Thursday, February 25, 2010

Raising Up Another Haiti - by Beverly Bell

23 February 2010

As Haiti moves forward from the current point of devastation of its
population, capitol city, and economy, what could a different nation
look like?

Who knows better than the Haitian majority? Why not ask them what they
need and want?

Their perspectives have been sorely lost from the post-earthquake plans
of some of the world's strongest powers. Their analyses went unheard by
the foreign ministers and financial institutions at the international
donors meeting in Montreal on January 25. Their voices have been lost
amidst the declarations of the International Monetary Fund, President
Obama, and the leadership of the 32,500 troop-strong U.S. and U.N.
military operation now underway.

On February 13th and again on the 20nd, more than fifty organizations
representing grassroots sectors met in Port-au-Prince to develop their
political, economic, and social priorities, and to make their voices
heard. The declaration from February 13th read in part: "[We have]
decided to launch a national and international campaign to bring forth
another vision of how to redevelop this country, a vision based on
people-to-people solidarity to develop the opportunity now facing this
country to raise up another Haiti. We [want] to build a social force
which can establish a reconstruction plan where the fundamental
problems of the people take first priority. These include: housing,
environment, food, education, literacy, work, and health for all; a
plan to wipe out exploitation, poverty, and social and economic
inequality; and a plan to construct a society which is based on social
justice."

Discussions toward a cohesive forum of social movements are still
underway. In the meantime, a subset of the grouping -- the Consultative
Group of Social Movements on Reconstruction -- committed itself to
organizing a meeting on March 12th and 13th to explore priorities and
how to achieve them. The Consultative Group will seek broad
participation from different sectors and regions. The groups leading
this network include the Platform to Advocate Alternative Development
in Haiti (PAPDA, by its Creole acronym) and its six member
organizations, the Alternative Justice Program (PAJ), the Society for
Social Mobilization and Communication (SAKS), and a few others.

Dozens of interviews with social movement leaders reveal a clearly
emerging consensus on the priorities for reconstructing the country --
or, as some call it, "constructing the country," since few are served
by reconstructing what existed before. The priorities are as follows.

* Creating participatory democracy. This has been at the heart of
social movements' demands from the moment Haiti emerged from the brutal
30-year Duvalier dictatorship in 1986; it may be more relevant today
than ever. Government must serve the people, be accountable to them,
and include their participation. Community organizer Marianne Moïse
captures the objective when she says, "We have to be the principal
actors in changing our country. No one else can change it for us."
Citizens assert that it is their right to be involved in decisions
regarding future policies and programs. After all, they are the ones
who will have to live with the impacts.

* Rebuilding under a new economic paradigm, one which breaks free
of the old path where agricultural production is undermined by unfair
trade rules, where food and many other basics are imported, and where a
coveted job is as a sweatshop worker earning $3 per day. Social
movements are adamant that Haiti from here on out must be based on
principles of economic justice, including:no more payments on a
long-since-repaid foreign debt, trade rules that privilege Haitian
producers and Haitian goods, food sovereignty, employment
opportunities, and workers' rights.

* Protecting the environment. This is connected to a new economic
model, part of putting people and the earth before profits. Central to
social movements' environmental advocacy is tough environmental
regulations for industry (which are currently nonexistent) and a new
model of ecological agriculture. Creating environmentally healthy
citizen practices is another factor.

* Putting social needs at the center. As articulated by experts,
women in a rights group now living under sheets in a refugee camp,
those needs are, in a rough ranking of priority: housing, food, health
care, education, and work.

* Privileging agriculture. In a country where the rural farming
population comprises 65% to 80% of the population (depending on who's
answering, as no census has ever been taken), substantial investment in
developing peasant agriculture is critical. This is especially true in
a context of a food crisis that was already severe before the
earthquake and that will soon become much more so, since farmers have
had to use much of this year's seed stock to feed the deluge of people
fleeing Port-au-Prince for the countryside. Just trade policies which
protect local production are key.

