Center for Economic and Policy Research
“International community’s response remains misplaced,” CEPR Co-Director Says
Washington, D.C., January 9, 2014 – Four years after an earthquake devastated Haiti and killed some 220,000 people and displaced 1.5 million, housing, sanitation and health care remain woefully inadequate, Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) Co-DirectorMark Weisbrot said today. Weisbrot noted that while some 200,000 people are still stuck in internally displaced person (IDP) camps, and many others have beenforcibly evicted onto the streets – and while under-funded sanitation and health care allow a cholera epidemic to continue to ravage the country — many of the urgently-needed funds meant to assist the people of Haiti have gone instead into the pockets of contractors, or have been used to fund projects that benefit foreign corporations far more than they do Haitians.
“The lasting legacy of the earthquake is the international community’s profound failure to set aside its own interests and respond to the most pressing needs of the Haitian people,” Weisbrot said. “Four years of exposés in the international media, appeals from the U.N. and international aid groups, and pleas from the Haitian government, Haitian grassroots groups and many others have failed to change the misplaced priorities of the international response to the earthquake and the cholera epidemic.”
Weisbrot applauded the Assessing Progress in Haiti Act, introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee and cosponsored by 34 other legislators, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives last month. The Act is meant to foster greater transparency in U.S. government contracting in Haiti through regular progress reports to Congress.
Much of the U.S. government aid earmarked for Haiti following the quake has gone to foreign contractors, providing little benefit to Haitian businesses, organizations or workers. 67.1 percent of USAID contracts has gone to Beltway-based firms, while just 1.3 percent has gone to Haitian companies. The Haitian government has also largely been bypassed as aid funds have gone to foreign contractors, international agencies and the many groups that populate what is known as the “republic of NGOs.” Of the $6.43 billion disbursed by bilateral and multilateral donors to Haiti from 2010-2012, just 9 percent went through the Haitian government.
Weisbrot noted that although the massive displacement of people from their homes was one of the most visible and damaging aspects of the earthquake, four years lateronly 7,515 new houses had been built. A U.S. government plan to build 15,000 new houses has reduced its goals by over 80 percent.
The cholera epidemic, brought to Haiti by U.N. troops, has killed 8,500 people and sickened over 695,000. While the U.N., the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Haitian and Dominican governments launched a $2.2 billion plan to eradicate cholera over a year ago, it remains woefully underfunded, and the U.N. itself has pledged just 1 percent of the funding needed, even as the U.N.’s mostly military and police mission in Haiti costs over $572 million a year.
Projects such as the Caracol industrial park, meanwhile, continue to receive additional funding, with the Inter-American Development Bank announcing last week that it would commit another $40.5 million for the facility’s expansion. The project has come under scrutiny over poor working conditions and low pay for garment workers; theWorkers Rights Consortium [PDF] found that “On average, workers were paid 34% less than the law requires” at Caracol.
“The least that the U.N. and international community could do is to clean up the mess that they themselves made,” Weisbrot said. “This means providing the infrastructure for clean water, as quickly as possible, to get rid of the deadly cholera bacteria that U.N. troops – who did not come to Haiti for earthquake relief – brought to the country.
“The millions of dollars brought to contractors and big NGOs have often not been used to meet the urgent needs of the Haitian people.”
For more background on the state of reconstruction in Haiti four years after the quake, see CEPR’s “Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch” blog.
LONDON, 16 October 2013 (IRIN) – Every year for the past eight years, the Global Hunger Index has mapped the world’s nutrition. Over time, the maps demonstrate progress: The dark red splashes across Africa that signified “extremely alarming” levels of hunger have mostly faded to orange, and much of the orange is now yellow, meaning “serious” but not “alarming”. Ghana is now light green, meaning it has “moderate” hunger, an improvement from the “serious” level of 2006. Similarly, many countries in Asia have shown great improvement.
The 2013 Index, which launches this week, shows yet further improvement. The organizations that compile the Index – the International Food Policy Research Institute (IPFRI), Concern Worldwide and Welt Hunger Hilfe – say that 23 out of the 120 countries they track have made significant progress, improving their scores by 50 percent or more over the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) baseline from 1990. Among the top 10 in terms of progress are Angola, Ethiopia, Malawi and Niger, along with Bangladesh, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam.
Lawrence Haddad, the director of the Institute of Development Studies, who worked on this year’s Index, says the trends they have documented may overturn stereotypes. “An interesting twist on this,” he said, “is that in 2000 South Asia actually had a better score than sub-Saharan Africa, but now Sub-Saharan Africa has a better score than South Asia. We always default to thinking that bad news is coming out of Africa, but at a regional level Africa has been doing better than South Asia over the past 10 to 15 years. So that’s great.”
But amid the general improvement, many countries are still struggling. Burundi, Eritrea and the Comoros are still deep in the red zone. Swaziland, where the hunger is not as extreme, has nonetheless suffered a severe decline in nutrition; the Global Hunger Index estimates that hunger in Swaziland has increased by 38 percent since 1990.
