Haiti News and Views

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Haiti: Then and Now

Original photo essay and article found on: Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

Sparkling white walls, palm trees, and a gazebo paint a serene mask on the hospital in Gressier, an oceanfront town 22 kilometers south of the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince.

“At first look you see it’s beautiful,” said Vaudrise Paul, a 31-year-old midwife in charge of the maternity ward. “But if you come in, you see it’s so small, there’s no equipment, there’s no staff.”

The hospital is five years old, built after the powerful earthquake that rocked Haiti on January 12, 2010. In the aftermath, charities and nonprofits rushed to Haiti’s aid in an expensive and broadly disappointing relief effort. I went to Gressier in May at the suggestion of Dr. Reynold Grand Pierre, Director of Family Health at the Ministry of Health. I was exploring new programs to improve maternal care; Pierre had spoken with such vitriol about the broken, disjointed system of healthcare that both depended on and was destroyed by the global charity sector. He told me Gressier was an understaffed mess, but when I arrived it felt serene and perfect, cooled with sea breezes from the beach down the road.

As I entered the verdant grounds, I wondered if the minister had been sending me on a goose chase to undermine my reporting. I shouldn’t have doubted though.

In the aftermath of the earthquake there have been countless picturesque projects on this gorgeous Caribbean island — shells of schools with no teachers, gleaming new hospitals with no staff. Many charities have come and gone, and even those that stay largely have short-term contracts. My motorcycle driver, Junior, told me his wife had birthed each of her three children since the earthquake in a different clinic — following a word-of-mouth network about ever-shifting programs and projects to find affordable options for her deliveries. The strings of these myriad distinct programs do not knit into a safety net for Haiti, and mothers are left to advocate for themselves.

Allyn Gaestel is a recent Pulitzer Center grantee. Read her full story here.

Original photo essay and article found on: Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

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Haiti: Who Owns What in Haiti?

The island of La Tortue, off the northern coast of Haiti, has become best known as a place where Haitians facing hard times set sail for lot bo dlo—the other side of the water. When President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was first ousted, in 1991, the U.S. Coast Guard intercepted and repatriated some eighteen hundred “boat people” who had fled Haiti’s north coast en route to South Florida. Recently, though, one British-American company has been working to bring large numbers of people in the other direction, from South Florida to La Tortue. In July, Carnival Corporation, the cruise-ship company, signed a memorandum of understanding with the Haitian government, which would allow a port to be opened on the island’s Pointe-Ouest beach, to serve as a stopover for its Caribbean ships. Haitian officials claimed that the development would create two thousand jobs, and would represent a major step forward in a plan for tourism to propel the nation’s economy. Five years after an earthquake caused an estimated $8.1 to $13.9 billion in damage—more than the country’s G.D.P. at the time—Haiti remains plagued by chronic underemployment and poverty.

The port deal is now at risk, however, because the ground onto which Carnival’s passengers would disembark may not have been the government’s to offer. In 1970, François (Papa Doc) Duvalier, Haiti’s President at the time, agreed to lease much of La Tortue to a Texas businessman named Don Pierson, with the aim of creating a free port; Pierson’s son, Grey, now holds the lease. The contract gave Don Pierson’s company a ninety-nine-year lease, and specified that he would develop the island’s infrastructure for tourism. Though Pierson soon began signing deals to that end, including one with Gulf Oil, for three hundred million dollars, the development project never got off the ground.

Occasionally, Grey Pierson says, Haitian officials would “rediscover” the project, and, in 1998, two years after his father’s death, a delegation came to Dallas to see him. As he tells it, he put up the Haitians at the Loews Anatole and held a meeting with them at the offices of the Texas Rangers’ ballpark. He told them that his father had procured four hundred million dollars in commitments to La Tortue. Leslie Voltaire, an architect and urban planner who was serving as the adviser on infrastructure and urban planning to René Préval, Haiti’s President at the time, was present at the meeting; Voltaire recalls that Pierson wanted the four hundred million dollars in compensation. (Pierson denies that.) The discussions went no further.

“I think that Carnival didn’t know that,” Voltaire told me, referring to the 1970 deal with Pierson. “If Carnival sees that there is that land issue, they won’t come.” Carnival confirmed to the Miami Heraldthat it did not learn of the dispute over ownership until several months after signing the agreement. (The newspaper further reported that yet another entity, Hotel Mont Joli SA, holds a lease on Pointe-Ouest.) Pierson, for his part, says that he has not been contacted by Carnival or Haitian government officials regarding the matter.

Similar uncertainty over land ownership has played out across Haiti as the country attempts to attract foreign investment in tourism, mining, manufacturing, and agriculture—often without clear knowledge of who, precisely, owns what. The country’s present difficulties with land ownership are a function not only of its twentieth-century dictators but of Haiti’s history as a former slave colony. After achieving independence, in 1804, former slaves discovered that the land they had taken from their owners would not be theirs to keep. The country’s revolutionary leaders, Jean-Jacques Dessalines and Toussaint Louverture, thought it best for land to be held in large swathes, by the state. “Having survived the brutality of the slave system and then the violence of the revolution, the ex-slaves strongly believed that the land should be theirs; land ownership would give freedom its full and true meaning,” the historian Laurent Dubois writes in “Haiti: The Aftershocks of History.” But the early debates over who would control Haitian territory “revolved only around the question of which group of elites would profit from Haiti’s new order—not what that order would look like.”

“Now there is a fight between the Haitian bourgeoisie and peasants who want to control the land,” the Haitian sociologist Bernard Etheart told me. The tension played out over the past two centuries with governments often bequeathing parcels of land to various groups, only sometimes to take them back later, subsequent disputes over territory, and little regard for formal title throughout. Peasants in rural Haiti generally worked the land under an informal system of tenancy, in which they established de-facto ownership over small plots of land, then joined their plots with their neighbors’, usually members of their extended families, and farmed the land collectively. The land would typically remain under the name of just one family member—but no records of these arrangements were provided to the state.

Many people have sometimes claimed to own the same parcel of land, while other plots of land had no identifiable owner. Cases in which title could be established are rare (though Etheart traced one going back to Spanish colonial times). A 1997 study, conducted by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization and Haiti’s agriculture ministry, estimated that ninety-five per cent of all land sales in rural Haiti had been conducted without going through legal formalities.

In the wake of the massive earthquake that struck on January 12, 2010, resolving long-standing land-ownership issues has been a low priority for Haiti’s leaders, even as they regard tourism, mining, and other industries affected by questions of title as crucial to the island’s economic development. France is helping to fund Haiti’s land-management office, but the Haitian government hasn’t allocated the resources it would take to create a national cadastre (a survey of the country’s land). Joab Thelot, a coordinator for the National Office of the Cadastre, says that it wouldn’t take much—just three million dollars a year—to pay the salaries of trained surveyors and buy the vehicles they would need to get around. In recent years, though, Haiti’s parliament has allocated his office just a third that amount.