* Ensuring women's and children's rights. In the fragile and
dangerous post-catastrophe environment, social and economic rights for
women and their children must be front and center. Security against the
violence now escalating against them is also critical. Malia Villard,
organizer of rape survivors, says, "They didn't respect our rights even
before the Presidential Palace was destroyed, even before the Palace of
Justice was destroyed. We need that in the reconstruction."

The agenda is monumental in the best of times. Today it is being
shaped by people who still don't know where their child is, who came to
work today after attending another funeral, who are still wearing casts
from earthquake injuries. It may be that their pain and difficulties
sharpen the determination to have their needs met in a context of
social and economic justice and democracy.

That is the perspective, at least, of Ricot Jean-Pierre, director of
programs for PAPDA. He says, "Sadness can't discourage us so that we
stop fighting. We've lost people as in all battles, but we have to
continue fighting to honor them and make their dreams a reality. The
dream is translated into a slogan: ‘Another Haiti is possible.'"


Beverly Bell has worked with Haitian social movements for over 30
years. She is also author of the book Walking on Fire: Haitian Women's
Stories of Survival and Resistance. She coordinates Other Worlds,
www.otherworldsarepossible.org, which promotes social and economic
alternatives. She is also associate fellow of the Institute for Policy
Studies.



_______________________________________________________

Sent by the Haiti Support Group - A British solidarity organisation
supporting the Haitian people's struggle for participatory democracy,
human rights and equitable development - www.haitisupport.gn.apc.org

Filmmaker: I want to give the world a different view of Haiti

By Grace Wong for CNN

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Collapsed House, No Number - by Beverly Bell


“Collapsed house, no number” is an old expression that Haitians uses to
indicate that their flimsy homes of sticks-and-mud or shoddy cement blocks
have finally fallen apart.

Today that expression could serve as the motto for the capitol city of
Port-au-Prince.

Take Helia Lajeunesse, an unemployed children’s rights activist. When her
little house on the side of a gaping green sewer in the Martissant slum
collapsed in the earthquake, she moved herself and three of her surviving
children to the cement courtyard of nearby St. Bernadette Church. Within the
church gates, Helia and her family spend their nights with at least 700
others. “Here is where we go when it rains,”
she said, pointing to an outer church wall. “We stand here all night long.
And here’s where I keep my stuff. This neighbor watches it for me.” She
gestured to a woman sitting beside a pile of bundles wrapped in sheets. “And
here’s where we wash,” indicating a thin rivulet of water running down a
wide crack in the sidewalk. “Yes, really. Me and the kids. Where else are
we going to get water?”

Members of the middle and upper classes who lost their homes in what people
here call ‘the event’ typically moved in with friends or relatives with
space to spare, or rented an apartment or hotel room.
The homes of the poor collapsed in far higher percentages, both because of
the inferior construction of the houses and their placement on the sides of
ravines and other insecure spots; in those cases, few had a place to turn
for substitute shelter. Port-au-Prince has thus become a city of refugee
camps. In most open spaces – an out-of-business Hyundai dealership, the
landing strip of the old airport, a rare city park, the edges of slums, the
courtyards of schools – the displaced have spontaneously created their own
camps. Estimates of the numbers of camps and their residents differ greatly.

International aid agencies talk about their tent distribution program, but
it is not obvious where the programs are in operation. Isolated Coleman
camping tents rest amidst lean-to’s on streets throughout town, making roads
so narrow that cars can barely pass. This observer has seen tents in groups
of several dozen only a handful of times. In these cases, the plastic walls
are printed variously with UNICEF, Canada, the People’s Republic of China,
the Buddhists of Taiwan.

Many humanitarian aid tents go to people with connections. For those not
well enough networked, they can buy one in the black market which has sprung
up around the commodity. “I got this for $110,” Mezilla Youyoute explained
as she showed off an octagonal blue-and-white tent nestled amidst a maze of
slapped-up shelters. A French man she knew donated the money for her
purchase. “Pretty good price, huh?”

In today’s Haiti, tents are luxury living.

