health Organization warned on June 3 that most Cholera Treatment Centers (CTCs) they’ve contacted in the capital were at full capacity. CTCs and CTUs in the South department are also nearing capacity.

It is certainly questionable why, in the two months prior to the beginning of the hurricane season, the number of CTCs was cut in half. One reason is that since early February, the UN’s cholera appeal has only received about seven million dollars, or 4 percent of the appeal.  After Martelly’s presidential win, many predicted that aid would soon be on the way.  The international community, which had abandoned Preval and pushed forward with a fatally flawed electoral process, had been awaiting a new president to finally distribute their grandiose aid pledges, it was argued. With experts predicting an active hurricane season and a deteriorating health situation, Martelly’s reaction to the continued rains will be important to watch. He has already been more visible than Preval, making a live address on Monday night as the rain was still pounding and then going to some of the most affected areas yesterday. Yet without a concrete housing strategy and with donor support still slow to materialize, Martelly may find himself subject to much of the same criticism that Preval faced last summer, as the needs of those still living in such extreme vulnerability continue to go unmet.

It is now officially hurricane season. Rains have picked up over the previous weeks and this is already causing a surge in the number of new cholera cases. The most recent data from the MSPP (Ministere de la Sante Publique et da la Population) show that there have been over 320,000 cases, 170,000 hospitalizations and that 5,337 people have died as a result of the disease. In a statement on June 1, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) noted that:

During the last days the MSPP and PAHO/WHO have observed an increase in the number of alerts of cholera cases, mainly in the Departments of South-East, Grand-Anse, South, Center and West. New cholera cases have been reported in IDP camps.

Also pointing out that, “due [to] lack of resources numerous NGOs have been withdrawing from these areas and interrupting their water-trucking programs. This situation makes more vulnerable the health of the IDP populations.” The Health Cluster vulnerability analysis shows that the West department, because of the high concentration of IDPs, is the most at-risk part of the country. Yesterday, Oxfam reported an increase in cholera cases in the area of Carrefour where, according to the IOM, over 60,000 IDPs are spread between 124 sites. Oxfam public health promoter Mimy Muisa Kambere said:

The current cholera outbreak in the Carrefour area is far worse than the one registered in November. At that time, there were a maximum of 900 reported cases of cholera per week. Now, over 300 new cases are registered every single day. However, the number of casualties is far lower than we saw in November as people are able to get help faster.

Doctors Without Borders released a statement of their own today, also noting a marked increase in cases in the capital:

MSF had to reopen emergency CTCs to prevent existing treatment centres in Carrefour, Delmas, Martissant, Cité Soleil and Drouillard from being overwhelmed.

“Since May 29, in one week, MSF has treated almost 2,000 patients in the capital, and we have also been asked to intervene in other areas in the interior of the country, ” said MSF head of mission Romain Gitenet.

The other department most at-risk is the Sud Est, where the “overall trend of cholera cases is increasing sharply”. The fatality rate in the department continues to be over eight percent compared to a countrywide rate of below two percent.

The most recent Health Cluster bulletin also shows the declining coverage of cholera treatment facilities. From March 16 to May 16 the number of Oral Rehydration Centers has increased from 692 to 810, however the number of Cholera Treatment Centers (CTC), which typically have 40-300 beds, have decreased from 98 to 46. The number of Cholera Treatment Units (CTU), typically with 2-20 beds, has decreased from 214 to 210. The UN funding appeal for cholera remains just 49 percent funded as of May 20, only 4 percentage points higher than it was on February 4.

As the Haitian government and other partners try to ramp up their efforts in combating the epidemic, a group of 44 experts, including Dr. Paul Farmer of Partners in Health, have published a paper in the journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases outlining “a comprehensive, integrated cholera response in Haiti.” The authors write that the Haitian government must be in the lead and that efforts to respond to the epidemic “should be used as a wedge to bolster primary health care services and strengthen the Haitian health system.” Specifically, the document outlines three main points:

First, we must continue aggressive case finding and scale up treatment efforts, including oral rehydration therapy, intravenous rehydration, antibiotic therapy (for moderate and severe cases), and complementary supplementation with zinc and vitamin A. Second, we must shore up Haiti’s water infrastructure by building systems for consistent chlorination and filtration at public water sources and by distributing point-of-use water purification technologies. We must also strengthen sanitation infrastructure by improving and expanding waste management facilities (such as sewage systems and latrines) and waste monitoring. Third, we must link prevention to care by bolstering surveillance, education campaigns (about hand-washing, for example), and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) efforts. Prevention must also include advocacy for scaled-up production of cholera vaccine and the development of a vaccine strategy for Haiti.

Implementation of their strategy, the authors note, “will require political will and substantial, long-term financial commitments from global health authorities, donors, and health providers.” In other words, more support than the $7 million the UN cholera appeal has received in the last three and a half months. For a point of reference, the expected cost of opening just a single CTC with 200 beds for three months is $1 million.

 

It is now officially hurricane season. Rains have picked up over the previous weeks and this is already causing a surge in the number of new cholera cases. The most recent data from the MSPP (Ministere de la Sante Publique et da la Population) show that there have been over 320,000 cases, 170,000 hospitalizations and that 5,337 people have died as a result of the disease. In a statement on June 1, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) noted that:

During the last days the MSPP and PAHO/WHO have observed an increase in the number of alerts of cholera cases, mainly in the Departments of South-East, Grand-Anse, South, Center and West. New cholera cases have been reported in IDP camps.

Also pointing out that, “due [to] lack of resources numerous NGOs have been withdrawing from these areas and interrupting their water-trucking programs. This situation makes more vulnerable the health of the IDP populations.” The Health Cluster vulnerability analysis shows that the West department, because of the high concentration of IDPs, is the most at-risk part of the country. Yesterday, Oxfam reported an increase in cholera cases in the area of Carrefour where, according to the IOM, over 60,000 IDPs are spread between 124 sites. Oxfam public health promoter Mimy Muisa Kambere said:

The current cholera outbreak in the Carrefour area is far worse than the one registered in November. At that time, there were a maximum of 900 reported cases of cholera per week. Now, over 300 new cases are registered every single day. However, the number of casualties is far lower than we saw in November as people are able to get help faster.