Indications from Haitian officials regarding how they will handle the uncertainty over ownership have raised further concerns. In addition to the Carnival case, in August, 2013, President Michel Martelly’s government, which had come to power two years earlier, announced a major investment on the small island of Île-à-Vache, aimed at turning it into a tourist destination. A few months earlier, the government had published a decree meant to establish that state-owned land on the island could be used only for tourism and public utilities. The announcement may have been intended to avoid the kind of embarrassment that the government later experienced with Carnival. The hundreds of people who had been farming and living on Île-à-Vache for generations responded by staging protests, which haven’t halted construction.

As Martelly pushes ahead with his development agenda, he has given few indications that he intends to address the pervasive issues relating to land ownership and insecurity that have undermined development in Haiti for two hundred years. On Tuesday, the day after the fifth anniversary of the earthquake, a deal to set terms for new elections fell apart and the country’s parliament dissolved, leaving Martelly to rule by decree. The latest bout of political turmoil makes it even less likely that Haiti will be able to address the basic conflicts over land that threaten to inhibit the island’s economic development.

Original article found on: Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

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Haiti: Five Years after Haiti’s Earthquake, International Community Still Must Act to Address Urgent Needs, CEPR Co-Director Says

Original article found on: Center for Economic and Policy Research

January 12, 2015

Cholera Eradication, Housing, Sanitation and Safe Water Remain Underfunded

Washington, D.C.- Five years after Haiti’s devastating earthquake killed some 217,300 and displaced 1.5 million people, the international community still needs to act to address ongoing urgent needs, Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) Co-Director Mark Weisbrot said today. While the international community pledged over $10 billion for relief and reconstruction following the quake, much of that assistanceultimately went to agencies and contractors from the donor countries themselves, while Haitian organizations and the Haitian government were largely sidelined. Hundreds of people continue to die from cholera each year in Haiti as water and sanitation remain sub-standard, while fewer than 10,000 new houses have been built to house the hundreds of thousands who lost their homes in the earthquake.

“This is a shameful milepost for the international community, as so many urgent needs in Haiti remain a full five years later,” Weisbrot said. “Countries such as the United States, France and Canada share a particular burden for these failures, since these countries have trampled upon Haitian sovereignty and sidelined Haitian institutions throughout the country’s history.”

In October 2010, Haiti was hit with a second disaster when a cholera epidemic began downriver from a base for United Nations troops. Over 8,774 [PDF] people have died from the disease since – hundreds of them last year, and more than 700,000 have been infected. The U.N. has refused to take responsibility, leading to lawsuits on behalf of cholera victims and their families, and the U.N.’s cholera eradication plan remains woefully underfunded.

“The ongoing cholera epidemic is a humanitarian disaster directly caused by the international community,” Weisbrot said. “By the U.N., whose troops caused the outbreak through reckless behavior, and by the U.S. government, which had previously deliberately held up millions in loans to upgrade Haiti’s water and sanitation infrastructure.”

The ongoing lack of adequate housing – and the tens of thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) who remain in settlement camps – marks another area where the international response has failed to address urgent needs.

“The post-quake housing story is one of scandal, profiteering and tragedy,” CEPR Research Associate Jake Johnston, who wrote about the housing response in detail for the Boston Review, explained. “Certain contractors got tens of millions for housing that they didn’t deliver, while authorities have still been able to claim success by pointing to how fewer people remain in IDP camps. But many of these people were forcibly evicted from the camps, often with no place to go. The displacement crisis continues; it is just hidden now.”

Housing contracting by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is an example of the lack of transparency that has dogged the response effort, with subcontractors often unknown and therefore unaccountable. The Assessing Progress in Haiti Act, introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee and cosponsored by 34 other legislators, which was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama last year, is meant to foster greater transparency in U.S. government contracting in Haiti through regular progress reports to Congress.

Weisbrot and Johnston noted several other key challenges for Haiti that could be aided by a more effective international response, including high poverty, high unemployment [PDF], the lack of jobs offering a living wage, and Haiti’s struggling agricultural sector, which could be supported were food aid funds used to purchase harvests from Haitian farmers rather than undercutting the sector through exporting lower-cost U.S. grains.

Original article found on: Center for Economic and Policy Research

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Development, Haiti: Art, an economic stake in the country’s development

Original article found on: Haiti Libre 

11/30/14

 

Photo

As part of the implementation of the Strategic Plan for the Development of Haiti (PSDH) developed by the Government, the Council for Economic and Social Development (CDES), an agency of the Primature, recently completed a three-day workshop on the theme “The world of arts and trades through the credit system”, which took place around three fundamental axes: the valuation of arts, trades and occupations according to the various trades; accompanying mechanisms for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and the financial system and its adaptation to new economic challenges.

The Office of the Deputy Minister (Marie Carmèle Rose Anne Auguste) responsible for human rights and the fight against extreme poverty is involved in this project together with other government ministries and public agencies.

In her speech, the Minister Auguste highlighted the importance of arts and culture in the development of the country “The arts should be the engine of our economic development. Our culture, the talent of our artists and our craftsmen is our greatest wealth,” appealing to investment in the arts the Minister added “Our artists of sensitive neighborhoods need sustained coaching, good tools to work, adequate environment that enables them to work in peace.”

The Minister Delegate believes essential to build of integration centers in disadvantaged neighborhoods that will be, according to her “places of high culture where will will meet and will will commune all social strata of the Nation.”

At the end of the forum, a series of recommendations was formulated concerning inter alias : the development of a social credit system to finance the activities of artistic creation, the supervision of artists and craftsmen, a strong training in marketing management and customer service and the creation of tens of Community integration Centers, across the country.

 

Original article found on: Haiti Libre 

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Haiti: Creating Haiti’s Future Leaders Through Art

Original article found on: Huffington Post

By Karl Romain, Posted:

Photo credit: Fedno Lubin, ACFFC alumnu

Photo credit: Fedno Lubin, ACFFC alumnu

 

The 2010 earthquake in Haiti took an estimated 316,000 lives and destroyed buildings and entire towns. One such city, Jacmel, began a very special phase of its revival six months after the disaster to memorialize the lives lost: a mural project called Mosaïque Jacmel.

The organization, Art Creation Foundation for Children (ACFFC) partnered with artist Laurel True of True Mosaics Studio who came and taught local children how to use mosaics to change the face of the devastation. True eventually became ACFFC’s Mosaic Program Director.

Today, Jacmel is known for its beautiful mosaic walls created by the city’s young artists, and is supported by the local Departments of Tourism and Culture, Jacmel, and Sud-Est, which recently commissioned the students to create mosaic stairs leading to the open air market in the center of town. The mosaics stand as glittering symbols of hope and transformation in Haiti.

My family emigrated from Haiti when I was a child. To hear of this creative endeavor, and the leadership skills it is bringing to its children, makes me hopeful for my homeland. I spoke with Laurel True, and Nadïne LaFond, a New Jersey-based musician, visual artist and arts educator born in Brooklyn of Haitian descent and longtime friend to ACFFC about the project.

