Haiti News and Views

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HAITI NEWS AND VIEWS: Why Jazz Lovers Should Travel To Haiti For This Unique Musical Experience

By Isis Briones, November 20, 2017, for Forbes

A trumpeter at the Catts Pressoir Music School during PapJazz. (Courtesy of PapJazz Festival)

Haiti might be off the beaten path, but it’s home to one of the most unique music festival experiences around. Into its 12th edition, the annual Port-au-Prince International Jazz Festival, also known as PapJazz, is back and better than ever this January 2018.

The event is opening the world to seeing the country’s special culture and the genre of jazz music in a new light. From after hours jam sessions at some of the best local restaurants in the capital city to hit Haitian-born DJ, Michael Brun, dropping a dance influenced set, expect an unexpected combination of sounds to come together. Instead of planning for your usual festivals, dare to go somewhere different. To get a deeper understanding of what attendees can look forward to, I spoke with the foundation’s manager, Milena Sandler, who made it clear why this is a can’t miss adventure.

Isis Briones: What was the inspiration behind the PapJazz? 

Milena Sandler: “It came naturally to musician and President of the Haiti Jazz Foundation, Joel Widmaier. From a jazz background through his dad, the late Herby Widmaeier — who has been a promoter of jazz in Haiti through his radio shows — he wanted to do something that would honor the legendary genre in his country. Joel has also taken part in many festivals around the world and knew what it took to put one together on an international level.”

IB: It’s remarkable that the festival also includes a mentorship program for native artists. Can you elaborate on its mission and how it came about? 

MS“Since the first edition back in 2007, artists have always been asked to offer workshops geared towards aspiring, young musicians — free of charge. There is no jazz education and very few music schools in Haiti, so this is an opportunity for them to learn from professionals from all over the world.

Today we can pride ourselves in having participated in the creation of new generation jazz musicians. Moreover, we recently started a school program, where we will give free jazz, harmony, composition, and music appreciation classes. We also plan to obtain grants that will improve the students’ equipment and provide seminars for them”

IB: EDM was also incorporated in the lineup through Michael Brun and given the influence dance music has on the festival scene, do you foresee the different genres blending on a larger scale? 

MS: “Our challenge and objective since the start has been to attract a larger crowd to this jazz festival, including a public not familiar with it. Plus, the Haitian music is very diverse and the inclusion of all kinds of music is what’s made us successful.

However, we still plan to focus the majority of the lineup on jazz musicians and at the end of the day, Michael is a great illustration of this. We didn’t pick just any DJ, Michael includes his Haitian jazz roots into his sound. He will be closing out the festival this year showcasing the perfect example of diversity.”

An inside look into PapJazz. (Courtesy of PapJazz)

IB: Beyond revolutionizing people’s perspective on jazz, what are some stereotypical misconceptions about Haiti that you feel the festival is helping change? 

MS: “The first thing that comes to mind is that in Haiti great things can happen. We offer events that meets international standards in terms of organization logistics, sound quality, comfort, and of course, security. Yes, there’s a lot of poverty, but at the same time, the Haitian people have a real ‘Joie de Vivre’ that you can feel through their smiles and faith for a better tomorrow. Attending PapJazz does something to you, anyone who goes come back with a new outlook on Haiti and a better understanding of what the country could become.

IB: 12 years is also a long time to be hosting a worldwide event, what would you say about this year makes things even better than the last? Can you point out some highlights festival goers shouldn’t miss? 

MS: “We strive to bring better lineups each year, which is no easy task. Jazz musician fees can be quite expensive and it’s important to remember that the festival is a nonprofit with most shows being free. Luckily, this year, we are proud to include two Grammy Award winners and thanks to the participation of foreign embassies, we were able to have artists from 12 countries.

In this edition, we also made a commitment to make the event a tourist destination, in which we created various packages that allow for the possibility to explore the country, the kindness of its people, its rich culture, and beautiful beaches on a higher level. We know it will be an unforgettable experience.”

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HAITI NEWS AND VIEWS: How Trump can be Haiti’s ‘champion’

 November 9, 2017, for The Washington Post

Children hold signs in support of renewing temporary protected status for immigrants from Central America and Haiti. (Lynne Sladky/AP)

AS A CANDIDATE for president last year, Donald Trump felt Haiti’s pain. Campaigning in Miami’s Little Haiti neighborhood, Mr. Trump recounted the ravages visited by the devastating 2010 earthquake on the hemisphere’s most destitute country and concluded , “Whether you vote for me or don’t vote for me, I really want to be your greatest champion, and I will be your champion.”

Now is the moment for Mr. Trump’s administration to make good on that promise. It faces a stark choice with enormous repercussions: whether to grant another extension for some 50,000 Haitians living legally in the United States, or to expel them, a decision that would be devastating not just for thousands of screened, law-abiding migrants and their 27,000 U.S.-born children but also for Haiti itself, whose economy is heavily dependent on the remittances they send home.

The Haitians in question, some of whom have lived in the United States since at least before the 2010 earthquake, and for 13 years on average, were granted permission to stay under a U.S. government humanitarian program known as temporary protected status. After several renewals under the Obama administration, hard-liners in the Trump administration are pressing to revoke TPS for the Haitians, having already done so for several other nations, including some who had lived in the United States even longer. Their current status expires in January; a decision from the Department of Homeland Security on granting them an extension is expected by Nov. 23.

Haiti is extraordinarily ill-equipped to absorb 50,000 people arriving on its shores, most of whom would need jobs, shelter and a variety of government services, including education and health care. No country in the Americas is as dependent on remittances as Haiti, and the losses it would sustain if TPS were revoked for the 50,000 Haitians in the United States would be a severe blow.

True, the word “temporary” in “temporary protected status” should mean something; no one is proposing granting the Haitians permanent legal residence, let alone citizenship. But as Mr. Trump seemed to grasp, Haiti is an especially needy case. And the idea of the hemisphere’s richest country intentionally imposing sudden and significant economic hardship on the poorest is not just anathema to the United States’ idea of itself as a great and compassionate nation. It’s also gratuitously cruel. Why would the United States, whose nominal per capita gross domestic product is more than $57,000, seek such suffering in Haiti, whose per capita GDP is $740?

It cannot be because Haitians represent a burden to the United States. Nearly all speak English; 80 percent are employed; nearly three-quarters have completed high school; and more than a third have studied in or completed college.

A great nation that wants to remain great, and to be seen as such, understands that its prestige and stature are diminished if it disregards the well-being of weak, dependent and friendly neighbors. Haiti is a test of the proposition that a great nation, as Mr. Trump seemed to understand, must sometimes be the “champion” of a weak one.

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HAITI NEWS AND VIEWS: New Orleans and Haiti are linked by culture, food and history

By The World Staff, October 27, 2017, for WCAI

Women wear costumes as they take part in the Jacmel Carnaval February 3, 2013. Picture taken February 3, 2013. REUTERS/Swoan Parker

In 1809, when the Haitian Revolution ended and Haiti became indpendent, thousands of white, free black and enslaved people fled to New Orleans, doubling the city’s population in just a few months. Today, many New Orleanians, black and white, trace their ancestral roots to Haiti.

“If you look at a list of the top 10 cities in the United States with the highest Haitian population, [today] New Orleans wouldn’t even be on that list,” says journalist Laine Kaplan-Levenson, the host of WWNO’s history podcast Tripod: New Orleans at 300.

But you can still see that Haitian influence everywhere in the city, from the architecture to the music to the food, says Kaplan-Levenson.

“People who know anything about New Orleans food know that there’s red beans and rice, know that there’s jambalaya. A lot of these dishes come from Haiti,” she says.

While working on her history podcast about New Orleans, Kaplan-Levenson says she’d hear about this New Orleans-Haiti connection all the time. “So much of what I heard was all about Haiti and the Haitian influence.” It made her wonder if Haitians felt the same way about New Orleanians.

Soon, she was traveling to Haiti to find out.

Kaplan-Levenson produced an hour-long radio documentary about her journey and the complicated Haitian-New Orlinean relationship. It’s called “Haiti and New Orleans. Is the feeling mutual?”

Listen to the documentary.

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HAITI NEWS AND VIEWS: Haitian Immigrants March for TPS Extension

As Seen on Air

Time is running out for Haitians living in the United States under temporary protected status. TPS is set to expire in January, unless the Trump Administration acts by next month.

