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Haiti nine months after the quake: Poor tell West, ‘Nothing! Nothing! We’ve seen nothing!’

By Isabeau Doucet

October 28, 2010 -- Pambazuka News -- "Nothing! Nothing! We’ve seen nothing!", chanted the crowd of internally displaced people (IDP). They were pursuing former US president Bill Clinton from his photo-op in their squalid camp on his way to the third Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission (IHRC) meeting in downtown Port-au-Prince on October 6, 2010.

The crowd protesting Clinton was from the IDP camp on the golf course of the former Pétionville Club, a bourgeois enclave created by US marines when they first occupied Haiti from 1915 to 1934. Ironically, the camp is considered one of the capital’s best, thanks to the attention brought to it by actor Sean Penn.

The same chants came from another demonstration of about 200 IDPs on October 12 in front of Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive’s offices, where the IHRC is based. At that demonstration, exactly nine months after the quake, protesters delivered a letter demanding respect for their constitutionally guaranteed right to housing, a moratorium on forced expulsions, and an end to the "masquerade aid" of NGOs.

The IHRC, co-chaired by Clinton and Bellerive, is the body that decides how to spend money donated to rebuild Haiti after the January 12 earthquake. This month’s meeting took place by teleconference, with journalists invited to follow it by calling a US-based number. This immediately excluded any Haitian who could not afford the three-hour international call.

Some journalists crowded into the PM’s press room to listen to the meeting over a small pod-like speaker that looked like an oversized video game joystick. The teleconference’s sound quality was poor, static-filled and at times unintelligible. I was sitting closest to the speaker and craning to make out what was being said, but I couldn’t follow much of it.

All seven of the foreign white journalists in the room were seated around the conference table where the mini-speaker sat, with only three of approximately 20 Haitian journalists present. The other Haitians were seated in chairs along the walls of the room, out of earshot of the muffled voices deciding their country’s fate.

As if to underscore this irony, most of the conference was conducted in English. French statements were translated into English, but not vice versa. Nothing was presented in or translated into Kreyol, the national language, making it even more difficult for Haitians to know where all the millions of dollars are going.

The whole exercise seemed amateurish. The conference call plodded along, casual and faltering. None of the IHRC board seemed too bothered by the frequent interruptions and confusion. It was as if voting on the investment of millions and Haiti’s fate was just a banal hobby.

Reginald Boulos, an industrialist from one of Haiti’s most powerful bourgeois families and a staunch backer of the 2004 coup d’état against the president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, insisted that meetings should begin with a progress update on projects to ensure transparency and accountability, implying that even IHRC board members have little information on the whereabouts of previously approved money. His minor reservations and criticisms were later trumpeted by Clinton as "fierce debate and vigorous participation on the part of the Haitian members of the board", representing the Haitian people’s interests, of course.

The session took place during Haiti’s "back-to-school" week, and at the subsequent press conference Clinton claimed that 80 per cent of children who were in school before the earthquake are now back in class. It was unclear how he could obtain such a figure only two days into the new term, especially since many schools didn’t resume class until the following week.

At its last meeting in August, the IHRC had approved US$94 million to get schools ready for the new academic year – a much needed investment. Haiti ranks alongside Somalia and Eritrea as one of the worst places on the planet to be a school child. Only half of Haiti’s children attended (mostly private) schools before January 12; the quake destroyed about 90 per cent of those. Only $26 million of the $94 million has been disbursed. There are fewer kids in class than ever, and Haiti’s Ministry of Education says it still hasn’t seen any of the money.

There were also inconsistencies between the projects presented in the IHRC meeting and the press release given to journalists afterwards. The latter stated that UNICEF gave $100 million to "support the Haitian government and civil society in the fight against gender-based violence" But in the meeting, there was no mention of the UNICEF money, only concerns that a $10.6 million UN Population Fund for women and girls’ "gender equality impact is not yet approved", said one of the board members.

It is unclear where UNICEF’s $100 million has gone. Merina Zuluanie of FAVILEK (Women Victims Stand Up), a grassroots organisation that has been providing medical, legal and moral support for women and children victims of sexual abuse and violence for over 15 years, said her group has not received any IHRC or UNICEF funding.