Turning broken pieces into a new whole

“The Tree of Life public art installation turned broken pieces into a new whole, memorializing lives lost in the earthquake,” says True. The kids were involved in all parts of the inspiring mural — the design, development, and execution. The mural has become a focal point in the community. It has become a place for people to gather, as well as a place for artists to sell their crafts.

The ACFFC was founded in 1999 to provide children in need with a place to go. The foundation, as it’s called, provides food and clean water, medical care, education, and art programs for the children. The mosaic art program started after the earthquake–and after the numbers of the kids the foundation cared for nearly doubled. “It’s not about handouts,” ACFFC Media Coordinator, Rae Stevenson tells me. “It’s about investing in futures. These kids have everything they need within them to overcome their circumstances. What we do is give them the tools to develop these skills.”

“We focus on how to train kids to start thinking of how to flow this into a small business; how to order supplies, to price things, create a proposal, how to talk to a client, etc.,” explains True. “Over the past few years, I’ve passed the baton on to some of the kids. The older kids are super empowered to say what they think, what they want, state their vision, and just go for it.”

The results are phenomenal: Last November, the group was invited to Delray Beach, Florida to create a mural together with the Toussaint L’Ouverture High School, (the first time they’ve been commissioned to go to another country). The public art installation was created to memorialize the people of Florida, who have come to Haiti’s aid after numerous natural disasters. When LaFond — who’d been collaborating with True, Stevenson and Katherine Bullock, U.S. Director of Operations at ACFFC, to create a new support project — started telling her friends here in the States, the reaction was huge. So they came up with another plan — a way for people to sponsor a mosaic wall in Jacmel.

“These kids are so smart, so creative, so activated, and they’re changing the face of Haiti,” says LaFond “They’re the next generation of creative leaders.” By giving them the support they need, they will transition to the next step: taking these skills and creating the self-sufficiency that is at the heart of the program, and the heart of Haiti.

LaFond is currently working on a multi-media art project in collaboration with the students. In the coming months, True will be working on mosaic projects near Jacmel and helping students launch their Sponsor a Mosaic Wall project, while Bullock and Stevenson of the ACFFC Leadership Team will soon be packing their bags to join the students in Jacmel for six months to support a number of projects on the ground.

And those are just ACFFC’s plans for this winter. With so many creative pursuits at the foundation, there are many opportunities for meaningful giving this season. To get involved and support its mission, please visit acffc.org. In addition to the Sponsor a Mosaic Wall project, there are opportunities to support an individual young artist for a year, purchase artwork made by ACFFC students, and show your support with ACFFC gear.

Original article found on: Huffington Post

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Training Process

Interviewing applicants that work in radio, journalism, the theater, print, photography, communications and with social change organizations.

Interviewing applicants that work in radio, journalism, the theater, print, photography, communications and with social change organizations.

The Training Begins

Our work begins in Haiti – thanks in great part to your support and encouragement. Starting tomorrow, Monday November 3, Haitians will be trained to produce 10 short films telling Haiti’s story since the 2010 earthquake.

On Friday evening CSFilm and our Haitian partners, Groupe Medialternatif, finalized the selection of the 10 participants! That is, after 5 intense hours of reviewing and debating the 19 that were interviewed, after 2.5 days of interviews, after reviewing the materials of all 74 applicants’ and weeks of outreach across the country! Ralph Thomassaint Joseph, CSFilm’s Haiti program coordinator, Gotson, head of Groupe Medialternatif, and assistants have made great efforts to gather a diverse group – in terms of gender, regional, media and community engagement backgrounds. We were blurry eyed and gleaming from the stifling heat but feeling very good as we called each successful candidate.

This weekend we have finalized the setup of the training site, which is generously being provided by REFRAKA, Network of Haitian Woman Community Radio Broadcasters.

And now, after two years of dreaming, fundraising and planning, the team and trainees will gather in the morning to begin the work of Haitians producing a new series of broadcast-quality documentary films. Their films will add Haitian perspectives and experience to the local and international conversation about what has and has not happened since the 7.0 earthquake – one of the world’s worst disasters.

 

 

 

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Haiti, Development: Haitian Tourism Project Leads to Environmental Damage and Community Depression

Original article found on: Peace and Collaborative Development Network

Posted by: Deepa Panchang on Septemeber 15th, 2014
By Other Worlds and the Solidarity and Resistance Collective for the Population of Île-à-Vache

“Destination Île-à-Vache” is a government-driven tourist project planned for a small island off the northern coast of Haiti, Île-à-Vache. Plans include an international airport, golf courses,1,500 hotel bungalows, agri-tourism, and “tourist villages” which will include boutiques, restaurants and even a night club. Groundbreaking on the project occurred in August, 2013, without the inclusion or participation of the community.

Once the construction on the road began in late 2013, the community began to peacefully protest and formed a local group in December, 2013 called KOPI (Collective for Île-à-Vache). In response, the government has coerced, repressed, and intimidated the population. A leader of the resistance movement has been a political prisoner – imprisoned without charge or trial – since February 24. The details of some of these acts are included in the declaration below.

The declaration, signed by members of grassroots Haitian organizations, was circulated to local press at the end of August 2014.

Representatives from the Collective and KOPI (of Île-à-Vache) and family members of imprisoned Lamy speak to the press. Photo by: Jessica Hsu

Representatives from the Collective and KOPI (of Île-à-Vache) and family members of imprisoned Lamy speak to the press. Photo by: Jessica Hsu

[Declaration] denouncing the government conspiracy to intimidate and stifle the voice of the people of Île-à-Vache regarding the Tourism Development Plan

Port-au-Prince, Haiti

We, the signatory organizations of this [declaration], explicitly denounce the Martelly/Lamothe government’s maneuvers to repress the population of Île-à-Vache and grant investors free reign on the island.

We want to remind everyone that on May 10, 2013, the Martelly/Lamothe government issued a decree that Île-à-Vache was to be designated for tourism development and public utility, effectively pitting the population of Île-à-Vache against the government in a David-Goliath scenario. Since then, the islanders have watched politicians and businessmen land at Île-à-Vache with police escorts, to implement the first phases of the project in people’s own fields and yards all over the island.

On December 27, 2013, the population stood up and demanded a thorough explanation of the tourism development plan. The powers that be responded with lies of all sorts, repression, persecution, threats, and arrests of resistance leaders, among whom Jean Mathulnès Lamy has been sitting in prison since February, 2014. It does not take a genius to be suspicious of such “development” that takes place under repression, arbitrary arrests, intimidation, militarization, and threats. Since the government seems to envision displacing the whole island’s population under the May 10, 2013 decree, who will this development really serve?

