Haiti News and Views

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HAITI: Haitians at US border face deportation lottery

Haitians at Tijuana border

Haitian migrants arrive at the Casa del Migrante shelter late into the night. (Jonathan Levinson/IRIN)

By Jonathan Levinson, www.irinnews.orgNovember 24th, 2016

On a quiet, residential street overlooking the Tijuana River, barely two miles from the US border, Pierre Jacques Norma, a Haitian migrant who has traversed nine countries over the past three months to reach Mexico, sits in the dining area of the Casa del Migrante shelter.

Norma’s future is uncertain even by the precarious standards of most migrants. When he and his pregnant wife go to their appointment with US Customs and Border Protection on 23 December, he has no idea if they’ll be released into the United States and given the opportunity to apply for asylum or be detained and deported back to Haiti.

“I’m not scared of being deported. I know God is looking for a better life for me,” he says, finishing off a dinner of rice and stew provided by the shelter. The small group of Haitians sitting around the table nods in agreement.

U-turns, now Trump

It’s no surprise that Norma places his faith in God as he contemplates his future. The past few months have been a rollercoaster ride for US policy towards Haitian migrants. The election earlier this month of Donald Trump, who campaigned on an anti-immigration platform, has only added another layer of uncertainty.

On 3 November, with little fanfare, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) resumed deportations of Haitians for the first time in the nearly seven years since they were suspended following a devastating earthquake. The move was a response to a 1,300-percent increase in arrivals of Haitian migrants over the past year, an influx that immigration officials have been struggling to manage.

Between October 2015 and September 2016, about 5,000 Haitians arrived in the US, the majority of them via Brazil, where they have been eligible for humanitarian visas since the 2010 earthquake. But Brazil’s economy took a nosedive this year, sending the country’s unemployment rate soaring to 11.8 percent and prompting many Haitians to make the long trek to the US.

“DHS thought that this humane policy was a magnet and drawing people to the southwest border, and so they wanted some deterrence. They changed the policy and said we’re going to deport them,” explained Randy McGrorty, executive director of Catholic Legal Services for the Archdiocese of Miami, which represents people seeking asylum and relief from deportation.

But before deportations could resume Haiti was once again devastated, this time by , which hit on 4 October. The UN estimates that 1.4 million people in Haiti are in need of humanitarian assistance following the hurricane and that 800,000 are “extremely food insecure”. The country, the poorest in the western hemisphere, is still grappling with an existing cholera epidemic that has sickened 700,000 people and killed 10,000 since 2010.

After the hurricane, DHS put deportations on hold, but only for 30 days. In the past three weeks, since they resumed, 203 Haitians have been deported, according to an official from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Another reversal

During November, most Haitians admitted into the US (about 1,440) were slated for deportation and detained as part of a process called “expedited removal”.

“If someone is put into expedited removal proceedings, they don’t have access to a judge,” said Andrea Guerrero, the executive director of Alliance San Diego, an immigrant assistance agency. “They are summarily ordered removed and deported as soon as is feasible.”

But detention centres soon filled up. ICE says that 10 percent of its detention space is now filled by a total of 4,425 Haitians.

DHS was forced to change policy once more. Starting on 11 November, the department went back to its pre-September policy of paroling Haitians.

A parolee is given a court date in their destination city and released. Those individuals will eventually go before a judge to determine if they have a genuine asylum claim. In most cases, their claims will be rejected and they’ll be placed in deportation proceedings. But with half a million people in line for a court date, the wait can be years and in the meantime many find work in the US.

Agonising wait

Norma has been in Tijuana since 5 November, but US border officials are only able to process about 60 Haitians a day. With an estimated 4,000 Haitians waiting to enter the US from Tijuana, and ICE officials estimating that as many as 40,000 more are en route from Brazil, the wait for an appointment can take months and uncertainty about the outcome has left many on the border despondent.

Since the 2010 earthquake, many Haitians in the US have benefited from temporary protected status for 18-month periods that have been repeatedly renewed, most recently until July 2017. But new arrivals don’t qualify for TPS and there are fears that president-elect Trump will shut down the TPS programme all together, making even Haitians who have been resident in the US for the past seven years liable for deportation.

Last Friday afternoon, outside the Casa del Migrante shelter, Norma and his friends were hanging out with a small group of Haitians – five women and five men – whose appointments with Customs and Border Protection were that day. They were waiting for Grupo Beta, a Mexican immigration organisation formed to assist migrants, to pick them up and transport them to the border. When the van arrived, everyone gathered around. Shelter volunteers took photos and waved goodbye and the Haitians staying behind looked on smiling, but with a hint of longing.

Shelter problems

Father Pat Murphy, who runs Casa del Migrante, has seen US policy shift too many times over the past couple of months to offer any advice to the Haitians staying at his shelter.

“The ones who went today probably will be paroled. By Monday they could change their minds again,” he said. He added with a frustrated laugh, “I’m not going to say anything to anyone anymore because I look like the crazy one.”

The unannounced policy changes have profound ramifications for the NGOs in the US that have the de facto task of caring for the parolees when they’re released.

Guerrero is exasperated that the government doesn’t appear to have learned from the very recent past.

“We were in this situation a couple of months ago. We were in a shelter crisis. We had to open up National Guard facilities. We had to put a call out for donations. We were feeding 500 people a day because they didn’t have anything but the clothes on their back. And now, by next week, we’re going to be in the exact same situation.

“It’s a failure of government to not make a proper plan or partner with receiving communities.”

The latest new rule

In a statement released on Wednesday, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson formally announced the resumption of deportations for Haitian nationals and said he had authorised ICE to acquire additional detention space so that those apprehended at the border “can be detained and sent home as soon as possible”.

Among the Haitians in Tijuana there remains a stubborn fixation on the American dream, but Murphy is trying to persuade them to consider shifting it south just a few miles. He’s encouraging the Haitians to think about a Mexican dream instead of an American one.

“You get to the other side, have your parole, and in one year you go to court and you’re deported anyway. It’s not a final solution to your problem,” he tells them. “Mexico offers a humanitarian visa. Take it and work.”

“Tijuana has always been this place where people can feel at home even if they’re from somewhere else,” Murphy told IRIN.

And while it might not be the first choice for many here, it’s certainly on their radar.

“Haitians have heart; heart to fight, to work, to find a better life,” said Sammy Laroch, one of the Haitians watching the group climb into the Grupo Beta van to go to the US border.

Asked if he’d consider staying in Tijuana, Laroch said he would first try his luck getting paroled in the US, even if it carried the risk of detention and deportation. Tijuana was “plan C”.

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HAITI: Haiti faces a ‘major food crisis’, its interim president says – BBC News

Haiti’s interim leader tells the BBC the country faces a “major food crisis” after Hurricane Matthew.

Source: Haiti faces a ‘major food crisis’, its interim president says – BBC News

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HAITI: U.S. government quietly resumes deportations to Haiti | Miami Herald

As Haiti continues to struggle in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, the U.S. government has started to deport Haitians again.

Source: U.S. government quietly resumes deportations to Haiti | Miami Herald

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UPDATED: Hurricane Matthew – Support Haitian-led organizations

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If you would like to support recovery efforts in Haiti please donate to Haitian-led organizations.

Suggested Haitian-led organizations that CSFilm has experience with include:

Haitian Health Foundation, Working specifically in the hardest it area of Jeremie: The mission of the Haitian Health Foundation (HHF) is to improve the health and well-being of women, children, families and communities living in the greater Jérémie region through healthcare, education and community development.

SAKALA, Working in Citi Soleil, massive slum at the base of Port-au-Prince, dealing with disastrous flooding

Lambi Fund of Haiti, locally led long-term development work

Grassroots International, progressive US based organization with long relationships with Haitian-led organizations

ActionAid-Haiti – Locally led by a team of highly respected Haitians focused on long-term development and policy issues.

Partners in Health, Healthcare systems and response

 

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HAITI: ‘There’s Going to Be Famine Here’: Hurricane Matthew’s Apocalyptic Aftermath in Haiti

After traveling through the once beautiful, now devastated peninsula that bore the brunt of the storm, it is hard to believe there will ever be a full recovery.
JÉRÉMIE, Haiti — The roads were lined with Gordian knots of massive uprooted trees, twisted, severed palms, torn corrugated roof parts, crushed rural dwellings, schools, local shops. Mile after mile the scenery repeated itself; the devastation growing with an eerie intensity. Leafless trees and palms had turned black, as if scorched by the storm, and stood like frozen, shaven sentinels in a sea of flooded fields for as far as the eye could see. Destruction was everywhere.

A three-day trip through Haiti’s hardest hit southern peninsula revealed the still-unimaginable scale of suffering Hurricane Matthew left behind, and the long-term catastrophic impact the tempest will have on this Caribbean island. More than 1,000 people are believed to have died. Fears are growing of a cholera epidemic. And despite some long-delayed aid deliveries, hopes for the future are fading.

The colossal storm had hovered slowly, it seemed almost maliciously, over this agriculturally rich region, destroying everything in its path with an especially punishing blow to the region of Grand’Anse, Haiti’s breadbasket on the northern coast of the peninsula. Its final coup de grace: destroying the bridge over the Momance River, effectively severing the peninsula from the capital of Port au Prince and the rest of the country.

“It’s like a state of war,” said Hilaire Delence, a 28-year-old customs worker in the farming town of Torbeck on the south coast of the peninsula. Residents were desperate for any kind of help—water, food, medical supplies, shelters, anything. “The people cleared the streets themselves,” he said. “Every tree fell.” His family was one of the few that had several plots of crops and some cattle after decades of hard work.

“We’ve lost everything,” he said, walking through the rotten remains of their manioc field. “We were the only house left standing because we have cement walls. All the other houses in the community were destroyed. Our home became the only shelter as people ran from the fierceness of the storm towards the fields.”

Both of Delence’s parents stood on the porch, visibly shaken. “It started in the afternoon, on Monday and continued until Wednesday,” said Anne Marie Laurette Laurent, his demure 70-year-old mother, her voice quivering. “We huddled for three days here, we couldn’t move, we were shaking with fear. We just held on to each other. When we came out, we could not believe what we saw.” Delence said she had fainted.

His parents had farmed here for 60 years. “It will take five to 10 years to rebuild the coconut trees. Maybe 50 years for the big trees,” said Rosulme Gabriel Delence, his 68-year-old father, a proud Haitian farmer whose fixed stare betrayed the trauma he wished to hide.

The big trees bear the fruit called lamveritab in Creole and even âme véritable, meaning “true soul,” in French—the breadfruit that is prized by farmers for its multiple uses and the revenue it brings in.

“We [in the town] lost all our shops, too,” said Rosulme. “The books are gone. It’s the beginning of the school year. We owe credit for our loans. Now we have nothing, nothing.”

“I didn’t believe I would survive,” she said. “But I’ve lost all my resistance. There’s no hope to rebuild what we worked hard for.” Those who had sought refuge in the Delence house chimed in. A woman in the small crowd that had gathered around the porch cried, “All we have left to do is die.”

On Torbeck’s debris-laden main streets, young men had set up roadblocks in futile protest at the lack of help.

“No one, no one has come! Not the government people, not the international aid. We’re desperate,” said Don Duerviliyouyou, a young teacher. “This community is entirely dependent on agriculture and livestock, because there are no institutions, so no jobs. The only support we get is from the [Haitian] diaspora and that too is going to stop because of government corruption.” He had just summarized the situation of some 80 percent of Haiti’s poor. He paused and said gravely, “There’s going to be famine here.”

Down the road, heavily clad cops from Haiti’s Corps d’Intervention et de Maintien de l’Ordre (CIMO) security forces chased other protesters, firing tear gas in all directions. The protesters were outside the Haitian-Taiwan Cooperation plant. Inside, local mayor Guidile Joseph was meeting with the plant managers about getting help for the community. Asked about why no officials from the government’s Civil Protection had come to Torbeck, she raised her voice: “Me too, I am angry like the protesters. We don’t have a government. We have the will but no one is hearing us.”

Joseph described the magnitude of crop losses—manioc, rice, corn, pit mil (made into a type of cornmeal), peas, and many banana plantations.

“The loss is devastating, not just for us, but for the whole country,” she said. “No one has come to help. We have not seen a single delegation from anywhere. We need the international help.”

The same macabre landscape of devastation lined the 86-kilometer road to Jérémie. Haiti’s most vulnerable, its poorest, were putting out mattresses to dry, using the overturned palm trees as laundry lines were every rescued piece of clothing hung. Others were trying to save the trunks that were not completely destroyed to burn charcoal for cooking, one of the main reasons for Haiti’s massive deforestation.

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There was not a dwelling standing. And no convoys of aid. At Camp Perrin, midway to Jérémie, 300 families huddled inside a rudimentary building that served as school and library in this mountain village. A man waived frantically at our car.

Fortil Wisman, referred to himself as the community representative, but is a lawyer by profession. “No one has come, you are the first person I’m describing the conditions to.”