Rain or shine, Haitian Immigrants said they want to stay in South Florida during a march Saturday.

“We are here in front of the immigration offices to ask the Trump Administration to renew temporary protected status for 18 months for citizens of Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador,” said Marleine Bastien, the executive director of Haitian Women of Miami.

With each chant, Haitian Women of Miami, community leaders and supporters pushed forward, urging the Department of Homeland Security to renew TPS, focusing on Haitian immigrants living in the United States.

“I got a baby, four-years-old, she’s American born. Can I go back to my country with a baby when you have no hospital, nothing?” said Marcia Jean Philippe, a TPS recipient from Haiti.

Marica is one of many Haitian TPS recipients who have been living the U.S. for years, since the devastating earthquake in 2010. After major hurricanes like Matthew, many fear the Caribbean nation is not in any condition to accept deportees.

“My country is not ready to take me back with my kids,” said Philippe.

“They cannot absorb 58,000 in the case of Haiti, immigrants that have been working here for an average of eight to 20 years,” said Bastien.

The future of those families remains in limbo as the current TPS expiration date is January 2018. If it’s not renewed, marchers say it would come with a cost.

“There will be big financial cost to try to deport all these people,” said Bastien. “They contribute to our economy, they pay taxes, they pay social security, they really invest in our economy.

TPS supporters say an extension would also allow supporters to find a permanent solution with lawmakers in congress.

Ralliers are making sure that their voices do not fall on deaf ears. They are pushing for President Trump and Homeland Security to act now for the TPS recipients before it’s too late.

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HAITI NEWS AND VIEWS: Tens of thousands of Haitian, Central American immigrants could lose protected status

By: Nick Miroff, October 20, 2017, for The Washington Post

People protest the possibility that the Trump administration may overturn the Temporary Protected Status for Haitians in front of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office on May 13 in Miami. (Joe Raedle)

A form of legal immigration status will expire soon for 300,000 Haitians and Central Americans residing legally in the United States, some for nearly two decades, but the Trump administration has given little indication it plans to renew the benefit.

The immigrants have been allowed to live and work in the United States under a program called Temporary Protected Status (TPS) that shields some migrants from deportation if their nations are stricken by natural disasters, civil wars or other calamities.

Permission to stay must be periodically renewed by the Department of Homeland Security, and in the coming weeks, the agency will decide the fate of about 195,000 Salvadorans, 57,000 Hondurans, 50,000 Haitians and 2,550 Nicaraguans. Once the protections lapse, those immigrantswould be subject to deportation.

Their predicament is not as well known as the “Dreamers” who have been allowed to stay under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the program that Trump is canceling. But an end to TPS protections could have wide-ranging consequences, especially in cities such as Los Angeles, Miami, Houston and Washington, where many of the beneficiaries and their U.S.-born children reside.

Democratic lawmakers and advocacy groups are urging the administration to extend the TPS protections, warning that the humanitarian and economic costs of expelling so many long-term U.S. residents would be steep.

Moreover, they say, the countries remain crippled by violence, disease and poverty, and the abrupt loss of the cash remittance payments the immigrants send from the United States would deal a heavy blow to those nations’ feeble economies.

DHS officials say the agency’s acting secretary, Elaine Duke, has yet to make a decision and continues to consult with the Department of State, which must provide DHS with specific country-by-country information about whether conditions in those nations have ameliorated.

But administration officials say the TPS program was never intended to be a way for migrants to remain indefinitely in the United States, and they view it as part of a broader culture of lax immigration enforcement they want to remedy.

“We are looking at the fact that temporary protected status means temporary, and it has not been temporary for many years, and we, the U.S. government, have created a situation where people have lived in this country a long time,” DHS spokesman David Lapan told reporters this week.

“Every time, we give an extension, and then give an extension, and soon we have people living here 20-plus years under what was supposed to be a temporary program,” Lapan said. “When do you stop that?”

DHS has until Nov. 6 to announce its plans for the roughly 60,000 Hondurans and Nicaraguans whose benefits will expire Jan. 5. They were allowed to stay after Hurricane Mitch killed 10,000 across Central America in 1998, so many have been in the United States for at least two decades.

Haitians received a similar reprieve after the 2010 earthquake that left at least 200,000 dead. But the roughly 50,000 Haitians who have TPS protections could be forced to return if DHS does not grant an extension in the coming weeks. The deadline for that announcement is Nov. 23, Thanksgiving Day.

In May then-DHS Secretary John Kelly renewed TPS protections for those Haitians for six months, far less than the 18-month waivers granted by the Obama administration. In a statement at the time, Kelly called it a “limited” extension whose purpose was to “allow Haitian TPS recipients living in the United States time to attain travel documents and make other necessary arrangements for their ultimate departure from the United States,” and “to provide the Haitian government with the time it needs to prepare for the future repatriation of all current TPS recipients.”

Immigration policy analysts say DHS could make a similar six-month, start-packing-your-bags extension for Central Americans, including the nearly 200,000 Salvadorans whose protections expire in March.

Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which seeks to reduce immigration to the United States, said the Trump administration’s big test will be what DHS decides to do with the Haitians, given Kelly’s characterization of the previous extension as a “limited” one.

“That will determine whether it’s more than rhetoric,” Krikorian said. “That’s when we’ll get a sense of how committed the White House is to making sure the ‘temporary’ in Temporary Protected Status is really temporary.”

DHS officials would not say what instruction, if any, they have received from the White House, where officials referred questions to DHS.

Honduras and El Salvador have some of the highest homicide rates in the world, and tens of thousands of their citizens continue to attempt to come to the United States illegally each year.

Haiti, the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country, still suffers from cholera introduced by United Nations troops who were sent after the earthquake, in addition to food shortages and other damage from recent hurricanes.

This week 20 Democratic senators, led by Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (Md.) and Sen. Tim Kaine (Va.) sent a letter to Duke and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urging an extension of the TPS deadlines. There are about 30,000 TPS beneficiaries living in the Washington area with their families, according to immigrant advocates.

“These individuals are the most thoroughly vetted people in the country,” said Tom Jawetz, an immigration policy analyst at the left-leaning Center for American Progress.

He said TPS beneficiaries are the parents of 190,000 U.S.-citizen children, and the anxiety of not knowing what will happen to their parents is inflicting “devastating emotional, social and educational harm.”

But like the DACA debate, the TPS decision has become a proxy for a broader argument about immigration and the enforcement of U.S. laws. The Trump administration has been signaling it wants to break with its predecessors and appears to want to make a statement, said Doris Meissner, the top immigration official under the Clinton administration,

“The deeper point is they don’t want people here from other countries for humanitarian reasons,” said Meissner, now a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute in Washington. “They don’t see these various elements of immigration policy as particularly positive for the U.S., or as a broader expression of our values and image in the world.”

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HAITI NEWS AND VIEWS: U.S. response in Puerto Rico pales next to actions after Haiti quake

After an earthquake shattered Haiti’s capital on Jan. 12, 2010, the U.S. military mobilized as if it were going to war.

Before dawn the next morning, an Army unit was airborne, on its way to seize control of the main airport in Port-au-Prince. Within two days, the Pentagon had 8,000 American troops en route. Within two weeks, 33 U.S. military ships and 22,000 troops had arrived. More than 300 military helicopters buzzed overhead, delivering millions of pounds of food and water.

No two disasters are alike. Each delivers customized violence that cannot be fully anticipated. But as criticism of the federal government’s initial response to the crisis in Puerto Rico continued to mount Thursday, the mission to Haiti — an island nation several hundred miles from the U.S. mainland — stands as an example of how quickly relief efforts can be mobilized.

By contrast, eight days after Hurricane Maria ripped across neighboring Puerto Rico, just 4,400 service members were participating in federal operations to assist the devastated island, an Army general told reporters Thursday. In addition, about 1,000 Coast Guard members were aiding the efforts. About 40 U.S. military helicopters were helping to deliver food and water to the 3.4 million residents of the U.S. territory, along with 10 Coast Guard helicopters.

Leaders of the humanitarian mission in Haiti said in interviews that they were dismayed by the relative lack of urgency and military muscle in the initial federal response to Puerto Rico’s catastrophe.

“I think it’s a fair ask why we’re not seeing a similar command and response,” said retired Lt. Gen. P.K. “Ken” Keen, the three-star general who commanded the U.S. military effort in Haiti, where 200,000 people died by some estimates. “The morning after, the president said we were going to respond in Port-au-Prince . . . robustly and immediately, and that gave the whole government clarity of purpose.”