Prime Minister Lamothe visited Île-à-Vache from June 27-30, 2014 under the pretext of supervising the advancement of various tourism projects. But the real objective of the visit was to continue the flow of lies, propaganda, and support for the machine of repression on Île-à-Vache. To prepare for this visit, the state promised households 10,000 gourdes (approximately US$220) each to help finance microbusiness [if they came to] Lamothe’s public meeting. People did receive something for coming out, but it was far from the 10,000 gourdes they were promised. When people arrived, they received bags of rice, cans of oil, and candy from the hands of Lamothe and his people. After the visit there appeared 20 motorcycles without plaques, cell phones which allowed for the state to maintain surveillance on the population, more police and military personnel, three new police cars, and three new judges. The government commissioner was replaced.

On top of that, police visited members of the Peasant Organizing Collective of Île-à-Vache (KOPI) at their homes, with arrest warrants in hand. Most importantly, the inhabitants of Île-à-Vache no longer feel safe because of a number of members of the Haitian National Police, specifically the UDMO [the Department Unit for the Maintenance of Order], who are circulating the island heavily armed, and intimidating the populace. This has continued despite the numerous human rights violations that organizations have already documented on the island.

Moreover, on August 14-15, 2014, while most people were celebrating [at the annual patron saint celebration] on Gelée Beach, the government created a phantom organization called MPDI [Farmers’ Movement for the Development of Île-à-Vache] whose head is a former director of KOPI that the government has since bought off. The government then promised the organization $1.5 million gourdes [about US$34,000] to fund its activities. Lots of talk, little action.

What is really happening on this island? It’s just one of the many programs happening all over that is touted with empty promises like Ti Manman Cherie [Dear Mother, a component of the national assistance program “Ede Pep”, or Aid the People, established by the Martelly-Lamothe Administration], streetlamps, new jobs, handouts of money, etc from the Minister Against Extreme Poverty, Roseanne Auguste. All this is being shoved down the throats of the people. The only positive thing that has happened has been the construction of a police station and housing for Dominican workers.

Île-à-Vache was once a region covered in beautiful vegetation. These projects are blindly destroying a huge number of natural resources that the island’s inhabitants depended on to live. The projects are laying waste to the environment. No serious study was conducted prior to the demolition and clear-cutting of the forests, and now officials are realizing that the spot they envisioned for the airport is not appropriate. They have since chosen a new location to tear up in the heart of the island, according to the testimony of many of the inhabitants. This is a clear violation of articles 253 and 254 of the Constitution of Haiti. [Article 253: Since the environment is the natural framework of the life of the people, any practices that might disturb the ecological balance are strictly forbidden. Article 254: The state shall organize the enhancement of natural sites to ensure their protection and make them accessible to all.] This situation will continue to create tensions on the island.

In light of all these facts, the Collective for Solidarity with the Île-à-Vache Peasants’ Struggle supports all forms of grassroots mobilization and community organization and reminds the population to stay vigilant. We, the signatory organizations of this [declaration], demand that the government cease all forms of propaganda, intimidation, repression, and violation of human rights on Île-à-Vache.

At the same time, the Collective reminds the government of the demands of the people:

– Retract the [May 10, 2013] decree that is being used as a justification to confiscate peasant lands on Île-à-Vache;

– Unconditionally release Jean Mathulnès Lamy, a native of the island unjustly held by the state for the past seven months for his involvement in peaceful protests (a right he retains) concerning the tourism development plan. [A well-respected leader and president of KOPI, Lamy was arrested and has been detained at the National Penitentiary without seeing a judge. The initial reason given for his arrest was his role in organizing a protest on the island on February 7, 2014.]

– Recall all UDMO and other police forces that have been recently stationed on the island.

On behalf of the Collective:[Solidarity and Resistance Collective for the Population of Île-à-Vache]

Nixon Boumba, Popular Democratic Movement (Mouvman Demokratik Popilè – MODEP):

Jackson Doliscar, Force for Reflection and Action on Housing (Fòs Refleksyon ak Aksyon sou Koze Kay – FRAKKA):

Jules Esaie Gelin, Neighborhood Association of Solino (Asosiyasyon Vwazen Solino – AVS)

Samia Salomon, Group for the Development of the South (Gwoup Api pou Develop Sid – GADES)

Celine Lajoie, Progressive Youth of Les Cayes (Jèn Pwogresis Okay – JPO)

Olrich Jean Pierre, Popular Collective to Revitalize Haiti (Konbit Popilè Pou Remanbre Ayiti -KOPRA)

Translated by Nathan A. Wendte

 

Original article found on: Peace and Collaborative Development Network

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Haiti: Wikileaks Reveals Obama Administration’s Role in Stifling Haitian Minimum Wage

alternet.org, by Rod Bastanmehr, January 16, 2014

American corporations like Hanes and Levi Strauss prefer to pay Haitians slave wages to sew their clothes.

Strike another one for Wikileaks. The ever-controversial leaker of the world’s best-kept secrets has published a wire on The Nation that reveals the Obama Administration fought to keep the Haitian minimum wage to 31 cents an hour.

According to the published wire (which came to light thanks in large part to the Haiti Liberte, a newspaper based in Port-au-Prince and New York City), Haiti passed a law in 2012 raising its minimum wage to 61 cents an hour. America corporations like Hanes and Levi Strauss vociferously objected, claiming such an increase would irreparably harm their business and profitability. According to the leaked U.S. Embassy cable, keeping these garment workers at “slave wages,” was better for the two companies The corporations in question allegedly stated that they would only fork over a seven-cent-an-hour increase, eventually going so far as to involve the U.S. State Department.

Soon, the U.S. Ambassador put pressure on Michel Martelly, the president of Haiti, to find a middle ground, resulting in a $3-a-day minimum wage for all textile companies. To put it in perspective, the United States’s minimum wage—already considered extremely low—works out to roughly to $58 a day.

Haiti has about 25,000 garment workers, who are somehow getting by on these abysmal wages. According to Business Insider, if each garment worker was paid just $2 more a day, it would cost their given corporate employers $50,000 per working day, or $12.5 million a year. Hanes, the garment company best known for their t-shirts, had roughly 3,200 Haitians working in their factory. An increase of $2 a day would cost the company a mere $1.6 million a year—for a company that had $4.3 billion in sales last year alone.

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Development, Haiti: For Disenfranchised Haitian Islanders, Tourism Signals a Paradise Lost

Homes like these in the village of Madam Bernard, Ile à Vache, Haiti, might be removed to make way for tourist development or islanders removed from other areas might be relocated here. Credit: Judith Scherr/IPS

Homes like these in the village of Madam Bernard, Ile à Vache, Haiti, might be removed to make way for tourist development or islanders removed from other areas might be relocated here. Credit: Judith Scherr/IPS

ILE À VACHE, Haiti, Aug 8 2014 (IPS) – Calm waters lap the shore beneath stately coconut palms. Mango trees display their bounty alongside mangrove forests. Goats graze peacefully on hillsides.

Ile à Vache is “the Caribbean’s last treasure island,” says Haiti’s Ministry of Tourism. Just 10.5 km off Haiti’s southwest coast, the 13 by 3.2 km haven is, the ministry continues, “unpaved, unplugged, unspoiled and unlike anywhere else,” and “singular for its complete absence of roads and cars.”