They, too, had no food, no water, just a large tin bowl of beans. “We’ve been forgotten, no local official has inquired or come,” said Wisman. “This is an area that is home to nearly 100,000 poor Haitians.” A major downpour began. Wisman noticed the uprooted trees. “We have no shade to protect us from the harsh sun, but when it rains, there’s no protection for all the sans-abris, the homeless, everywhere. People are getting sick and there’s no medical help.”

Grand’Anse, the northern province of the peninsula, one of the largest agricultural regions in the country, had been cut off from all communications. Haiti’s two main cellular service providers had been severely damaged by the storm. No news had come out of Jérémie, its capital and second port, also known as historical and cultural center.

The picturesque town, known for its gingerbread-style houses, and for its poets, has a prized tourist destination. It looked like a sea of pulverized wreckage stretching from the coast to its hilltops. The cathedral’s recently restored roof had been torn off, as were the roofs of most of the houses that lined its streets.

Juliette Nicolas sat on the porch of her Aubergine Inn. Soaked checkbooks, Xeroxed house plans, and a printer were on the table, piles of documents dried in the driveway, sheets and mattresses lined the roofless second floor. The fierce winds and rains had engulfed the inn, drenching every inch, including valuable historical documents.

“Jérémie is gone. It’s totally destroyed,” said Nicolas, a native of this town she’s been helping to support for years. She trained as an architect, and spoke of the irony of a meeting set up by the United Nations the week before Hurricane Matthew about managing urban risks in the aftermath of the horrendous 2010 earthquake that killed an estimated 200,000 people. “The main goal was to force a national plan for communal structural assessments and make that a law,” said Nicolas. “That way one would know where to put an airport. In Jérémie, our airport is on a fault line—but where do you put it?”

In Jérémie’s famed square, where the damaged cathedral stood, a man walking by stopped to say to us, to anyone, to no one, “I’ve lost everything. My wife is sick. My kids can’t go to school. Our house is destroyed. What are we going to do? Die?”

The heat pounded the weary residents on Sunday as they, too, stretched clothing to dry on any surface, including hanging doors or fallen ceiling beams. They cleared debris solemnly. Everyone echoed the same cry of help: “The officials haven’t come, the aid hasn’t come, we are desperate, we have no water, we need Aquatabs to purify the local water.”

U.S. Army helicopters flew overhead ferrying the 16 tons of supplies the U.S. government was able to bring to Haiti last Thursday, once air traffic had resumed. Tired but angered residents looked up, tempers were beginning to flare. The International Organization for Migration was in charge of distributing the supplies from the staging area at the small airport. But nothing had been delivered. On Monday morning, the first convoy of OIM’s huge trucks rolled in, barely passing through Jérémie’s narrow streets.

The long-term consequences of Hurricane Matthew’s destructive path was lost on no one. Even before the storm, 90 percent of Haiti had been deforested and was essentially barren land. More than 35 percent of its agricultural production came from this southern peninsula. The situation is infinitely worse than the impact of the storm felt in the United States. Here, it is not about getting a battered population back to normal. For many, that will never happen, and there is no real hope left.

In Port au Prince, the government promised that a wooden pontoon bridge would be temporarily placed over the Momance River. A Haitian presidential candidate said, even more boldly, that a permanent bridge would be up within days. But such assurances have been drowned in what is still the muddy and treacherous crossing.

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ON THE MEDIA, HAITI: Hurricane Matthew in Haiti: Looking Beyond the Disaster Narrative

Well-meaning people have either emailed or texted me over the past couple of days, with some variant of “how are things going in Haiti?”

Short of people’s prayers, and the question, “is everyone you know ok?” How indeed to respond?

Hurricane Matthew is a Category 4, meaning that winds are gusting at 145 miles per hour. This is the first category 4 since 1954, Hurricane Hazel, which introduced nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to Haiti.

Aside from random notes trickling in here or there, the coverage has been minimal. This is in direct contrast to the earthquake that rocked the country on January 12, 2010.

Anthropologist Gina Athena Ulysse has inspired a generation of scholars, challenging us with a deceptively simple call: “Haiti needs new narratives.” The coverage of this storm is an urgent case for why.

Disaster aid is faciliated by media coverage. An article inDisastersdemonstrated a correlation in the amount of seconds allocated on prime time news to a particular disaster and the generosity of the response. However, the Haiti earthquake’s high media profile—and the generosity it inspired—came at a price. With stories of devastation, appearing to many foreign observers as hell on earth with phrases like “state failure” often repeated, foreign media coverage also naturalized foreign control of the response.

The media coverage—then and now—highlights the importance of what can be called “disaster narratives.” What is covered, what is not, who is hailed as a hero, whose efforts are ignored, shape the results. I detail this connection in a just-published book chapter.

The story is still unfolding. As I write this Tuesday night the category 4 storm is leisurely moving north, still dumping rain on an already fragile environment. So we won’t know for quite some time the full extent of the damage.

Coastal cities in the southern peninsula, including the largest cities, state capitals Les Cayes and Jéremie, are under water. The main road connecting the peninsula to the rest of the country has been blocked as the bridge in Petit Goâve has been destroyed by the torrent.

The centralization of political and economic power in Port-au-Prince that began under the 1915 U.S. Occupation and accelerated withneoliberal economic policies imposed by the U.S. Government, multilateral agencies such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) and others renders getting relief much more difficult.

Once-thriving ports and regional economies, these secondary cities are now dependent on the road to the capital for almost everything. The province of Grand’Anse, with Jéremie as its capital city, is particularly isolated. Its primary economic lifeline, accelerated as the asphalt road has been advancing in the past several years, is charcoal.

Paradoxically because of its isolation, the Grand’Anse has noticeably more trees than other provinces. But this is changing: commentators from all across Grand’Anse have commented on the connection between this road and an uptick in charcoal production. Anthropologist Andrew Tarter is collecting quantitative data on charcoal.

The cutting of trees for charcoal production has rendered Haiti much more vulnerable to extreme weather events. The photos of the deep brown deluge testify to the topsoil being washed away, that would have been otherwise protected by tree roots.

Washing along with the soil is this season’s crops. This summer many breathed a measured sigh of relief as an almost two-year drought ended. These hopes were washed away with the downpour, representing not only food to feed Haiti’s exponentially growing urban population in competition with cheaper, subsidized imports, but the cash to send rural children to school. The high cost of education, and that it comes at once, is a major trigger for individual families producing charcoal in the first place.

With water everywhere in the photos it is easy to forget that clean, safe, drinking water will be an urgent priority in Haiti, still battling cholera brought to the island nation six years ago this month by U.N. troops. While finally apologizing for the disease that killed over 9,000 in five years, the U.N. has evaded responsibility for reparations.

These longer-term impacts are unfortunately not a part of the story. Frankly I would be surprised if news outlets will be talking much about the storm at all after tomorrow, as the focus is on Matthew’s impact on U.S. coastal areas. The governors of Florida and North Carolina have declared a state of emergency, issuing evacuation orders. Given the juxtaposition in this several-second media blips, one might well be wondering: why can’t Haiti do that?

The short answer is: they most certainly tried.

The Miami Herald’s Jacqueline Charles discussed the efforts of the elected mayor of seaside Cité Soleil trying to offer relocation assistance. Other local mayors refused, except for Pétion-Ville, offering emergency shelter for 200 residents (the request was 10,000). This is among the only accounts of Haitian people, particularly elected officials, doing something.

Given the fragile state of infrastructure and communications, local Haitian governments, the Civil Protection Department (DPC in the original French), have been doing an admirable job of moving people out of the most danger. Residents of Île-à-Vache were moved to Les Cayes, only to be doubly displaced by the deluge. In Abricots, an hour and a half from Jéremie via a very difficult and rocky road, moved residents up the hill.

While we outside of Haiti may not be told, grassroots organizations are doing an admirable job. In Cité Soleil, Konbit Solèy Leve has offered emergency assistance and Sakala, shelter. Peasants associations in Camp Perrin and all over the South province are welcoming people from LesCayes, down the hill.

These patchwork efforts highlight the limitations, particularly lack of resources. Charles reported that the Cité Soleil government was bankrupt. The communication and logistics necessary for evacuation, emergency shelter, and life-saving food and water, are straining Haiti’s already fragile economy.

And yes, there are still people living in what used to be called “camps.” Given official pressure to reduce the statistic, tens of thousands of people living in Karade are not “internally displaced persons” since Karade is now a “village.” Not two weeks ago, residents were newly threatened with violence in an effort to force them to leave.

I hesitate to write this given how Haiti has been politicized in the most cynical way by a candidate who has expressed his hostility to immigrants and black people generally, but frankly, Haiti was not “built back better” by the $16 billion relief effort to the 2010 earthquake, as UN Special Envoy Bill Clinton cheerfully promised.

So, what now? Right after the earthquake I wrote a piece for Common Dreams offering suggestions, which basically boil down to support local efforts, initiatives, ideas, and organizations.

Many people, including Haitian scholars, journalists, and social movements, have taken stock of the lessons learned from thehumanitarian aftershocks. Among them include:

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

The storm will leave, the flood waters recede. I hope the world’s attention span will last at least a little longer, so that we will finally apply lessons at least Haitian people learned.

Mark Schuller

Mark Schuller is Associate Professor of at Northern Illinois University and affiliate at the Faculté d’Ethnologie, l’Université d’État d’Haïti. Schuller’s research on NGOs, globalization, disasters, and gender in Haiti has been published in thirty book chapters and peer-reviewed articles. Schuller is the author or co-editor of seven books—includingCapitalizing on Catastrophe: Neoliberal Strategies in Disaster ReconstructionHumanitarian Aftershocks in Haiti—and co-director / co-producer of documentary Poto Mitan: Haitian Women, Pillars of the Global Economy. Recipient of the Margaret Mead Award, Schuller is the board chair of the Lambi Fund of Haiti and active in several solidarity efforts.

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HAITI: New Haiti Briefing Unwanted Gifts: A Concise History of Harming Haiti

By haitisupportgroup.orgSeptember 17th, 2016

Our new Haiti Briefing No. 81 entitled Unwanted Gifts: A Concise History of Harming Haiti is out now!

The Briefing gives a historical insight into centuries of international meddling in Haiti often marred by mishaps, bad decisions and intentional harm. In light of recent developments in the escalating cholera controversy – namely the office of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon last month conceding that the organisation was at fault in 2010 for the devastating outbreak of a disease that has killed close to 10,000 people – our Haiti Briefing offers readers an in-depth background into repeated efforts by outsiders to blame Haitians for their mistakes. From gunboat diplomacy and the AIDs epidemic to the Clintons, MINUSTAH and cholera. You name it, the international “community” has been there and done it. We argue that we must challenge the racist, imperialist assumptions upon which foreigners have acted and continue to act in Haiti and  defer where necessary and wherever possible to Haitian voices and Haitian administrators so that they can take the lead in Haiti’s socioeconomic reform.

The Haiti Briefing, published in English and French, is the key publication of the Haiti Support Group. Released quarterly, since 1992 our Briefing has provided our members, Haiti watchers and decision-makers with analysis of Haiti’s development issues, reflected through the voices of popular organisations on the ground.

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HAITI: Only Haitians can save Haiti

AFP_FJ4XO
washingtonpost.com, Opinion by Joel Dreyfuss, 

Joel Dreyfuss is a Washington Post Global Opinions contributing columnist.

Haiti won a rare victory on the international stage last week. After five years of evading accountability, the United Nations finally admitted that its peacekeepers were responsible for a deadly cholera epidemic that killed 10,000 men, women and children and sickened 700,000. Long after scientists traced the disease to the poor sanitation practices of Nepalese troops stationed in Haiti, the U.N. rejected the findings, claimed diplomatic immunity and enlisted Obama administration support to block efforts by Haitians to hold the agency accountable in U.S. courts. The U.N. backed down after a report by New York University law professor Philip Alston, an adviser on legal and human rights, became public. Alston called the U.N.’s stonewalling “morally unconscionable, legally indefensible and politically self-defeating.”

The U.N.’s arrogant stance was just the latest example of how Haiti’s friends are so often its worst enemies. The U.N. military mission has been in Haiti since 2004, presumably to “stabilize” the country and nurture its fragile democracy. Yet that democracy is barely breathing, with a “provisional” president and a group of dubiously elected officials who can barely agree on a date for presidential elections.

Consider the aftermath of the massive earthquake that killed 200,000 to 300,000 Haitians on Jan. 12, 2010. The international community did responded generously. Former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush presided over a reconstruction commission that won $14 billion in international pledges and posed to help transform Haiti into a modern nation. However, what money was actually delivered was sucked into a morass of Beltway consultants, failed projects and nongovernmental organizations. “Valuable studies and assessments conducted by Haitians themselves were largely ignored,” the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development reported in a postmortem study. Six years later, the rubble in downtown Port-au-Prince has been cleared, but little has been rebuilt. The nation’s center of commercial activity has moved to suburban Pétionville. Plans to revive the capital remain as vague as the early-morning fog that drifts across the majestic mountains that serve as a backdrop to Haiti’s tortured history.

