Outsourcing Haiti

Outsourcing Haiti

How disaster relief became a disaster of its own

Jake Johnston

Jan 16, 2014

Petrocaribe-financed housing development in Morne Cabrit, on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince. Photograph: Jake Johnston

Across the country from Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, miles of decrepit pot-holed streets give way to a smooth roadway leading up to the gates of the Caracol Industrial Park, but no further. The fishing hamlet of Caracol, from which the park gets its name, lies around the bend down a bumpy dirt road. Four years after the earthquake that destroyed the country on January 12, 2010, the Caracol Industrial Park is the flagship reconstruction project of the international community in Haiti. Signs adorn nearby roads, mostly in English, declaring the region “Open for Business.” In a dusty field, hundreds of empty, brightly colored houses are under construction in neat rows. If all goes as hoped for by the enthusiastic backers of the industrial park, this area could be home to as many as 300,000 additional residents over the next decade.

The plan for the Caracol Industrial Park project actually predates the 2010 earthquake. In 2009, Oxford University economist Paul Collier released a U.N.–sponsored report outlining a vision for Haiti’s economic future; it encouraged garment manufacturing as the way forward, noting U.S. legislation that gave Haitian textiles duty-free access to the U.S. market as well as “labour costs that are fully competitive with China . . . [due to] its poverty and relatively unregulated labour market.”

The report, embraced by the U.N. and the U.S., left a mark on many of the post-earthquake planning documents. Among the biggest champions of the plan were the Clintons, who played a crucial role in attracting a global player to Haiti. While on an official trip to South Korea as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton brought company officials from one of the largest South Korean manufacturers to the U.S. embassy to sell them on the idea. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, having just appointed Bill Clinton U.N. special envoy to Haiti, tapped connections in his home country, South Korea.

Then suddenly, the earthquake presented an opportunity for the Clintons and the U.N. to fast track their plans. The U.S. government and its premiere aid agency, USAID, formed an ambitious plan to build thousands of new homes, create new industries, and provide new beginnings for those who lost everything in the earthquake. Originally the plan was to build the industrial park near Port-au-Prince. But land was readily available in the North, and the hundreds of small farmers who had to be moved from the park’s site were far less resistant than the wealthy land-owners in the capital. So the whole project moved to the Northern Department, to Caracol. Under the banner of decentralization and economic growth, the Caracol Industrial Park, with the Korean textile manufacturer Sae-A as its anchor tenant, became the face of Haiti’s reconstruction.

Pledges from international donors rolled in after the earthquake, reaching a total of $10 billion.

Now, only 750 homes have been built near Caracol, and the only major tenant remains Sae-A. New ports and infrastructure have been delayed and plagued by cost overruns. Concerns over labor rights and low wages have muted the celebration of the 2,500 new jobs created. For those who watched pledges from international donors roll in after the earthquake, reaching a total of $10 billion, rebuilding Haiti seemed realistic. But nearly four years later, there is very little to show for all of the aid money that has been spent. Representative Edward Royce (R-CA), the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, bluntly commented in October that “while much has been promised, little has been effectively delivered.”

The story of how this came to pass involves more than the problems of reconstruction in a poor country. While bad governance, corruption, incompetent bureaucracy, power struggles, and waste contributed to the ineffective use of aid, what happened in Haiti has more to do with the damage caused by putting political priorities before the needs of those on the ground.

The Housing Crisis and the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission

The earthquake decimated Haiti’s housing stock: 100,000 were destroyed and more were damaged. There were $2.3 billion in damages in the housing sector alone, and 1.5 million people left living in makeshift tent camps. Unplanned and unregulated housing construction made Port-au-Prince, with population at least 3 million, extremely vulnerable to natural disasters. In less than a minute, entire shantytown neighborhoods came crashing down.

The Interim Haiti Recovery Commission was created by the international community to coordinate post-quake aid and align it with Haitian government priorities. Bill Clinton, as the U.N. special envoy and the head of the Commission, was optimistic. “If we do this housing properly,” he affirmed, “it will lead to whole new industries being started in Haiti, creating thousands and thousands of new jobs and permanent housing.”