The dominant form of shelter is a bedsheet attached atop and around four
sticks, most of those sticks smaller than a woman’s wrist. Those better-off
use a tarp for a roof. Some enterprising builders have made collage walls of
cardboard, strips of tin, broken 2x4’s, and foam – and in one case, a U.S.
flag. But more often it’s bedsheets, no floor. Or, as in Helia’s case in the
church yard, there is no shelter at all, nothing but a slab of cement under
the body.

And now the rains have arrived in Port-au-Prince. They come every few nights
and crash for hours with gale force. Until the climate change of recent
years, it rained annually between May and October, but now the season has
become unpredictable. When it rains, those living on the streets stand or
sit up all night long.

The shacks and lean-to’s in the no-address camps are often no wider apart
than a human body, and some of the paths are muddy with water or sewerage.
The stench of human waste is strong. Flies, mosquitoes, and trash abound.

Always more vulnerable in conditions of crisis, women in these outdoor
spaces are enduring extreme levels of violence, both rapes and beatings,
according to grassroots advocates. Cassandre St. Vil’s analysis is that rape
might have been just as prevalent before the earthquake had the rapists had
the easy access to their prey they have today, with tens of thousands of
girls and women sleeping in the streets. A newly homeless 18-year-old who
speaks softly with downcast eyes, Cassandre was raped by four men. “Raped
and raped and raped,” she said. She could not find any police then, and has
no idea where to file a complaint now. The entire justice system, weak
before January 12, appears nonexistent to most citizens’ eyes now.

Despite the conditions, life is busily underway in the refugee camps. A
glance around one during an afternoon walk revealed: A baby taking her first
steps. Two men in underwear bathing with buckets in a trash-strewn, empty
fountain. A girl running, laughing, down the sidewalk pushing an older boy
in a wheelbarrow, until she tripped and dumped him. A teenage girl scrubbing
an umbrella in a bucket. A man and his son hammering 2x2 panels of rusted
metal together to form their new house. A girl combing another’s hair. A
woman filling tin bowls with food for her children. Barefoot boys pulling
with strings trucks they’ve fashioned from tin cans. A baby sleeping on a
sheet, her body thickly surrounded by flies. A small group listening to a
static-y radio emission. A boy with his foot in a shoddy cast sitting
quietly, alone. A toddler walking down a path carrying a quart-sized plastic
bucket filled with garbage; his mother walking behind him carrying a
five-gallon plastic bucket filled with garbage.

People in the camps report that no one has told them what their fates may
be. A rumor has gone around that those in public spaces will be evicted and
sent to the town of Croix des Bouquets soon. Another rumor is that all the
camps are going to be going to concentrated into a few, each containing
50,000 to 100,000 people. “They’ll just recreate the slums,” commented one
woman. The mayor of Delmas declared over the radio that people must vacate
school yards by the end of January.
“Just watch him try to get them out,” someone remarked.

Soldiers with weapons appear at random times and in random neighborhoods to
distribute rice. In those instances, word spreads quickly on the streets and
people run to line up. “Why can’t they tell us when they’re coming?” said a
man residing in one camp on a traffic-clogged thoroughfare. “We make
schedules. Why can’t they?” For those who have lost everything and thus lack
stoves, cooking the rice often proves impossible. Some of this group line up
anyway, for they can sell the rice and use the money to buy food they can
eat.

In some larger camps, like those surrounding the ruined National Palace, the
UN and other international agencies have brought in non-potable water for
washing. At times aid workers bring in free drinking water, though some who
have drunk it claim it have them diarrhea. Excluding this water, the erratic
hand-outs of uncooked rice, those sparsely distributed tents, and new
clinics established by groups like Doctors without Borders and Partners in
Health, homeless citizens report receiving no goods, services, or
information. The survivors are left to their own devices to find drinking
water, bathing water, bathroom systems, food, cooking systems, electricity
for charging cell phones, psychological care, and security. This is in a
context in which most refugees lost not only everything they owned, but also
their cache of merchandise to sell on the streets in the informal economy,
and often their jobs; money to obtain necessities is in extremely short
supply.