The Clintons have expressed a fondness for Haiti ever since they honeymooned there in 1975. Bill and Hillary have been up to their elbows in Haiti ever since 1994, when President Clinton used U.S. military power to restore Haiti’s first democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Clinton, whose home state of Arkansas is the No. 1 rice producer in the United States, extracted an agreement from Aristide in 1995 to drop tariffs on imported rice. The resulting influx of cheap American rice destroyed Haitian’s near-self-sufficiency in food and sent thousands of poor farmers and their families into the overcrowded capital. Clinton has since apologized for his “devil’s bargain.” Fast-forward to today, and Haitians know that the United States’ presidential elections will have a profound effect on their future: A Hillary Clinton victory could mean more interference in Haiti’s affairs.

The current political crisis was precipitated by the heavy-handed manipulation of Haitian politics by the “Core Group,” (the United States, Canada, France, Spain, Brazil, the European Union and the Organization of American States). In 2011, they excluded the most popular political party from presidential elections and discarded one of the top vote-getters, and Haitians ended up with former bandleader Michel Martelly as president. They tried the same tactics this year, putting heavy pressure on Haitians to complete a tainted second round of ballots. Fed up, thousands of Haitians took to the streets to reject that advice and force a new round of elections over strong American objections.

Haitian identity at home and abroad is tightly linked to our native country’s status as the world’s first free black republic. Every August UNESCO commemorates the secret ceremony in Haiti’s Bois-Caiman in 1791 that triggered a successful slave uprising, which in turn fomented the revolution that led to its independence. I know I will offend many of my fellow Haitians by saying this out loud — but I wonder if Haiti will ever truly regain its independence. The reality is that Haiti, more than 200 years after it gained its freedom, has spent large chunks of its existence under the military, political or economic control of foreign powers.

Haiti paid twice for its freedom, first with blood and then with money. Haitians handed Napoleon his first significant military defeat by repelling the 50,000 troops he sent to restore slavery. But fearing a new invasion, Haiti signed an agreement with France’s Charles X in 1825 to pay former owners of plantations and slaves tens of millions of francs (variously estimated by historians at between $3 billion to $25 billion in today’s dollars) as the price for recognition. The deal doomed Haiti to 80 years of distorted budgets focused on paying off foreign debt and starving its people of the infrastructure and educational facilities that might have set the young nation on a more prosperous path. The United States began its military occupation of Haiti in 1915 and remained there for 19 years. But even before American Marines landed in the country, Haiti’s many authoritarian and corrupt leaders plunged the country into debt and exacerbated the domination of the many by the few. Rosalvo Bobo, an early-20th-century Haitian politician, noted that Haitian leaders had replaced the liberating achievement of their ancestors for “slavery of blacks by blacks.”

The ultimate challenge for Haiti — and many other small countries — is how to gain a measure of control over their own destinies, especially when they are in the “back yard” of powerful nations, dependent on foreign aid and are forced to deal with internal divisions. One way the U.N. could make restitution is to fulfill its pledge to rebuild Haiti’s sanitation system and begin planning a removal of the peacekeeping force. Those who want to help Haiti should begin consulting and involving Haitians at home and abroad in their grand plans.

But the best incentive for change will come from Haiti itself. A new chapter for the embattled nation will come only when Haiti’s rapacious business and political elites and its masses of neglected poor learn the lessons from 200 years ago — that no one is coming to save them.

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HAITI: Doctors Fear Zika Is A Sleeping Giant In Haiti

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npr.org, by  ,Aug. 31, 2016

At the Mirebalais Hospital in Haiti’s central plateau, Dr. Louise Ivers and Dr. Roman Jean-Louis are examining a baby girl who was born in early July with microcephaly, a smaller-than-normal skull often associated with Zika infections.

The baby, named Chinashama, is dressed in a white smock adorned with small flowers. Her legs cross unnaturally over her shins, and her mother, Chrisnette Sainvilus, says the baby cries a lot and has trouble passing stool. “Day and night she’s crying,” the mother of two says. It’s unclear what physical and mental problems Chinashama is facing.

Ivers lifts Chinashama’s legs and tries to move them apart. “See, her legs are still crossed. The muscle development is not what we’d want to see,” she says. “This baby definitely needs physical therapy.”

Chinashama is one of three babies born with microcephaly at the Mirebalais Hospital in July. The Haitian Ministry of Health says there have been 11 others born nationwide over the past two months with this usually rare birth defect. But only one has been officially confirmed as a result of the Zika virus.

Haiti has all of the ingredients for widespread transmission of Zika. The mosquito that carries the virus flourishes in Haiti’s tropical heat. As the outbreak wanes in Brazil and Colombia, the Caribbean is currently the epicenter of Zika transmission. The region is reporting high numbers of cases. Puerto Rico, for instance, has a population a third the size of Haiti and is reporting roughly 1,500 new cases of Zika each week.

Yet as of August, Haiti had confirmed only five cases to the World Health Organization.

Many people who get infected with Zika have mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. In Haiti, it can take all day for a patient to see a doctor, so most people don’t come to health facilities unless they are extremely ill. But if they’re pregnant and have Zika, the virus could still pose a threat to their fetus.

Sainvilus, Chinashama’s mother, says she doesn’t remember having a fever or other signs of Zika during her pregnancy — although she thinks she had a bout of fever that she thought was chikungunya just before she got pregnant.

But even if Sainvilus had gotten sick, it’s highly unlikely that she would have been tested for Zika. For the last four months, a doctors’ strike in Haiti has brought the public health care system to a standstill. The Mirebalais Hospital, which remained functioning, is a five-hour bus drive from her home on the road that leads from Port-au-Prince to the Dominican Republic.

Secondly, Haiti just doesn’t have the infrastructure to do widespread Zika testing. The only place that can test for Zika is the national laboratory run by the Ministry of Health. They’ve been doing a limited number of tests that will only come back positive if the actual virus is still in the blood sample being tested. Zika clears from the blood fairly quickly, so unless you test while the person is still sick, it’s going to come back negative.

Other more complicated tests have to get sent out to Costa Rica, Trinidad and Tobago or the U.S. — and it can take months for a doctor to get those results if they get them at all.

Ivers, from Partners in Health, a global health organization based in Boston, says she’s quite anxious that Zika is spreading widely across Haiti — but it’s not being detected.

“We don’t have a good idea of what’s going on. Now that we’ve seen three babies born [with microcephaly] in the span of three weeks in our own facility, we are very concerned that it’s being under-reported in other parts of the country,” she says.

On top of that, she’s worried that Haiti’s severely limited health system, which isn’t picking up Zika cases, is also ill-equipped to deal with a wave of children with severe birth defects.

“Children with developmental delays or disability need individual care with lots of different resources,” Ivers says. “Those resources are not really available in Haiti.”

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U.N. Admits Role in Cholera Epidemic in Haiti

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nytimes.com, by Jonathan M. Katz, Aug. 17, 2016

The first victims lived near a base housing 454 United Nations peacekeepers freshly arrived from Nepal, where a cholera outbreak was underway, and waste from the base often leaked into the river. Numerous scientists have since argued that the base was the only plausible source of the outbreak — whose real death toll, one study found, could be much higher than the official numbers state — but United Nations officials have consistently insisted that its origins remain up for debate.

Mr. Alston wrote that the United Nations’ Haiti cholera policy “is morally unconscionable, legally indefensible and politically self-defeating.” He added, “It is also entirely unnecessary.” The organization’s continuing denial and refusal to make reparations to the victims, he argued, “upholds a double standard according to which the U.N. insists that member states respect human rights, while rejecting any such responsibility for itself.”

He said, “It provides highly combustible fuel for those who claim that U.N. peacekeeping operations trample on the rights of those being protected, and it undermines both the U.N.’s overall credibility and the integrity of the Office of the Secretary-General.”

Mr. Alston went beyond criticizing the Department of Peacekeeping Operations to blame the entire United Nations system. “As the magnitude of the disaster became known, key international officials carefully avoided acknowledging that the outbreak had resulted from discharges from the camp,” he noted.

His most severe criticism was reserved for the organization’s Office of Legal Affairs, whose advice, he wrote, “has been permitted to override all of the other considerations that militate so powerfully in favor of seeking a constructive and just solution.” Its interpretations, he said, have “trumped the rule of law.”

Mr. Alston also argued in his report that, as The New York Times has reported, the United Nations’ cholera eradication program has failed. Infection rates have been rising every year in Haiti since 2014, as the organization struggles to raise the $2.27 billion it says is needed to eradicate the disease from member states. No major water or sanitation projects have been completed in Haiti; two pilot wastewater processing plants built there in the wake of the epidemic quickly closed because of a lack of donor funds.

In a separate internal report released days ago after being withheld for nearly a year, United Nations auditors said a quarter of the sites run by the peacekeepers with the organization’s Stabilization Mission in Haiti, or Minustah, that they had visited were still discharging their waste into public canals as late as 2014, four years after the epidemic began.

“Victims are living in fear because the disease is still out there,” Mario Joseph, a prominent Haitian human rights lawyer representing cholera victims, told demonstrators in Port-au-Prince last month. He added, “If the Nepalese contingent returns to defecate in the water again, they will get the disease again, only worse.”

In 2011, when families of 5,000 Haitian cholera victims petitioned the United Nations for redress, its Office of Legal Affairs simply declared their claims “not receivable.” (Mr. Alston called that argument “wholly unconvincing in legal terms.”)

Those families and others then sued the United Nations, including Mr. Ban and the former Minustah chief Edmond Mulet, in federal court in New York. (In November, Mr. Ban promoted Mr. Mulet to be his chief of staff.) The United Nations refused to appear in court, claiming diplomatic immunity under its charter, leaving Justice Department lawyers to defend it instead. That case is now pending a decision from the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York.

The redress demanded by families of the 10,000 people killed and 800,000 affected would reach $40 billion, Mr. Alston wrote — and that figure does not take into account “those certain to die and be infected in the years ahead.”

“Since this is almost five times the total annual budget for peacekeeping worldwide, it is a figure that is understandably seen as prohibitive and unrealistic,” he said. Still, he argued: “The figure of $40 billion should stand as a warning of the consequences that could follow if national courts become convinced that the abdication policy is not just unconscionable but also legally unjustified. The best way to avoid that happening is for the United Nations to offer an appropriate remedy.”

Mr. Alston, who declined to comment for this article, will present the final report at the opening of the General Assembly in September, when presidents, prime ministers and monarchs from nearly every country gather at United Nations headquarters in New York.

Mr. Haq said the secretary general’s office “wanted to take this opportunity to welcome this vital report,” which he added “will be a valuable contribution to the U.N. as we work towards a significant new set of U.N. actions.”

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HAITI, ON DEVELOPMENT: This volatile Haiti slum is undergoing a makeover — now what?

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Workers carry buckets in a construction site as they build new houses in Fort National, Port au Prince, Haiti. Fort National is a neighborhood that was partially destroyed during the earthquake of January 12, 2010. Andres Martinez Casares.

 

miamiherald.com, BY JACQUELINE CHARLES, 8/12/16  —  At the top of the hill where an old colonial fort overlooks the immaculate grounds of a razed presidential palace, newly built sidewalks and widened alleys lead into new residential communities being shaped by tree-lined courtyards, indoor plumbing and towering condominium-style apartments.

Below, bulldozers move listlessly from one partially-built concrete structure to another along a once battered Rue Estiméas construction workers beat back scorching heat and hammer as fast as they can.

“Imagine if all of the houses were like this,” Ulrick Gilles, a 40 year-old unemployed husband and father, said from the confines of his newly constructed government-subsidized second floor apartment in one of this capital’s most quake-ravaged neighborhoods. “Even if you couldn’t call it a paradise, it would still allow people to live better lives.”

A haphazardly-built and volatile slum that foreign donors and international aid groups once shunned, Fort National is getting a long-overdo makeover courtesy of a little-used co-property law that finally allows Haitians like Gilles, who lost his house in the cataclysmic Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake, to be homeowners again.

Though the law initially came into existence in 1974 and was strengthened in 2009, it wasn’t until former President Michel Martelly issued more protections in a 2011 executive order that the government and international community dared use it.

“You’re slowly seeing the transformation of a neighborhood,” said Claude-André Nadon, senior program manager with theUnited Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), which has built 600 new housing units and repaired more than 1,200 in eight neighborhoods since the earthquake left 1.5 million homeless. “This place was a disaster zone.”

Fort National’s transformation comes as 61,302 Haitians continue to live underneath squalid tents, and as Haiti and foreign donors continue to face enormous challenges in providing permanent housing amid dwindling aid dollars and a deepening political crisis.

The country’s failure to replace the 100,000 houses leveled by the quake by all accounts has been the biggest failure of the reconstruction response. Haiti and U.S.-financed housing projects have been slammed for shoddy construction and unaccountable contractors, while both governments also have come under fire for failing to follow through on housing goals.