Like the Caracol Industrial park, the Commission was presented as a response to the devastation of the earthquake. But its basic tenets—and its slogan, “Build Back Better”—were actually agreed upon by the U.S. and U.N. in the year prior. The commission’s formation was handled not by the Haitian government, but by the staff of the Clintons, mainly Cheryl Mills and Laura Graham, as well as a team of U.S.-based private consultants. The commission’s bylaws were drafted by a team from Hogan Lovells, a global law firm headquartered in Washington, D.C. A team from McKinsey and Company, a New York based consultancy firm, handled the “mission, mandate, structure and operations” of the commission. Eric Braverman, part of the McKinsey team, later went on to become the CEO of the Clinton Foundation.

According to Jean-Marie Bourjolly, a Haitian member of the commission, the body’s “original sin” lay in concentrating the decision-making power in the Executive Committee of the Board, made up of Bill Clinton and then–Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive. In October 2010, just six months after its creation, Bourjolly wrote a memorandum to the co-chairs and the rest of the commission’s board. The note cautioned that by “vesting all powers and authority of the Board in the Executive Committee, it is clear that what is expected of us [the rest of the Board] is to act as a rubber-stamping body.” According to Bourjolly, the memorandum was not included in the official minutes of the October meeting at Clinton’s behest, and the document has remained out of the public sphere. But one former commission employee confirmed the commission’s role: he told me that many projects were approved because “they were submitted by USAID and State” and “that as long as USAID is submitting it and USAID is paying for it,” it should be approved.

Bourjolly also contended that the commission was failing to live up to its mission “to conduct strategic planning, establish investment priorities and sequence implementation of plans and projects.” Rather, Bourjolly wrote, “our action has so far been limited to accepting projects that. . . come our way on a first come, first served basis” and that it would result in “a disparate bunch of approved projects. . . that nonetheless do not address as a whole neither the emergency situation nor the recovery, let alone the development, of Haiti.”

The number of displaced persons is down to 200,000 from 1.5 million. But only 25 percent of that decrease is due to official housing programs.

Even the Clintons’ supporters conceded that their staff and the foreign consultants did more harm than good. A Haitian government official, who requested her name be withheld because of the power the Clintons continue to wield in Haiti, commented that “they were lucky to get someone as high-profile and experienced as Clinton” but that the staff “had no idea what Haiti was like and had no sensitivity to the Haitians.” “Out of ignorance, there was much arrogance,” the official said. “And who pays the price? The Haitian people, as always.”

Article 22 of the Haitian constitution enshrines “the right of every citizen to decent housing,” and civil society groups have long advocated for the government to protect this right through large-scale, affordable public housing. But in October 2011, the commission quietly closed its doors. Its eighteen-month mandate was not renewed, and little remained of the grand plans to build thousands of new homes. Instead, those left homeless would be given a small, one-time rental subsidy of about $500. These subsidies, funded by a number of different aid agencies, were meant to give private companies the incentive to invest in building houses. As efforts to rebuild whole neighborhoods faltered, the rental subsidies turned Haitians into consumers, and the housing problem was handed over to the private sector.

The number of displaced persons is down to 200,000 from its 1.5 million peak, according to the U.N. But only 25 percent of that decrease has anything to do with official programs to provide housing. Many were given a paltry subsidy and evicted from their camps. The highest profile and most visible camps were closed down, but those tucked in alleys, out of the view of the convoys of aid workers’ vehicles, remain forgotten. Fifty-five thousand Haitians who moved to areas known as Canaan, Jerusalem, and Onaville were recently removed from the “official” list of Internally Displaced Persons camps. Though those who were pushed out of the camps simply returned to their old homes, the international community claims progress. A USAID–sponsored study from the summer of 2011 estimated that over a million Haitians were occupying damaged homes and that nearly half of them were living in “buildings that might collapse at any moment.” In fact, if another quake happened today, they’d be more likely to die than they were living under tents in clearings.

By September 2013, nearly four years after the earthquake, only 7,500 new homes had been built and 27,000 repaired—an incredibly small achievement when set against the billions of dollars and grand plans put together by the international community in the wake of the catastrophe. “Now, we have a return to the status quo, the same situation that was there before the earthquake, with no coordination and each project done haphazardly,” Gabriel Verret, the former executive director of the commission, said.