In one camp, a visitor with no official function asked, “Who all has come to
check on you?” A resident replied, “You.”

Members of some camps have organized themselves to watch over each other. In
some cases, elected mayors and vice-mayors have created volunteer teams to
provide security for the area and to seek outside aid interventions. Some
have hammered signs stating their needs on telephone poles, like “Camp
Africa. Need: food, water, medicines, tents.” In at least one camp,
residents have taken tallies of the number of pregnant women, babies, sick
people, and children living there, and try to ensure that the medical needs
of all are met. In another, a grassroots women’s group is circulating ‘know
your rights’
tracts to women, and intervening in cases of violence. Still other camps
have organized informal education programs for the children, since all
schools except a very few private ones are closed.

Laurent Manel, a community organizer who lost everything except his family,
said, “The government has primary responsibility for us.
They’re the ones who take our taxes. But they’re totally irresponsible.
They didn’t even take responsibility for getting people out from under
crushed buildings. We did that with our own fingers.”

Wearing clothes that she said were the only thing she was left with after
her house turned to rubble, Marjorie Dupervil said, “I don’t expect anything
from the state. There is no state.”

Some refugees amuse themselves by quoting to each other one of the few
public comments that President Rene Preval made in the days following the
earthquake: “I lost my palace.”

The statute of limitations on patience may be running out. “Haitians aren’t
zombies,” Josette Perard of the Lambi Fund said. Protests against the
government have commenced. A large one occurred last week in front of a
police headquarters, with people denouncing the absence of government
response and the way that aid is being distributed.
Speakers shouted over microphones that housing, food, medical care, and work
were their rights. Bill Clinton’s visit on on February 5 met with
demonstrators demanding aid and rights, as did Nicolas Sarkozy’s visit on
February 17. Protesters with similar messages take to the streets in small
groups on a near-daily basis.

“The government had better watch out,” said Carolle Pierre-Paul Jacob of
Solidarity Among Haitian Women. “The camps could quickly become sites of
resistance.”



_______________________________________________________
Sent by the Haiti Support Group - A British solidarity organisation
supporting the Haitian people's struggle for participatory democracy, human
rights and equitable development - www.haitisupport.gn.apc.org

Contractors in Haiti, Readying to Profit from Disaster?

osted By poxvox to Haiti Vox at 2/18/2010 06:18:00 PM

Contractors in Haiti, Readying to Profit from Disaster?
Tuesday, 16 February 2010 17:05

With the Inter-American Development Bank saying that the reconstruction of Haiti could cost upwards of $14 billion, and with billions in aid already coming in to Haiti, it is vitally important to keep a close eye on where that money is being spent.

The Federal Procurement Data System - Next Generation, has set up a function where you can track contracts awarded for Haiti related work. The list, however, is not exhaustive; there is a message on the site saying that the list only "represents a portion of the work that has been awarded to date." For instance the US Agency for International Development lists only two contracts totaling just under $150,000. USAID, however, says that through the Office of Transition Initiatives they have already given $20 million to three companies: Chemonics, Internews, and Development Alternatives Inc. The reality may be that these companies have received even more money than that though. The Miami Herald reported on February 8 that:

The U.S. Agency for International Development has given two assignments for Haiti-related work to two beltway firms involved in international development: Washington, D.C.-based Chemonics International and Bethesda, Md.-based Development Alternatives Inc.

The emergency work assignments, which are worth $50 million each, are
likely the first of many the agency will hand out to private firms to
help Haiti get on its feet after the devastating quake Jan. 12.

The article also notes that these were non-competitive contracts.
Chemonics is a subsidiary of ERLY Industries, also the parent company
of Comet Rice. According to a Washington Office on Haiti report, as
reported by Food First:

RCH began operations in September 1992 when former World Bank official and post 1991 coup leader Marc Bazin's regime signed a nine year development aid contract with RCH. RCH's corporate parent is Comet Rice. Comet Rice has been the largest importer of rice in Haiti for many years. The flood of its imported "Miami rice" in the 1980s, much of it supported by U.S. tax dollars through various AID and USDA programs, drove thousands of small scale Haitian rice farmers out of business. Corn and other grain production also declined due to the importer's marketing techniques. Development Alternatives Inc., in coordination with the USAID Office of Transition Initiatives, has been involved in shady political activities in various countries where the US was opposing democratically elected governments.