Haitians are no different from a guy in Miami or Canada. They want to live in a decent home. Claude-André Nadon, senior program manager with the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS)

But if there’s anything close to a model of the lessons learned over the years, it is Fort National. The construction of almost 300 single and condo-style units, installation of street lights and the rehabilitation of water kiosks and streets may seem small. But supporters note that it’s changing the facade of an informal settlement, and providing employment and training to locals in proper and anti-seismic construction techniques.

“I am not just hiring five guys; I am hiring everyone from the neighborhood,” Nadon said. “So when that guys asks for an extension [on his single unit] he’s going to ask the foreman and that foreman now knows how to do it properly. Their way of building has completely changed.”

Said Clément Bélizaire, executive director of Haiti’s Housing and Public Buildings Construction Unit: “The housing is very nice; well-built; the engineering? A-plus. But the real success of Fort National and everything that has had to do with housing is the change of mentality.”

Nadon and his team first visited National in 2011. They spent three years negotiating with gang leaders and community residents to launch the project, and then with skeptical residents to give up their plots and shacks — sometimes barely larger than a bedroom — in exchange for decent corridors, public spaces and a 376-square-foot apartment.

In lot of cases people didn’t want to move,” he said. “All would say, ‘Haitians don’t like living on the second flood; they don’t want to live together.’”

Eventually, many would agree. Some would even donate as much as 80 percent of their land back to the community in order to allow the chaotic landscape of vacant plots and sweltering tin and tarp-covered shacks to be transformed.

“Haitians are no different from a guy in Miami or Canada. They want to live in a decent home,” Nadon said. “[Eventually] they understood that in order to have something like this, you need space. You need space to put septic tanks, you need space to have water pipes coming in, you need space to have the trees. After a while they get it.”

When people see them they say, ‘These houses should be on the main street.’ They aren’t the kind of homes you hide in a corridor. Fritzner Oriol, 49, Fort National resident

Bélizaire, the housing czar, said the co-property law makes a lot of sense in a densely populated Haiti, but “the social mobilization to get people to think rationally and not selfishly” is quite a challenge.

“We’re living in the city and we want to live in rural mode,” he said. “Everybody wants to have their own yard; everybody wants to have their own house; nobody wants to share walls with neighbors. When you share a wall, you cut the costs. We have to start thinking multilevel housing.”

The concept first surfaced months after the quake when then-President René Préval vowed to rebuild Fort National. Préval dispatched government bulldozers to remove rubble. He also asked international aid organizations to re-direct cash-for-work dollars to the slum, and he tapped the head of his state construction agency — and eventual presidential pick — Jude Célestin to build two-by-three-feet wide units for 6,000 displaced families.

Célestin, an engineer who is once more seeking the presidency, proposed constructing multistory apartments instead. Some $174 million was approved for Fort National’s reconstruction by the parliament as part of the budget, and the no-bid contractwas given to a firm owned by powerful Dominican Sen. Felix Bautista.

But 2010 presidential elections would bring chaos and a broken promise. A newly elected Martelly scraped the Fort National project, and reallocated the funds to initiatives. Among them:3,000 units at Morne-a-Carbrit on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince that were so poorly built by one of Bautista’s firms that Bélizaire’s housing division refused to accept many of them.

Everybody wants to have their own yard; everybody wants to have their own house; nobody wants to share walls with neighbors. When you share a wall, you cut the costs. Clément Bélizaire, executive director of Haiti’s Housing and Public Buildings Construction Unit

In recent weeks, the original Fort National project has come under scrutiny as a Haiti Senate Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission raises questions about the awards, and Bautista’s relationships with Martelly and some Haitian officials.

Headed by Sen. Youri Latortue, a one-time Martelly adviser, the probe is supposed to focus on a decade’s worth of government disbursements under Venezuela’s Petrocaribe discounted-oil program. Most of the focus, however, has been on the already investigated Bautista contracts.

Former Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive, who awarded the Fort National contract to one of Bautista’s firms, has said it was done so legally under an emergency law. He calls the Senate inquiry a “political witch hunt,” and has accused senators of trying to make him a scapegoat because no one can say what happened to the $174 million, including $22 million he disbursed under Martelly for the homes.

“Do you see 20,000 [new] homes in Fort National?” Bellerive said on Vision 2000 radio station. “That is what I contracted for.”

The challenges of building in an existing community are visible along Rue Estimé where new construction is interrupted by pockets of empty lots.

“There is nothing there because one guy has refused, for many reasons,” Nadon said as construction workers move up and down the main street. “Sometimes it’s because they are scared it’s not going to happen, or it’s pressure from other people who don’t want the project to succeed.”

Unfortunately, the project is nearing its end even as the needs remain “endless,” Bélizaire said, because the $20 million in funding from Canada, the U.N. and two other donors has run out. Despite Haitians reluctance to share a wall, he said, the government is finding success with multistory dwellings. Similar constructions were done in the low-income communities of Morne Hercule and Morne Lazarre. The U.N. first applied the co-property law in Morne Lazarre to build three-story condominiums.

“Fort National benefited from what we did in Morne Hercule and Morne Lazarre,” Bélizaire said, hoping donors keep the revitalization going. “There’s a big difference between showing somebody something on a nice layout plan, 3-D designs and pictures and when you actually take the people, put them on a bus and bring them to … talk to the beneficiaries.”

Fritzner Oriol’s two-story tin shacks sits in the middle of a palm tree-lined courtyard of yellow and lime colored apartments. He proudly boasts that he turned several of his distrusting neighbors from skeptics into believers that the program was good for the long-neglected community.

Ultimately, there was one person Oriol, 49, could not convince.

“One of my sisters doesn’t agree because she wouldn’t get any benefits out of it,” Oriol said, explaining why his shack is the only un-built structure in the courtyard.

“There are a lot of beautiful houses inside these corridors,” he said. “When people see them they say, ‘These houses should be on the main street.’ They aren’t the kind of homes you hide in a corridor. I am a product of the neighborhood, I know what I am talking about because I know what kind of neighborhood we had.”

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HAITI, ON DEVELOPMENT: OAS Needs New Leadership

OAShuffingtonpost.com, by Mark Weisbrot Co-Director, Center For Economic And Policy Research, Washington, D.C., July 11, 2016

Luis Almagro, the current Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS) has abused his position and authority more flagrantly and outrageously than any predecessor in recent years. In his lack of judgment and disregard for political and diplomatic norms he resembles Donald Trump. And like Trump, he is increasingly seen as an embarrassment within the organization for which he is the standard bearer.

The OAS has been manipulated by Washington many times over the years in the service of regime change. Twenty-first century examples include Haiti (2000-2004, and 2011), Honduras (2009), and Paraguay (2012). It was in response to Washington’s manipulation of the OAS, in the process of consolidating the 2009 military coup in Honduras, that the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) was formed. It includes all countries in the hemisphere except the United States and Canada.

But in these other cases, Washington had to pretend it was doing something other than carrying out a political campaign against a sovereign government. Almagro is much more brazen. Like the communists of Karl Marx’s time, he “disdains to conceal his views.” He is a radical and seeks to win his goals by any means necessary.

His main goal at present is to get rid of the current government of Venezuela. In the run-up to the congressional elections there last December, he worked tirelessly to try and convince the media and the world that the government was going to rig the elections. When the vote count was universally acknowledged as clean, he made no apologies but simply switched tactics.

Almagro’s latest offensive involves invoking the OAS Democratic Charter, which allows the organization to intervene when there is an “unconstitutional alteration of the constitutional regime that seriously impairs the democratic order in a member state.” Never mind that Venezuela still has an elected president, unlike Brazil, where a cabal of corrupt politicians has manipulated the legislative and judicial branches of government to suspend the head of state in a desperate effort to protect themselves from investigations for corruption. Almagro’s offensive is about politics, not democracy. It’s about what Washington and its right-wing allies want for the region.

Exhibiting a profound lack of respect for the political norms of Latin America, Almagro posted an article by Washington Post editorialist Jackson Diehl on the OAS website. The articlepraised Almagro for “revitalizing the OAS” with his crusade against a member state. It is no more appropriate for the head of the OAS to campaign against a member country than it would be for the head of the European Commission to do so in Europe.

In Latin America there is a deep historical tradition that values national sovereignty and self-determination, however incomprehensible and arrogantly dismissed those concepts may be in Washington. Diehl is a hard core neoconservative, an American supremacist who uses the editorial pages of the Washington Post to trash almost all of the left governments of the region, and to support military intervention anywhere that it might vaguely serve “American interests.” He was one of the most prominent and vocal supporters of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, with the Post running 27 editorial board pieces supporting the war in the six months prior to the invasion.

Basking in the praise of someone like Jackson Diehl, for any literate Latin American, is the equivalent of Trump’s infamoustweet quoting Mussolini.

There are immediate and risky consequences of Almagro’s malfeasance and abuse of power. Venezuela is confronting an economic and political crisis and the country is politically divided. The political opposition in Venezuela is also divided; as throughout its 21st century history, some want to advocate peaceful and electoral change, while others want to overthrow the government. A normal leader of the OAS would do what the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) is doing — try to promote dialogue between the two opposing forces. Since the main opposition group (MUD) and other opposition leaders refuse to meet with the government, UNASUR has enlisted José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero (former prime minister of Spain), Martín Torrijos (former president of Panama), and Leonel Fernández (former president of the Dominican Republic) to meet with both sides in order to facilitate dialogue.

But Almagro is not interested in promoting dialogue; he is more interested in using the OAS, and its reach in the media, to delegitimize the Venezuelan government, a goal that Washington has pursued for most of the past 15 years.

Impatience with Almagro within the OAS is mounting. Many governments have publicly criticized him, and several have called for his resignation. He had previously been denounced by former president Pepe Mujica of Uruguay, whom he had served as foreign minister.

Most importantly, in June, 19 countries (a majority of the OAS membership) ordered that the Permanent Council of the OAS discuss his behavior. This is long overdue, and hopefully will lead to a change of leadership.

Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C., and the president of Just Foreign Policy. He is also the author of the new book “Failed: What the ‘Experts’ Got Wrong About the Global Economy” (2015, Oxford University Press).

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HAITI: Haiti 101 Years After US Invasion, Still Resisting Domination

Demonstrators march during a protest in Port-au-Prince, January 2016. | Photo: AFP

Demonstrators march during a protest in Port-au-Prince, January 2016. | Photo: AFP

telesurtv.net, July 27, 2016, By: Justin Podur

The U.S. presidential candidates can be looked at from the perspective of Haiti. One candidate has an extensive record there. The other has some historical parallels.

The U.S. invaded and occupied Haiti 101 years ago today, and remained there for 19 years. Accomplishments of the occupation include raiding the Haitian National Bank, re-instituting slave labor, establishing the hated National Guard, and getting a 25-year contract for the U.S. corporation, United Fruit.

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There was a pretext for the invasion—the assassination of Haiti’s president in 1915. But to understand the event, which has lessons to draw from a century later, it is necessary to look more closely at the invader than the invaded.

In 2016, the United States is living through a presidential campaign with a candidate willing to exploit racism and pander to anti-immigrant sentiment. Police are killing Black people in cities across the U.S.

Having drawn down troop levels in its two big wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. still runs airsrikes and drone strikes in the region and covert actions all over the world. The U.S. is still the determining voice in Haiti’s politics and economy. In other words, 101 years after its invasion of Haiti, the U.S. retains two features: violent racial inequality and empire.

The U.S. presidential candidates can be looked at from the perspective of Haiti. One candidate has an extensive record there. The other has some historical parallels.

The Clintons have treated Haiti as a family business. In 2010, after an earthquake devastated the country, the Clinton Foundation was among the horde of non-governmental organizations that stepped up their role in the, still unfinished, rebuilding phase. Haiti’s social sector had already been taken over by NGOs and its streets—since the 2004 U.S.-led coup and occupation—were patrolled by United Nations troops.

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The Clinton Foundation received pledges of hundreds of millions of dollars in development aid to rebuild Haiti. The crown jewel of the Foundation’s work: the disappointing Caracol Industrial Park, opened in 2012, which promised and failed to expand Haiti’s low-wage garment-processing industry, long a source of foreign profits and little internal development.

Hillary Clinton made her own interventions into Haitian politics as secretary of state. At a key moment in Haiti post-earthquake politics, Clinton’s state department threw its weight behind presidential candidate Michel Martelly.

His electoral legitimacy was dubious and his presidency led the country to a constitutional crisis when people mobilized against another stolen election in 2015. That crisis is still ongoing, and will no doubt provide pretexts for the next U.S. intervention.

To try to imagine the impact of Trump on Haiti, one need only look back a century. As Trump continues his seemingly unstoppable march to the White House, he is compared to Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi and other populist buffoon-politicians. Woodrow Wilson, the invader of Haiti in 1915, may be a better example of the damage a president can.

When Woodrow Wilson became president, he set about doing what today would be called “Making America Great Again.” Decades had passed since the U.S. Civil War. The post-war Reconstruction involved efforts to desegregate cities and government workplaces and make a place for newly-freed Black people.

Wilson reversed these efforts, strengthening racial apartheid in the U.S. His administration made sure there were separate bathrooms in federal government offices.