Doctors Without Borders released a statement of their own today, also noting a marked increase in cases in the capital:

MSF had to reopen emergency CTCs to prevent existing treatment centres in Carrefour, Delmas, Martissant, Cité Soleil and Drouillard from being overwhelmed.

“Since May 29, in one week, MSF has treated almost 2,000 patients in the capital, and we have also been asked to intervene in other areas in the interior of the country, ” said MSF head of mission Romain Gitenet.

The other department most at-risk is the Sud Est, where the “overall trend of cholera cases is increasing sharply”. The fatality rate in the department continues to be over eight percent compared to a countrywide rate of below two percent.

The most recent Health Cluster bulletin also shows the declining coverage of cholera treatment facilities. From March 16 to May 16 the number of Oral Rehydration Centers has increased from 692 to 810, however the number of Cholera Treatment Centers (CTC), which typically have 40-300 beds, have decreased from 98 to 46. The number of Cholera Treatment Units (CTU), typically with 2-20 beds, has decreased from 214 to 210. The UN funding appeal for cholera remains just 49 percent funded as of May 20, only 4 percentage points higher than it was on February 4.

As the Haitian government and other partners try to ramp up their efforts in combating the epidemic, a group of 44 experts, including Dr. Paul Farmer of Partners in Health, have published a paper in the journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases outlining “a comprehensive, integrated cholera response in Haiti.” The authors write that the Haitian government must be in the lead and that efforts to respond to the epidemic “should be used as a wedge to bolster primary health care services and strengthen the Haitian health system.” Specifically, the document outlines three main points:

First, we must continue aggressive case finding and scale up treatment efforts, including oral rehydration therapy, intravenous rehydration, antibiotic therapy (for moderate and severe cases), and complementary supplementation with zinc and vitamin A. Second, we must shore up Haiti’s water infrastructure by building systems for consistent chlorination and filtration at public water sources and by distributing point-of-use water purification technologies. We must also strengthen sanitation infrastructure by improving and expanding waste management facilities (such as sewage systems and latrines) and waste monitoring. Third, we must link prevention to care by bolstering surveillance, education campaigns (about hand-washing, for example), and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) efforts. Prevention must also include advocacy for scaled-up production of cholera vaccine and the development of a vaccine strategy for Haiti.

Implementation of their strategy, the authors note, “will require political will and substantial, long-term financial commitments from global health authorities, donors, and health providers.” In other words, more support than the $7 million the UN cholera appeal has received in the last three and a half months. For a point of reference, the expected cost of opening just a single CTC with 200 beds for three months is $1 million.

 

A draft report produced for USAID has been circulating online and has generated controversy as a result of its estimates of the death toll numbers from last year’s devastating earthquake in Haiti which don’t match up with previously published figures. While media outlets have latched onto this sensational story and tied it in to the discussion over continued assistance to Haiti, there are other aspects of the paper that appear much more relevant to the current situation of relief efforts in Haiti.

To begin with, the report – even if its results are only partially reliable – makes it clear that there are an extremely large number of people living in damaged and dangerous housing. According to the report, many people have returned to housing once slated for destruction, a phenomenon we have written about previously.

As Timothy Schwartz, the lead author of the study, writes:

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

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

The report’s assessment that many at-risk buildings are currently occupied leads its authors to lower the estimate of rubble to be removed. As the original estimate was based on the number of buildings marked “red” for demolition, the report lowers the figure from 8.8 to 3.2 million cubic meters. Schwartz writes, “Now, unless someone is going to remove people from 64% of Red buildings now occupied, we can now cut that figure by two thirds, to 3.168 million M3 [from 8.8].” The story is not so much that the amount of rubble is less, but that people are now living in what once was classified as “rubble”.

The report’s authors also significantly lower the estimate of displaced people in camps based, again, on their assessment of the high occupancy rate of at-risk buildings.  While this inference is methodologically questionable (e.g., the authors’ study does not extend to the camps themselves), there is one troubling fact that merits greater attention:  because of a lack of better housing alternatives, people are resorting to occupying homes that could collapse.  The deplorable conditions in many tent camps – as noted in a recent Congressional letter – could well be leading desperate individuals and families to reoccupy at-risk buildings.

Finally, while the death toll and IDP numbers may get headlines, and many are rightly worried that the report could be used to justify assistance cuts, the study does not portray a Haiti that needs less help. As Schwartz concludes in the paper, “It means that we may be facing a massive second crisis if we do not help people with the 73,846 inhabited buildings that may collapse at any moment or the 84,951 inhabited buildings that may collapse in heavy wind or foul weather.”

Reasonable arguments can be made concerning the methodology around the death toll and the number of IDPs, but the primary objective of the study was to measure the occupancy rate of the color-marked houses, and it is on this front that the report provides the most relevant and alarming data.

A draft report produced for USAID has been circulating online and has generated controversy as a result of its estimates of the death toll numbers from last year’s devastating earthquake in Haiti which don’t match up with previously published figures. While media outlets have latched onto this sensational story and tied it in to the discussion over continued assistance to Haiti, there are other aspects of the paper that appear much more relevant to the current situation of relief efforts in Haiti.

To begin with, the report – even if its results are only partially reliable – makes it clear that there are an extremely large number of people living in damaged and dangerous housing. According to the report, many people have returned to housing once slated for destruction, a phenomenon we have written about previously.

As Timothy Schwartz, the lead author of the study, writes:

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

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

The report’s assessment that many at-risk buildings are currently occupied leads its authors to lower the estimate of rubble to be removed. As the original estimate was based on the number of buildings marked “red” for demolition, the report lowers the figure from 8.8 to 3.2 million cubic meters. Schwartz writes, “Now, unless someone is going to remove people from 64% of Red buildings now occupied, we can now cut that figure by two thirds, to 3.168 million M3 [from 8.8].” The story is not so much that the amount of rubble is less, but that people are now living in what once was classified as “rubble”.