Rajiv J. Shah, who led the U.S. Agency for International Development during the Haiti response, said he, too, was struggling to “understand the delays.”

“We were able to move more quickly in a foreign country, and with no warning because it was an earthquake, than a better-equipped agency was able to do in a domestic territory,” he said.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has defended its efforts in Puerto Rico, saying it is coordinating a wide-ranging campaign to simultaneously deliver food, water and medicine and to restore power, clear pathways to hospitals and reopen mangled ports and airports.

It’s a monumental task, one that FEMA says has been complicated immensely by a near-complete collapse of cellphone service on the island, as well as years of neglect to power lines and other utility systems.

FEMA and Defense Department officials have taken steps to beef up the response, announcing Thursday that they would elevate the military command structure on the ground in Puerto Rico, sending in a three-star Army general, Lt. Gen. Jeffrey S. Buchanan.

Keen, who was named to lead the efforts in Haiti three days after the quake, pointed to a complicating factor: Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, not a foreign nation, and that makes a huge difference in the rules of engagement when disaster strikes.

In Haiti, the United States was able to deploy active military combat brigades, quickly install a military commander and militarize the airspace at the invitation of Haitian officials.

In Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories, the nearly 140-year-old Posse Comitatus Act limits the role that active military personnel can play.

Also, Puerto Rico’s aid requests, made under a mutual-assistance compact among the states and U.S. territories, helped shape the response. In recent days, as criticism of the effort has grown, administration officials have repeatedly said they are delivering what Puerto Rico has asked for.

Maj. Gen. James C. Witham, director of domestic operations for the National Guard Bureau, said that immediately after Maria’s landfall, Puerto Rico requested only communications equipment and fewer than 200 military police officers. By comparison, 17,567 guardsmen from 24 states were on duty in Florida a day after Hurricane Irma made landfall.

More than 400 guardsmen from other states had been in Puerto Rico, assigned to help with cleanup from Irma, before Maria. Most evacuated in advance of Maria, and Puerto Rico has made no request for them to return, officials said.

All but about a few hundred of the 2,000 guardsmen now in Puerto Rico are members of the territory’s own Guard unit. The National Guard Bureau has drafted plans to send as many as 6,000 soldiers, but Puerto Rico has yet to request them, Witham said.

“Essentially, everything Puerto Rico has asked for up to and including today we’ve tried to align with and lean as far forward as we can,” Witham said.

What is clear is that, since Maria ravaged the island, there has been a disconnect between the level of aid requested or delivered and the needs of residents who are desperate for water, food and basic necessities of life.

At a hearing Wednesday, Sen. Margaret Wood Hassan (D-N.H.) read from an email in which a former Puerto Rico governor, Alejandro García Padilla, warned that “unless we see a dramatic increase in assistance and personnel reaching the island soon, many thousands could die.”

“We need the Army and the National Guard deployed throughout the island, now, today,” Hassan said, reading from the letter. “This cannot wait another day. Despite federal agencies coordinating in San Juan, there is very limited presence of military personnel assisting people in the streets and throughout our communities.”

Elaine Duke, the acting head of the Department of Homeland Security, responded: “The president, vice president and I talked with the governor yesterday. And that was about 1 o’clock. And we — he had no unmet needs at that point.”

John Rabin, a senior FEMA official in Puerto Rico, denied during a media teleconference Thursday that the federal government is waiting for requests from officials on the island.

“We are in lockstep with those guys, but we also recognize that this is a disaster and we have our priorities,” Rabin said. “We are not in a waiting mode for anything.”

Also Thursday, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló defended his government’s response to the humanitarian crisis. He said the unprecedented destruction of the storm and logistical limitations have impeded the flow of resources to some of the island’s communities.

Rosselló walked into a daily briefing at the Puerto Rico convention center accompanied by a general or an admiral representing each branch of the U.S. military, displaying a united front a week after the hurricane walloped the island.

The governor emphasized that federal agencies are taking their direction from the territorial government.

“Let’s make this clear — this is an operation of the government of Puerto Rico,” Rosselló said. “We set the priorities. . . . We are taking action, and there are results.”

Rosselló said the island’s geographical challenges — everything must be brought in by boat or air — and the widespread communication failures have complicated relief efforts.

W. Craig Fugate, who was President Barack Obama’s FEMA director for all eight years of his presidency, said that in a worst-case scenario, such as a tsunami, the federal government had long contemplated that Puerto Rico could be completely isolated, with its ports destroyed and all food and water needing to be airlifted onto the island or shuttled by Marine units that could land on beaches.

Fugate said FEMA did not have to wait for a signal from Puerto Rican authorities before activating more military assets.

Two U.S. defense officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive operation, said the inability to communicate readily with Puerto Rican officials immediately after the storm delayed the response. Another limiting factor, they said, was that FEMA officials did not have a full understanding of the devastation and the challenges until Director William “Brock” Long visited the island Monday. The next day, Long announced outside the White House that the military would deploy to Puerto Rico the 1,000-bed hospital ship USNS Comfort.

At least two other Navy ships, the USS Iwo Jima and the USS New York, responded to Hurricane Irma earlier in the month off the Florida Keys and could have been used to respond to Maria. Defense officials said they were instead sent back to Mayport, Fla., and remain in port there on ­prepare-to-deploy orders. They may yet be called upon to join the response.

On the day the quake rocked Haiti, one bit of happenstance may have sped the U.S. response. Keen happened to be on the island, at the residence of the U.S. ambassador. Keen watched dust rise across the countryside as buildings collapsed. A member of his staff was killed when the hotel where they were staying crumbled.

Keen relayed his firsthand account back to the head of the U.S. Southern Command, who was traveling in Washington. That night, Obama called USAID’s Shah and told him to spare no expense in responding. “He said it was a chance for America to demonstrate our moral character,” Shah recalled.

Air Force combat control teams were in the air the next morning. The airport, which became “the island’s lifeline,” Keen said, was secure and operational by nightfall. Troops began arriving every couple of hours.

Keen began organizing officers to conduct assessments and distribute food. Three days after the quake, his unofficial role became official — he was named Joint Task Force commander, with USAID taking the lead in coordinating the broader government response. Time magazine would later call Keen the de facto “king of Haiti.”

Keen said for the seemingly slow start, the U.S. government can still correct course.

“The real test of leadership,” he said, “is now what do we do about it now that it’s clear that Puerto Rico is going to need help for a long time.”

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HAITI NEWS AND VIEWS: Hurricane Irma effects are one more reason to extend TPS for Haitians, lawmakers argue

By: Anthony Man, September 18, 2017, for the Sun Sentinel

The South Florida congressional delegation and both of the state’s U.S. senators issued a bipartisan plea to the Trump administration on Monday to extend temporary protected status for Haitian nationals in the U.S., partly because of the impact of Hurricane Irma.

Irma hit northern Haiti on Sept. 7. It caused flooding, destroyed crops and homes and further damaged infrastructure, cutting off rural villages from nearby cities, the lawmakers said in a letter to Trump’s Department of Homeland Security.

Not mentioned in their letter is a looming potential threat: Hispaniola, home to Haiti and the Dominican Republic, is in the cone of uncertainty for Hurricane Maria in coming days.

Last year, Haiti suffered severe damage from Hurricane Matthew, which devastated its main food-growing region. Earlier this year, the Trump administration said TPS, which was granted and has been renewed repeatedly since the devastating 2010 earthquake, would end early next year.

With population growth, Haitian community in South Florida sees more political clout

It prevents deportation but does not grant a path to permanent residence or citizenship. TPS has been repeatedly extended as the country recovered slowly, often with setbacks. Haiti has experienced an epidemic of cholera introduced to the country by United Nations forces brought in to help after the earthquake.

On May 24, then-Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly announced a six-month extension of TPS, until Jan 22, 2018, and advised Haitians in the U.S. to use the time to get their affairs in order. Kelly is now Trump’s chief of staff in the White House.

Kelly said Haiti has “made progress across several fronts.” He cited multiple signs of progress including the closing of the vast majority of camps for displaced residents, the plan to rebuild the Haitian president’s residence in Port-au-Prince and the withdrawal of the U.N. stabilization mission.