Although Trump is unlikely to re-introduce segregation, something else happened under Woodrow Wilson’s rule that is relevant in this context: white vigilante violence and lynchings spiked.

Wilson created a permissive environment for such atrocities. First elected in 1912, Wilson only got around to making a statement against organized white violence—called “mob violence” or “race riots”—in mid-1917.

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When more riots broke out in 1919, this time designed to suppress the democratic impulses of Black soldiers returning from WWI, the NAACP implored Wilson to make a a statement. But it was Wilson, himself, who had restricted Black soldiers to non-combat roles during the war.

In foreign policy, Donald Trump’s pronouncements have been predictably incoherent and uninformed. But Woodrow Wilson’s presidency suggests that domestic policies of racism will not be confined to the domestic arena.

Wilson sent U.S. troops all over Latin America—Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Panama, Nicaragua and of course, Haiti—which may have gotten the worst of it all. Racist wrath has been a constant in Haiti’s history since it won its independence in a slave revolt, and Wilson unleashed that wrath on the island during the 1915-1934 occupation. Chomsky’s “Year 501” gives a flavor for what U.S. occupiers were thinking and doing:

“Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan, found the Haitian elite rather amusing: ‘Dear me, think of it, Niggers speaking French,'” he remarked. The effective ruler of Haiti, Marine Colonel L.W.T. Waller, who arrived fresh from appalling atrocities in the conquest of the Philippines, was not amused: “they are real nigger and no mistake … real nigs beneath the surface,” he said, rejecting any negotiations or other “bowing and scraping to these coons,” particularly the educated Haitians for whom this bloodthirsty lout had a special hatred.

Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin Delano Roosevelt, while never approaching the racist fanaticism and thuggery of his distant relative Theodore Roosevelt, shared the feelings of his colleagues. On a visit to occupied Haiti in 1917, he recorded in his diary a comment by his traveling companion, who later became the Occupation’s leading civilian official.

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Fascinated by the Haitian Minister of Agriculture, he “couldn’t help saying to myself,” he told FDR, “that man would have brought $1,500 at auction in New Orleans in 1860 for stud purposes.”

“‘Roosevelt appears to have relished the story,” (Hans) Schmidt notes, “and retold it to American Minister Norman Armour when he visited Haiti as President in 1934.”

Chomsky conclude this section of horrifically racist quotes from the U.S. elite about Haiti with a warning, “The element of racism in policy formation should not be discounted, to the present day.”

Nor should Haitian resistance.

The U.S. occupation of 1915-1934 faced a rebellion led by Charlemagne Peralte. Marines assassinated him and circulated a photograph of him crucified. Rather than intimidating Haitians, the photo enraged them and cemented Charlemagne Peralte’s place as a national hero.

If Haitians had a say in the U.S. presidential election, a case could be made for the devil-you-know of Clinton rather than the risk of a new Woodrow Wilson in Trump. But subjects of the empire can’t vote, only citizens. The U.S. tried to set the tone of master 101 years ago.

But people still resist.

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HAITI: Murder of three deaf women in Haiti must be a starting point for change

The funeral of Jesula Gelin, Vanessa Previl and Monique Vincent. Photograph: Wesley Gedeon

theguardian.com, by Anna Leach, July 18, 2016, original

On Saturday 11 June government ministers and campaigners attended the funeral of three female street vendors, laid to rest in sturdy white coffins laden with flowers, with more than 2,000 people in attendance. Their brutal murders had shocked a country.

Jesula Gelin, a mother of six, Vanessa Previl and Monique Vincent were all deaf and worked in Haiti’s capital. That is itself was notable – they were economically independent and lived away from their families in a deaf community in Leveque, a village about an hour from the city.

On 18 March they had spent the morning in Port-au-Prince buying business supplies and visiting their families. They set off home in the early afternoon, leaving plenty of time to get back before dark on a normal day. However, a bridge had collapsed on Route Nine, one of the main thoroughfares, bringing traffic to a standstill. “It was on the radio, TV, so everybody knew to avoid those areas,” says Nicole Phillips, a lawyer who is representing the women’s families. “But if you’re deaf, you’re not going to benefit from any of that. They had no idea that the bridge had collapsed.”

The women had been travelling on a tap tap – the privately run Jeeps that are the equivalent of buses in Haiti. But at some point, in the heavily congested traffic, they got off the tap tap to continue their journey on foot. “They got exhausted,” says Phillips. “And then late at night, we don’t know what time, they stopped off in one of the victim’s relative’s house.

A protest prompted by the murder of the three deaf women. Photograph: Nicole Philips/Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

The house was owned by a distant relative. “She had been there before, by car it’s just 20 minutes from where she lives,” says Phillips. “She and the two other ladies went there to spend the night.”

Reports of what happened next are from two women who have been arrested in connection with the triple murder. They lived at the house and say that when the three deaf women arrived they were frightened and thought that they were lougawou. In Haitian mythology, lougawou or lougarou are evil spirits who come out at night and cause mischief such as killing your goats or eating your dog. They are something to be feared. Disabled people are sometimes labelled bad spirits. “They think that they are a different creature of god,” says Phillips. “That helps them justify the stigma of disabled people. You can tell yourself this [that they are different] and feel more justified morally.”

The sequence of events is not entirely clear, but at some point between 8pm and midnight the women were tortured and brutally murdered. Phillips has seen photographs of the bodies with burn marks and machete cuts. The two women who were in the house and a male accomplice have been arrested in connection with the murder. But the police have not captured another main suspect, a distant relative of one of the victims.

“Violence against women with disabilities is believed to be two or three times higher than against non-disabled women,” says Lisa Adams, programme director of the US-based Disability Rights Fund, which works in Haiti. “Disability, gender and sexuality compound to present a lot of cultural myths and stereotypes about women with disabilities – ranging from infantilising them to making them hyper sexual. I think that has a lot to do with the violence experienced by women with disabilities in Haiti – these three women in particular.”

The murders have brought a furious response from disability rights, women’s rights and human rights campaigners. “This has brought Haiti’s disability rights activists together,” says Phillips. “It has galvanised the community.” On 1 April hundreds of people marched in Port-au-Prince to demand justice for the three murdered women, and several other demonstrations around the country followed, including a march on 9 June in Cabaret near where they were killed.

A march on 9 June from the civil court in Cabaret to the place where the bodies of the women were found. Photograph: Wesley Gedeon/Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Disabled people in Haiti are discriminated against in multiple ways. For example, only 5% of children with disabilities are in school, according to a report by the Haitian state submitted in the report to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. And people with disabilities complain that the police don’t take them seriously when they report crimes and that they are taunted in public as “cocobe” (useless).

“Haiti is a model for exclusion,” says Michel Pean, who was secretary of state for the inclusion of persons with disabilities in Haiti from 2007-11 and is blind himself. “But it’s also a good example of the fight for inclusion of people with disabilities within society.” Pean says that 1 million out of Haiti’s 10 million people have a disability. Since the earthquake in 2010, there are more people with disabilities and they have become more visible.

But strong civil society groups have driven successes for disability rights campaigners over the past 15 years, says Pean. “The idea to have a secretary of state dedicated to people with disabilities came from civil society. The same with the idea to have proper legislation came from civil society. Disability rights civil society is very active.”

And those activists are determined to seize this moment of tragedy and force the government to act. “We want to transform this very negative event into something positive,” says Pean. “Something which would ensure that people with disabilities are respected, and their rights are respected. Their right to education, their right to access to health, in other words, their right to live, with dignity.”

Related: One woman and 17 men: When will we have equal representation at the UN?

In response to the murders, campaigners are calling for the government to include the rights of women with disabilities into a national gender equality plan. The government has not replied to that petition yet, but it did fund the women’s funeral and ministers insist they are doing all they can to ensure that justice is done.

“For me, as a feminist activist,” says Nadine Anilus, a member of the Ministry of Women’s cabinet, “we condemn this criminal act and call the state authorities to take the necessary steps to make justice and reparation to the family of three women. Every Haitian citizen must play their part to improve the situation of people with disabilities. We are calling for a big national campaign.”

She adds that Haiti needs to ensure national accidents are communicated in a way that is accessible for people with disabilities and that more financial resources are needed for organisations working on these issues.

Pean is clear that it will take a long time before people with disabilities are treated equally in the country. “For things to actually change, mentalities as well, takes a long process,” he says. “One of the things that has to change is the economic situation in Haiti. Also, it’s essential that we have political stability. These are necessary conditions to enable us to reach true inclusion.”

Translation by Carole Villiers.

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HAITI: U.S. Halts Funding For Haiti’s Election

To download a PDF version of this article, click here.

Following political turmoil due to fraudulent elections in Haiti, the U.S. government has decided to cease funding for the country’s upcoming 2016 presidential election. A blessing in disguise, this cessation of external funds could possibly fortify Haiti’s autonomy. In the past, Haiti’s autonomy has been weakened by foreign involvement in its internal matters. For example, in Haiti’s 2015 presidential elections, the United States, along with other international bodies, provided a total of $38 million USD to Haiti’s Conseil Electoral Provisoire(Provisional Electoral Council, CEP).[1] After this presidential election was declared void and inconclusive, another election was rescheduled and ultimately also declared null. Haiti’s next presidential election will be held October 9 2016—that is, if provided the necessary funding and stable political environment. The presidential election’s proposed budget stands at $55 million USD. With the United States stepping out of the image, Haiti has the potential to conduct an autonomous election, setting the stage for greater and beneficial sovereignty in the island-nation.

U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby affirmed that the United States would not finance Haiti’s presidential election in October.[2] According to Kirby, the U.S. government had notified Haitian officials on July 1 that the United States would discontinue “its assistance toward the completion of the presidential electoral process.”[3] The U.S. government’s spokesman also stated that the United States will not fund the upcoming election because it was not planned within its appropriated budget. The new strategy deviates from the United States’ historical approach on its heavy involvement in Haiti.

In recent history, U.S. involvement in Haitian internal affairs has been significant—particularly through monetary and political influence. For example, in the early 20th century U.S. Marines occupied the Caribbean nation for 19 years. Early in 2004, the U.S. government supported a coup to overthrow Haiti’s first democratically elected president.[4] In 2009, the U.S. government further weakened Haiti’s democratic system by funding and supporting illegitimate parliamentary elections in Haiti.[5] The United States’ extensive history of political and monetary involvement in Haiti has undoubtedly shaped the nation’s governmental structure. Overall, U.S. influence in Haiti has not aided the nation to develop into a stable and sustainable democracy.

Historically, Haiti’s reliance on assistance from developed nations, such as the United States, has done the opposite of propelling the nation forward. Instead, this dependency has prolonged the cycle of corruption—continuing a trend, as described by The Washington Post, of monopolizing economic and political power in Haiti by foreign entities.[6] Now, with the U.S. government affirming its termination of finances for the upcoming election, the Haitian government, for the first time in many years, must rely on fewer outside sources and internal revenue for electoral funding. Spokesman Kirby has stated, “We believe it’s the sound thing to do, the right thing to do for the people of Haiti in the long-term.”[7] This statement, in defense of the cessation of election funds, implies that the U.S. government’s withdrawal from providing funds is two-fold. In addition to not having a budget for the October election, the U.S. government’s discontinued involvement from the election will create space for Haiti to independently rebuild its democratic institutions. Provisional Electoral Council Chief Leopold Berlanger echoed this idea when he said, “a real sovereign country […] should get the means to fund [its] own elections.”[8]

While the possibilities for Haiti’s growth towards autonomy are made possible through the lack of U.S. government funding and involvement, the situation also poses a plausible negative outcome. If the United States will not fund the election, it may not recognize its legitimacy. University of Virginia professor Robert Fatton finds this a troubling prospect: “The fact that the U.S. is pulling $2 million [USD] from the ‘election basket’ may be a sign that it is prepared to delegitimize the forthcoming elections if the results do not coincide with its interests.”[9] This would be the worst-case scenario for Haiti—a country desperate for a valid and transparent election along with an officially recognized leadership.

Nonetheless, with the appropriate funding, the presidential election will take place this October. It is now time for the Haitian government and people to prove their ability to unite and exercise Haiti’s long-awaited autonomy. For long, Haiti, the second nation to gain independence in the Western Hemisphere, has relied on outside aid and intervention. This year Haiti will have the opportunity to reaffirm its autonomy.

 

Featured Photo: Coat of Arms of Haiti. Taken from Wikimedia.

[1] Nienaber, Georgianne. “How Is the US Involved in Haiti’s Current Elections?” Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti. September 27, 2015. Accessed July 13, 2016. http://www.ijdh.org/2015/09/topics/politics-democracy/obama-sends-merten-back-to-haiti-as-new-election-crisis-looms/.

[2] Charles, Jacqueline. “U. S. to Haiti: Pay for Your Own Elections.” Miamiherald. July 07, 2016. Accessed July 13, 2016. http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/haiti/article88338777.html

[3] Ibid.