USAID’s $33,000 House

While the $500 rental subsidies recommended by the Clinton Commission at the end of its tenure became the preferred form of support by the Haitian government and international community, smaller projects to provide permanent housing that had already been approved by the commission were carried through. In December 2010, the commission’s board had signed off on the U.S. government’s “New Settlements Program,” which called for the construction of 15,000 homes in Port-au-Prince and the North Department, where the new industrial park was to be located.

This June, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report revealing that only 900 of those 15,000 homes had been built. The overall goal has been reduced to 2,600. At the same time, costs increased from $53 million to over $90 million. The GAO found that the program suffered from a fatal flaw: original estimates had drastically low-balled how much the houses would cost. The calculation of 15,000 planned houses was based on an estimate of each costing around $8,000. With the cost of preparing the land, the total cost per house was over $33,000.

USAID assembled a team of shelter experts in August of 2010. The goal, according to Duane Kissick, the head of the shelter planning team, was to put the majority of available resources into the damaged communities. The plan they came back with was simple and meant to be implemented quickly. Jerry Erbach, another member of the Shelter Team, recalled that “there was a good deal of pressure to develop a series of projects very quickly and at low cost in order to meet the needs of those households who became homeless after the earthquake.” The plan was to build homes that were simple, modest and small, but that could expand over time.

The narrative put forth by the Shelter Team experts is confirmed by USAID’s Shelter Sector Activity Approval Document (AAD), which I obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. The plan called for construction to be completed by December 2012 and specifically noted that “USAID programs will seek wherever possible to work with local partners.” A USAID-funded study by the International Housing Coalition recommended the same thing, noting that “wherever possible, USAID should utilize Haitian construction contractors.” Letting local companies or individuals handle the work means more money for Haiti, its economy, and its people. It’s also cheaper, and has worked in the past.

Food for the Poor, an NGO that has worked in Haiti for decades, utilizes small local construction teams to build 1,000 homes each year at a cost of just $6,400 each. Brad Johnson, the president of Mission of Hope, another NGO working in Haiti, told the New York Times, “We’re not one of the big groups that sit in Washington, D.C., and get the financing. . . But we’re managing to get it done for $6,000 a house. I don’t understand, for all the money that came into Haiti, why there aren’t houses everywhere.”

But the recommendations for using local contractors and the plan to build $8,000 homes were ignored. More international companies were brought in, additional studies were undertaken, and the first contract to actually build a house was not awarded until April of 2012, nearly two and half years after the quake and eight months after the project was approved. The contracts ended up going not to small local companies but to large international ones. Thor Construction, based in Minnesota, received $18 million, and CEMEX, a Mexican company, got over $7 million. Another $35 million went to two Haitian-American firms based in Maryland for environmental assessments, construction management, site preparation, and other associated projects.

Outsourcing the construction drove the price up, since international companies had to fly in, rent hotels and cars, and spend USAID allowances for food and cost-of-living expenses. To incentivize working in Haiti, the U.S. government also gave contractors and employees “danger pay” and “hardship pay,” increasing their salaries by over 50 percent. With all these costs included in contracts, it’s not hard to see how prices ballooned. Bill Vastine, a long-time contractor and member of the Shelter Team, said, “if the American people saw the true cost of this, they’d say ‘you’ve got to be out of your mind.’” The changing priorities undermined any cohesion in the program.

“I don’t understand, for all the money that came into Haiti, why there aren’t houses everywhere.”

With 200,000 still homeless and hundreds of thousands more living in grossly inadequate and often structurally unsound buildings, the 900 homes that USAID has built won’t go very far. No current USAID employees agreed to speak about the project on the record, despite repeated requests for comment. In remarks before Congress, USAID administrator Beth Hogan stated that “we were significantly off in terms of what our original estimates were. . . when we got back bids from offerers who were going to actually build these homes. . . the estimates increased even further.”

