Haiti – still waiting for recovery

Rebuilding in Haiti Lags After Billions in Post-Quake Aid;” NY Times, Dec. 23.

When you look at things, you say, ‘Hell, almost three years later, where is the reconstruction?’ ” said Michèle Pierre-Louis, a former prime minister of Haiti. “If you ask what went right and what went wrong, the answer is, most everything went wrong. There needs to be some accountability for all that money.”

An analysis of all that money — at least $7.5 billion disbursed so far — helps explain why such a seeming bounty is not more palpable here in the eviscerated capital city, where the world’s chief accomplishment is to have finally cleared away most of the  rubble.

More than half of the money has gone to relief aid, which saves lives and alleviates misery but carries high costs and leaves no permanent footprint — tents shred; emergency food and water gets consumed; short-term jobs expire; transitional shelters, clinics and schools are not built to last.

Of the rest, only a portion went to earthquake reconstruction strictly defined. Instead, much of the so-called recovery aid was devoted to costly current programs, like highway building and H.I.V. prevention, and to new projects far outside the disaster zone, like an industrial park in the north and a teaching hospital in the central plateau.

Meanwhile, just a sliver of the total disbursement — $215 million — has been allocated to the most obvious and pressing need: safe, permanent housing. By comparison, an estimated minimum of $1.2 billion has been eaten up by short-term solutions — the tent camps, temporary shelters and cash grants that pay a year’s rent. “Housing is difficult and messy, and donors have shied away from it….”

Some Good News From Haiti

Intensity map for the 2010 Haiti earthquake

Intensity map for the 2010 Haiti earthquake (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A recent news clip notes that Haiti Has Become A Role Model For The Region In Disaster Preparedness. Some excerpts follow:

Barely two years following the catastrophic earthquake that leveled portions of Port-au-Prince, the Civil Protection Agency (DPC) in charge of preparing Haiti for natural disasters, has become a success story that is now being examined as a role model for other disaster prone nations.

Since January 2010, the DPC has consolidated its place as a premier disaster preparedness relief agency; now among the best in the broader Caribbean. The Minister of the Interior, Thierry Mayard-Paul states, “We must be prepared for future shocks. The DPC has become a model of how to organize communities so that they are better prepared for disaster management. There is growing evidence that building community resilience to disasters is more cost effective than humanitarian response. Evidence shows that for every $1 spent on prevention, $4 less needs to be spent on the response.”

Already before the earthquake and in coordination with a wide variety of international agencies, the DPC was conducting simulation exercises, testing contingency plans, and training its personnel.   The tragedy of 2010 and the cholera epidemic of the last two years have allowed the DPC to hone its skills.

Directed by Madame Jean Baptiste, who has been at the helm since 2005, the DPC has been busy reducing the damage caused by natural hazards like earthquakes, floods, droughts and hurricanes through a very strong ethic of prevention. According to Fenella Frost, head of UNDP’s Disaster Risk Reduction Unit, “Thanks to this successful initiative, we have been able to reduce vulnerability of people and property, better manage land and the environment, and significantly improve preparedness for adverse events.”

Minister Mayard-Paul, who is responsible for the development and oversight of the DPC, says, “Haiti’s DPC is a real success story. We have developed a skilled outfit, organized across the country and present in every region that is systematically preparing Haitians for the next extreme event.   We can’t prevent disasters, but thanks to DPC we can certainly be better prepared.”

Madame Baptiste, who is now widely recognized for her able leadership of the DPC, says that her unit has been working closely with international agencies such as UNDP, World Bank, EU, US Southern Command, USAID, and CIDA, who have provided funding and training.

Innovative Uses of Digital Devices and Media (traditional and new) in Haiti

Map of epicenter of 2010 Haiti Earthquake

Image via Wikipedia

Since this week marks the one year anniversary of the Haiti Earthquake, there are many reports and articles being released. My colleague Kim Stephens has highlighted five reports in her blog posting today on iDisaster 2.0

I would like to highlight one of those reports, the one issued by the Knight Foundation titled Media, Information Systems and Communities: Lessons from Haiti. This 27 page report is well-written and very insightful.  Although it focuses primarily on the response phase, it does raise the question about how could the experience and lessons gained during the response also serve the national reconstruction as well as relief efforts in future crises.

Banking via Mobile Phones — innovative new program launched in Haiti

Logo of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. S...

Image via Wikipedia

A innovative effort to reestablish both phone and banking services in Haiti. See Gates Foundation, U.S. Government Back Cell Phone Banking for Haiti

Haitian cellular provider Digicel has received a $2.5 million grant for a project to allow people in the impoverished and earthquake-stricken country to use their mobile phones for banking.

Digicel is the first recipient from a $10 million fund set up by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and the project is designed to speed up the arrival of cell phone banking in Haiti. The effort follows other mobile banking projects such as the M-PESA program in Kenya.

Recovery in Haiti – one year after the earthquake

The Haitian National Palace shows heavy damage...

Image via Wikipedia

Jan. 7th,Still Shaky; A Year After the Earthquake in Haiti, the Key to Stability Is to Build the State. RAND report, Jan. 7, 2011. This short report focuses on the public administration of recovery, which is a very crucial issue in Haiti.

This is one of several articles that appeared today covering the non-recovery story in Haiti. One article cited Oxfam, the British Non-Governmental Organization, and criticized President Bill Clinton for some of the problems. The Oxfam website has an article critical of the Haitian authorities. Clearly there is lots of blame for all major parties involved.  Below is an article from The Economist (Jan. 6, 2011) titled  The year of surviving in squalor.