The report’s authors also significantly lower the estimate of displaced people in camps based, again, on their assessment of the high occupancy rate of at-risk buildings.  While this inference is methodologically questionable (e.g., the authors’ study does not extend to the camps themselves), there is one troubling fact that merits greater attention:  because of a lack of better housing alternatives, people are resorting to occupying homes that could collapse.  The deplorable conditions in many tent camps – as noted in a recent Congressional letter – could well be leading desperate individuals and families to reoccupy at-risk buildings.

Finally, while the death toll and IDP numbers may get headlines, and many are rightly worried that the report could be used to justify assistance cuts, the study does not portray a Haiti that needs less help. As Schwartz concludes in the paper, “It means that we may be facing a massive second crisis if we do not help people with the 73,846 inhabited buildings that may collapse at any moment or the 84,951 inhabited buildings that may collapse in heavy wind or foul weather.”

Reasonable arguments can be made concerning the methodology around the death toll and the number of IDPs, but the primary objective of the study was to measure the occupancy rate of the color-marked houses, and it is on this front that the report provides the most relevant and alarming data.

As we previously mentioned, last week the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), the independent government agency tasked with evaluating the performance of the federal government in selected areas, released their assessment of U.S. efforts in Haiti.  The report – which bears the less-than-optimistic title “Haiti Reconstruction: U.S. Efforts Have Begun, Expanded Oversight Still to be Implemented” – offers more a description of the general framework of the relief effort than a critical examination of its results to date.  For those not aware of where and how hundreds of millions of dollars of federal funding are being channeled in Haiti, the report has a number of useful pie charts, flow charts and bar graphs that provide a clearer picture of where U.S. funds are being spent, and where they aren’t.  Although the report offers no examination of whether the programs implemented by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) are actually effective, it does shine a light on some of the structural problems affecting the international relief mission.

The four broad sectors receiving U.S. funding are 1) Infrastructure and Energy (46% of total funds); 2) Governance and Rule of Law (16%); Health and other basic services (13%); and Food and Economic Security (7%).  The breakdown of spending within each sector provides evidence of misplaced priorities.  For instance, while significant funds are being channeled towards improving Haiti’s energy infrastructure, roads and permanent housing, only a comparatively small amount of allocations are going to rubble removal ($25 million), although the continued presence of rubble throughout Port-au-Prince remains the biggest obstacle to the reconstruction of Haiti’s devastated capital city.

Though the U.S. has allocated over $98 million to health care, only $10 million is being channeled to education (or approximately 1% of total U.S. spending on Haiti’s reconstruction).   Haiti’s education sector was in crisis well before the earthquake – with over 60% of students dropping out of school before the sixth grade and the literacy rate hovering around 50%.  There are now heaps of rubble where many schools stood and the vast majority of the hundreds of thousands of children in tent camps have no access to any form of education.  Given the crucial role that education must play in Haiti’s reconstruction, it’s difficult to understand why this “sub-sector” is receiving so little funding.

With regard to the broader international relief mission, a particularly troubling issue that the GAO report highlights is the dysfunctional nature of the much-touted Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC).  Co-chaired by the Haitian prime minister and former President Bill Clinton and tasked with planning and overseeing all bilateral and multilateral reconstruction projects in Haiti, the IHRC is, in theory, the key player in the recovery effort.  As the GAO signals, “its functions will transfer to a permanent Haitian development agency when its mandate expires” in October 2011.

The GAO makes clear that, at less than 5 months from its “expiry” date, the IHRC remains in a sorry state.  A table in the report reveals the stark understaffing of the commission: only 2 out of 5 “Director” positions have been filled; and in many areas no positions have been filled.  Of 34 positions that are called for in the commission’s organizational structure, twenty-two have yet to be filled.  The crucial Performance and Anticorruption Office (PAO), which performs the key task of oversight of the projects approved by the Commission, has no staff and a role that has yet to be defined by Haitian and foreign partners.

Unsurprisingly, the GAO notes that “the absence of staff has affected the project review process” and that no risk analyses of projects have been conducted by the PAO since the monitoring agency has no staff at all.  International donors have “filled some of the commission’s day-to-day staffing needs with consultants and temporary staff” but these stop-gap measures are clearly not enough to make the agency functional and may in fact undermine what little independence the IHRC may have.

Another limitation to the IHRC’s efficiency is the fact, outlined by the GAO, that the IHRC has very little control over where funds are allocated since “it can be difficult to convince donors to fund some priority areas, such as rubble removal…”  As a result, the IHRC has signaled that “funding for reconstruction projects is unevenly spread among sectors and does not necessarily reflect Haitian government priorities.”  There is also, according to the GAO, a “lack of  clarity” about the Haitian government’s priorities given that its Action Plan provides very little “detailed guidance” and given that “not all priority sectors have strategic plans.”  This is hardly surprising when one considers the grossly underfunded and understaffed state of the Haitian government.

Despite a dire shortage of staff and the lack of a clear over-arching plan, IHRC has managed to approve an estimated $3.2 billion in reconstruction projects (most of which remain unfunded).  It is difficult to imagine that many of the selected projects are well adapted to Haiti’s urgent needs.

Finally, an issue unmentioned in the report is the controversial character of the IHRC in Haiti, where there have been complaints over the alleged shutting out of many of the Haitian members of the commission.  The nominee for prime minister, Daniel Gerard-Rouzier, has sought to tap into the popular resentment toward the commission by announcing his intention to do away with the IHRC, Martelly quickly backtracked, saying he was

“very open and willing to begin discussions” with Clinton and the international community about the commission to “make it more efficient” as its members seek to rebuild Haiti from the devastating 2010 earthquake.