“After three successive demonstrations, they sent police to terrorise the people of Ile à Vache.” — Alexis Kenold

 

These words were written, however, before mangroves were cleared for an international airport, coconut palms were bulldozed for a road, a bay was dredged for yachts and some 40 police officers came with weapons and three all-terrain vehicles to quell protests.

Islanders, estimated at between 14,000 and 20,000, are angry at their exclusion from the government decision-making process that has opened the island for investment in an international airport, hotels, villas, a golf course, and an underwater museum — investments that place residents’ futures in limbo.

“The project came to the island by surprise,” Alexis Kenold, a 40-year-old father of five, told IPS. “The government hadn’t talked to us about it. They want to kick us out in favour of those who would profit from tourist development.”

On May 10, 2013, President Michel Martelly decreed that the island was a “public utility,” zoned for tourism.

“The decree says that no inhabitant of the island owns his land and that the state can do whatever it wants with it,” said Kenold, a member of Konbit Peyizan Ilavach, Farmers Organization of Ile à Vache, formed to oppose the project.

Minister of Tourism Stephanie Villedrouin Balmir, who declined an interview for this story, has said that no more than five percent of the islanders will be displaced, that they will be relocated, not removed from the island, and that they will be compensated for their losses.

But involuntary relocation is unacceptable to the islanders, who have held several large demonstrations since December demanding retraction of the decree.

The government reacted to the protests by beefing up police forces and throwing KOPI Vice President Jean Matulnes Lamy into the National Penitentiary, Kenold said. Officials say Lamy is detained on charges unrelated to the protests, but activists say his imprisonment is political.

“After three successive demonstrations, they sent police to terrorise the people of Ile à Vache,”
Kenold said, charging that when he was away from home police ransacked his house and took money he’d saved for his children’s school fees.

He said they’ve harassed and beat others, and now islanders live in fear of the police. Before the demonstrations, there were just three or four police on the peaceful island, he said.

A spate of planned investment projects on Ile à Vache, Haiti has placed residents’ future in limbo. Credit: Judith Scherr/IPS

Islanders say they don’t oppose tourism – they might benefit by getting electricity, potable water and government services. But they don’t want to be moved from their five-room homes with spacious yards for trees, gardens and animals, to crowd into two rooms up against neighbours.

And they worry about the island’s fragile ecology.

“The forest is the lungs of the island,” Kenold said. “It’s like they want to sacrifice the heart and the lungs of the island to put in an international airport.”

There’s concern as well for the waters surrounding the island. They “began dredging a pristine bay known as Madam Bernard without an assessment of the environmental impact on marine ecosystems,” Jessica Hsu of the NGO Other Worlds and radio host Jean Claudy Aristil said in a joint presentation at a July Innovators in Coastal Tourism symposium in Grenada.

The project has already impacted some islanders economically. School director Dracen Jean Louienel told IPS that people had used the mangroves that were cut down for the airport to produce charcoal.

“That was how people made their living,” he said, “This destroyed their livelihood.” And building the road removed coconut trees on which other families depended, he said.

Louienel said, moreover, promises of work have not been fulfilled. “People signed up to work on the road, but few were hired,” Louienel said.

Some islanders, however, have profited from the project and support it. Standing in the clearing where the airport is to be built, Gilbert Joseph called the project “a wonderful thing.” Joseph works as a security guard there at night and sells beverages to the construction workers during the day.

Clausel Ilmo, whose son is working as a translator for the Dominican road-building company, also likes the project. He pointed out that where it once took hours to walk to distant parts of the island, one now can go quickly on the road by motorbike.

Father Guy Carter Guerrier, a Catholic priest, did not join the militant protests. Still, he has concerns. “To me, developing the island could be a beautiful project,” he said. “The problem is, the government didn’t include the people here. They even passed over the church. They left everybody out.”

Up the hill from Guerrier’s church, Sr. Flora Blanchette, a French-Canadian Franciscan nun who’s run an orphanage on the island since 1981, shared her hopes and concerns.

New roads can help people access health care, schools and food, she said, but the fruit trees that nourish the children should be protected.

“What I’m hoping is that they bring the essentials for people living on the island,” she said, “that they truly bring development for all the social classes to benefit.”

In Costa Rica, the whole population has benefited from tourism, Elizabeth Becker, author of “Overbooked: the Global Business of Travel and Tourism” told IPS by phone. There, locals have input into development, she said.

Implemented correctly, Haiti could greatly benefit from the booming tourism market, she added.

However, “bottom-up tourism is the best way to do ecotourism,” Becker said. “People should not be losing their property rights in order to have tourism. People should instead have … a voice in what kind of tourism they want.”

Cambodia’s tourist development provides a cautionary tale, she said. The government took away people’s property rights and parks protections and did not consult locals before installing hotels and airports.

In Cambodia, “all that great money that supposedly comes from tourism doesn’t land in local hands,” she said. “It either lands with the elite or with foreigners.”

Haiti’s Ministry of Tourism emphasises environmentalism. The Ile à Vache “project objective is to develop sustainable tourism based on the practices of ecotourism,” an online ministry slideshow says. But islanders say the government hasn’t demonstrated care for the environment.

Documents also say the government will undertake a “social improvements programme.” It has recently dug new wells, built a community centre, installed outdoor solar lights, and distributed rice and fishing equipment.

But Kenold says it was only “after the population rose up, that they came with a few grains of rice to appease the anger of the people.”

“I’m not against tourist development, but it’s the way they’re going about it,” Kenold said, adding that people are open to dialogue with government officials, but only after the decree is retracted, Lamy is released from prison and police are removed from the island.

“After lifting the decree that would disposes the inhabitants,” he said, “they can come with their projects and we will come with ours.”

Edited by: Kitty Stapp

The writer can be contacted at judithscherr@gmail.com

Related IPS Articles

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Haiti, Development: Reconstruction or Haiti’s Latest Disaster? Tourism Development on Île-à-Vache Island

The following is adapted from a presentation by Jessica Hsu of Other Worlds and Jean Claudy Aristil of Radio VKM Les Cayes at the Executive Symposium for Innovators in Coastal Tourism conference in St. Georges, Grenada held from July 8 – July 11, 2014.

A large-scale tourism project planned for the Haitian island of Île-à-Vache targets “the well-heeled tourist from traditional markets…creating a place of exquisite peace and well-being,” as described in the government of Haiti’sexecutive plan. The project aims to attract four character types: “the Explorers, the Lovers, the Rejuvenators and the Homecomers.” The corporations behind the project intend to build 1,500 hotels and bungalows along the island’s beaches, an international airport, a golf course, island farms, and tourist “villages” with cafes, shops, and night clubs.

The government touts the project as “community hand-in-hand”, with “equitable distribution of benefits for all.” It says the tourism will be “mothering [to] nature” and is for the “general good.”

The community sees it very differently. A grassroots group, Collective for Île-à-Vache (KOPI), was formed in December 2013 and immediately began organizing multiple peaceful protests, strengthening the voices of the local community, and connecting with allies.