The Shelter Team also initially planned to build two-thirds of the homes in the Port-au-Prince area. But this has changed: the current plan is to build 75 percent of the homes in the Northern Department of Haiti, all within 13 miles of the new industrial park. Many USAID staffers on the ground wanted to focus on Port-au-Prince, where the damage was greatest. But the State Department had made a commitment to building houses in the North, in support of the Caracol Industrial Park.

The State Department’s political intervention in the project also delayed the process of getting people into the houses that did manage to get built. According to Erbach, who also worked with an international NGO assisting the Haitian Government in selecting households to benefit from the new housing, pressure from the Department of State led to a “significant amount of time and effort being wasted on identifying and vetting workers from the industrial park who were not IDPs.” The internal shelter AAD warned that “if the process is perceived as inequitable, opaque, or led by the United States, the [government] will appear to be ‘choosing winners,’ resulting in political problems.” As Vastine describes it: “Every agency has its own little fiefdom, their own little budgets to protect and their own cadre of people they protect and they don’t work well together; there is no cohesiveness with our own internal bureaucracy in the United States, much less with everything else that’s here, from all the other countries.”

Speaking before Congress, USAID Administrator Hogan conceded that, “what we realized as we were going into this. . . is that new homes isn’t [sic] the solution for Haiti.” USAID is now officially out of the home-building business in Haiti.

As for the 750 houses under construction in Caracol, as the four-year mark comes and goes, the first families are just now starting to move in. Meanwhile, back in Haiti’s capital, at least 200,000 quake victims face another year living under tattered tarps.

Too Big to Fail

Over the last twenty years, the American foreign aid system, much like the military, has become increasingly reliant on private contractors. From 1990 to 2008, USAID experienced a 40 percent decline in staff while funds under their responsibility skyrocketed. A 2008 report from the American Academy of Diplomacy found that “implementation of programs has shifted from Agency employees to contractors and grantees and USAID lacks . . . [the] capacity to provide effective oversight and management.” In her Senate confirmation hearing for Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton said “I think it’s fair to say that USAID, our premier aid agency, has been decimated. . . It’s turned into more of a contracting agency than an operational agency with the ability to deliver.” Billions have been shifted to private corporations and NGOs. Many of those who actually implement foreign aid projects are explicitly for-profit companies, but even top employees at some USAID-funded non-profits earn over $300,000 a year.

Before he became head of the recovery commission, Bill Clinton urged those working in Haiti to ask, “Are we helping [the Haitian people] to become more self-sufficient? Are we building infrastructure in local development plans? Are we creating local jobs? Are we paying salaries for teachers, doctors, nurses, police, civil servants? Are we giving money to support government agencies that provide those services?”

The answers to these questions would seem to be mainly in the negative. In Haiti, a report (which I co-authored) at the Center for Economic and Policy Research revealed that less than 1 percent of the more than $1.3 billion in assistance provided by USAID was awarded directly to Haitian companies or organizations. USAID awarded more money to one Washington D.C.-based for-profit contractor, Chemonics, than to the entire Haitian government since the earthquake.

Haiti is not unique; these problems erode U.S. aid across the globe. A revolving door between NGOs, development companies, and the U.S. government has entrenched the system so deeply that any movement for change will be long and difficult. Fortunately, development agencies are slowly realizing that aid goes much further when more of it stays in the local economy. For its part, USAID has launched an ambitious reform program called “USAID Forward,” which aims to totally overhaul the procurement system, working directly with local institutions. USAID Administrator Beth Hogan told Congress that in Haiti, the United States is “trying to reach 17 percent of our overall budget to be channeled through local institutions.” But already, for-profit development companies have formed a lobbying group and hired the influential, Democratic party-linked, Podesta Group to get their message out. Their selling point: foreign companies are harder to hold accountable. It’s an argument that rings hollow when you realize that not a single USAID awardee, NGO, or for-profit has been suspended or reprimanded publically for their work in Haiti, despite all the high-profile failures.

The failure of Haiti’s reconstruction is, sadly, another chapter in a long history of poverty perpetuated by outside powers. Bureaucracy, internecine quarrels, moneyed lobbying, waste and inefficiency—these are not monopolies of poor, “developing” countries such as Haiti. They are the problems of the United States and its foreign aid complex.