I spoke with Malia Villard Appolon, the coordinator of KOFAVIV (Commission of Women Victims for Victims), a coalition of women rape victims. KOFAVIV members have taken charge of their own security in camps, organising escorts to protect women going to the toilets, handing out whistles to women at risk, raising awareness and organising groups of men to take shifts patrolling their areas. Before the earthquake, KOFAVIV had an office with a clinic, doctor, nurse, psychologist, laboratory and everything in place to accommodate rape victims. That was all destroyed on January 12 and since then, Appolon says, "we have received nothing from UNICEF".

Meanwhile, Dr. Claude Surena, the head of the Haitian Medical Association, and regional health director, said he has an 18-month strategy to get the health sector back on its feet, but it can’t move ahead with anything until donor funds arrive. According to the IHRC website, $17 million was approved and funded on August 17. But Haiti’s General Hospital in downtown Port-au-Prince looks much as it did in the quake’s aftermath: hallways and pharmacies are still full of rubble; people wait outside for treatment; operations are conducted in tents; the pediatrics unit is still damaged beyond repair. Why is the place still in shambles?

"I think we’re making progress with the road reconstruction and agriculture sectors", said Clinton, without going into specifics. The IHRC website says that $464.8 million worth of road construction and rehabilitation projects were funded, also in August, for some 389 kilometres of road.

$211.3 million of the $240.3 million earmarked for agriculture has been funded, the site says, with $200 million going to a techno-jargon-obscured project to "increase farm income in targeted areas and reduce expected losses in infrastructure by improving agricultural value chains, agriculture intensification, technology adoption among small farmers, and land tenure regularisation". In contrast, the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s more down-to-earth $29 million project to support (1) food crop production (2) local seed production, (3) urban and suburban agriculture, (4) creation of jobs in the livestock sector, (5) fisheries, and (6) local response capacity to hurricanes has received no funding.

A recent study by Oxfam reports that Clinton has not lobbied for reversal of his administration’s neoliberal trade policies, which he verbally renounced in March. These policies decimated Haiti’s rice crops by flooding the market with heavily subsidised Arkansas rice. Imported food still predominates in any Haitian market one visits.

The bourgeoisie in the IHRC has funded itself (thanks to the Inter-American Development Bank and World Bank) with $24.5 million of $35 million over five years to "establish a partial credit guarantee fund for enterprise development", the IHRC site says. Meanwhile, the same IHRC board has released no funding for the $65 million earmarked over the next 12 months for "job creation" to "create 300,000 temporary jobs across the country, focusing on populations touched by the earthquake". The project to "assess public buildings in the ten departments", a mere $1 million over five months, has also not been funded. Only $13.4 million has been provided for housing, Haiti’s most critical need.

At the post-meeting press conference, when asked "what of the IHRC funding is being given to help people in the camps", Clinton interrupted the journalist, dodged the question, and spoke of the need to implement a mortgage system.

This exchange reveals why Clinton heads the IHRC. His priorities are to facilitate banks providing mortgages, the bourgeoisie finding credit, and businesses having roads to bus in their workers and ship out their sweatshop-assembled garments and electronics.

Job creation and housing for Haiti’s 1.5 million homeless suffering in squalid camps will just have to wait.

[This article was originally published by haitiananalysis.com, via Pambazuka News.]

October 29, 2010 -- Correo del Orinoco International via Venezuelanalysis.com -- The natural vulnerability of Hai­ti and its precarious position on the margins of global capitalism have exposed its population to yet another potential catastrophe as a cholera outbreak threat­ens the population.

Some 295 people have died as a result of the disease in the Ca­ribbean country and 3612 are in­fected, according to World Health Organization data released on October 26. The United Nations still fears a much bigger death toll, possibly in the tens of thousands.

This comes almost 10 months after the devastating January earthquake, which killed than 300,000 Haitians.

Venezuela sends aid

On October 26, the Venezuelan gov­ernment sent a team from its Min­istry of Health along with 10,000 doses of medication, 4500 intrave­nous drips and rehydration tablets to Haiti to help battle against the disease’s spread and relieve the symptoms of those at risk. The team will assess the situation on arrival with the goal of subsequently sending a spe­cialist medical group to attend to victims.

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez referred to the Haitian crisis on October 25, “Here is our air force, our revolutionary air force, and our government reaching out to our Haitian brothers and sis­ters and people in need, people exploited by savage capitalism and by imperialism.” Venezuela’s contribution is part of a regional effort coordinated by the Union of South American Na­tions (UNASUR), a political and dip­lomatic multilateral regional body.