In any case, as the commission is only mandated to exist for five more months, Rouzier’s statements would seem to amount to little more than benign political grandstanding.  As Trenton Daniel of AP noted, Rouzier “must [still] be confirmed by the Senate, which is controlled by the opposition and where there is deep resentment over the foreign-controlled commission.”

Again, the GAO report is helpful in providing a detailed description of the way in which U.S funds are spent, and also highlights some of the most egregious structural flaws that cripple the reconstruction effort; however, it provides no objective assessment of the results of U.S. assistance on the ground.  Indeed, though the report’s authors state that they met with “USAID implementing partners and local recipients of U.S. assistance”, nearly all the citations in the report come from U.S. and IHRC officials.  Thankfully, the USAID Inspector General has begun a series of audits that have, so far, provided more informed and frank assessments of the dismal state of international relief efforts.

As we previously mentioned, last week the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), the independent government agency tasked with evaluating the performance of the federal government in selected areas, released their assessment of U.S. efforts in Haiti.  The report – which bears the less-than-optimistic title “Haiti Reconstruction: U.S. Efforts Have Begun, Expanded Oversight Still to be Implemented” – offers more a description of the general framework of the relief effort than a critical examination of its results to date.  For those not aware of where and how hundreds of millions of dollars of federal funding are being channeled in Haiti, the report has a number of useful pie charts, flow charts and bar graphs that provide a clearer picture of where U.S. funds are being spent, and where they aren’t.  Although the report offers no examination of whether the programs implemented by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) are actually effective, it does shine a light on some of the structural problems affecting the international relief mission.

The four broad sectors receiving U.S. funding are 1) Infrastructure and Energy (46% of total funds); 2) Governance and Rule of Law (16%); Health and other basic services (13%); and Food and Economic Security (7%).  The breakdown of spending within each sector provides evidence of misplaced priorities.  For instance, while significant funds are being channeled towards improving Haiti’s energy infrastructure, roads and permanent housing, only a comparatively small amount of allocations are going to rubble removal ($25 million), although the continued presence of rubble throughout Port-au-Prince remains the biggest obstacle to the reconstruction of Haiti’s devastated capital city.

Though the U.S. has allocated over $98 million to health care, only $10 million is being channeled to education (or approximately 1% of total U.S. spending on Haiti’s reconstruction).   Haiti’s education sector was in crisis well before the earthquake – with over 60% of students dropping out of school before the sixth grade and the literacy rate hovering around 50%.  There are now heaps of rubble where many schools stood and the vast majority of the hundreds of thousands of children in tent camps have no access to any form of education.  Given the crucial role that education must play in Haiti’s reconstruction, it’s difficult to understand why this “sub-sector” is receiving so little funding.

With regard to the broader international relief mission, a particularly troubling issue that the GAO report highlights is the dysfunctional nature of the much-touted Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC).  Co-chaired by the Haitian prime minister and former President Bill Clinton and tasked with planning and overseeing all bilateral and multilateral reconstruction projects in Haiti, the IHRC is, in theory, the key player in the recovery effort.  As the GAO signals, “its functions will transfer to a permanent Haitian development agency when its mandate expires” in October 2011.

The GAO makes clear that, at less than 5 months from its “expiry” date, the IHRC remains in a sorry state.  A table in the report reveals the stark understaffing of the commission: only 2 out of 5 “Director” positions have been filled; and in many areas no positions have been filled.  Of 34 positions that are called for in the commission’s organizational structure, twenty-two have yet to be filled.  The crucial Performance and Anticorruption Office (PAO), which performs the key task of oversight of the projects approved by the Commission, has no staff and a role that has yet to be defined by Haitian and foreign partners.

Unsurprisingly, the GAO notes that “the absence of staff has affected the project review process” and that no risk analyses of projects have been conducted by the PAO since the monitoring agency has no staff at all.  International donors have “filled some of the commission’s day-to-day staffing needs with consultants and temporary staff” but these stop-gap measures are clearly not enough to make the agency functional and may in fact undermine what little independence the IHRC may have.

Another limitation to the IHRC’s efficiency is the fact, outlined by the GAO, that the IHRC has very little control over where funds are allocated since “it can be difficult to convince donors to fund some priority areas, such as rubble removal…”  As a result, the IHRC has signaled that “funding for reconstruction projects is unevenly spread among sectors and does not necessarily reflect Haitian government priorities.”  There is also, according to the GAO, a “lack of  clarity” about the Haitian government’s priorities given that its Action Plan provides very little “detailed guidance” and given that “not all priority sectors have strategic plans.”  This is hardly surprising when one considers the grossly underfunded and understaffed state of the Haitian government.

Despite a dire shortage of staff and the lack of a clear over-arching plan, IHRC has managed to approve an estimated $3.2 billion in reconstruction projects (most of which remain unfunded).  It is difficult to imagine that many of the selected projects are well adapted to Haiti’s urgent needs.

Finally, an issue unmentioned in the report is the controversial character of the IHRC in Haiti, where there have been complaints over the alleged shutting out of many of the Haitian members of the commission.  The nominee for prime minister, Daniel Gerard-Rouzier, has sought to tap into the popular resentment toward the commission by announcing his intention to do away with the IHRC, Martelly quickly backtracked, saying he was

“very open and willing to begin discussions” with Clinton and the international community about the commission to “make it more efficient” as its members seek to rebuild Haiti from the devastating 2010 earthquake.

In any case, as the commission is only mandated to exist for five more months, Rouzier’s statements would seem to amount to little more than benign political grandstanding.  As Trenton Daniel of AP noted, Rouzier “must [still] be confirmed by the Senate, which is controlled by the opposition and where there is deep resentment over the foreign-controlled commission.”