South Floridians with ties to Haiti and elected officials with lots of Haitian-American constituents said there hasn’t been much progress on recovery. And, they said, there is no way the country can absorb the return of 58,000 people who have protected status. An April report from the Immigrant Legal Resource Center said the largest concentration of Haitians with temporary protected status were in South Florida. The New York metropolitan area was second.

Haitians in US get slight reprieve but worry about future

The only representative from southeast Florida not on the list is U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, a Republican who represents northern Palm Beach, Martin and St. Lucie counties.

The lawmakers asked Duke to grant an additional 18 months starting Jan. 22.

Haitian community leaders press to continue protected status as deadline looms

They said TPS “is central to our country’s commitment in providing safe haven to individuals unable to securely return to their home country due to ongoing violence, environmental disasters, or other extraordinary conditions. Haiti continues to face such conditions.”

In their letter, the lawmakers also said that “some statistics may look encouraging at first glance, a closer look shows a country still struggling significantly to recover from the extraordinary conditions” caused by the earthquake and Hurricane Matthew.

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ON HAITI: Welcoming Haitian refugees to Canada isn’t about generosity but justice

By: Martin Lukacs, August 29, 2017, for The Guardian

Canada has a hand in the misery Haitians are fleeing. Asylum should serve as reparations.

A family from Haiti walk to the US-Canada border to cross into Canada from Champlain, New York, U.S. August 11, 2017. Photograph: Christinne Muschi/Reuters

The minders of Canadian PM Justin Trudeau’s brand are surely displeased. He’s spent two years cultivating an image of Canada’s refugee system as the political equivalent of airport hugs and teddy-bears. And now the pressure is on him to act like that were remotely the truth.

The image of the country as a welcome haven was pitched to win the support of millions of people in Canada who rightly feel two things: compassion for the plight of refugees and disgust for the antics of Donald Trump. But refugee rights advocates had warned what would come to pass: desperate people would take Trudeau at his word.

Hence an influx of thousands of Haitian refugees from the United States—afraid of being deported back to Haiti by Trump—now await an uncertain fate in Canada. The Liberal government may have been happy to reap the political benefits of Trudeau’s PR posture. But apart from accepting a small number of Syrian refugees, they have dumped hundreds back in Haiti since they lifted a ban on deportations to the country in 2016. And they have studiously avoided removing other barriers that would make Canada a truly welcoming country.

The current debate has so far focussed on one such barrier: a 2004 agreement with the US that bars almost all refugees from making an asylum claim at a Canada-US border post. That’s why they are increasingly turning to precarious crossings—at which point they can at least get a hearing. This agreement—whose basis is the indefensible notion that the United States is safe for refugees—should long ago have been scrapped.

Instead Trudeau has turned to admonishing Haitians, dispatching a minister to the United States to warn Haitians against seeking asylum in Canada. “For someone to successfully seek asylum it’s not about economic migration,” Trudeau warned. “It’s about vulnerability, exposure to torture or death, or being stateless people.”

“Economic refugees,” of course, are not entitled to asylum. And this is where the base ranting of right-wing tabloids and anti-immigrant racists, who have stoked hate and fear of “selfish queue-jumpers,” dovetails with the high-minded reasoning of elite pundits and Liberal policy-makers preaching pragmatic limits and strict refugee criteria.

Both adhere to a brand that is much more enduring than this latest Prime Minister’s: the brand of an innocent Canada, whose benevolence is indisputable, whose humanitarian impulse is never in doubt. What they disagree about is whether Canada should bestow it on refugees.

Astonishingly, what has merited not a single mention in mainstream discussion is that Canada doesn’t stand at a remove from the misery that Haitians are fleeing: we had a direct hand in it. Ignoring this history—and absolving Canada of responsibility for Haiti’s situation—has created the greatest barrier of all to refugees receiving the welcome they deserve.

Haiti’s long-suffering people, who have endured a line of dictatorships, had a brief respite in the last quarter century: a popular democratic wave that swept priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power. He raised the minimum wage from mere pennies, disbanded an army that bullied the population, and started providing education and medical care to the poor majority.

Defying the agenda of the Haitian elite and multinational companies who used the country for cheap labour made Aristide enemies—the US, France, and sadly, Canada. in 2003, the Liberal government of the time hosted US and French officials to plot Aristide’s ouster. They cut aid to his government. And when US marines invaded the country, Canadian soldiers guarded the airport while they flew out Aristide and dumped him in Africa. A United Nations military force, commanded for a period by Canadians, occupied the country, providing cover for the regime installed after this coup d’état. Thousands of Haitians were killed.

The Canadian government’s role was hardly based on humanitarianism: having refused a full role in the US war on Iraq, they needed to get back in the good graces of George Bush. In a moment of candour out of sync with our humanitarian brand, ex Liberal Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham explained: “Foreign Affairs view was there is a limit to how much we can constantly say no to the political masters in Washington…eventually we came on side on Haiti, so we got another arrow in our quiver.”

The cost to Haitians of this cynical calculus was incalculable. Since the coup, Haiti has lurched from disaster to disaster, compounded by governments more accountable to the US than its own people. The devastating earthquake of 2010 was shaped by inequality and deliberate under-development that Haiti was plunged back into after Aristide’s ousting. The impact of similar storms on neighbouring Cuba—whose measures to lift people out of the most impoverished infrastructure have not been blocked by western governments—was a fraction of what it was in Haiti.

Western governments have tried to wash their hands of their victims. In the wake of the earthquake, Obama’s administration built a fortress around Haiti: coast guards cruised the waters to prevent any from fleeing; air force bombers dropped messages in the country, warning that “if you leave, you will be arrested and returned”; and a US private prison company started setting up a detention centre in Guantanamo Bay, while Haitians had not yet dug themselves out of the rubble.

And the reconstruction effort that millions of people around the world compassionately contributed to? Botched by the U.S. and Canada, it left Haiti with plenty of industrial parks for sweatshop employers and luxury hotels for tourists and NGO officers, but virtually no new housing for the million Haitians who had been made homeless. To make matters even worse, the occupying UN force introduced the world’s largest cholera epidemic into the country — it has killed 30,000, infected 2 million people, and rages on.

Canada has “slapped some make-up” on the situation to justify deporting people to the country, says Haitian human rights lawyer Patrice Florvilus, who fled to Montreal from Haiti in 2013 after facing death threats. “Canada claims things have returned to normal. They have not. There is criminalization of homosexuality and dissent, assassinations, a corrupt justice system. So much suffering has flowed from the coup onward, and the state now has no capacity to protects its citizens. Canada should assume responsibility for the chaos and injustice it helped create.”

Haiti is today sliding back toward dictatorship: disastrously bad elections, sanctioned by the US and Canada, have produced a parliament packed with thugs and drug dealers, the old army is being revived, and leading figures in the current government have links to the dictatorships of old.

All of this could hardly be a better example of the slogan repeated by migrant justice movements around the world: “We are here because you were there.” Western government’s wars, their ransacking of resources, the manipulation and impoverishment of poor countries, has led to an inevitable flow of displaced and persecuted to our shores.

“If Canada wants to become a real beacon for refugees, here is an opportunity prove it,” says Florvilus, who believes Canada should grant special refugee status to the arriving Haitians.

He’s right. After all of our crimes toward that country, asylum should serve as the barest of reparations. The refugees arriving are hardly a “flood,” or “unsustainable” — they are drop in the bucket alongside the immigrants that arrive every year. As climate change wreaks devastation around the world, these numbers are sure to grow.

In past decades, mobilizations led by the Haitian community in Montreal have forced the Canadian government to act more in line with its rhetoric. That can happen again. Now is the time to fight for the values that will govern how we address the graver refugee migrations to come.

In the final account, welcoming refugees isn’t a matter of generosity, or burnishing Brand Justin — it’s a matter of justice.

 

 

 

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ON HAITI: Millions Spent and Still Nowhere to Go

By: Rebecca Hersher July 30, 2017 for Pulitzer Center 

After the 2010 earthquake, NGOs dumped hundreds of thousands of gallons of raw sewage at the end of the Port-au-Prince city landfill, which borders the sea and is not lined with an impermeable material. Image by Marie Arago/NPR. Haiti, 2017.

After the 2010 earthquake, NGOs dumped hundreds of thousands of gallons of raw sewage at the end of the Port-au-Prince city landfill, which borders the sea and is not lined with an impermeable material. Image by Marie Arago/NPR. Haiti, 2017.