[4] “Haiti: US Interference Wins Elections.” TheHill. October 13, 2015. Accessed July 13, 2016. http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/foreign-policy/256679-haiti-us-interference-wins-elections.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Dupuy, Alex. “Foreign Aid Keeps the Country from Shaping Its Own Future.” Washington Post. January 09, 2011. Accessed July 13, 2016. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/07/AR2011010706511.html.

[7] McFadden, David. “US: No More Financial Help to Conclude Haiti Elections.” ABC News. July 07, 2016. Accessed July 13, 2016. http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/us-financial-conclude-haiti-elections-40417737.

[8] Ibid.

[9] “US Withdraws Funding for Haiti Elections.” The Center for Economic and Policy Research. July 08, 2016. Accessed July 13, 2016. http://cepr.net/blogs/haiti-relief-and-reconstruction-watch/us-withdraws-funding-for-haiti-elections.

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HAITI, DEVELOPMENT: Red Cross Built Exactly 6 Homes For Haiti With Nearly Half A Billion Dollars In Donations

Even as the group has publicly celebrated its work, insider accounts detail a string of failures

THE NEIGHBORHOOD OF CAMPECHE sprawls up a steep hillside in Haiti’s capital city, Port-au-Prince. Goats rustle in trash that goes forever uncollected. Children kick a deflated volleyball in a dusty lot below a wall with a hand-painted logo of the American Red Cross.

In late 2011, the Red Cross launched a multimillion-dollar project to transform the desperately poor area, which was hit hard by the earthquake that struck Haiti the year before. The main focus of the project — called LAMIKA, an acronym in Creole for “A Better Life in My Neighborhood” — was building hundreds of permanent homes.

Today, not one home has been built in Campeche. Many residents live in shacks made of rusty sheet metal, without access to drinkable water, electricity or basic sanitation. When it rains, their homes flood and residents bail out mud and water.

The Red Cross received an outpouring of donations after the quake, nearly half a billion dollars.

The group has publicly celebrated its work. But in fact, the Red Cross has repeatedly failed on the ground in Haiti. Confidential memos, emails from worried top officers, and accounts of a dozen frustrated and disappointed insiders show the charity has broken promises, squandered donations, and made dubious claims of success.

The Red Cross says it has provided homes to more than 130,000 people. But the actual number of permanent homes the group has built in all of Haiti: six.

After the earthquake, Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern unveiled ambitious plans to “develop brand-new communities.” None has ever been built.

Aid organizations from around the world have struggled after the earthquake in Haiti, the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country. But ProPublica and NPR’s investigation shows that many of the Red Cross’s failings in Haiti are of its own making. They are also part of a larger pattern in which the organization has botched delivery of aid after disasters such asSuperstorm Sandy. Despite its difficulties, the Red Cross remains the charity of choice for ordinary Americans and corporations alike after natural disasters.

One issue that has hindered the Red Cross’ work in Haiti is an overreliance on foreigners who could not speak French or Creole, current and former employees say.

In a blistering 2011 memo, the then-director of the Haiti program, Judith St. Fort, wrote that the group was failing in Haiti and that senior managers had made “very disturbing” remarks disparaging Haitian employees. St. Fort, who is Haitian American, wrote that the comments included, “he is the only hard working one among them” and “the ones that we have hired are not strong so we probably should not pay close attention to Haitian CVs.”

The Red Cross won’t disclose details of how it has spent the hundreds of millions of dollars donated for Haiti. But our reporting shows that less money reached those in need than the Red Cross has said.

Lacking the expertise to mount its own projects, the Red Cross ended up giving much of the money to other groups to do the work. Those groups took out a piece of every dollar to cover overhead and management. Even on the projects done by others, the Red Cross had its own significant expenses – in one case, adding up to a third of the project’s budget.

Where did the half billion raised for Haiti go? The Red Cross won’t say.

In statements, the Red Cross cited the challenges all groups have faced in post-quake Haiti, including the country’s dysfunctional land title system.

“Like many humanitarian organizations responding in Haiti, the American Red Cross met complications in relation to government coordination delays, disputes over land ownership, delays at Haitian customs, challenges finding qualified staff who were in short supply and high demand, and the cholera outbreak, among other challenges,” the charity said.

The group said it responded quickly to internal concerns, including hiring an expert to train staff on cultural competency after St. Fort’s memo. While the group won’t provide a breakdown of its projects, the Red Cross said it has done more than 100. The projects include repairing 4,000 homes, giving several thousand families temporary shelters, donating $44 million for food after the earthquake, and helping fund the construction of a hospital.

“Millions of Haitians are safer, healthier, more resilient, and better prepared for future disasters thanks to generous donations to the American Red Cross,” McGovern wrote in a recent report marking the fifth anniversary of the earthquake.

In other promotional materials, the Red Cross said it has helped “more than 4.5 million” individual Haitians “get back on their feet.”

It has not provided details to back up the claim. And Jean-Max Bellerive, Haiti’s prime minister at the time of the earthquake, doubts the figure, pointing out the country’s entire population is only about 10 million.

“No, no,” Bellerive said of the Red Cross’ claim, “it’s not possible.”


When the earthquake struck Haiti in January 2010, the Red Cross was facing a crisis of its own. McGovern had become chief executive just 18 months earlier, inheriting a deficit and an organization that had faced scandals after 9/11 and Katrina.

Gail McGovern (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Inside the Red Cross, the Haiti disaster was seen as “a spectacular fundraising opportunity,” recalled one former official who helped organize the effort. Michelle Obama, the NFL and a long list of celebrities appealed for donations to the group.

The Red Cross kept soliciting money well after it had enough for the emergency relief that is the group’s stock in trade. Doctors Without Borders, in contrast, stopped fundraising off the earthquake after it decided it had enough money. The donations to the Red Cross helped the group erase its more-than $100 million deficit.

The Red Cross ultimately raised far more than any other charity.

A year after the quake, McGovern announced that the Red Cross would use the donations to make a lasting impact in Haiti.

We asked the Red Cross to show us around its projects in Haiti so we could see the results of its work. It declined. So earlier this year we went to Campeche to see one of the group’s signature projects for ourselves.

Street vendors in the dusty neighborhood immediately pointed us to Jean Jean Flaubert, the head of a community group that the Red Cross set up as a local sounding board.

Sitting with us in their sparse one-room office, Flaubert and his colleagues grew angry talking about the Red Cross. They pointed to the lack of progress in the neighborhood and the healthy salaries paid to expatriate aid workers.

“What the Red Cross told us is that they are coming here to change Campeche. Totally change it,” said Flaubert. “Now I do not understand the change that they are talking about. I think the Red Cross is working for themselves.”

The Red Cross’ initial plan said the focus would be building homes — an internal proposalput the number at 700. Each would have finished floors, toilets, showers, even rainwater collection systems. The houses were supposed to be finished in January 2013.

The Red Cross promised to build hundreds of new homes in Campeche but none have been built. Many residents still live in crude shacks. (Marie Arago, special to ProPublica)

None of that ever happened. Carline Noailles, who was the project’s manager in Washington, said it was endlessly delayed because the Red Cross “didn’t have the know-how.”

Another former official who worked on the Campeche project said, “Everything takes four times as long because it would be micromanaged from DC, and they had no development experience.”

Shown an English-language press release from the Red Cross website, Flaubert was stunned to learn of the project’s $24 million budget — and that it is due to end next year.

“Not only is [the Red Cross] not doing it,” Flaubert said, “now I’m learning that the Red Cross is leaving next year. I don’t understand that.” (The Red Cross says it did tell community leaders about the end date. It also accused us of “creating ill will in the community which may give rise to a security incident.”)

The project has since been reshaped and downscaled. A road is being built. Some existing homes have received earthquake reinforcement and a few schools are being repaired. Some solar street lights have been installed, though many broke and residents say others are unreliable.

The group’s most recent press release on the project cites achievements such as training school children in disaster response.

The Red Cross said it has to scale back its housing plans because it couldn’t acquire the rights to land. No homes will be built.

Other Red Cross infrastructure projects also fizzled.

A Red Cross effort to save Haitians from cholera was crippled by internal issues. “None of these people had to die,” said a Haitian official.

In January 2011, McGovern announced a $30 million partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID. The agency would build roads and other infrastructure in at least two locations where the Red Cross would build new homes.

But it took more than two and a half years, until August 2013, for the Red Cross just to sign an agreement with USAID on the program, and even that was for only one site. The program was ultimately canceled because of a land dispute.

A Government Accountability Office report attributed the severe delays to problems “in securing land title and because of turnover in Red Cross leadership” in its Haiti program.

Other groups also ran into trouble with land titles and other issues. But they also ultimately built 9,000 homes compared to the Red Cross’ six.

Asked about the Red Cross’ housing projects in Haiti, David Meltzer, the group’s general counsel and chief international officer, said changing conditions forced changes in plans. “If we had said, ‘All we’re going to do is build new homes,’ we’d still be looking for land,” he said.

The USAID project’s collapse left the Red Cross grasping for ways to spend money earmarked for it.

“Any ideas on how to spend the rest of this?? (Besides the wonderful helicopter idea?),” McGovern wrote to Meltzer in a November 2013 email obtained by ProPublica and NPR. “Can we fund Conrad’s hospital? Or more to PiH [Partners in Health]? Any more shelter projects?”

Jean Jean Flaubert says the Red Cross promised to transform his neighborhood. “Now I do not understand the change that they are talking about,” he said. (Marie Arago, special to ProPublica)

It’s not clear what helicopter idea McGovern was referring to or if it was ever carried out. The Red Cross would say only that her comments were “grounded in the American Red Cross’ strategy and priorities, which focus on health and housing.”

Another signature project, known in Creole as “A More Resilient Great North,” is supposed to rehabilitate roads in poor, rural communities and to help them get clean water and sanitation.

But two years after it started, the $13 million effort has been faltering badly. An internal evaluation from March found residents were upset because nothing had been done to improve water access or infrastructure or to make “contributions of any sort to the well being of households,” the report said.

So much bad feeling built up in one area that the population “rejects the project.”

The Red Cross says 91% of donations went to help Haitians. That’s not true.

The group’s failures went beyond just infrastructure.

When a cholera epidemic raged through Haiti nine months after the quake, the biggest part of the Red Cross’ response — a plan to distribute soap and oral rehydration salts — was crippled by “internal issues that go unaddressed,” wrote the director of the Haiti program in her May 2011 memo.

Throughout that year, cholera was a steady killer. By September 2011, when the death toll had surpassed 6,000, the project was still listed as “very behind schedule” according to another internal document.

The Red Cross said in a statement that its cholera response, including a vaccination campaign, has continued for years and helped millions of Haitians.

But while other groups also struggled early responding to cholera, some performed well.

“None of these people had to die. That’s what upsets me,” said Paul Christian Namphy, a Haitian water and sanitation official who helped lead the effort to fight cholera. He says early failures by the Red Cross and other NGOs had a devastating impact. “These numbers should have been zero.”


So why did the Red Cross’ efforts fall so short? It wasn’t just that Haiti is a hard place to work.

“They collected nearly half a billion dollars,” said a congressional staffer who helped oversee Haiti reconstruction. “But they had a problem. And the problem was that they had absolutely no expertise.”

Lee Malany was in charge of the Red Cross’ shelter program in Haiti starting in 2010. He remembers a meeting in Washington that fall where officials did not seem to have any idea how to spend millions of dollars set aside for housing. Malany says the officials wanted to know which projects would generate good publicity, not which projects would provide the most homes.

“When I walked out of that meeting I looked at the people that I was working with and said, ‘You know this is very disconcerting, this is depressing,’” he recalled.

The Red Cross said in a statement its Haiti program has never put publicity over delivering aid.

Malany resigned the next year from his job in Haiti. “I said there’s no reason for me to stay here. I got on the plane and left.”

Transitional shelters like these on the outskirts of Port-Au-Prince, paid for by the Red Cross, typically last three to five years. (Marie Arago, special to ProPublica)

Sometimes it wasn’t a matter of expertise, but whether anybody was filling key jobs. An April 2012 organizational chart obtained by ProPublica and NPR lists 9 of 30 leadership positions in Haiti as vacant, including slots for experts on health and shelter.

The Red Cross said vacancies and turnover were inevitable because of “the security situation, separation from family for international staff, and the demanding nature of the work.”

The constant upheaval took a toll. Internal documents refer to repeated attempts over years to “finalize” and “complete” a strategic plan for the Haiti program, efforts that were delayed by changes in senior management. As late as March 2014, more than four years into a six-year program, an internal update cites a “revised strategy” still awaiting “final sign-off.”

The Red Cross said settling on a plan early would have been a mistake. “It would be hard to create the perfect plan from the beginning in a complicated place like Haiti,” it said. “But we also need to begin, so we create plans that are continually revised.”

The Red Cross says it provided homes to more than 130,000 Haitians. But they didn’t.

“Going to meetings with the community when you don’t speak the language is not productive,” she said. Sometimes, she recalled, expat staffers would skip such meetings altogether.

The Red Cross said it has “made it a priority to hire Haitians” despite lots of competition for local professionals, and that over 90 percent of its staff is Haitian. The charity said it used a local human resources firm to help.