Even allowing for some unique difficulties, the efforts of the government and outsiders to rebuild have been disappointing. But when visiting journalists parachute in to Port-au-Prince for the anniversary of the earthquake, they will see few signs of progress and many of stasis. Rubble still blocks many streets. Even if the work of removing it goes according to the official schedule, less than half will be cleared by October. Only about 30,000 temporary shelters have been built. The National Palace, the emblem of Haitian sovereignty, has yet to be demolished, let alone rebuilt. The tent camps that dot the city look ever-shabbier, and their inhabitants thinner and more bedraggled.

This landscape of neglect and degradation mocks the widespread hope in the weeks after the quake that Haiti could “build back better,” as Bill Clinton, the United Nations special envoy to the country, put it. The government’s promising reconstruction plan, unveiled at a donor conference in March, envisioned moving many people outside the swollen capital and injecting economic life into rural areas, as well as rebuilding Port-au-Prince.

The net outcome  has been a miserable year for Haitian victims.

Higher Education in Haiti – new university underway

Coat of arms of Haiti

Image via Wikipedia

One positive and hopeful sign of recovery in Haiti is the plan to create a new, modern  university.  See New University to Rise in Haiti as Higher Education There In Collapse. Huff Post, December 2, 2010.

The mission of the International University of Haiti is Creating Global Leadership through providing students with a combination of Liberal Arts for critical thinking and Professional Development for specific skills toward building a New Haiti. Each student is strongly encouraged to major in one field and minor in the other. Fifty-two students are already enrolled. Tuition is set for US$600 per quarter for ten credits, with 120 credits required to graduate. A degree would cost only $7,200 over four years – affordable to those of modest means. The new university will cooperate with Haitian micro-lenders to accommodate student loans.

The need for the new university is especially apparent given the state of Haitian higher education post-quake.

What I cannot determine from the write up is whether distance learning techniques will be used. Given the huge losses in faculty resulting from the earthquake, it would seem a likely means to gain new faculty quickly.

Haiti — struggling with “the development gap”

Street-view of the National Palace of Haiti, d...

Image via Wikipedia

This Wash. Post  article provides an unusually insightful explanation of the slow recovery process in Haiti.  Among the causes described are the extreme poverty, lack of a viable government prior to the disaster, lack of basic sanitation infrastructure, and the need to create a new organization to dispense funds honestly and with transparency.  See Funding delays, housing complexities slow Haiti rebuilding effort.

Robert Perito, a Haiti expert at the U.S. Institute of Peace, said the emergency response went well. “The reason for that is, we’re really good at it. . . . We have all this capacity, these wonderful teams that deploy. It’s nonpolitical. It’s humanitarian. There’s not a lot of decisions to be made.”

In contrast, reconstruction is all about deciding where and what to build. “This is a classic conundrum in development theory,” he said. “It’s called the development gap: How do you fill the gap between the emergency phase and the long-term development phase?

Haiti recovery – big problems and strong language re donors being duped and lack of accountability

Major Aid Organizations “Duped Donors” and “Failed Haiti” Group Charges; HuffPost, Nov. 19.

The Disaster Accountability Project (DAP) released an online petition today, targeting leaders of major disaster relief and aid organizations for failing to do more to prevent the cholera outbreak in Haiti ten months after a devastating earthquake killed up to 300,000 and left 1.5 million homeless. Major relief organizations raised billions of dollars, while telling the public that their relief efforts included water and sanitation work. With half of the funds raised still in the bank, DAP says that aid organizations failed to use the funds with the same urgency conveyed to donors, and that a cholera epidemic was avoidable.

Executive Director Ben Smilowitz says the failure of aid organizations to respond quickly to the epidemic is different from donor nations promising aid that never materialized. “Donors have been duped. They generously donated in response to urgent appeals to save lives and help the people of Haiti after the devastating earthquake. Now, after billions in cash was raised, earthquake survivors are dying of cholera because conditions are so poor and the donated money is sitting in the bank. This is not what donors had in mind and it underscores the importance of transparency and accountability in relief and aid situations….”

For more information about the Disaster Accountability Project and the full text of this report, go to their website.

Recovery in Haiti — not a linear process

Hygiene promotion volunteers receive cholera t...

Image by British Red Cross. via Flickr

Relief or rebuild? Balancing Haiti’s cholera crisis with long-term recovery. Source is a blog named Civil Society, under the category of  fundraising; Nov. 16, 2010. As Haiti deals with its cholera epidemic,  the author discusses the difficult balance aid workers must strike between a building sustainable future and dealing with a growing emergency situation. The current challenge is  how to focus on on sustainabile recovery while also addressing  the urgent need to battle cholera?

The answer is to try and bridge the gap between relief (short term efforts to save lives) and development (long-term improvements to economic, social and political conditions). The two have traditionally, and still often are, considered as distinct and separate activities. This separation is evidenced in how activities are funded, planned and implemented.  For example budgeting for relief may follow a one year cycle whereas for development five years can be more common.  Also there is often a perception that relief comes first, followed by recovery and then finally development.

However as recent events in Haiti have clearly shown this notion of “one-way” progress – that recovery will, or should, proceed in a straight line from relief to development with no back and forth – is fundamentally flawed. This traditional approach has, over the years, been challenged by the concept of “developmental relief”.  In simple terms, “developmental relief” involves meeting immediate survival requirements in a way that simultaneously builds longer-term strength.

Haiti — a call for action from donors

The area of Bas-Ravine, in the northern part o...

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In its lead editorial on Nov. 7th, the Washington Post issues a wakeup call for attention to Haiti and the painfully slow recovery from the earthquake almost 10 months ago. Titled As Haiti Suffers, the World Dozes, the article reminds the U.S. and other donors to stop acting like the recovery projects are the usual development projects and to expedite fulfilling their pledges and to take action. It also says”It is time for Mr. Clinton, to play a critical role for Haiti. ”