The rain began on Good Friday. It fell into the roofless ruins of Port-au-Prince’s Catholic cathedral. It swirled through stalls in the market downtown. In the hills above Haiti’s capital, the rain ran off the clay roof tiles of upscale homes.

No matter where the rain fell, it was all destined for the same place: the system of concrete canals that cut through the city and down to the sea.

At the edge of the city next to the shore, the rain pounded on the zinc roof of Jean Claude Derlia’s single-story cinder block home. His neighborhood, Project Drouillard, is dense with families packed into homes like his. Most people who grew up in Project Drouillard have stayed, as he has. The community is close-knit, poor and socially isolated from downtown Port-au-Prince.

It is also extremely vulnerable to flooding from the canal full of trash and raw sewage that bordered it on one side. After a rainstorm a few years ago, Derlia had been swept away by a wave of sludge and nearly died before neighbors fished him out. He was sick for weeks after it happened, but he survived.

Now, over the sound of the rain, Derlia heard people shouting, “The water is coming!” There was nothing he could do but wait and pray that the water, or the things the water carried with it, wouldn’t kill him this time.

A City Without a System

Port-au-Prince, Haiti, is one of the largest cities in the world without a central sewage system. There are no sewers connecting sinks, showers and toilets to hulking wastewater treatment plants. Most of the more than 3 million people in the metro area use outhouses, and much of that waste ends up in canals, ditches and other unsanitary dumping grounds where it can contaminate drinking water and spread disease.

It’s a problem that has attracted international donors, some of whom have acted to do what the Haitian government cannot afford to: build a sewage treatment system. Since 2010, international groups have spent millions of dollars on a plan to build open-air sewage treatment plants across Haiti. In 2012, the first facility opened at a site called Morne a Cabrit, about an hour from downtown Port-au-Prince. At the time, a government official told NPR that funds were in place for facilities in seven other cities.

But five years later, that construction plan has stalled. Morne a Cabrit is still the only operational sewage treatment plant in the country, another $2.1 million facility is all but abandoned and the volume of sewage being disposed of safely in Port-au-Prince is actually decreasing.

At its core, the floundering sewage treatment strategy is about money and power. Haitian economist Kesner Pharel, who has advised both the Haitian government and international nongovernmental organizations on investment and development in the country, says the stalled plan reflects a fundamental flaw with how infrastructure projects are funded and implemented in Haiti.

Because the Haitian government is so dependent on outside money for infrastructure, “it is very easy for [international donors] to come in and say, ‘I’m going to do this, I’m going to do that,’ ” he explains. The result is that the country’s leaders become more responsive to funders than to Haitian voters. “Where is the accountability?” he says, “not to international donors, but to your people?”

In the past five years, the story of one failed sewage treatment plant project offers the clearest example of the good intentions, poor governance and bad luck that contributed to Haiti’s current sanitation crisis. It began with a young woman and a huge earthquake.

How Not to Build A Sewage Treatment Plant

Edwige Petit has been called Haiti’s “sanitation champion.” Trained as a civil engineer, Petit, the current director of sanitation at the Haitian water and sanitation agency DINEPA, has also been called less laudatory names because of her expertise. “Sewage wife, trash wife, lots of names,” she says, laughing.

Her first experience with sewage treatment came a few months after the 2010 earthquake that destroyed much of Port-au-Prince. Aid groups provided clean water and toilets to hundreds of thousands of people in displaced-person camps. The groups needed somewhere to dump the more than 10,000 gallons of human waste the camps generated each day. Initially, the government directed them to an unlined pit at the edge of the landfill.

Edwige Petit, the director of sanitation for Haiti's water and sanitation agency DINEPA, is in charge of planning and building internationally funded sewage treatment plants. Image by Marie Arago/NPR.

Edwige Petit, the director of DINEPA. Image by Marie Arago/NPR.

Edwige Petit, the director of sanitation for Haiti’s water and sanitation agency DINEPA, is in charge of planning and building internationally funded sewage treatment plants. Image by Marie Arago/NPR.

 Petit was an expert on the landfill and immediately knew dumping there was not a good solution. The pit was unlined and right next to the sea, so the sewage could easily contaminate fishing areas and sources of drinking water. But for months after the quake, with the economy in shambles and the city in ruins, large-scale sanitation projects were never a political priority. “People don’t have enough money. What can you say when people cannot even eat? You’re talking about waste?” she says, channeling her detractors. “They cannot eat, they cannot s***! So that’s the deal. Too much poverty.”

Then that fall, U.N. soldiers from Nepal brought cholera to Haiti. “Only the cholera could make us have [the first sewage treatment facility],” Petit says. “Only cholera. Because we were afraid, totally afraid of cholera. For this reason, everyone agreed.”

In October 2010, the government of then-President Rene Preval announced it had found a location for the country’s first sewage treatment plant, on land formerly leased by the Haitian American Sugar Company and left empty for years. The site was named for the nearby area of Titanyen, where thousands of people had been buried in mass graves after the earthquake.

The initial budget inscribed on a now-faded sign at the entrance was $1.9 million — it would later grow to $2.1 million — to be paid by the Spanish government, which would also fund a public education campaign about cholera prevention. Construction began immediately, but just three months later, it stopped.

Powerful people had leveraged their connections to the president, alleging that they owned the land under the sewage plant and demanding compensation under eminent domain before construction could go forward.

“For each [piece of] land, we had not one, but two or three people who said they were owners!” Petit remembers, still fuming more than six years later. “They went directly to president.”

At the city landfill, men look for metal near the edge of a pit that used to be full of raw sewage. Construction delays at the Titanyen sewage treatment plant meant that raw sewage continued to be dumped at the landfill for months after the cholera epidemic began in 2010. Image by Marie Arago/NPR. Haiti, 2017.

At the city landfill, men look for metal near the edge of a pit that used to be full of raw sewage. Construction delays at the Titanyen sewage treatment plant meant that raw sewage continued to be dumped at the landfill for months after the cholera epidemic began in 2010. Image by Marie Arago/NPR. Haiti, 2017.

For nine months, nothing was built at the Titanyen sewage treatment plant. In that time, disease surveillance data suggests more than 2,500 people died of cholera in Haiti. Without a safe dumping site open, DINEPA data suggests more than 100,000 cubic meters of raw sewage was dumped elsewhere in and around the city.

In the end, the Haitian government had little choice but to pay the alleged landowners, since the rest of the Spanish funds were unavailable as long as construction was stalled. In the meantime, funding the plant appeared to be a point of pride for the Spanish government. Queen Sofia of Spain even traveled to see it.

When the sewage treatment plant finally opened in May 2012, after the cholera epidemic had peaked, a press release from the Spanish aid agency AECID said nothing about the construction delay. It pointed to the project as an example of “strengthening of Haitian institutions” and said it would “contribute significantly to the health of the population and halt outbreaks of diseases such as cholera.”

The facility operated for just 18 months before a technical problem — huge bubbles in the lining of the second waste treatment pool — forced it to close. Since then, it has remained closed. DINEPA says the aid agency plans to spend an additional $617,000 to repair it beginning this fall.

Since 2013, the $2.1 million sewage treatment plant at Titanyen has been closed. The lining of one of the disinfecting basins developed massive bubbles due to an engineering defect. Image by Marie Arago/NPR. Haiti, 2017.

A spokesperson for AECID declined to comment on its sewage treatment plant projects in Haiti, citing turnover in its staff in the region.

Haiti’s sewage champion, Petit, still believes that sewage treatment plants are a good investment for Haiti. She is using the agency’s investment funds, 96 percent of which came from international sources last fiscal year, to build at least 30 waste treatment facilities across the country. Three, including the still-shuttered site at Titanyen, are under construction or repair.

“The government has a duty to build the plants we should need,” she says. “I can say I am doing my part.”

Meanwhile, the one sewage treatment plant that is already open is below capacity and struggling to cover its operating costs. International money covered its construction, but domestic funding and customer fees are insufficient to cover long-term maintenance and payroll. Inadvertently or otherwise, the availability of international money for infrastructure appears to have motivated the construction of sewage treatment plants in Haiti, whether or not there is local demand for the facilities.

The Easter Flood

Without a sewage system to divert waste out of clogged canals, the Good Friday rainstorm filled the streets and alleys of Project Drouillard with 3 feet of raw sewage. Seven people drowned in the canal. Jean Claude Derlia got an infection that still hasn’t gone away.