Read more from Boston Review on Haiti: “Apocalypse” by  fiction editor Junot Díaz, “Civilizing Haiti” by Colin Dayan, and Colin Dayan’s conversation with Jonathan Katz, “The Secret History of the Haitian Earthquake.”

Caribbean Housing Is Expensive and Scarce. Here’s How to Change That

By Michael G. Donovan and Therese Turner-Jones

WASHINGTON, United States, Thursday April 27, 2017 – The Caribbean is caught in a housing trap. The cost of living is high: building a house in Kingston is three times more expensive than in a typical Latin American city.

This has left ten million people in The Bahamas, Barbados, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, St. Lucia, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago without a decent roof over their heads. Building adequate housing for this population would cost about US$18 billion – a number that only grows as the rising cost of living pushes more people out of the market.

Without action, conditions will worsen, as more than 80 percent of the Caribbean population will be living in cities by the year 2050.

This trap does have a way out, however. A recent study by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), The State of Social Housing in Six Caribbean Countries, has looked at successful efforts to tackle the lack of affordable housing across the region. Governments have launched programs to expand social housing, lower mortgage lending costs, and promote disaster-resistant buildings. The Dominican Republic is a case in point: in 1990, close to thirty percent of Dominicans lived in substandard housing; this proportion has decreased to under fifteen percent today.

Despite this progress, much more needs to be done. By looking at what has worked and the gaps that remain, an affordable housing action plan for the Caribbean would contain at least three elements:

First, we need new alliances between financial institutions, housing ministries, and construction firms. A first generation of partnerships created many successful options for the middle class but failed to find solutions for lower income residents. Government alone cannot fill the gap. To incubate new low-cost housing developers, governments need to design attractive packages that reduce the costs of acquiring land and support the development of durable low-cost building materials. The development of new rent-to-own schemes in Barbados and Trinidad & Tobago illustrate the sort of innovative approaches that are needed.

Second, if we are truly to leave no one behind, we need a new social contract with informal settlements in Caribbean cities. Neighborhood upgrading projects could revitalize the region’s shanty towns, bidonvilles and tugurios through new housing, public spaces, infrastructure, and schools. But these programs will only succeed if they are done in close collaboration with residents and community-based organizations. Governments already acknowledge that low-income families build and renovate their homes at a massive scale in the region. Suriname leveraged this expertise by providing discounted building materials to certified community-based organizations trained in housing construction. This led to the repair and expansion of thousands of homes. Jamaica too is driving down costs using this model, providing free design services that allow social housing residents to both expand their homes and comply with building codes.

Lastly, we must call on governments at all levels to establish and enforce housing policies with explicit targets for affordable housing. Elevating housing policy as a national development priority would revitalize distressed neighborhoods and limit sprawl. Last year, United Nations member states committed to “ensure access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing” by 2030, as spelled out in the landmark Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This is fundamental as Caribbean residents flock to cities in decades to come.

The need for transformative action on this front in the Caribbean is clear and conditions are ripe. It is up to all leaders in government, business, and civil society to galvanize housing and radically improve quality of life in the region. (Americas Quarterly)

(Michael G. Donovan is a senior housing and urban development specialist at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and Therese Turner-Jones is the General Manager of the Caribbean Country Department of the IDB.)

Food crisis looming in Haiti as aid slow to reach Hurricane Matthew’s victims

The UN’s $120m aid appeal is only 40% funded, causing ‘unnecessary suffering’ for the 750,000 Haitians in dire need of support

Residents in Les Cayes survey the wreckage of homes destroyed by Hurricane Matthew which left at least 1.4 million people needing emergency aid.

Residents in Les Cayes survey the wreckage of homes destroyed by Hurricane Matthew. Photograph: Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images

Anite Figaro remembers the night her isolated mountain community fled their homes in October as Hurricane Matthew scythed across south-west Haiti.

Battling their way through darkness, mud and flying debris that included corrugated iron roofs ripped from their flimsy shacks, families struggled to seek refuge in neighbours’ homes – before realising that no building was safe.

“The winds were so heavy that we fell over and just lay down on the ground waiting for them to die down,” Figaro said, recalling that the few dozen inhabitants of Cabi finally managed to cram themselves into a cave for the night.