The rotating president of the UNASUR Health Council, Ecuador's health minister David Chiriboga, announced, “each country has committed to send Ecuador a list of the resources and medical supplies to contribute to Haiti so that this could all be given to the Haitian Health Minister with the objective of prioritising necessities”.

Dr Michel Thieren added, “the next news will be when geo­graphically, new pockets of the epidemic emerge, in Port-au-Prince or elsewhere”.

Despite the positive regional response to the cholera outbreak, Dr Thiere said that cholera is likely to “settle” in Haiti over the coming months even if the death toll doesn’t increase significantly from the current figure.

This is the first time cholera has been seen in Latin America and the Caribbean since 1991, when an outbreak occurred in Peru. Most cases have been found in the rural region of Artibonite, about 60 miles north of the capital Port-au-Prince. Cholera spreads through con­taminated water supplies, causes chronic diarrhea and can kill with­in a matter of hours if not treated.

Disease spreading

One of the biggest worries is that cholera might spread to the sprawling refugee camps located in and around Port-au-Prince, set up after the earthquake earlier this year. The camps hold around 1.5 mil­lion people and the conditions are terrible.There is little running wa­ter and massive overcrowding means that if the cholera reaches the camps, then it will be almost impossible to contain.

Fears increased on October 24 when five people were discov­ered infected in campsites, but the patients were quickly isolated and treated and the UN said that the cases did not mean the disease had reached the camps.

Around 75 per cent of people with cholera don’t suffer from the symp­toms at all but act as carriers, mak­ing its spread difficult to contain. The cure is simple provided the disease is diagnosed quickly. Rehydration tablets or drinking purified water mixed with water and sugar are all that is needed in standard cases.

Mainstream media organisa­tions have reported the serious dangers that the refugee camps pose for a spread of cholera, giv­en the conditions there. One question they don’t seem to ask is why the conditions are still terrible more than nine months after the earthquake occurred.

At the time, the disaster left bodies piled high in the streets. The United Nations described Port-au-Prince horrifyingly as a “tomb”, which was a lethal com­bination of decomposing bodies, with no water, electricity, sanita­tion or food supplies -- a paradise for cholera to spread.

The presence of a long-term Cu­ban medical team of more than 400 doc­tors that arrived long before the earthquake was accompanied by Venezuelans shortly afterwards, who provided relief alongside other teams and organizations from around the world.

Venezuela also cancelled Haiti’s debt immediately after the tragic earthquake.

The initial international re­sponse to the crisis in Janaury, led by the US, was militaristic and frightening.

The French government public­ly attacked the US miltary, accus­ing it of turning away aid at the Port-au-Prince airport so that its military build up could continue.

Some US$5.3 billion in aid was promised by countries across the globe in the wake of the di­saster, but most of the funds have not come through.

On October 6, former US presi­dent Bill Clinton, who is now co-chairperson of the commis­sion overseeing Haiti’s alleged reconstruction, had to acknowl­edge that only $732 million, or less than 14% of the funds, had reached Haitians.

The United States leads the world in its shortfall. Not one cent of its supposed $1.15 billion share has been paid to Haiti.

This will undoubtedly add to the devastation the cholera out­break will cause if it spreads to the refugee camps around Port-au-Prince.

The so-called international development budgets from de­veloped countries are being cut in the global economic crisis, so international help for Haiti is unlikely to move beyond the rhe­torical to the material.

Haiti is a victim of its location on a geographical fault line that makes it vulnerable to earth­quakes. Hispanola, the island Haiti shares with Dominican Republic, is also in the path of hurricanes, as are many other Caribbean islands.

But Haiti is also the poorest country in the western Hemi­sphere, according to the World Bank, and one of the poorest in the world.

The Caribbean nation also has a long history of colonialism and occupation.

Haiti was the first country of African people to free itself through an anti-colonial slave re­bellion from French rule in 1804, led by Touissant l’Ouverture.