Project Drouillard resident Widline Charles, 21, fled her home during floods over Easter weekend this year. Months later, her street is still covered in a foot or more of mud, trash and sewage. Image by Marie Arago/NPR. Haiti, 2017.

Project Drouillard resident Widline Charles, 21, fled her home during floods over Easter weekend this year. Months later, her street is still covered in a foot or more of mud, trash and sewage. Image by Marie Arago/NPR. Haiti, 2017.

Residents blamed the flood on poorly excavated canals and on the waste dumped by rich people who live on higher ground. Both are undoubtedly true, but the waste clogging the canal also came from right there in Project Drouillard. Scattered throughout the neighborhood are sets of cinder block pit latrines, most of which are filled to the top with waste.

Two options for relieving oneself in Project Drouillard: a pit latrine and an open field bordering a canal filled with human waste. Image by Marie Arago/NPR. Haiti, 2017.

Two options for relieving oneself in Project Drouillard: a pit latrine and an open field bordering a canal filled with human waste. Image by Marie Arago/NPR. Haiti, 2017.

“We can’t use these,” says 27-year-old Bernard Paulemon, gesturing to a set of six stalls near the headquarters of his neighborhood group, Foundation Alovie. “The people here, they can’t pay.”

He is referring to the cost of maintenance. When a latrine fills up, residents see two options: They can padlock it and leave it, at which point some people resort to relieving themselves in an open field near the canal, or they can pool money to hire someone to clean out the pit.

Magdala Simeone lives a few houses away from a block of six pit latrines, each with a padlock on the door. Four of the six stalls are too full to use. Kids come and go with the keys for the other two. A few weeks ago, Simeone and her neighbors raised money to hire someone to clean one of them out.

Project Drouillard resident Magdala Simeone and her neighbors recently pooled $75 to get a shared pit latrine emptied. She never met the person or people who did the work and doesn't know where the human waste was dumped. Image by Marie Arago/NPR. Haiti, 2017.

Project Drouillard resident Magdala Simeone and her neighbors recently pooled $75 to get a shared pit latrine emptied. She never met the person or people who did the work and doesn’t know where the human waste was dumped. Image by Marie Arago/NPR. Haiti, 2017.

The total cost: $75. Her share: about $8. She never saw who cleaned out the latrine and doesn’t know where they dumped the contents. A trip across the waste-strewn field adjacent to the canal holds a hint — the canal is completely filled with muddy excrement.

She would prefer to have a company clean out the latrine. “The company will clean it better” than the informal latrine cleaners known as bayakou, she says, but “a private company will ask you for a lot of money.”

Sanitation companies in Port-au-Prince see the potential for big profits in neighborhoods like this one. “There are lots more people who could pay us, but they haven’t heard of the company. They don’t know what we do or why they should give us money,” says Marguerite Jean Louis, the CEO of the Port-au-Prince-based sanitation company Sanco.

Sanitation company Sanco sends pump trucks to empty septic tanks for high-end clients such as hotels and government offices. The trucks transport the waste to the sewage treatment plant at Morne a Cabrit. Image by Marie Arago/NPR. Haiti, 2017.

Sanitation company Sanco sends pump trucks to empty septic tanks for high-end clients such as hotels and government offices. The trucks transport the waste to the sewage treatment plant at Morne a Cabrit. Image by Marie Arago/NPR. Haiti, 2017.

She is banking her new company’s future growth on educating middle- and low-income Haitians about the importance of paying for sewage pickup and disposal.

This is the “market first” model of sanitation reform in Port-au-Prince. Simply put, it’s the belief that the limited cash available for sanitation should be invested in increasing the demand for sewage removal rather than in large-scale infrastructure projects like sewage treatment plants.

Flaure Dubois, the financial director at Jedco, the largest sanitation company in the country, says the government’s focus on sewage treatment plants is frustrating because there is so much public education work to be done around sanitation. She sees her company as more aligned with aid groups doing sanitation campaigns than with DINEPA and its construction plans.

“We need to change the culture,” says Polyanna Domond, Jedco’s marketing director, showing off a Jedco sign that explains in Creole how to use a portable toilet (Sit on it, don’t hover above it!). “We are investing in public education, so people know that waste can make them sick. The government should ask us for help.”

The Worst Job in the World

Everyone in the neighborhood could smell it; a heavy, earthy stench, like rotten eggs and feces.

In the back corner of a neat courtyard surrounded by single-story houses, four men were getting ready to empty out a pit latrine. The leader, a 35-year-old who said his name was Gabriel Toto, was standing over a 15-foot pit filled with human excrement, his pants rolled up to his knees, shirtless with yellow rubber gloves and a cigarette dangling from his lips.

Gabriel Toto, 35, has been working as a bayakou, or latrine cleaner, for a decade. On nights without a journalist watching, he generally works naked. Image by Marie Arago/NPR. Haiti, 2017.

Gabriel Toto, 35, has been working as a bayakou, or latrine cleaner, for a decade. On nights without a journalist watching, he generally works naked. Image by Marie Arago/NPR. Haiti, 2017.

He explained that Toto is a nickname he used when he discusses his job, to minimize the stigma and ostracization he and his family face because of his occupation.

For the same reason, he and his men work only at night.

“I am a working man,” he said, just trying to make a living without getting caught up in the organized crime that dominates the economy in his neighborhood near Project Drouillard. “I don’t want to do anything bad. So, whatever I need to do — whatever I have to do — I will do it. Anything.”

For the last decade, doing “anything” has meant working as a bayakou. The job is dangerous, disgusting and difficult. To watch Toto work is to see an expert perform his craft, moving confidently and carefully to remove about 400 gallons of human waste from an underground, candlelit hole in less than three hours, using only his gloved hands, a bucket and a rope.

Even for a pro, the work is risky. “I have had stitches on my legs, my feet,” Toto says. “I even lost one of my toenails one day when I was working.” Another bayakou, Derisma Merisier, says an infection is responsible for his red and puss-filled eyes. He has been living with it for years.

And the latrines are full of hidden dangers as well. People throw all sorts of things in the hole. Sticks, rocks, trash and razor blades are nightly hazards. On this night, an excrement-covered handgun shows up in one of the buckets.

Dangerous objects frequently make their way into pit latrines and can injure the men who clean the pits. This residential outhouse had sticks, razors and a handgun buried in about 15 feet of excrement. Image by Marie Arago/NPR. Haiti, 2017.

Dangerous objects frequently make their way into pit latrines and can injure the men who clean the pits. This residential outhouse had sticks, razors and a handgun buried in about 15 feet of excrement. Image by Marie Arago/NPR. Haiti, 2017.

The owner of the outhouse paid Jedco about $170 for the cleaning service. As subcontractors, Toto and his men will each take home about $3.90 for the night’s work. They make eight to ten times more working for themselves, but as the companies have moved into the market, many bayakou feel forced to work as contractors.

Working for a company could theoretically offer perks. On this night, Jedco provides five pairs of coveralls (in plastic packaging), rubber gloves, boots, goggles and even blue Jedco baseball caps (new with the tags still on). The men laugh wryly when they see the protective gear.

“They usually don’t give us these things,” says Toto. The clear implication was that the protective gear is related to the presence of journalists. Usually, the men work in little or no clothing. By the end of the night, the goggles are fogged up and useless, gloves are ripped and most of the men have discarded some or all of the gear.

As it is, Toto says he doesn’t make enough to support himself and his three children. After a night’s work, he spends the day looking for hourly labor jobs, although a lot of people won’t work with him or even touch him.

Bayakou are frequently wounded on the job. Men describe deep cuts, missing toenails and persistent infections from exposure to human waste. Image by Marie Arago/NPR. Haiti, 2017.

Bayakou are frequently wounded on the job. Men describe deep cuts, missing toenails and persistent infections from exposure to human waste. Image by Marie Arago/NPR. Haiti, 2017.

“You’ve seen what I have done,” he says, standing in the parking lot of the sewage treatment plant at 2:30 a.m., his hair still wet from a bucket bath. “Some people will never stand close to me, talking to me the way you are talking to me, as close as you are. They’ll stay away from me because they see what I’m doing with my own hands.”

The Haitian government and private sanitation companies talk about public education campaigns and sanitation market development and infrastructure. But as the person who does the work of bringing human waste from the city to the dumping site, Toto feels ignored and abused.

“The first people in the community who should give value to the work we’re doing are the companies,” he says. “When they sit behind a desk in the air conditioning, they don’t care. If they don’t give value to what we’re doing, who else will give value to that?”