Again, the GAO report is helpful in providing a detailed description of the way in which U.S funds are spent, and also highlights some of the most egregious structural flaws that cripple the reconstruction effort; however, it provides no objective assessment of the results of U.S. assistance on the ground.  Indeed, though the report’s authors state that they met with “USAID implementing partners and local recipients of U.S. assistance”, nearly all the citations in the report come from U.S. and IHRC officials.  Thankfully, the USAID Inspector General has begun a series of audits that have, so far, provided more informed and frank assessments of the dismal state of international relief efforts.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office released a report last week noting, among other things, that the Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission (IHRC) is still not operational, although it still has several months to do so before its mandate ends:

although the commission’s mandate ends in October 2011, IHRC is not fully operational due to delays in staffing the commission and defining the role of its Performance and Anticorruption Office–which IHRC officials cited as key to establishing the commission as a model of good governance.

The GAO goes on to note a significant disconnect between what the Haitian government has identified as priorities, and what IHRC has green-lighted:

although the Haitian government identified nearly equal 18-month funding requirements for debris removal and agriculture, IHRC has approved about 7 times more funding for agriculture projects.

This is perhaps not surprising considering the IHRC’s problems in ensuring involvement of Haitian partners in decision-making.

The debris removal, of course, is necessary in part to clear space for new shelters, and getting displaced persons out of IDP camps, where cholera – abetted by a severe lack of adequate sanitation – can be a serious danger. (Deutsche Presse-Agentur reported this weekend on a new milestone in post-quake tragedy: 5,200 cholera deaths and 300,000 infections over the past seven months.) Yet just 20 percent of the rubble has been removed, according to various officials. USAID has not made rubble removal much of a priority either, according to the USAID Office of the Inspector General.

Almost a year ago, we warned of the possibly devastating consequences as thousands of people were still in tents or living under tarps as the hurricane season began. We cited the Red Cross’ Alex Wynter at the time, as quoted in the Miami Herald:

“When we first started this operation . . . we hoped that we would be able to build a significant number of transitional shelters by the start of the hurricane season,” said Alex Wynter of the International Federation of Red Cross. “We’ve made up our minds that we are going to have to face the emergency or the potential emergency of the rainy season and the hurricane season in the camps.”

Now, the hurricane season is about to begin again – and again, it may be more severe than usual, as AP reports:

The director of the [U.S.] National Hurricane Center said Friday that Haiti’s ability to respond to a tropical storm while still reeling from a January 2010 earthquake remains his top concern for the Atlantic hurricane season.

“I don’t feel comfortable that, should there be a direct hit, there would be the capacity to shelter everybody in a safe place,” director Bill Read said at the end of the weeklong Florida Governor’s Hurricane Conference.

The six-month Atlantic hurricane season begins June 1, and U.S. government forecasters expect it to be an above average season.

As many as 18 named tropical storms are expected to develop before the season ends Nov. 30, and three to six of those could strengthen into major hurricanes with top winds of 111 mph or higher, forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Thursday.

As we’ve noted recently, many people displaced by the earthquake have made the difficult choice of returning to damaged buildings rather than remain in camps where services are lacking (with some lacking any NGO attention at all), and where they may be subject to forced evictions, as IDP’s in Delmas were yesterday. But some of these structures may also not be suited to withstand the impact of hurricanes making landfall in Haiti.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office released a report last week noting, among other things, that the Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission (IHRC) is still not operational, although it still has several months to do so before its mandate ends:

although the commission’s mandate ends in October 2011, IHRC is not fully operational due to delays in staffing the commission and defining the role of its Performance and Anticorruption Office–which IHRC officials cited as key to establishing the commission as a model of good governance.

The GAO goes on to note a significant disconnect between what the Haitian government has identified as priorities, and what IHRC has green-lighted:

although the Haitian government identified nearly equal 18-month funding requirements for debris removal and agriculture, IHRC has approved about 7 times more funding for agriculture projects.

This is perhaps not surprising considering the IHRC’s problems in ensuring involvement of Haitian partners in decision-making.

The debris removal, of course, is necessary in part to clear space for new shelters, and getting displaced persons out of IDP camps, where cholera – abetted by a severe lack of adequate sanitation – can be a serious danger. (Deutsche Presse-Agentur reported this weekend on a new milestone in post-quake tragedy: 5,200 cholera deaths and 300,000 infections over the past seven months.) Yet just 20 percent of the rubble has been removed, according to various officials. USAID has not made rubble removal much of a priority either, according to the USAID Office of the Inspector General.

Almost a year ago, we warned of the possibly devastating consequences as thousands of people were still in tents or living under tarps as the hurricane season began. We cited the Red Cross’ Alex Wynter at the time, as quoted in the Miami Herald:

“When we first started this operation . . . we hoped that we would be able to build a significant number of transitional shelters by the start of the hurricane season,” said Alex Wynter of the International Federation of Red Cross. “We’ve made up our minds that we are going to have to face the emergency or the potential emergency of the rainy season and the hurricane season in the camps.”

Now, the hurricane season is about to begin again – and again, it may be more severe than usual, as AP reports:

The director of the [U.S.] National Hurricane Center said Friday that Haiti’s ability to respond to a tropical storm while still reeling from a January 2010 earthquake remains his top concern for the Atlantic hurricane season.

“I don’t feel comfortable that, should there be a direct hit, there would be the capacity to shelter everybody in a safe place,” director Bill Read said at the end of the weeklong Florida Governor’s Hurricane Conference.

The six-month Atlantic hurricane season begins June 1, and U.S. government forecasters expect it to be an above average season.

As many as 18 named tropical storms are expected to develop before the season ends Nov. 30, and three to six of those could strengthen into major hurricanes with top winds of 111 mph or higher, forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Thursday.

As we’ve noted recently, many people displaced by the earthquake have made the difficult choice of returning to damaged buildings rather than remain in camps where services are lacking (with some lacking any NGO attention at all), and where they may be subject to forced evictions, as IDP’s in Delmas were yesterday. But some of these structures may also not be suited to withstand the impact of hurricanes making landfall in Haiti.