Yet very few Haitians have made it into the group’s top echelons in Haiti, according to five current and former Red Cross staffers as well as staff lists obtained by ProPublica and NPR.

That not only affected the group’s ability to work in Haiti, it was also expensive.

According to an internal Red Cross budgeting document for the project in Campeche, the project manager – a position reserved for an expatriate – was entitled to allowances for housing, food and other expenses, home leave trips, R&R four times a year, and relocation expenses. In all, it added up to $140,000.

Compensation for a senior Haitian engineer — the top local position — was less than one-third of that, $42,000 a year.

Shelim Dorval, a Haitian administrator who worked for the Red Cross coordinating travel and housing for expatriate staffers, recalled thinking it was a waste to spend so much to bring in people with little knowledge of Haiti when locals were available.

“For each one of those expats, they were having high salaries, staying in a fancy house, and getting vacation trips back to their countries,” Dorval said. “A lot of money was spent on those people who were not Haitian, who had nothing to do with Haiti. The money was just going back to the United States.”


Soon after the earthquake, McGovern, the Red Cross CEO, said the group would make sure donors knew exactly what happened to their money.

The Red Cross would “lead the effort in transparency,” she pledged. “We are happy to share the way we are spending our dollars.”

That hasn’t happened. The Red Cross’ public reports offer only broad categories about where $488 million in donations has gone. The biggest category is shelter, at about $170 million. The others include health, emergency relief and disaster preparedness.

After the earthquake, Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern unveiled plans to “develop brand-new communities.” None has ever been built. (Marie Arago, special to ProPublica)

It has declined repeated requests to disclose the specific projects, to explain how much money went to each or to say what the results of each project were.

There is reason to doubt the Red Cross’ claims that it helped 4.5 million Haitians. An internal evaluation found that in some areas, the Red Cross reported helping more people than even lived in the communities. In other cases, the figures were low, and in others double-counting went uncorrected.

In describing its work, the Red Cross also conflates different types of aid, making it more difficult to assess the charity’s efforts in Haiti.

For example, while the Red Cross says it provided more than 130,000 people with homes, that includes thousands of people who were not actually given homes, but rather were “trained in proper construction techniques.” (That was first reported by the Haiti blog of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.)

The figure includes people who got short-term rental assistance or were housed in several thousand “transitional shelters,” which are temporary structures that can get eaten up by termites or tip over in storms. It also includes modest improvements on 5,000 temporary shelters.

The Red Cross also won’t break down what portion of donations went to overhead.

McGovern told CBS News a few months after the quake, “Minus the 9 cents overhead, 91 cents on the dollar will be going to Haiti. And I give you my word and my commitment, I’m banking my integrity, my own personal sense of integrity on that statement.”

But the reality is that less money went to Haiti than 91 percent. That’s because in addition to the Red Cross’ 9 percent overhead, the other groups that got grants from the Red Cross also have their own overhead.

In one case, the Red Cross sent $6 million to the International Federation of the Red Cross for rental subsidies to help Haitians leave tent camps. The IFRC then took out 26 percent for overhead and what the IFRC described as program-related “administration, finance, human resources” and similar costs.

Beyond all that, the Red Cross also spends another piece of each dollar for what it describes as “program costs incurred by the American Red Cross in managing” the projects done by other groups.

The American Red Cross’ management and other costs consumed an additional 24 percent of the money on one project, according to the group’s statements and internal documents. The actual work, upgrading shelters, was done by the Swiss and Spanish Red Cross societies.

“It’s a cycle of overhead,” said Jonathan Katz, the Associated Press reporter in Haiti at the time of the earthquake who tracked post-disaster spending for his book, The Big Truck That Went By. “It was always going to be the American Red Cross taking a 9 percent cut, re-granting to another group, which would take out their cut.”

Given the results produced by the Red Cross’ projects in Haiti, Bellerive, the former prime minister, said he has a hard time fathoming what’s happened to donors’ money.

“Five hundred million dollars in Haiti is a lot of money,” he said. “I’m not a big mathematician, but I can make some additions. I know more or less the cost of things. Unless you don’t pay for the gasoline the same price I was paying, unless you pay people 20 times what I was paying them, unless the cost of the house you built was five times the cost I was paying, it doesn’t add up for me.”

A resident in a Port-Au-Prince transitional shelter paid for by the Red Cross. (Marie Arago, special to ProPublica)

This story was co-published with NPR. Mitzy-Lynn Hyacinthe contributed reporting. Design direction by David Sleight, production by Hannah Birch.

Read about how the Red Cross botched key elements of its mission after Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Isaac in PR Over People: The Red Cross’ Secret Disaster. And about how the Red Cross’ CEO has been serially misleading about where donors’ dollars are going.

If you have information about the Red Cross or about other international aid projects, please email justin@propublica.org.


author photoJustin Elliott is a ProPublica reporter covering politics and government accountability. Previously, he was a reporter at Salon.com and TPMmuckraker and news editor at Talking Points Memo.

Laura Sullivan is a NPR News investigative correspondent whose work has cast a light on some of the country’s most disadvantaged people.

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HAITI, DEVELOPMENT: U.N. Accused of Cover Up as Cholera Ravages Haiti-wnyc.org

Haitians wash clothes in a stream January 8, 2011 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
(Mario Tama / Getty)

Since cholera first broke out in Haiti five years ago, Doctors Without Borders estimates that it has killed as many as 30,000 people, and another 2 million have survived the disease.

Journalists and scientists have traced the disease back to a U.N. compound that was housing peacekeepers from Nepal. The cholera outbreak was sparked after the compound began disposing of raw sewage in a nearby water way.

The U.N. has never taken responsibility for the outbreak or the deaths, but Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has said the U.N. has “a moral responsibility” to help end the spread of the disease.

In a letter, the second highest ranking U.N. official promised the organization would fulfill “its human rights obligations” in Haiti, but U.N. efforts to fight the disease are less than 20 percent funded, meaning the disease is likely to continue to claim more lives.

Here, The Takeaway speaks with Jonathan Katz, author of “The Big Truck that Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster.” He was the first journalist to report the U.N.’s role in Haiti’s cholera outbreak.

“The U.N.’s position essentially hasn’t changed for five years now,” Katz says. “At the very beginning, they were extremely actively involved in a cover up — literally destroying evidence and putting out press releases disclaiming any possibility that they could be responsible, [all] based on evidence and assertions that just weren’t true.”

But Katz says that evidence has come to light that definitively links the U.N. to this deadly cholera outbreak.

Click Listen to get the full story. 4 minutes

wnyc.org   The TakeawayThe Takeaway
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HAITI: Clinton’s Long Shadow – jacobinmag.com

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton visiting the Sae-A garment factory at Caracol Industrial Park in Haiti, in 2012. USAID / Flickr

Is Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid suffocating democracy in Haiti? A growing number of informed observers, both in Haiti and in the United States, think so. They contend that the former secretary of state’s political ambitions are having a profound effect on the Haitian electoral process.

The island’s deeply flawed elections — held last August and October, backed by over $33 million in US funding — triggered massive political unrest this past January.

Coming on the heels of Michel Martelly’s disastrous presidency, the elections spotlight how badly Clinton’s attempts as secretary of state to direct Haitian politics have backfired. The unrest caused the final round of balloting to be suspended and sent the US State Department into damage-control mode.

The department’s overriding — though unofficial — concern over the past year has been to finish Haiti’s elections before the US general election campaign begins in earnest this summer. It desperately wants to keep the results of Clinton’s involvement in Haiti out of the media glare.

Brazen Robbery

Michel Martelly has been aptly described as a Haitian version of Donald Trump. Brash, uncouth, and unapologetically reactionary, Martelly used his celebrity as a popular konpa singer (known as “Sweet Mickey”) to power his rise to the presidency in 2011.

While in office Martelly earned a reputation for corruption and authoritarianism. He wooed foreign investors with the promise that post-earthquake Haiti would be “open for business,” and surrounded himself with the children of Duvalierists and shady underworld figures known to be involved in drug trafficking and kidnapping.

For four years, Martelly declined to organize elections, appointing mayors directly and allowing parliamentarians’ mandates to expire without elected representatives to take their place. He jailed and intimidated political opponents, repressed anti-government demonstrations, and, at the very end of his term, revived the disbanded and much-despised Haitian Army.

By January 2015, Haiti’s parliament was dysfunctional and Martelly was ruling by decree. Under pressure from growing street protests against the return of one-man rule, Martelly grudgingly agreed to organize elections.

Openly declaring his intention to establish a twenty-year political dynasty, he selected Jovenel Moïse, a politically unknown agricultural entrepreneur, as his successor. In August and October of last year, Haitians went to the polls to elect representatives at all levels of government.

Neither election would meet any reasonable democratic standard. Widespread violence, disorder, and stuffed ballot boxes characterized the August elections; in October, hundreds of thousands of fraudulent votes, cast using party accreditation cards sold on the black market, completely skewed the results.

These perversions of the democratic process were compounded by historically low turnout rates and corruption scandals within the electoral council itself, which further undermined the elections’ credibility. In both the legislative and presidential races, Martelly and his allies predictably came out on top.

“Even by Haitian electoral standards, this was brazen robbery,” saidHenry “Chip” Carey, a political scientist who has observed numerous Haitian elections since the 1986 fall of the Duvalier dictatorship.

Despite the election fiasco, the United States (and the other wealthy nations) were enthusiastic, declaring them “a step forward for Haitian democracy.”

The small European Union (EU) and Organization of American States (OAS) observer missions rushed to approve the vote, claiming that the “irregularities” and “isolated” acts of violence had not affected the results.

Elena Valenciano, head of the EU’s electoral observation mission, did not even wait for the polls to close before declaring that the August election day had unfolded in conditions of “near total normalcy.”

Shortly before the October vote, Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to Haiti to reaffirm US support for Martelly’s stewardship of the process. As former Haiti expert for the US State Department Robert Maguirelamented, the international powers’ “objective seem[ed] simply to be able to check an ‘elections done’ box.”

But most Haitian observers denounced the elections, and Haitian citizens proved unwilling to accept the low democratic standards set by donor countries. Confronted with the outright theft of their elections, hundreds of thousands of Haitians rose up against what they called an “electoral coup d’état.”

Street protests surged after the October balloting, culminating in January’s angry and disruptive demonstrations. Protesters demanded the establishment of an interim government and an independent election commission to verify the vote.

Saving Face

At the peak of this crisis, former Brazilian diplomat Ricardo Seitenfus made an intriguing allegation: he charged that Haiti’s electoral calendar had been subordinated to the US election cycle. Meeting popular demands for a verification process would require time, much more time than Martelly had left in his mandate.

But American diplomats Kenneth Merten (who served as ambassador to Haiti under Clinton from 2009 to 2011) and Peter Mulrean were demanding that the elections be completed without delay and pressuring opposition candidates to drop their boycott of the final round scheduled for January 24.

Merten and Mulrean insisted that the United States simply wanted constitutional deadlines respected — a laughable claim given how little respect US policy has historically accorded to Haiti’s constitution.

Seitenfus has another explanation for their hostility to an independent investigation of the elections or the establishment of any kind of transitional government: “They want to quickly elect a president in Haiti in order to not make any waves, so that Hillary Clinton’s campaign goes smoothly.”

The reason for the haste, Seitenfus argues, is that Clinton is to blame for both Michel Martelly’s disastrous presidency and the present crisis of Haitian democracy. During the 2010–11 elections, Clinton was determined to see Martelly elected.

His pro-business outlook made him the ideal candidate to lead Haiti’s post-earthquake reconstruction. But, according to official (though strongly contested) results, he did not win enough votes in the first round to advance, so Clinton threw the full weight of the State Department behind her favored candidate.

Clinton’s team exploited every pressure point: cutting off aid, denying visas to top government officials, even plotting a coup against then-president René Préval. In January 2011, Clinton, with the help of behind the scenes pressure from Haiti’s business elites, persuaded Préval to bump Martelly up to second place and into the next round, where he would win the presidential runoff.

“Since Ms. Clinton was deeply involved in the decisions of 2010–11, if things have started badly, they must finish well,” notes Seitenfus, who, as the Organization of American States (OAS) special representative in Haiti, saw these strong-arm tactics firsthand. Seitenfus’s critique of US electoral influence made him a minor celebrity among Haitians, but cost him his OAS post.

The renegade diplomat is not the only one pointing the finger at Clinton. Many other analysts agree that the United States has unduly influenced the international response to the current elections, out of concern for her campaign.

“What international community? In Haiti, it doesn’t exist,” a disgusted diplomat remarked to Swiss journalist Arnaud Robert. “It is the United States that decides, in particular the Clinton couple who simply want to save face before the elections.”

Members of Haiti’s powerful elite agree: “I do not see it going longer than the US election, for obvious reasons,” a member of the Private Sector Economic Forum, a powerful group of Haitian businessmen, said. “They can’t afford this not being solved by the full US election. If Clinton is still in the process . . . they don’t want Haiti in the news, so they want it solved by summer.”