Rebecca Hersher is a freelance journalist. Contact her @rhersher. This story was supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. Andre Paultre contributed reporting in Port-au-Prince.

Piles of human waste are left at the Morne a Cabrit sewage treatment plant. The latrine cleaners who dumped them work in the dark because of intense stigma associated with their profession. Image by Marie Arago/NPR. Haiti, 2017.

Piles of human waste are left at the Morne a Cabrit sewage treatment plant. The latrine cleaners who dumped them work in the dark because of intense stigma associated with their profession. Image by Marie Arago/NPR. Haiti, 2017.

TRANSCRIPT

DON GONYEA, HOST:

Port-au-Prince, Haiti is a city of more than 3 million people with no sewer system. International donors have spent millions of dollars on infrastructure meant to help the situation. But a multi-year plan to build sewage treatment plants all over the country has stalled. And residents say things are getting worse. Rebecca Hersher reports.

REBECCA HERSHER, BYLINE: Port-au-Prince’s low cinderblock housing projects are the frontline of the sewage problem in the city. Project Drouillard or Project D is hopping on a sunny Friday afternoon. Men are playing dominoes. Kids are shooting marbles in the narrow dirt alleyways.

(CROSSTALK)

HERSHER: The sound of dance practice spills out onto the street.

(SOUNDBITE OF AMBIENT NOISE)

HERSHER: The zinc-roofed buildings here are tightly packed along a canal where people throw trash and plastic bags full of human waste. There’s an outhouse for every 10 to 20 homes. Around the corner is about a foot of hardened mud inside a row of abandoned houses.

GABRIEL MONTREUIL: (Through interpreter) See the dirt, mud, trash? It’s because we had two floods in April – one on Good Friday and one on Easter. No house was spared.

HERSHER: Gabriel Montreuil (ph) has lived here his whole life. He says every time it rains, raw sewage floods his home. It’s scary. Among other dangers, there’s a cholera epidemic in Haiti. And the floods are getting worse.

MONTREUIL: (Through interpreter) The first time, it was 1-foot high. When it came back, it was 2 feet. And this time, it was 3 feet. As the adult, I needed to save the lives of my children.

HERSHER: The family slept on the street for a night and then came back to clean up. Montrieul blames the floods on sewage and trash clogging canals that run through Project D. You can smell them. One of Gabriel’s neighbors, who goes by Calypso, takes me over to see the nearest canal.

CALYPSO: (Through interpreter) Right here, the flood killed seven people in April.

HERSHER: Is there human waste in here?

CALYPSO: Everything. Everything.

HERSHER: Everything goes in the canal. The raw sewage should be trucked out to a sewage treatment plant. But there’s no government-run sewage disposal operation. And most of the formal waste removal is done by private companies. Most people can’t afford it. And international aid money isn’t available to help with that. As a result, the government estimates less than 10 percent of Port-au-Prince’s waste ever makes it to the treatment facility, which is called Goat Mountain. It’s pretty simple – just three basins that slowly use the sun and wind to disinfect raw sewage over the course of months. But the manager, Ricky Constant, says it’s not designed to handle such small volumes of waste.

RICKY CONSTANT: (Through interpreter) So now the basins are not working properly the way they are supposed to be working.

HERSHER: When the level gets too low, the water just sits there instead of flowing from one basin to the next. And there are other design flaws like a mountain of trash that’s accumulated next to where companies dump raw sewage.

CONSTANT: (Through interpreter) One of our issues is we shouldn’t have that much trash here.

HERSHER: Trash and sewage often travel together in Haiti. Remember, most people aren’t using toilets. They’re using pit latrines and throwing other stuff in there, too. But the treatment plant is only designed to handle human waste.

CONSTANT: (Through interpreter) This is a misunderstanding, a bad approach of the sanitation issue in Haiti.

HERSHER: Why do you think that happened?

CONSTANT: (Through interpreter) Haitian engineers made the conception of this site. But it’s a copycat from foreign countries. This is the first experience of Haitians dealing with that.

HERSHER: This kind of international influence is a big reason for the stalled sanitation infrastructure plan in Haiti. Since the 2010 earthquake here, the expertise and money for sewage plants have come from outside the country. Donors with good intentions nonetheless fund projects that are not always a good fit for what Port-au-Prince needs. Up the road, a second identical sewage treatment plant is overgrown with weeds.

I wonder when the last time this gate was open. Oh, it’s getting stuck in the trees.

The Spanish government paid $2.1 million to build this plant, starting in 2010. It’s been closed since 2013 because of engineering problems.

The pools are full of really green water. And the birds love it.

Even though it’s not working, funding the plant appears to be a point of pride for the Spanish government. Queen Sofia even visited it when it was under construction. And even with the demand for sewage treatment facilities falling, Spain is planning to spend another $617,000 to fix this facility. Construction begins in the fall. Back in Project D, Gabriel Montreuil feels abandoned.

MONTREUIL: (Through interpreter) In other countries, they take care of the population. Here, we rely on God. We cannot rely on the government.

HERSHER: He doesn’t see the sewage treatment plants or the international money. He just sees a Haitian government that doesn’t seem to listen to people like him. For NPR News, I’m Rebecca Hersher in Port-au-Prince

GONYEA: Their story was supported by a grant from Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

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ON HAITI: Haiti Still in Dire Straits, Number of Migrants Shows

Nadia Prophete, 12, collects food from a trash to sell to pig owners at the Cite Soleil area of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, June 12, 2017.

Nadia Prophete, 12, collects food from a trash to sell to pig owners at the Cite Soleil area of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, June 12, 2017.

By: Reuters for VOA NEWS , July 13, 2017 10:42 PM

U.S. authorities sent home about 100 Haitian immigrants discovered on a rickety boat this week, the most found at sea in more than a year and a sign of more people likely to flee the impoverished island, advocates said Thursday.

Haitians are struggling to survive a homeland devastated by natural disasters and disease, and the situation could worsen if U.S. officials return home more than 50,000 Haitians in the United States on temporary visas, they said.

Special immigration status

Under President Donald Trump, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has cast uncertainty over whether to extend a special immigration status that has been granted to Haitians since a 2010 earthquake.

The Haitians in the United States send money, or remittances, home to families that rely on them heavily, said Steven Forester, a spokesman for the Boston-based Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH).

“Haiti is in no condition to both deal with the overwhelming challenges of the disasters that have struck … much less to replace the remittances they send back to support hundreds of thousands of family members,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Street boys await vehicles to offer their cleaning jobs in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, June 12, 2017.

Street boys await vehicles to offer their cleaning jobs in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, June 12, 2017.

Haitians take to the sea

Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, was hit hard in October by Hurricane Matthew. The storm left about 1.4 million people in need of assistance and resurrected a deadly cholera outbreak. The country also has faced huge problems trying to rebuild.

A growing number of Haitians are likely to be willing to undertake the dangerous journey by sea or land to flee, advocates say.

The U.S. Coast Guard intercepted 102 Haitian migrants crowded on a rickety sailboat about 20 miles (35 kms) south of Great Inagua, Bahamas and sent them home Wednesday.

The Coast Guard in a statement said it was the largest such interdiction in more than a year.

“The Caribbean and Florida Straits are dangerous and unforgiving for migrants on illegal and ill-advised voyages in overloaded vessels,” said Jason Ryan, chief of response for the Seventh Coast Guard District.

Always expect migration

U.S. immigration officials said in May that Haiti’s special status designation would be extended for six months rather than the usual 18 months.

While sending Haitians back could worsen conditions, residents of the island nation will try to leave as long as they have few economic opportunities at home, said Muzaffar Chishti, director of the Migration Policy Institute at New York University School of Law.

“We should always expect migration pressure from Haiti,” Chishti told the Foundation.

More than 9,000 Haitians have been found trying to enter the United States along its southwest border with Mexico so far in the current fiscal year, compared with about 300 in 2015, according to U.S. government statistics.

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ON HAITI: To really help Haiti’s children, stop the international funding of orphanages

In this 2013 photo, a boy stands in his room in the U.S.-based Church of Bible Understanding orphanage in Kenscoff, Haiti, a facility run by a Christian missionary group funded by an antique store in Manhattan.

In this 2013 photo, a boy stands in his room in the U.S.-based Church of Bible Understanding orphanage in Kenscoff, Haiti, a facility run by a Christian missionary group funded by an antique store in Manhattan. Dieu Nalio Chery AP

OP-ED JULY 03, 2017 10:10 PM, BY JAMIE VERNAELDE, @jmvernaelde

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HAITI: Poem – i want to talk about haiti.