Community members have been mobilizing because they understand the multiple challenges ahead if the project continues as planned. Problems will likely include displacement of people from their land, forced migration to the overcrowded capital in search of work, loss of food production in a hungry nation, further economic impoverishment, and environmental and cultural degradation.

The administration has been making empty promises and telling lies to the inhabitants of the island, while systematically violating their rights and using violence to repress and intimidate those who have been peacefully protesting.

Special police forces, such as the Motorized Intervention Brigade (BIM) and the Intervention and Order Maintenance Corps (CIMO), have a permanent presence on the island now. Preceding the inception of the tourism project, there were only three police officers. In the last two weeks, a SWAT team has been introduced to the island. [The team was described in one account as more than 50 special police forces dressed in black with masks.]

Vice-president of KOPI, Police officer Jean Mathelnus Lamy, was arrested on February 21st.  He was moved to the National Penitentiary in Port-au-Prince on Februray 25, where he remains without official charges.

The “peace and well-being” envisioned for the tourists have not extended to the local population. On the contrary, there is a sense of fear around what is impending. It began when the government issued an official decree on May 10, 2013 making all of the offshore islands zones of tourism development and public utility. The proposed plans for the project were created by three Canadian companies: Resonance, 360 VOX, and IBI/DAA. They have little understanding or attachment to community needs.

Since then, the situation has gotten much worse. In August 2013, groundbreaking for the international airport flattened an old-growth forest, which was considered community land. Truxton began dredging a pristine bay known as Madam Bernard without an assessment of the environmental impact on marine ecosystems. Abaka Bay, which is one of the two luxury hotels on the island, illuminated the issue of waste management when a recent human rights delegation spotted the resort’s current method of waste disposal behind the resort. The expansion of Abaka Bay is part of phase I of the project.

Construction on a new road began in late 2013, without any notice, damaging a number of homes and taking out up to 18 coconut trees, which were a critical part of one household’s livelihood. No compensation was offered for the losses, though that is required by the Haitian Constitution. The company working on the road and airport is the Dominican Company Ingeneria Estrella. [The delegation] spoke to one elderly woman whose home is near the airport and has been marked for demolition, as she understands, by the Office of Land Registry (DGI). She stated about the Estrella workers, “They come in and out of my yard without notice and they enter without even a greeting.”

The collective KOPI has been organizing with other grassroots and human right organizations from Port-au-Prince. The group’s demands are (1) transparency and communication about the project, (2) retraction of the May 10, 2013 decree stating that the island is for tourism development and public utility, and (3) release of KOPI’s vice-president, Jean Mathelnus Lamy, who remains in the National Penitentiary, and (4) removal of the special police forces from the island. KOPI consists of 11 steering members and seven additional members in each of the 26 localities on the island.

Largely, the island community is not opposed to tourism. They are in favor of development which is respectful of their needs, which does not exploit nor threaten to take away their land; a project in which their participation is central and integral. However, they strongly oppose the current iteration of the project which is systematically violating their rights.

Last week, Prime Minister Lamothe visited the island again with a government delegation consisting of the Minister of Justice and a delegate from the Ministry of the Promotion of the Peasantry. Multiple communications were issued during this visit from the Ministry of Communication and Martelly-friendly outlets, including Haiti Libre, show what appears to be the prime minister talking to a supportive population about social programs and distributing food.

The untold story in these communications by Prime Minister Lamothe and Minister of Tourism Stephanie Balmir Villedrouin is that the population was told each household would receive 10,000 gourdes, or about US$220, during the visit to help boost microenterprise. When the delegation arrived, no money was distributed, but rather sacks of rice and crackers. Close inspection of the picture of Lamothe speaking, which was circulated by Haiti Libre and the Minister of Communications, shows the audience actually standing in a line for this hand out.

While the population protested the visit with burning tires and blockades, there were few people taking to the streets because of SWAT presence which accompanied the delegation. Warrants were issued for the arrest of KOPI leaders. Many of them have left their homes and gone into hiding unable to continue with their daily livelihood activities.

Villedrouin continues to say publicly the tourism development project is for the community, while the lies, intimidation, and repression continue. The population’s claims were verified in a report issued on April 2, 2014 [by eight Haitian human rights groups which visited the area] to investigate the tensions.

Similar recent foreign investment schemes in Haiti, like new free trade zones, have not brought the much- touted government line of better incomes. Residents of Île-à-Vache are concerned that they will have no power to enforce even the daily minimum wage of $5.11, as has happened with new sweatshops. Further, Haiti’s tourism industry – when it was flourishing in the 80’s – created a collision of wealth and extreme poverty which promoted other informal economies, such as the sex industry which was illuminated in the film Heading South.

Under the platform “Haiti is Open for Business”, the Martelly/Lamothe Administration continues to entice foreign investments with images of stability and security, building of infrastructure financed by PetroCaribe, and incentive policies such as a 15-year exemption from local taxes and duties exonerations on the import of equipment, goods and materials.

Tourism is one of the development pillars of the government in reconstruction/rebuilding following the 2010 earthquake. Tourism is supported by the Bill Clinton, UN Special Envoy to Haiti, who speaks of “Building Back Better.” The other economic pillars include mining, free-trade zones, and monocropping for export, all of which are direct affronts to the livelihoods of the rural peasantry and to food and land sovereignty.

The situation on Île-à-Vache is indicative of all the woes of Caribbean tourism and the model for what is to occur across Haiti. The government continues on its path to implement development to shape what it is calling “an emerging country by 2030.” In reality, these modes of development are further displacing and increasing urban migration; detaching and alienating the peasantry from the land with few alternatives.

Villedrouin does not speak about displacements, but rather “relocation,” when addressing residents of the island, while reporting to Reuters that only five percent of the population will be displaced. Lamothe promises there will be no displacements.

Simultaneously, there are still displacement camps in Port-au-Prince more than four years after the quake. There is no relocation plan for the residents of these camps, and in some areas of Port-au-Prince there is still rubble remaining. If this is the precedent for what happens to those who are displaced in Haiti, then the inhabitants of Île-à-Vache should be concerned about their futures.

Will many farmers and fishers from the island end up in the shantytowns of Haiti, as have hundreds of thousands of displaced farmers before them? Those who were living in hillside shantytowns had the highest mortality rate from the earthquake. Île-à-Vache’s population continues to be unsettled, uncertain of its future.

And so the Île-à-Vache community sings in protest:

Caller:

Nou gen kasav (We have cassava)

Nou gen kafe (We have coffee).

Group Response:

Nou pa bezwen pwoje sa (We do not need this project).