An editorial in the New York Times today describes the findings of a UN report that shows the cholera outbreak “may have originated” at a MINUSTAH camp, and says “The fact that the disease is still spreading is a reminder of how much more help Haiti needs and the consequences of continued neglect.”

The editorial concludes:

Even as relief agencies are winding down their presence in Haiti, about 680,000 people are still living in camps and waiting for permanent shelter. Life in this setting is precarious, without adequate access to latrines and safe drinking water.

The United Nations’ overall appeal to respond to the epidemic, for $175 million, is 48 percent financed. Haiti’s continuing health emergency may have been overlooked in a crush of world events, but while the sick and dying are waiting for the world to respond, the disease is not.

The editorial was, unfortunately, all too well-timed, as the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the Pan-American Health Organization issued a new warning today of expected “(fresh) outbreaks of cholera in the West, including Port-au-Prince, South and Southeast Departments” accompanying heavy rains and possible flooding.

As we have recently noted, the ongoing cholera epidemic – which now seems to be entering a deadly resurgence, and could kill as many as 11,000 people this year, is closely linked to inadequate sanitation in the IDP camps. This is a theme also addressed in OCHA’s warning today: “More water means more cholera and the sanitation in the country is still very weak,” Reuters reported OCHA spokesperson Emmanuelle Schneider as saying.

Poor sanitation, a lack of suitable transitional housing, and the poorly funded cholera appeal are all markers of the international community’s failings to come through for the people of Haiti. Now, members of the U.S. Congress are demanding answers. Yesterday, the House passed, by voice vote, bill HR 1016, which, the Miami Herald reports, requires the Obama administration to send to Congress

a report to assess the overall progress of relief, recovery, and reconstruction of Haiti and requires the president to assess within six months the effectiveness of U.S. assistance to Haiti.

…according to the Rep. Frederica Wilson (D – FL), who added an amendment to the bill regarding deportees.

Also covering the bill’s passage, AP’s Jim Abrams reported that:

The House on Tuesday asked the Obama administration to come up with an accounting of how humanitarian and reconstruction aid is being spent in Haiti, which has been slow to recover from the devastating earthquake of more than a year ago despite an outpouring of U.S. and international assistance.

“The unprecedented relief effort has given way to a sluggish, at best, reconstruction effort,” said Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., sponsor of the legislation calling on President Barack Obama to prepare a report within six months of the bill’s enactment on the status of the aid campaign in Haiti, including the fight to combat an outbreak of cholera.

Some of the blame for the slow progress in Haiti has been put on the lack of coordination among foreign and Haiti relief groups, a destroyed infrastructure, absence of a viable Haitian government and corruption. But another factor, Lee said, is “the lack of urgency on the international community’s part.”

She said that at an international donors’ conference in March 2010, 58 donors pledged $5.5 billion to support Haiti’s recovery efforts but as of March this year, only 37% of these funds have been disbursed. “This is unacceptable.”

Rep Maxine Waters (D – CA), a co-sponsor of the bill, highlighted the cholera epidemic in her statement on the bill’s passage:

Yet more than one year later, little if any of the money has reached the people of Haiti.  According to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), 680,000 displaced people are still living in tent camps.  I visited some of these camps, and the conditions were appalling.  There is a critical need for food, clean water and sanitation facilities.  A deadly outbreak of cholera has already killed more than 4,800 people and infected more than 280,000 people.  The effects of the epidemic were exacerbated by the lack of clean water and sanitation infrastructure.

One thing the media coverage of HR 1016 failed to mention, however, is that some efforts for accountability have already been undertaken. The USAID Inspector General released an audit of USAID efforts to provide housing in Haiti nearly three weeks ago, finding significant problems. The audit, which we reported on last week, has yet to be mentioned in the press.

The Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund, meanwhile, announced that it is spending $2 million – to finish the construction of a luxury hotel. A press release states that the Oasis Hotel – perhaps a reference to the hotel’s intended function as an “oasis” from the poverty, rubble, and IDP camps that still characterize much of Port-au-Prince almost a year-and-a-half after the earthquake –

symbolizes Haiti ‘building back better,’ and sends a message to the world that Haiti is open for business,” Clinton Bush Haiti Fund’s Vice President of Programs and Investments, Paul Altidor said. “For Haiti’s recovery to be sustainable, it must attract investors, businesses and donors all of whom will need a business-class, seismically-safe hotel.”

The press release goes on to say that “in addition to sleeping rooms,” the Oasis – which is also being funded by the World Bank – “will have significant meeting space and other business amenities.” In November 2010, independent journalist Ansel Herz, writing in the New York Daily News, pointed out that the Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund had been soliciting donations directly for relief efforts. Herz wrote:

For example, the Clinton-Bush Haiti fund, inaugurated by President Obama with both former Presidents at his side, is still running Web advertisements that say “100% of donations go directly to relief efforts.”

According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, one year after the earthquake the Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund had spent just over 30 percent of the money raised.

An editorial in the New York Times today describes the findings of a UN report that shows the cholera outbreak “may have originated” at a MINUSTAH camp, and says “The fact that the disease is still spreading is a reminder of how much more help Haiti needs and the consequences of continued neglect.”

The editorial concludes:

Even as relief agencies are winding down their presence in Haiti, about 680,000 people are still living in camps and waiting for permanent shelter. Life in this setting is precarious, without adequate access to latrines and safe drinking water.

The United Nations’ overall appeal to respond to the epidemic, for $175 million, is 48 percent financed. Haiti’s continuing health emergency may have been overlooked in a crush of world events, but while the sick and dying are waiting for the world to respond, the disease is not.

The editorial was, unfortunately, all too well-timed, as the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the Pan-American Health Organization issued a new warning today of expected “(fresh) outbreaks of cholera in the West, including Port-au-Prince, South and Southeast Departments” accompanying heavy rains and possible flooding.

As we have recently noted, the ongoing cholera epidemic – which now seems to be entering a deadly resurgence, and could kill as many as 11,000 people this year, is closely linked to inadequate sanitation in the IDP camps. This is a theme also addressed in OCHA’s warning today: “More water means more cholera and the sanitation in the country is still very weak,” Reuters reported OCHA spokesperson Emmanuelle Schneider as saying.