The story was taken up by Chericiane Gay, another of the older women in the village, reachable by a steep four-hour drive from the hurricane-stricken city of Jérémie, along roads often partially destroyed by landslides and submerged in flood water.

“It feels like the only thing we are left with is our breath, and we thank God for that,” she said, adding that an earthquake days later shook an area where, in some villages, every home had already been demolished and where survivors have yet to be reached by relief efforts from the Haitian government or major international bodies such as the World Food Programme. In the case of Cabi, a lifeline came in the form of tarpaulins and food supplies provided by the NGO ActionAid, via local Haitian partners.

Little wonder then, perhaps, that the villagers and many others in the western hemisphere’s poorest nation feel forgotten, not just by their own government but by the rest of the world. A year of political uncertainty may now be at an end, however, after Haitans chose banana exporter Jovenel Moïse as their next president following a first round of presidential, parliamentary and local elections. Provisional results indicated he won 56% of the vote, avoiding a runoff.

Haitians in Roche-a-Bateaux, Les Cayes, wait to receive food from the UN’s World Food Programme

Haitians in Roche-à-Bateaux, Les Cayes, wait to receive food from the UN’s World Food Programme. Photograph: Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images

The operations director of the UN Office of Humanitarian Affairs, John Ging, in November chastised international donors for providing just 40% (now 46%) of the funding sought for a $120m (£94m) humanitarian appeal targeting the 750,000 Haitians still in need of support. “Forty per cent [of the funding] means that 60% of the [humanitarian work] is not being done. This means a lot of unnecessary suffering for people who have had their livelihoods and their homes completely wiped out,” said Ging.

According to the UN, 1.4 million Haitians have been directly affected, including some 175,000 internally displaced people who have been living in about 307 temporary shelters, including nearly a hundred schools.

At least 1,000 people are believed to have died. Particularly hard hit were those living in cities such as Jérémie, where 145mph winds levelled not just 80% of buildings but uprooted trees and stripped vegetation from what was once a lush green skyline.

For now, however, the major concern is of a looming food crisis if crops destroyed by the hurricane – in a region once regarded as Haiti’s bread basket – are not replanted.

In the city of Les Cayes, where three people were shot dead when restless crowds gathered around food distribution points, the outspoken mayor, Jean Gabriel Fortuné, said that a famine could not be ruled out.

Jean Gabriel Fortuné, the Mayor of Les Cayes

Jean Gabriel Fortuné, mayor of Les Cayes, described the coordination of aid as ‘non-existent’. Photograph: Ben Quinn for the Guardian

“Neither the government nor the international community were prepared for a disaster of this level, but it helped open up our eyes about a reality that the Haitian state and the international community ignored. Most of the people affected were already living in dire misery, inhumane conditions,” Fortuné told the Guardian, describing the coordination of aid as “non-existent”.

Amid the sound of UN helicopters periodically passing overhead, Fortuné also gave voice to the frustration of many Haitians with the presence of the 4,900-strong peacekeeping force that was first deployed in 2004 to restore order following the overthrow of the then-president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Its stock had already plummeted as a result of Nepalese peacekeepers introducing cholera to Haiti, causing an outbreak that has claimed more than 9,000 lives.

“It’s almost as if they are using us as guinea pigs in a laboratory. There is no real problem with security. The population is pacified, even if they are living in poverty,” Fortuné added, insisting that diverting even half of the mission’s $346m a year budget would set Haiti on the path to sustained development.

Such sentiment towards the UN Minustah mission, and the broader multinational approach to Haiti, is not uncommon. It has ranged from impatience – at a weekly meeting of international actors in Jérémie, a Haitian worker stood up to voice his discontent at proceedings being conducted in English rather than French or Creole – to outright hostility and violence in the form of looting of humanitarian aid convoys in Les Cayes.

Sebastian Rhodes Stampa, disaster coordinator for the UN’s humanitarian affairs office, insisted most Haitians regarded humanitarian agencies as being in the country to help. “Security is a challenge but we are not targeted as individuals. In a situation like this, where we are initially prioritising the part of the population that is most at need, there are those who can feel left out,” he explained.