Poetry Foundation

Poem of the Day:

quaking conversation

BY LENELLE MOÏSE
i want to talk about haiti.
how the earth had to break
the island’s spine to wake
the world up to her screaming.

 

how this post-earthquake crisis
is not natural
or supernatural.
i want to talk about disasters.

 

how men make them
with embargoes, exploitation,
stigma, sabotage, scalding
debt and cold shoulders.

 

talk centuries
of political corruption
so commonplace
it’s lukewarm, tap.

 

talk january 1, 1804
and how it shed life.
talk 1937
and how it bled death.

 

talk 1964.  1986.  1991.  2004.  2008.
how history is the word
that makes today
uneven, possible.

 

talk new orleans,
palestine, sri lanka,
the bronx and other points
or connection.

 

talk resilience and miracles.
how haitian elders sing in time
to their grumbling bellies
and stubborn hearts.

 

how after weeks under the rubble,
a baby is pulled out,
awake, dehydrated, adorable, telling
stories with old-soul eyes.

 

how many more are still
buried, breathing, praying and waiting?
intact despite the veil of fear and dust
coating their bruised faces?

 

i want to talk about our irreversible dead.
the artists, the activists, the spiritual leaders,
the family members, the friends, the merchants
the outcasts, the cons.

 

all of them, my newest ancestors,
all of them, hovering now,
watching our collective response,
keeping score, making bets.

 

i want to talk about money.
how one man’s recession might be
another man’s unachievable reality.
how unfair that is.

 

how i see a haitian woman’s face
every time i look down at a hot meal,
slip into my bed, take a sip of water,
show mercy to a mirror.

 

how if my parents had made different
decisions three decades ago,
it could have been my arm
sticking out of a mass grave

 

i want to talk about gratitude.
i want to talk about compassion.
i want to talk about respect.
how even the desperate deserve it.

 

how haitians sometimes greet each other
with the two words “honor”
and “respect.”
how we all should follow suit.

 

try every time you hear the word “victim,”
you think “honor.”
try every time you hear the tag “john doe,”
you shout “respect!”

 

because my people have names.
because my people have nerve.
because my people are
your people in disguise

 

i want to talk about haiti.
i always talk about haiti.
my mouth quaking with her love,
complexity, honor and respect.

 

come sit, come stand, come
cry with me. talk.
there’s much to say.
walk. much more to do.

 

Lenelle Moïse, “quaking conversation” from Haiti Glass. Copyright © 2014 by Lenelle Moïse.  Reprinted by permission of City Lights Books, www.citylights.com.

Source: Haiti Glass(City Lights Books, 2014)

LENELLE MOÏSE

Biography
More poems by this author

 

Source: Poetry Foundation – Poem of the Day Newsletter

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HAITI, ON DEVELOPMENT: How This Social Entrepreneur Is Moving Haiti Away From Aid Toward Trade

Haitian social entrepreneur and impact investor, Daniel Jean-Louis, is working on multiple fronts to reduce Haiti’s reliance on aid and increase employment in the country where 70 percent of adults lack a proper job.

Source: How This Social Entrepreneur Is Moving Haiti Away From Aid Toward Trade

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HAITI: The Case for Haitian Reparations | Jacobin

Haitians are asking the French government to return some of what was stolen.

For a brief moment recently, Haiti dominated the news cycle. As always, this American media attention only came in a moment of crisis.

According to the Washington Post, local Haitian officials reported that Hurricane Matthew, the region’s most dangerous Category 4 storm in nearly a decade, killed at least 900 people, destroyed livestock, and wreaked havoc on farmers’ crops. The storm flooded rivers, leveled bridges, and in some towns, 80 to 90 percent of homes were destroyed. In the hurricane-ravaged south, 500,000 people were stranded and 30,000 homes have been destroyed. UN officials reported some 800,000 people are facing food insecurity, including 315,000 children.

As unavoidable as a natural disaster seems, Hurricane Matthew was also a human-made catastrophe, the cumulative effect of five hundred years of environmental degradation before and after French colonialism. Haitians know — even if the rest of the world forgets — that every rainy season brings a potential humanitarian crisis.

And yet, the global response has been the same as usual: rather than examine how the complex intersections of history, politics, economics, and ecology conspire to make Haiti susceptible to natural disasters and epidemics, journalists, pundits, and NGO operatives instead shift blame onto Haitians themselves. They present Haitians as a people incapable of managing their nation. This view has guided the international response to Haiti since its independence two hundred years ago.  … Read On

Source: The Case for Haitian Reparations | Jacobin

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HAITI: Want to Help Haitians: Support Haitian Led Orgs… | Mark Schulle

1)      Support the initiatives led by Haitian people and groups

2)      If we contribute aid to a foreign agency, demand they post their decisions and relationships with local groups

3)      Solidarity, not charity

4)      Address the root causes, including neoliberal policies our governments enforced

5)      Demand that our aid has real participation by local groups, not just doing the work but setting priorities and identifying how the work is to get done

6)      Actually reinforce human capacity – making sure this time expertise is shared with a critical mass of Haitian actors, who can and should be the ones making decisions

7)      Link humanitarian aid to development (not the old, failed neoliberal model), and disaster preparedness

Source: Hurricane Matthew: An Update from the Haiti Support Group | Haiti Support Group

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HAITI: 7th anniversary of earthquake: An Inconvenient Truth | Haiti Support Group

…Haitians did not powerlessly watch Matthew wash through their land, waiting for foreign aid to appear. They have banded together – families, neighbours, cooperatives, work societies, community, solidarity and diaspora groups – to begin the clean-up, and get the affected regions back on their feet. Yet, once again, the media and the “international community” have chosen to present Haitians as passive, fatalistic, superstitious and cavalier (yes, all at once!).

Source: An Inconvenient Truth: Hurricane Matthew and Cholera in Haiti | Haiti Support Group

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ON THE MEDIA, HAITI: Interested in Haiti? Read this book: Why Haiti Needs New Narratives by Gina Athena Ulysse

A Haitian-American anthropologist makes sense of her homeland in the wake of the 2010 earthquake.

Mainstream news coverage of the catastrophic earthquake of January 12, 2010, reproduced longstanding narratives of Haiti and stereotypes of Haitians. Cognizant that this Haiti, as it exists in the public sphere, is a rhetorically and graphically incarcerated one, the feminist anthropologist and performance artist Gina Athena Ulysse embarked on a writing spree that lasted over two years. As an ethnographer and a member of the diaspora, Ulysse delivers critical cultural analysis of geopolitics and daily life in a series of dispatches, op-eds and articles on post-quake Haiti. Her complex yet singular aim is to make sense of how the nation and its subjects continue to negotiate sovereignty and being in a world where, according to a Haitian saying, tout moun se moun, men tout moun pa menm (All people are human, but all humans are not the same). This collection contains thirty pieces, most of which were previously published in and on Haitian Times, Huffington Post, Ms Magazine, Ms Blog, NACLA, and other print and online venues. The book is trilingual (English, Kreyòl, and French) and includes a foreword by award-winning author and historian Robin D.G. Kelley.

Source: UPNEBookPartners – Why Haiti Needs New Narratives: Gina Athena Ulysse

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HAITI: 7th Anniversary of the Haiti Earthquake: An Update from the Haiti Support Group

Today marks the seventh anniversary of the Haiti earthquake and the start of a challenging and tumultuous year for the country.

Source: An Update from the Haiti Support Group

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CSFilm will attend Haitian Diaspora Challenge Symposium – Will you join us?

Join us for the DCI Symposium at MIT on January 21, 2017. The Diaspora Challenge Initiative aims at leveraging ideas about successful development concepts amongst members of the Diaspora looking for opportunities to contribute to Haiti’s development. We will have special guests which include Ambassador Paul Altidor and Haitian Congressman Jerry Tardieu.The event is free to attend. Must register to attend. Link to register in bio. #dciHaiti #naahp #grahnusa #shr #edem #otgs

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HAITI: U.N. Apologizes for Role in Haiti’s 2010 Cholera Outbreak

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon avoided any mention of who brought the disease to Haiti, and critics said his mea culpa came too late.

Source: U.N. Apologizes for Role in Haiti’s 2010 Cholera Outbreak

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