Poor sanitation, a lack of suitable transitional housing, and the poorly funded cholera appeal are all markers of the international community’s failings to come through for the people of Haiti. Now, members of the U.S. Congress are demanding answers. Yesterday, the House passed, by voice vote, bill HR 1016, which, the Miami Herald reports, requires the Obama administration to send to Congress

a report to assess the overall progress of relief, recovery, and reconstruction of Haiti and requires the president to assess within six months the effectiveness of U.S. assistance to Haiti.

…according to the Rep. Frederica Wilson (D – FL), who added an amendment to the bill regarding deportees.

Also covering the bill’s passage, AP’s Jim Abrams reported that:

The House on Tuesday asked the Obama administration to come up with an accounting of how humanitarian and reconstruction aid is being spent in Haiti, which has been slow to recover from the devastating earthquake of more than a year ago despite an outpouring of U.S. and international assistance.

“The unprecedented relief effort has given way to a sluggish, at best, reconstruction effort,” said Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., sponsor of the legislation calling on President Barack Obama to prepare a report within six months of the bill’s enactment on the status of the aid campaign in Haiti, including the fight to combat an outbreak of cholera.

Some of the blame for the slow progress in Haiti has been put on the lack of coordination among foreign and Haiti relief groups, a destroyed infrastructure, absence of a viable Haitian government and corruption. But another factor, Lee said, is “the lack of urgency on the international community’s part.”

She said that at an international donors’ conference in March 2010, 58 donors pledged $5.5 billion to support Haiti’s recovery efforts but as of March this year, only 37% of these funds have been disbursed. “This is unacceptable.”

Rep Maxine Waters (D – CA), a co-sponsor of the bill, highlighted the cholera epidemic in her statement on the bill’s passage:

Yet more than one year later, little if any of the money has reached the people of Haiti.  According to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), 680,000 displaced people are still living in tent camps.  I visited some of these camps, and the conditions were appalling.  There is a critical need for food, clean water and sanitation facilities.  A deadly outbreak of cholera has already killed more than 4,800 people and infected more than 280,000 people.  The effects of the epidemic were exacerbated by the lack of clean water and sanitation infrastructure.

One thing the media coverage of HR 1016 failed to mention, however, is that some efforts for accountability have already been undertaken. The USAID Inspector General released an audit of USAID efforts to provide housing in Haiti nearly three weeks ago, finding significant problems. The audit, which we reported on last week, has yet to be mentioned in the press.

The Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund, meanwhile, announced that it is spending $2 million – to finish the construction of a luxury hotel. A press release states that the Oasis Hotel – perhaps a reference to the hotel’s intended function as an “oasis” from the poverty, rubble, and IDP camps that still characterize much of Port-au-Prince almost a year-and-a-half after the earthquake –

symbolizes Haiti ‘building back better,’ and sends a message to the world that Haiti is open for business,” Clinton Bush Haiti Fund’s Vice President of Programs and Investments, Paul Altidor said. “For Haiti’s recovery to be sustainable, it must attract investors, businesses and donors all of whom will need a business-class, seismically-safe hotel.”

The press release goes on to say that “in addition to sleeping rooms,” the Oasis – which is also being funded by the World Bank – “will have significant meeting space and other business amenities.” In November 2010, independent journalist Ansel Herz, writing in the New York Daily News, pointed out that the Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund had been soliciting donations directly for relief efforts. Herz wrote:

For example, the Clinton-Bush Haiti fund, inaugurated by President Obama with both former Presidents at his side, is still running Web advertisements that say “100% of donations go directly to relief efforts.”

According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, one year after the earthquake the Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund had spent just over 30 percent of the money raised.

An audit by the USAID Office of the Inspector General (OIG) that looked at USAID efforts to provide transitional housing in Haiti was published a few weeks ago and has yet to receive any attention from the media. The report, however, is extremely damning in its assessment of US government efforts to provide housing and represents the first real attempt at accountability in the failure to adequately provide housing for those displaced by the earthquake.

The audit looks at progress on 16 grants, totaling $139 million that were awarded from January 2010 through June 2010. The biggest recipients of these funds were CHF International, Catholic Relief Services, World Vision and GOAL Ireland. The full list of grantees is available in the report.

The audit found that USAID/OFDA grantees completed just 6 percent of planned transitional shelters by the onset of last year’s hurricane season (June 2010). By November 2010, just 22 percent of shelters had been completed. The audit notes that grantees will not be able to complete all the shelters they had planned due to “rising costs and unrealistic initial cost estimates.” There is also a 65 percent shortfall in the efforts to repair “14,375 homes minimally damaged in the earthquake.”

The inspector general made a series of recommendations to USAID, however they note that, “No management decisions have been reached on Recommendations 1, 3, 5, 6, and 7.” There are only seven recommendations.

A major factor in the cost overruns was that USAID “did not provide direction to grantees on a standard shelter design,” despite the Shelter Cluster (of which, USAID is a part of) having developed a standard design. This led to a wide variation in costs, delay in implementation and a number of shelters not conforming to international standards as “Some grantees constructed shelters that consisted of nothing more than simple plastic sheeting over a timber frame without floors, doors, or windows.” The report continues:

Haitian beneficiaries complained to grantees that they feared for their safety while living in shelters with no doors and plastic-sheeted walls, which could easily be cut with a knife. Some of the plastic sheeting provided was so thin that at night the inhabitants within were visible from outside the shelter. In addition, over time the plastic sheeting (shown below) began to wear and was unlikely to last the 3 years that USAID/OFDA required.