Dominic MacSorley, the chief executive of Concern Worldwide, told IRIN, “I think there are different factors. HIV/AIDS in Swaziland is one of the key contributors. There are other countries where [hunger rates change] in relation to urban density, and we know now that poverty, with the tip-over into more people living in urban environments, is a significant contributing factor.
“And I think this is what’s interesting, that our ideas about where we always think the poverty is – in the Sahel, in the non-urban areas – is now being challenged, which is going to force a change in how we work.”
One of the main strengths of the Index is that it goes beyond measuring the overall availability of food in a country and tries to see whether that food is reaching those who need it. It uses three component indicators: the proportion of undernourished people as a percentage of the population, the proportion of children under five who are underweight for their age, and the under-five mortality rate, which is closely tied to inadequate food intake.
It does have its weaknesses. The compilers can only work with the data they have. In the case of the 2013 Index, they point out that the most recent available country-level data for the three indicators range from 2008 to 2012. The Index, they say, “is thus a snapshot not of the present, but of the recent past.” And for certain countries, the data are simply not available, and some of these – Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia, for example – are likely to have some of the worst scores of all.
Even so, the Index is proving its usefulness. Lynne Featherstone, deputy minster at Britain’s Department of International Development (DFID), hailed it as a “most fantastic tool.”
“I think it enables all of us to have a benchmark to work to and to understand where we are going,” she said.
And Kate Franks, from the Innocent Foundation, told IRIN her organization uses the Index frequently. “We use it as one of the measures that we look at to work out what our geographical focus should be for funding projects to tackle hunger. Because it’s straightforward, because it’s objective, when we are benchmarking proposals from a number of different organizations, it helps us make decisions.”
The report that accompanies this year’s Global Hunger Index focuses on “building resilience to achieve food and nutrition security”.
Although it is clear that broad-based economic growth plays the leading role in reducing hunger in countries like Ghana and Vietnam, Concern’s MacSorley says that an emphasis on resilience can address hunger in deeply impoverished areas as well.
“What we are really pleased about in this Hunger Index,” he said, “is the emphasis on resilience, and the application of a resilience approach in countries which largely have been forgotten other than for the provision of short-term emergency aid. We are now, in Niger and Kenya, Haiti even, [and are] two to three years into designing programmes that are starting to show some traction and some real results.”
One of those programmes, in Kenya’s northern Moyale District, has attempted to strengthen resilience through diversification of livestock, the introduction of new crops, rangeland and water management, conflict resolution and the strengthening of the capacity of local government. When drought struck the area in 2011, rates of severe acute malnutrition in the neighbouring Marsabit and Wajir North districts rose by 285 percent and 386 percent respectively; in Moyale those rates dropped.
Victor Odero, one of Concern’s programme managers in Kenya, says the people in Moyale have embraced the concept of resilience. “When you talk to them, they will not say the word ‘resilience’,” he says, “but certainly the meaning of resilience is something that’s well understood by the community there. It’s essentially how they have survived in such a harsh climate for all this time.”
Five teams of top, young journalists set out from Myanmar’s commercial hub of Yangon to better understand how the country is changing under a reform-minded government. Travel along with these 20 reporters — 11 Burmese and 9 American — as they journey the ancient Burma Road, through the country’s capitals past and present, down the Irrawaddy Delta, onto Inle Lake and across Yangon itself at a critical time in the country’s history.
Read more about “A Burmese Journey” on GlobalPost Special Reports HERE.
I left Australia in February last year convinced that international forces should leave Afghanistan, and that all Afghans must feel the same. How ill informed I was. These were assumptions made without having visited the country or having spoken to an Afghan, but I was nonetheless sure of my opinions. Yet every Afghan I spoke with, and there were many over the past 12 months, pleaded that the West remain or civil war would resume.
Afghanistan, Development: 5.6 million returned refugees, another 5 million still in neighboring countries, and 500,000 internally displaced
UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Reiterates Commitment to the Afghan People
(Kabul/New York, 11 May 2012) Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, reconfirmed the commitment of the humanitarian community to the people of Afghanistan at the end of her four-day visit.
“Afghans in acute need require timely relief and assistance, delivered impartially. We are and will continue to deliver humanitarian assistance where it is needed, but clearly this alone is not enough,” she stated.
More than a third of Afghanistan’s population has personal experience of displacement, including the 5.6 million returned refugees, another 5 million still in neighboring countries, and 500,000 internally displaced as a result of on-going conflict, recurrent and debilitating natural disasters, and the lack of rural development.
In parallel to humanitarian efforts, longer-term investment in human development and prevention measures are urgently needed to reduce vulnerability in the face of these challenges.
“We must also invest in efforts to strengthen the resiliency of communities themselves and the capacity of service delivery institutions,” she added.
“Much has been achieved over the past decade but Afghanistan remains near the bottom ranking of all human development indicators. There is still much more to do,” she said.
During the transition period the humanitarian needs of the people in Afghanistan must not be forgotten.
“Security is a priority. But for the Afghans I met, security is not just about physical security. It is also about the importance of investment in human development and the delivery of critical functions such as livelihoods, primary education, healthcare and the functioning rule of law. They need and deserve our continued support,” Ms. Amos stated.
To learn more about OCHA’s activities, please visit http://unocha.org/