In terms of reaction to the immediate food crisis, he cited programmes such as a cash-for-work programme overseen by the UN development programme (UNDP) to clear arable land of hurricane debris, as well as distribution of seeds to farmers.

For the longer term too, smaller NGOs are among those preparing Haitians for a recurrence of a hurricane of similar force or a repeat of the 7.3 magnitude earthquake that in 2010 devastated the country’s capital, Port-au-Prince, and its surrounds.

To the west of Les Cayes, schemes being funded by the UK charity Christian Aid and local partner Koral include the establishing of early warning sirens on Haiti’s south coast. The upkeep of the solar-powered sirens will be paid for through their use as charging stations for mobile phone users.

Prospery Raymond, Christian Aid’s manager in Haiti, said: “Projects like this are one part of our response to what is a very complex situation that results from a combination of a recent drought, the hurricane and the subsequent flooding. We’re focusing on trying to build up shelter as much as possible, while trying to empower communities and making them feel that they have ownership of the recovery. Haitians are extremely thankful for the support from the international community but levels of that support are still quite low, with potentially very grave consequences.”

Those dreading the thought of hearing the sound of the sirens include Clomène Lubin, who ekes out a living selling water and snacks to local fishermen. Her 14-year-old daughter and wheelchair-bound 80-year-old mother live with her in a tiny home, recently fitted with a new roof thanks to support from Christian Aid.

The family initially refused to evacuate their home in the village of Aquin, believing that the calmness of the waters indicated little danger. “We thought nothing would happen, but at 2am the water and the winds started coming and members of the community returned with a boat to take us to safety,” she said. “We are back now, but we’re not secure. It’s where we’re obliged to live to work, but we now live in fear of the sea.”


Thousands still homeless in Haiti, five years after earthquake – Amnesty International


Haiti homeless (Credit: Flickr / Creative Commons)
LONDON, United Kingdom, Thursday January 8, 2015, CMC – The London-based human rights watchdog, Amnesty International, says five years on from a devastating earthquake in Haiti, tens of thousands of people remain homeless and desperate.
In a report on Thursday, Amnesty International attributed these to “government policy failures” and forced evictions, adding that “short-term solutions have failed many who lost everything in the disaster.
In the report – “15 Minutes to Leave’ – Denial of the Right to Adequate Housing in Post-quake Haiti”, Amnesty International documents “worrying cases of people being forcibly evicted from temporary, make-shift camps.”
The report also explores how the influx of development aid that came in the wake of the disaster failed to be transformed into long-term, secure housing solutions.
“Many people who lost everything in the 2010 earthquake have faced renewed hardship as they are thrown out of their shelters and makeshift camps. Others face homelessness and destitution in the long-term
as financial support programmes from international donors begin to dry up,” said Chiara Liguori, Caribbean Researcher at Amnesty International.
“Five years ago the eyes of the world were on Haiti after the devastating earthquake tore lives apart and left more than 2 million people homeless,” she added. “Sadly, since then the world’s interest has waned while tens of thousands of people remain destitute and homeless.”
According to the latest data, 123 camps for internally displaced people (IDPs) remain open in Haiti, housing 85,432 people.
But while the number of those in camps has reduced significantly since 2010, more than 22,000 households are still without adequate housing, Amnesty International said.
It said conditions in many IDP camps are “dire”, stating that a third of all those living in camps do not have access to a latrine. On average 82 people share one toilet, Amnesty International said.
It said forced evictions from camps are a “serious and ongoing problem.”
More than 60,000 people have been forcibly evicted from their shelters in makeshift camps since 2010, Amnesty International said.
According to Amnesty it has documented six cases of forced evictions from IDP camps and informal settlements since April 2013 and more than 1,000 families were affected.
Aside from the IDP camps, it said one of the worst affected areas is the large informal settlement of Canaan, in the northern outskirts of the capital.
It said further evictions also occurred in Canaan in 2014.
In the wake of the disaster, Amnesty International noted that money and humanitarian aid poured into the country.
It said some went to setting up rental subsidies programmes, which support IDPs to rent accommodation for one year.
However, while these programmes have significantly reduced the number of IDP camps, Amnesty International said they cannot be regarded as a long-term and durable solution.