The audit also notes that the way the grants were made was problematic and excluded Haitian businesses (for more on this topic, click here):

USAID/OFDA implemented the shelter project by accepting unsolicited grant proposals issued under a waiver for competition because of the urgency of the need after the earthquake. Grants, which do not permit substantial involvement by the Agency, may not have been the best award mechanism to achieve rapid construction of cost-effective shelters meeting industry standards. If USAID/OFDA had used contracts for shelter construction, it could have prescribed the shelter design and could have given local Haitian businesses an opportunity to participate.

Another issue the audit deals with is that of customs delays, something that has been widely reported by NGOs and other groups on the ground. The audit notes, however, that USAID/OFDA did not act to resolve the customs delays. The report continues:

As a procuring agency, USAID/OFDA is responsible for the proper management of its awards. USAID/OFDA has experienced customs problems in disaster situations before. For example, customs delays were reported during the Aceh tsunami disaster response. Given the urgency of providing shelters to the Haitians, customs delays should have been anticipated and resolution quickly facilitated.

Rubble removal is often also cited as an impediment to the building of transitional shelter, and again the audit found serious problems with USAID/OFDA. While USAID officials told the auditors that they had not anticipated the problems with rubble removal, the OIG notes that just three weeks after the earthquake one USAID grantee had warned USAID officials that:

The major limiting factor for the placement of transitional shelters is the availability of suitable sites to erect the transitional shelters. This will dictate the pace more than any other factor.

Despite this warning, the audit found:

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

Furthermore, the audit found inadequate supervision of grantees on the part of USAID/OFDA. While USAID did monitor “the number of households receiving shelter” they failed to track the “percent of affected population receiving shelter, and (3) amount or percent of project budget spent in the local community.” The third indicator was referred to by USAID as “the least important of the three,” and “most grantees either did not have a target for or did not report on this indicator.”

Perhaps the most amazing part of the report is that when given the seven recommendations by the inspector general, USAID/OFDA disagreed with six of the seven and did not comment on the other. Rather than try to constructively improve the provision of housing in Haiti, or to try and fix these problems, USAID/OFDA’s overwhelming response was “we did nothing wrong.”

An audit by the USAID Office of the Inspector General (OIG) that looked at USAID efforts to provide transitional housing in Haiti was published a few weeks ago and has yet to receive any attention from the media. The report, however, is extremely damning in its assessment of US government efforts to provide housing and represents the first real attempt at accountability in the failure to adequately provide housing for those displaced by the earthquake.

The audit looks at progress on 16 grants, totaling $139 million that were awarded from January 2010 through June 2010. The biggest recipients of these funds were CHF International, Catholic Relief Services, World Vision and GOAL Ireland. The full list of grantees is available in the report.

The audit found that USAID/OFDA grantees completed just 6 percent of planned transitional shelters by the onset of last year’s hurricane season (June 2010). By November 2010, just 22 percent of shelters had been completed. The audit notes that grantees will not be able to complete all the shelters they had planned due to “rising costs and unrealistic initial cost estimates.” There is also a 65 percent shortfall in the efforts to repair “14,375 homes minimally damaged in the earthquake.”

The inspector general made a series of recommendations to USAID, however they note that, “No management decisions have been reached on Recommendations 1, 3, 5, 6, and 7.” There are only seven recommendations.

A major factor in the cost overruns was that USAID “did not provide direction to grantees on a standard shelter design,” despite the Shelter Cluster (of which, USAID is a part of) having developed a standard design. This led to a wide variation in costs, delay in implementation and a number of shelters not conforming to international standards as “Some grantees constructed shelters that consisted of nothing more than simple plastic sheeting over a timber frame without floors, doors, or windows.” The report continues:

Haitian beneficiaries complained to grantees that they feared for their safety while living in shelters with no doors and plastic-sheeted walls, which could easily be cut with a knife. Some of the plastic sheeting provided was so thin that at night the inhabitants within were visible from outside the shelter. In addition, over time the plastic sheeting (shown below) began to wear and was unlikely to last the 3 years that USAID/OFDA required.

The audit also notes that the way the grants were made was problematic and excluded Haitian businesses (for more on this topic, click here):

USAID/OFDA implemented the shelter project by accepting unsolicited grant proposals issued under a waiver for competition because of the urgency of the need after the earthquake. Grants, which do not permit substantial involvement by the Agency, may not have been the best award mechanism to achieve rapid construction of cost-effective shelters meeting industry standards. If USAID/OFDA had used contracts for shelter construction, it could have prescribed the shelter design and could have given local Haitian businesses an opportunity to participate.

Another issue the audit deals with is that of customs delays, something that has been widely reported by NGOs and other groups on the ground. The audit notes, however, that USAID/OFDA did not act to resolve the customs delays. The report continues:

As a procuring agency, USAID/OFDA is responsible for the proper management of its awards. USAID/OFDA has experienced customs problems in disaster situations before. For example, customs delays were reported during the Aceh tsunami disaster response. Given the urgency of providing shelters to the Haitians, customs delays should have been anticipated and resolution quickly facilitated.

Rubble removal is often also cited as an impediment to the building of transitional shelter, and again the audit found serious problems with USAID/OFDA. While USAID officials told the auditors that they had not anticipated the problems with rubble removal, the OIG notes that just three weeks after the earthquake one USAID grantee had warned USAID officials that:

The major limiting factor for the placement of transitional shelters is the availability of suitable sites to erect the transitional shelters. This will dictate the pace more than any other factor.

Despite this warning, the audit found:

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

Furthermore, the audit found inadequate supervision of grantees on the part of USAID/OFDA. While USAID did monitor “the number of households receiving shelter” they failed to track the “percent of affected population receiving shelter, and (3) amount or percent of project budget spent in the local community.” The third indicator was referred to by USAID as “the least important of the three,” and “most grantees either did not have a target for or did not report on this indicator.”

Perhaps the most amazing part of the report is that when given the seven recommendations by the inspector general, USAID/OFDA disagreed with six of the seven and did not comment on the other. Rather than try to constructively improve the provision of housing in Haiti, or to try and fix these problems, USAID/OFDA’s overwhelming response was “we did nothing wrong.”

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