 

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Development, Haiti: Bill, Hillary and the Haiti Debacle

Mary Anastasia O’Grady, Wall Street Journal, May 18, 2014

The news website Tout Haiti reported last month that two prominent lawyers have petitioned Haiti’s Superior Court of Auditors and Administrative Disputes, demanding an audit of Bill Clinton’s management of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC). There are powerful interests that won’t want to see the petition succeed and it may go nowhere. But the sentiment it expresses is spreading fast. {snip}

Four years after a magnitude 7.0 earthquake toppled the capital city of Port-au-Prince and heavily damaged other parts of the country, hundreds of millions of dollars from the State Department’s U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), allocated to the IHRC, are gone. Hundreds of millions more to the IHRC from international donors have also been spent. Left behind is a mishmash of low quality, poorly thought-out development experiments and half-finished projects.

Haitians are angry, frustrated and increasingly suspicious of the motives of the IHRC and of its top official, Mr. Clinton. Americans might feel the same way if they knew more about this colossal failure. One former Haitian official puts it this way: “I really cannot understand how you could raise so much money, put a former U.S. president in charge, and get this outcome.”

{snip}

The Clinton crowd has a lot of experience in Haiti. After President Clinton used the U.S. military to return Jean Bertrand Aristide to power in 1994, assorted Friends of Bill went into business to milk Haiti’s state-owned telephone monopoly. Telecom revenues were one of the few sources of hard currency for the country so the scheme hurt Haitians. (See Americas columns Oct. 27, 2008, and March 12, 2012.)

Haitian filmmaker Raoul Peck sheds light on Mr. Clinton’s most recent Haiti adventures in the 2013 documentary “Fatal Assistance.” Mr. Peck uses footage from an IHRC meeting in December 2010, when 12 Haitian commissioners confronted co-chairmen Mr. Clinton and Haitian Prime Minister Jean Max Bellerive, complaining that the commissioners had been marginalized.

The full letter they read from that day includes the charge that “the staffing and consultant selection” excluded Haitian board members. “No documentation on hiring criteria or candidate selection was sent to inform board members. The same is true for selected consultants; the Haitian board members don’t even know the names of the consultants who work for the IHRC nor their respective tasks.”

Obviously the Haitians didn’t understand. That was the job of the Clinton machine, which controlled the bankroll and could award the lucrative contracts.

{snip}

The “Fatal Assistance” film features shoddy housing projects plopped down where there is poor infrastructure and few job prospects. The GAO report cites other housing snafus. USAID underestimated funding requirements. Its budget went up by 65%, and the number of houses to be built came down by 80%. “Inappropriate cost comparisons were used”; and Haitians, it turns out, prefer flush toilets.

Foreign aid is notoriously wasteful and often counterproductive. Even when the money is not going directly to Swiss bank accounts it is rarely allocated to its highest use because the process is fundamentally political. Contractors with all the wrong training and incentives but the right connections have the best chance of winning jobs. No surprise, the GAO says that USAID’s Haiti reports have been incomplete and not timely.

{snip}

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Media, Haiti, Development: Sean Penn Accuses the Media of Ignoring Haiti’s Progress. But He’s Ignoring a Few Uncomfortable Facts, Too.

New Republic, June 19, 2014, By Jonathan M. Katz

These days, when U.S. media outlets are looking for an update on the state of things in Haiti, one of the top experts they turn to is Sean Penn. That isn’t meant as a joke. The star of Mystic River and Milk has long since established himself as a serious player in the Caribbean republic, founder of an influential nongovernmental organization, credentialed as an ambassador, and a reputedly close friend of the nation’s president and prime minister. After four years working on, and in, the country at the highest levels of international power, Penn has as much or more claim to the slippery mantle of expertise as plenty of other foreigners who took more traditional paths.

Still, the relationship remains a bit awkward between the media and policy worlds on the one hand and the square-jawed actor on the other. Case in point: Penn’s op-ed on Haiti’s “tremendous progress” in Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal.

The outlines of his argument seem straightforward at first blush. Penn primarily wants to highlight the work his aid group and allies in the Haitian government have done since the catastrophic earthquake of January 2010, which left an estimated 100,000 to 316,000 people dead and the country’s political and economic center in ruins. “The people of Haiti have come a long way,” he writes, which is fine as far as it goes, if perhaps conflating his organization and political allies with the national body politic.

But as you keep reading, the basis of Penn’s argument becomes decidedly less clear. Penn seems to see the enemy of this clear progress as his old bête noire, the media: “Headlines continue to spin Haiti as a dark, poverty-entrenched no-man’s-land. … Such cynicism sells papers and entices people to click, but at the cost of Haitian lives.” This kind of coverage is destructive, he argues, because it scares away the one group of people whom Penn seems to believe are the last great hope for the salvation of the Haitian people: foreign investors.

The mechanics of this are a bit hard to fathom. Does Penn suppose that investors, whose primary missions are to make money and beat the competition, depend solely on mass-media accounts of political and social problems? Is he alleging that the problems described in those unnamed reports are untrue; or just that, had journalists a bit more loyalty and tact, foreign businessmen simply wouldn’t know about them?

And what media are he talking about? Though Penn doesn’t name her, his op-ed must in some part be a response to WSJ editorialist Mary Anastasia O’Grady, who last month penned another entry in her ongoing narrative of Haiti and the world, which boils down to the personal malfeasance of Bill and Hillary Clinton. (This has been O’Grady’s take on all things Haiti for more than a decade.) O’Grady’s recent characterization of a post-quake recovery “debacle” is likely to have rubbed Penn the wrong way, or at least prompted someone to ask for his rebuttal. But it seems strange that Penn would complain about the airing of Haiti’s troubles in papers like the Wall Street Journal, since he goes on to spend the next six paragraphs airing Haiti’s troubles in the Wall Street Journal.

Moreover, the problems Penn expounds on—a continuing post-quake housing crisis and an ongoing cholera epidemic—are real, but the way he chooses to describe them do them, if anything, a disservice. Penn focuses his housing critique on the persistence of a few remaining post-quake encampments, settlements that, in a testament to the ingenuity and resilience of the people who built them, have since early on tended to be indistinguishable from other shantytown neighborhoods across Haiti, except for the fact that someone—usually the state or a powerful landowner—wanted them gone. The problem, which Penn hints at but never specifies, is that the vast majority of Haitians who have returned to pre-quake housing are living in houses as vulnerable as the ones that collapsed on January 12, 2010.

He also neglects to mention that the preponderance of evidence shows that the cholera epidemic was started by the negligent sanitation of United Nations peacekeeping soldiers, who dumped their waste in Haiti’s primary river system. Or that the U.N. and member nations including the United States steadfastly continue to refuse to pay for a cleanup, presumably because they don’t want to and nobody can make them, not because a columnist somewhere told them to beg off.

And this is where the contradictions really hit home. Penn is not, as the Journal identifies him, simply “an actor, director and the founder of J/P Haitian Relief Organization.” If he were just an outside observer, he’d likely have mentioned that one of the biggest crises in the country—and one of the ones most likely continuing to scare off investment, for what that’s worth—has been the failure of his friend, President Michel Martelly, to hold municipal and legislative elections since taking office in 2011.