Download Correo del Orinoco International at

Haiti: ‘We’ve been forgotten’

By Sokari Ekine

October 28, 2010 -- Pambazuka News -- Haiti is now approaching 10 months into the post-earthquake period, yet the country is still in ruins with some 1.5 million internally displaced people (IDPs) being forced to live in crowded unsanitary conditions. Recently the country’s prime minister, Jean-Max Bellerive, said that the "aid pledged by foreign governments and institutions" would not be enough for the reconstruction of the country, especially when previous debts and monies already spent were included these pledges.

"Clearing the rubble from the quake alone would cost an estimated US$1.2 billion", Bellerive said. He added that providing decent housing to each of the total 2 million quake homeless and chronically destitute could itself cost US$10 billion – nearly the total being pledged by the international community for the full-blown national recovery and development program.

Unless this funds shortfall was addressed and a major influx of investment came, "I will have Haiti in the same situation, without food ... without nothing and without any opportunity to create development", Bellerive said.

There also has to be a huge shift in the cooperation between governments, institutions and NGOs involved, as well as coordination and implementation of distribution of aid and reconstruction, because from all accounts this has so far not worked. Evidence of the above is published in a recent report by the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) on the conditions in the IDP camps titled We’ve Been Forgotten, which is summarised as follows:

  • Right to food – 75% of families had someone go an entire day without eating in the past week and over 50% indicated that their children did not eat for an entire day.
  • Right to clean water – 44% of families primarily drank untreated water..
  • Right to a sanitary environment – 27% of families defecated in a container, a plastic bag, or on open ground in the camps.
  • Right to housing – 78% of families lived without enclosed shelter.
  • Right to health – there were 245 independently listed health problems among 45 families.
  • Right to protection from and during displacement – 94% of families felt they could not return home while 48% had been threatened with forced eviction since the earthquake.

To add to the already critical situation for millions of people in Haiti, a cholera outbreak which started one week ago in Saint Marc – 60 miles from Port-au-Prince – has already taken 300 lives and spread to the capital.

Partners in Health reports that access to clean water and hospitals are the two major challenges in controlling the spread of the illness:

Access to medical facilities and clean water remain major concerns, particularly in isolated rural areas, said Dr. Ivers. Over the weekend, PIH was able to get 14 water trucks to some of the communities most in need, thanks to a partnership with the non-profit organization Yele Haiti. In addition, water purification tablets and oral rehydration salts have been widely distributed throughout the region. However, there are still many communities in the outbreak region whose only water source is the contaminated Artibonite river or rain water.

Complicating matters, on top of a need for clean water for general consumption, cholera patients need a particularly high volume of fluids—about 20 liters daily for each patient, said Dr. Ivers. As having access to this volume is virtually impossible in many areas, PIH is urging all suspected cases (anyone with diarrhea) to seek immediate treatment at a hospital.

Ezili Danto raises serious questions around how cholera developed in the country and also what happened to the money donated but not distributed.

A chilling video testimony of brackish Red Cross water in Haiti – Cholera confirmed in Haiti capital. For another compelling testimony on Red Cross delivering filthy water to Haiti victims since the earthquake, view also: How did the Red Cross spend $106 Million Dollars in Haiti. (Ezili Dantò's note: Amongst some of the testimonies that's not clearly translated in this most valuable video: a woman standing next to a small child repeating "no, no, no," points to a water drum with a "Red Cross" sign on it and says that even the water they give is not treated. She explains that she drinks it because she has no money to buy good drinkable water but suffers right now from a stomach ache from drinking the Red Cross' polluted water.)

Media Hacker has been at the forefront of reporting on Haiti since the earthquake mainly using Twitter (@mediahacker), but also on his blog. The UN forces in Haiti, MINUSTAH already had an appalling human rights record long before the earthquake and from this report by Media Hacker on UN drawing weapons on peaceful protests, little has changed.

One of the MINUSTAH fired a warning shot in the air and people panicked, ran away, yelling “Film! Film them!” The one in the photo pointed his loaded gun, finger on the trigger, at a lot of people, sweeping his arm in a big motion. Then the Haitians started chanting, “They’re shooting on us, they’re shooting on us.”
I feared for all our lives in those moments, but was intensely aware of the need to document what was happening. As it unfolded my mind went straight to the man killed by troops at Father Gerard Jean-Juste‘s funeral in 2009. In that instance, UN troops leveled their weapons at unarmed people—and fired. MINUSTAH denied it later, even though a Haitian TV crew had grainy footage of the whole incident.