Robert Maguire concurred. “Keeping Haiti off the front page” is a major concern for US policymakers, “even more so with US presidential elections approaching.”

The Sweatshop Model

Sweet Mickey’s presidency is only part of Clinton’s dismal history in Haiti. Jonathan Katz, who covered Haiti for the Associated Press before, during, and after the 2010 earthquake, argues that America’s rush to get past Haiti’s tumultuous elections stems from Clinton’s ongoing involvement in the failed reconstruction efforts.

“Instability in a place where she and her husband have planted a big flag would hardly help her campaign,” he notes.

Throughout her term as secretary of state, Clinton made Haiti one of her top foreign-policy priorities. She and her chief of staff Cheryl Mills closely managed the internationally financed effort to rebuild Haiti after the quake. Bill Clinton pitched in as co-chair of a commission tasked with approving reconstruction projects.

As Clinton wrote in her memoir Hard Choices, rebuilding Haiti was “an opportunity . . . to road-test new approaches to development that could be applied more broadly around the world.”

Wielding an unparalleled level of influence over massive flows of public, private, and philanthropic capital, the Clintons set out to turn their slogan — Haiti “built back better” — into reality.

As Katz told the Washington Post: “There’s nowhere Clinton had more influence or respect when she became Secretary of State than in Haiti, and it was clear that she planned to use that to make Haiti the proving ground for her vision of American power.”

In retrospect, the Clintons’ bold, new vision for Haiti looks more like a mirage. The “new” approach was the same old “sweatshop model of development,” pursued by the United States since the Duvalier days, in a slick new package, and it had the same disastrous results.

A multi-million dollar industrial park the Clintons promoted as Haiti’s economic salvation was a flop on its own capitalist terms, generating only one-tenth of the promised sixty thousand jobs.

Meanwhile, mammoth new slum areas have sprung up north of Port-au-Prince, a testament to the mind-boggling decision to prioritize building luxury hotels for foreign tourists, NGO workers and businesspeople over permanent housing for the over one million Haitians made homeless by the quake.

Six years later, there is no hiding the fact that the Clintons have not helped many ordinary Haitians. Hillary Clinton would prefer to ignore this unflattering reality as November approaches. Katz notes:

By now I’d imagine she was expecting to constantly be pointing to Haiti on the campaign trail as one of the great successes of her diplomatic career. Instead it’s one of her biggest disappointments by nearly any measure, with the wreckage of the Martelly administration she played a larger role than anyone in installing being the biggest and latest example.

Perhaps most troubling from the Clinton campaign’s perspective: the tiny handful of players who did profit from Haiti’s reconstruction includes several members of her inner circle, like Tony Rodham (Hillary’s brother) and Irish billionaire Dennis O’Brien, a fact that Peter Schweizer and other Republican critics delight in pointing out.

Today, Clinton and her political managers prefer not to talk about Haiti at all. When Katz asked how her experience in Haiti shaped her foreign policy, a campaign spokesperson declined to comment, saying Clinton would address that “when the time comes to do so.”

Judging by her campaign website — which touts many of her foreign policy endeavors but makes no mention of Haiti — that time has still not come.

In fact, the time for Clinton to account for her embarrassing entanglements in Haiti may not come at all. There was a brief uptick in national media coverage during the January election protests, but Haiti has, for the most part, stayed out of the headlines, which is exactly where Clinton wants it.

President Martelly’s departure (without an elected successor) has defused a potentially explosive situation, at least for now. And with theminor exception of Hillary’s efforts to block a 2009 minimum wage increase, Clinton’s challenger Bernie Sanders has ignored her ignominious record in Haiti to focus on inequality, health care, and other domestic issues.

But Haiti’s simmering electoral crisis is far from resolved. The interim government that took over in February faces growing hostility from Martelly and his allies — including paramilitaries who claim to represent the re-mobilized military.

A verification commission, convened against American wishes, is currently reexamining the election results for fraud: the United States and other international donors have responded by cutting off all non-humanitarian aid. The commission’s findings are due at the end of the month, and could be the spark that once again sets Haiti aflame.

Dismayed by the vehement international opposition to the verification commission, Antiguan diplomat Ronald Sanders warned that the search for an easy exit from Haiti’s election troubles could backfire.

“There can be no ‘quick fix’ in Haiti,” wrote Sanders in a recent editorial. “Indeed, it is the urge for quick fixes in the past and the desire to wash hands of the country that has kept it in constant turmoil and retarded its chances for long-term political stability and economic growth.”

Whether or not US officials heed Sanders’s warning, the underbelly of Clinton’s much-vaunted foreign policy experience is plain for all to see.

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HAITI, DEVELOPMENT: Health workers in Haiti on mission to thwart spread of Zika

triblive.com, by Natasha Lindstrom, 5 min read, original
Public Health Comparisons:
Hospital occupancy
U.S.: 60 percent
Hopital Albert Schweitzer: 125 percent

Infant mortality
U.S.: 6 infant deaths per 1,000 live births
Haiti: 54 deaths per 1,000 live births

Maternal mortality
U.S.: 21 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births
Haiti: 350 deaths per 100,000 live births

Births accompanied by skilled attendants (%)
U.S.: 98.5 percent
Haiti: 37.3 percent total; 24.6 percent in rural Haiti

Sources: World Health Organization, UNICEF, HAS

Fleurilus Vilton Melyse trudges up and down miles of rugged, goat-track trails every week to deliver critical medical updates to some of Haiti’s most remote mountain communities.

Her primary directive this summer: Teach and motivate rural Haitians — most of whom lack electricity and Internet access — to thwart the spread of Zika, the mosquito-borne virus declared by the World Health Organization to be an international public health emergency.

Melyse, 45, is among 142 community health workers trained to do medical outreach for Hopital Albert Schweitzer, a 60-year-old institution in Haiti’s Artibonite Valley with Pittsburgh origins and a Strip District-based administrative staff.

Its 610-square-mile service area of about 350,000 people has combatted deadlier diseases in recent years, including HIV/AIDS and cholera, and mosquito-borne illnesses such as dengue and chikungunya, which causes debilitating joint pain and is carried by the same mosquito type that transmits Zika.

Yet, to Melyse, who was born in these rural mountains and is a mother of five, Zika elicits a heightened sense of trepidation and urgency because of its link to severe brain damage in babies whose mothers carry the Zika virus during pregnancy.

“I won’t always be here. The children, the next generation, they will be here to support Haiti,” Melyse said in her native French, translated for the Tribune-Review by a hospital official. “It’s really important for us to prevent this, because if it has a negative impact on the children, it has a negative effect on all of Haiti.

“I don’t want that for my country.”

Bracing for an outbreak

Mosquito-breeding season has begun in Haiti. June is typically its wettest summer month.

“It’s upon us, and that’s not anything we can change the schedule on,” said John R. Walton, board chairman for HAS, which has scrambled since January to develop a three-year, prevention-focused strategy for addressing Zika. “We’re very nervous.”

International observers and local health care officials are bracing for a potential outbreak that could further devastate the poorest country in the western hemisphere.

Zika is transmitted primarily by Aedes aegypti, a species of mosquito that thrives in tropical areas and exists in the southern United States, surfacing in warmer months.

The threat of widespread disease in Haiti is exacerbated by deficient water and sanitation systems, a severely under-resourced health care system and infrastructure that was weak or lacking even before the 2010 earthquake that killed more than 220,000 people and displaced millions.

Haiti has had more than 2,000 suspected cases of Zika since Jan. 15, about a dozen involving pregnant women, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. As of last week, HAS facilities alone had logged 684 suspected cases of Zika.

“Women who are already pregnant are more scared,” Melyse said. “Women who aren’t pregnant, there is a sense of worry.”

‘Prevention is priority’

The CDC concluded in mid-April that Zika causes birth defects including microcephaly, an affliction in which babies are born with smaller than normal heads and often smaller, improperly developed brains.

Not all women infected by Zika have babies with microcephaly; however, there is no known cure, and experts estimate it could take 18 months to two years before a reliable vaccine becomes available.

“We can’t wait two years to deal with this,” Walton said. “The thrust of our work is to try to prevent women from being pregnant when they get bit the first time.”

Nearly 6,000 rural Haitians — about 5,000 of whom were women — attended 185 education sessions on Zika hosted by HAS community health workers in the past three months. The HAS staff members stand out in their approach because they also tap into a network of more than 300 matrones, the less formally trained but well-trusted birth attendants embedded within rural communities.

Community workers go over the symptoms of Zika — joint pain, itchy rash, red eyes — and urge anyone experiencing them to get to a health post for evaluation. They stress the importance of eliminating unnecessary standing bodies of water and protecting pregnant women from mosquito bites.

Basic protectants in the United States like screens on windows of air-conditioned homes are practically nonexistent for these Haitians, who must collect and purify their own water supply and clear their own trash.

Some standing water is merely a factor of subsistence farming.

“If you’re working in a rice paddy, it’s hard to say you’re going to eliminate the standing water; it’s not going to happen pretty much,” Walton said.

Women are being urged to participate in family planning and hold off on pregnancy if they want to minimize risks.

“The faster we can react and get people the family planning materials and information they need,” said Jayson Samuels, major gifts manager for HAS, “the more successful we can be at stemming the tide of this thing.”

Three-year outlook

The hospital’s Zika response plan — developed in January and revised this month — focuses on strengthening the health care system’s outreach capacity, increasing data collection and building partnerships with organizations that work with children with disabilities. It calls for increased training to ensure any pregnant woman who has contracted Zika receives an ultrasound 18 to 20 weeks into pregnancy.

The nonprofit health care group is heeding close attention to the budding development of low-cost tests, vaccines and so-called Zika kits — packs advocated by the CDC that include the likes of a bed net, insect repellent, standing water treatment tabs and condoms.

The hope of HAS officials is that if the region can hold off a major outbreak for two years, a majority of the population will develop antibodies making them immune to the disease.

HAS, whose roots date to 1956 as the brainchild of public health pioneer and Pittsburgher Larry Mellon, has a $6 million annual budget, with 550 Haitian employees and five based in the Strip District.

It has succeeded in stemming deadlier problems than Zika, namely the cholera epidemic that infected 8 percent of Haitians through contaminated water and killed more than 9,000 between 2010 and 2014. HAS, which treated nearly 5,000 people at the height of the problem in 2011, had less than 30 cases last year.

“We’re hoping to see the same kind of impact here with Zika,” said Walton, “so that if women have already been exposed and then become pregnant, it won’t be an issue.”

Natasha Lindstrom is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8514 or nlindstrom@tribweb.com.

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HAITI/DEVELOPMENT: Don’t Dump Peanuts on Haiti, Campaigners Tell the US

Published 2 May 2016  TeleSur
“This is the latest in a long history of U.S.-sponsored programs which have destabilized Haiti’s agricultural sector," deplored the campaigners.

“This is the latest in a long history of U.S.-sponsored programs which have destabilized Haiti’s agricultural sector,” deplored the campaigners. | Photo: Reuters

Ostensibly a donation, flooding Haiti with peanuts could wipe out the country’s struggling domestic producers.

As part of its “Stocks for Food” program, the U.S. Department of Agriculture plans to ship 500 metric tons of peanuts to Haitian schools, which could destroy Haiti’s peanut market and the livelihood and income of 150,000 peanut farmers and their families, warned the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, a non-profit based in Boston, Massachusetts.

OPINION:
The Past is Prologue with Haiti’s Elections

“This is the latest in a long history of U.S.-sponsored programs which have destabilized Haiti’s agricultural sector, further impoverishing the nation and increasing its dependence on foreign aid,” the group said in a statement, noting that “President Clinton had to apologize for one such misguided program in the 1990s.”

Echoing a message from the “Haitian diaspora,” the human rights group urged U.S. citizens to call their representatives and demand them to pressure the Department of Agriculture to immediately call off the program.

Meanwhile, other voices are speaking out against renewed U.S. interference in Haiti’s political crisis after U.S. proconsul Kenneth Merten visited the country last week.

Merten, U.S. State Department’s special coordinator for Haiti, discussed with various political leaders and members of the civil society the situation in the country, as an ad hoc independent commission was recently set up in order to evaluate serious allegations of massive fraud in the results of October first round elections.

“We hope it is very, very quick and does not change the results of the election,” Merten said.

Washington will have to “look very carefully at what we do moving forward” if there appears to be any manipulation, he said.

 

The election was postponed in January after sometimes-violent protests over allegations of fraud in the first round.

RELATED:
UN Expresses ‘Concern’ over Repeat Delays in Haitian Elections

The results of the first round in October put Jovenel Moise in first place and Jude Celestin in second for a runoff, but Celestin and other candidates rejected the outcome as fraudulent. An interim government has been running the country since the last president’s term ended in February.

On Thursday, a top election official said Haiti willnot meet a deadline to complete its presidential election by April 24, without giving a new date to hold the already delayed vote in the impoverished Caribbean country.

Various political parties and organizations called for mobilizations on Wednesday in order to pressure an investigation into election fraud and to denounce U.S. interference in the political process.

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