Nor is he strictly a journalist. (A fact-checker would have noticed that, contrary to his claim, the cholera epidemic that erupted in Haiti in October 2010 has already spread to Mexico; and an editor would have prompted him to note that Haiti is flailing along with the rest of the hemisphere in the face of another epidemic, of the mosquito-borne chikungunya virus, and that his boasting of Doctors Without Borders’ ongoing work in Haiti is especially misguided given that the organization only works in emergency areas with little infrastructure, a particularly concerning fact for Haiti since they have been there since 1991.) But at the same time, no one hosting all-star fundraisers featuring the U.S. ambassador to Haiti and Anderson Cooper, or publishing critical op-eds in the Wall Street Journal, can fairly claim to be outside the media himself.

None of that is disqualifying. Who is without contradictions, after all? It just reaffirms the question anyone should ask when encountering such an opinion piece: Who is writing this? What do they want? Who, right now, is Sean Penn?

Jonathan M. Katz is a freelance journalist and the author of The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster. Follow him on Twitter @KatzOnEarth.

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Haiti: Play on Haitian Revolution at Cambridge, MA Community Arts Center

On Thursday, June 12, Cambridge’s own Community Arts Center presents:
REBEL
An original play about the Haitian Revolution

This spring, the Community Art Center’s School Age Child Care Program
is working on an original playREBEL about the Haitian Revolution.

Visual, media, dance and theater arts classes at the Community Art Center are collaborating to tell the story of Johanne, a young girl coming of age in the revolutionary landscape of Saint-Domingue- the French colony that would become Haiti.

As Johanne witnesses and participates in the changing life around her she must confront her present fears and find new, future hopes. Her story is told. Through the telling, we learn what freedom, courage and responsibility mean for one girl in one country struggling for liberation.

The Community Arts Center presents:
REBEL
Thursday, June 12 • Doors open at 6:00 PM
Cambridge YMCA
820 Massachusetts Ave.
Doors open at 6:00 PM
Free and open to the public, although voluntary donations are welcome

For more information, contact James Pierre at james.adius.pierre@gmail.com

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Haiti, Development: Four Years after Earthquake, Housing, Sanitation, Health Care are Still Pressing Needs in Haiti

Center for Economic and Policy Research

“International community’s response remains misplaced,” CEPR Co-Director Says

Washington, D.C., January 9, 2014 – Four years after an earthquake devastated Haiti and killed some 220,000 people and displaced 1.5 million, housing, sanitation and health care remain woefully inadequate, Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) Co-DirectorMark Weisbrot said today. Weisbrot noted that while some 200,000 people are still stuck in internally displaced person (IDP) camps, and many others have beenforcibly evicted onto the streets – and while under-funded sanitation and health care allow a cholera epidemic to continue to ravage the country — many of the urgently-needed funds meant to assist the people of Haiti have gone instead into the pockets of contractors, or have been used to fund projects that benefit foreign corporations far more than they do Haitians.

“The lasting legacy of the earthquake is the international community’s profound failure to set aside its own interests and respond to the most pressing needs of the Haitian people,” Weisbrot said. “Four years of exposés in the international media, appeals from the U.N. and international aid groups, and pleas from the Haitian government, Haitian grassroots groups and many others have failed to change the misplaced priorities of the international response to the earthquake and the cholera epidemic.”

Weisbrot applauded the Assessing Progress in Haiti Act, introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee and cosponsored by 34 other legislators, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives last month. The Act is meant to foster greater transparency in U.S. government contracting in Haiti through regular progress reports to Congress.

Much of the U.S. government aid earmarked for Haiti following the quake has gone to foreign contractors, providing little benefit to Haitian businesses, organizations or workers. 67.1 percent of USAID contracts has gone to Beltway-based firms, while just 1.3 percent has gone to Haitian companies. The Haitian government has also largely been bypassed as aid funds have gone to foreign contractors, international agencies and the many groups that populate what is known as the “republic of NGOs.” Of the $6.43 billion disbursed by bilateral and multilateral donors to Haiti from 2010-2012, just 9 percent went through the Haitian government.

Weisbrot noted that although the massive displacement of people from their homes was one of the most visible and damaging aspects of the earthquake, four years lateronly 7,515 new houses had been built. A U.S. government plan to build 15,000 new houses has reduced its goals by over 80 percent.

The cholera epidemic, brought to Haiti by U.N. troops, has killed 8,500 people and sickened over 695,000. While the U.N., the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Haitian and Dominican governments launched a $2.2 billion plan to eradicate cholera over a year ago, it remains woefully underfunded, and the U.N. itself has pledged just 1 percent of the funding needed, even as the U.N.’s mostly military and police mission in Haiti costs over $572 million a year.

Projects such as the Caracol industrial park, meanwhile, continue to receive additional funding, with the Inter-American Development Bank announcing last week that it would commit another $40.5 million for the facility’s expansion. The project has come under scrutiny over poor working conditions and low pay for garment workers; theWorkers Rights Consortium [PDF] found that “On average, workers were paid 34% less than the law requires” at Caracol.

“The least that the U.N. and international community could do is to clean up the mess that they themselves made,” Weisbrot said. “This means providing the infrastructure for clean water, as quickly as possible, to get rid of the deadly cholera bacteria that U.N. troops – who did not come to Haiti for earthquake relief – brought to the country.

“The millions of dollars brought to contractors and big NGOs have often not been used to meet the urgent needs of the Haitian people.”

For more background on the state of reconstruction in Haiti four years after the quake, see CEPR’s “Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch” blog.

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Haiti: Mosquito-borne virus spreads rapidly in Haiti

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 5/13/14
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — A mosquito-borne virus that was detected for the first time in Haiti last week has quickly spread throughout the Caribbean nation, a health official said Tuesday.

Some 1,529 cases of the chikungunya virus have been confirmed, said Ronald Singer, a spokesman for Haiti’s health ministry. The bulk of the cases, about 900 of them, were found in the west department, where the capital of Port-au-Prince is located. Another 300 cases were confirmed in northwestern Haiti.

The new numbers seem to represent a startling jump over the past week. The health ministry said last Tuesday that lab results confirmed a mere 14 cases.

Since then, Port-au-Prince has been abuzz with people complaining about a sudden and debilitating illness that’s been referred to as “the fever.”

The symptoms of chikungunya include not just a sharp fever but also headache, full-body rash and joint pain. The illness is rarely fatal but recovery usually takes about a week. Some people experience joint pain for months to years.

The illness, which is most commonly found in Asia and Africa, was first detected in the Caribbean in December on tiny St. Martin.

It was the first time that local transmission of chikungunya had been reported in the Americas. Since then, it has spread to nearly a dozen other islands and French Guiana.

Its arrival in Haiti was expected. In neighboring Dominican Republic, authorities have confirmed at least 150 to 200 cases.

There is no vaccine for chikungunya and it is spread by the pervasive Aedes aegypti mosquito, which also transmits dengue fever in the region.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/05/13/4114872/mosquito-borne-virus-spreads-rapidly.html#storylink=cpy

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