Haiti Innovation reports on the growing sexual exploitation of Haitian children in the Dominican Republic which has increased since the earthquake.

Human trafficking occurs on both sides of the border. It will take a sustained, joint effort to ensure that migration is humane, orderly, and that minors are not being exploited as they are now. As the article makes clear, this will require tackling corruption within the border authorities. For more information, take a look at the U.S. State Department's latest Trafficking in Persons reports for the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

Elections in Haiti are due to take place on 28 November. Elections which Fanmi Lavalas – the party of President Aristide – have been once again prevented from taking part in, despite it being the largest and most popular party in the country. Haiti-Cuba-Venezula posts an article by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), which asks why the US is funding "flawed elections".

Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) has kept 14 political parties, including Haiti’s most popular party, Fanmi Lavalas, off electoral ballots since before April 2009, when the parties were excluded from legislative elections. In that “election,” the exclusion resulted in a boycott by more than 90 percent of the electorate. The CEP’s plans to carry over the banning of these parties to the next elections has ignitedprotests, planned boycotts, and controversy in Haiti, with some politicians, voters, and analysts complaining that the CEP’s members have largely been hand-picked by the Preval administration. Preval’s Inite party, unlike Fanmi Lavalas, will be on the November 28 ballot.

In a recent interview with CEPR, the CEP President, Gaillot Dorsinvil, said that the U.S. government is contributing $5 million for the elections, with another $10 million being spent by the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (an NGO funded in part by the U.S. State Department and USAID) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

World Pulse has a special report on women, Haiti and the elections.

"In Haiti we say these elections are a selection,” says Yolette Gentil, director of Kay Fanm, an NGO helping women who are raped find safer shelter. “It’s not possible to have an election right now. All the registration lists were destroyed. We aren’t able to know who is dead and who is alive. This is something that makes the election not serious.” She adds, “There is no transparency.”
In February, a destroyed Haiti postponed its planned elections, which allowed Préval to stay on. But for how long? Many inside and outside of Haiti pushed Préval to set a fall date for new elections – their barometer of democracy. But as Gentil points out, the current post-quake conditions in Haiti make citizen participation very difficult at best for candidates and voters. “This is just a pretext to force us to have elections right now under the wrong conditions,” Gentil adds.

Such factors reflect what Haitians call mauvaises politiques in French—bad politics, or corruption. Haiti’s CEP is widely seen as corrupt and came under early fire for excluding Fanmi Lavalas, the most popular Haitian party. Lavalas elected populist President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 1991 before he was overthrown, later restored to power, and then exiled to South Africa, paving the way for Préval to ascend. If Haiti had an election today, many believe Lavalas would win in a heartbeat. Instead, theteledjol, or rumor mill, is convinced that fraud will take place as it did in past elections, including questionable quarantining of ballots in 2006—Haiti’s version of the ‘hanging chad.’ Or, equally likely, very few Haitians will participate, but a winner will still be declared.

The Haitian Blogger publishes a report that former US President, George W Bush intends to ask deposed president Betrand Artistide to apologise for his "reluctance to leave the Haitian presidency at the request of the US". This is unbelievable and I am not sure whether to take it seriously or not! Apologise for not wanting to take part in a coup against yourself – apologise for not wanting to be forcibly removed from office by a foreign government and exiled forever from your home and people?

Black Looks publishes two posts on Haiti, one from the Caribbean Political Economy blog and one from Ezili Danto’s blog. She writes:

Haitians are now dying of dirty water and insanitary conditions which they have been forced to endure for the past 10 months. Over 250,000 Haitians have already died as a result of the earthquake and now thousands more are going to die because of failures by Bill Clinton, George Bush, the UN, the Red Cross, US and other governments, and hundreds of NGOs who received $millions in donations and or are responsible for distributing the monies. For months and months questions on where is the money have been fobbed off leaving people to languish in increasingly more horrible conditions and still nothing happens. Meanwhile Bill Clinton is not in Haiti at this time of crisis. He is on his way to visit Jamaica. Norman Girvan who writes the Caribbean Political Economy blog Bill Clinton is coming to Jamaica to speak about “humanity” and people are being asked to pay $13,000.00 for the opportunity to hear this at a posh Hotel in Kingston”. How disgustingly obscene is that?

[Sokari Ekine blogs at Black Looks. This article first appeared at Pambazuka News.]

 

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