Shortly after the earthquake, investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill wrote for The Nation about defense contractors heading to Haiti. He made the following observation:

The Orwellian-named mercenary trade group International Peace Operations Association didn't waste much time in offering the "services" of its member companies to swoop down on Haiti for some old-fashioned "humanitarian assistance" in the form of disaster profiteering. Within hours of the massive earthquake in Haiti, the IPOA created a special webpage for prospective clients, saying: "In the wake of the tragic events in Haiti, a number of IPOA's member companies are available and prepared to provide a wide variety of critical relief services to the earthquake's victims."

While some of the companies specialize in rapid housing construction, emergency relief shelters and transportation, others are private security companies that operate in Iraq and Afghanistan, such as Triple Canopy, the company that took over Blackwater's massive State Department contract in Iraq. For years, Blackwater played a major role in IPOA until it left the group following the 2007 Nisour Square massacre. Many members of the IPOA have already secured work in Haiti. HART
Security is in Haiti "supporting clients from the fields of media,
consultancy and medical." Agility Logistics teamed up with
the International Medical Corps last year and is currently working in Haiti. Agility Logistics was indicted in November by a U.S. grand jury in Atlanta for overcharging the US Army $60 million on supply contracts. Reuters reports that:

The six counts of the indictment charge PWC with crimes against the United States including: conspiracy to defraud, committing major fraud, making false statements, making false, fictitious or fraudulent claims and wire fraud. Agility said in November that it had been suspended, but not debarred, from new U.S. government contracts pending the outcome of the indictment.

Another member of IPOA that is apparently active in Haiti is the Canadian company SkyLink Aviation. SkyLink has been involved in controversy before as well. In a series of reports on the UN Task Force charged with investigating fraud and abuse in peacekeeping operations, the Washington Post made several revelations. In 2006 the Washington
Post reported that:

Peacekeepers, for example, spent $10.4 million to lease a helicopter for use in East Timor that could have been secured for $1.6 million. While the article says the names of companies were not released, in 2007 the Post reported that:

[Andrew] Toh is the target of a lengthy investigation into whether he improperly helped two Peruvian generals and a Canadian company, Skylink Aviation, secure a multimillion-dollar contract to lease two MI-26 Peruvian government helicopters for the U.N. mission in East Timor. The task force has been unable to prove that Toh accepted bribes, but it says it cannot close the case until it gets access to Skylink's Swiss bank account used in the helicopter deal. The Post also reported that $65 million "or more was spent for fuel that was not needed for missions in Sudan and Haiti," and that "it identified SkyLink Aviation Inc., a Canadian firm, as the company that supplied fuel to the U.N. mission in Sudan."

Another contractor that has secured work in Haiti is Fluor, which "is currently working with the Army to optimize the response approach." Fluor is active in the Middle East, but was also active in relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina. USA Today reported in 2005 that:

Federal court records show Fluor agreed to pay $3.2 million in 1997 to settle allegations that its FD Services division padded repair bills for cleaning up U.S. Navy bases in South Carolina after the 1989 strike of Hurricane Hugo. Fluor also agreed to pay $8.5 million in 2001 to settle allegations that it billed the government for work done for other clients, court records show.

Of course, none of this is evidence of current wrong-doing. However in times of crisis contracts and companies with checkered pasts will inevitably slip through the cracks. Only a watchful eye will prevent possible widespread abuse and fraud.

Remembering Magalie Marcelin

Remembering Magalie Marcelin, a leader of Haiti's movement for women's rights, who was killed during the earthquake.

by Beverly Bell
Feb 17, 2010

“A loss for the whole nation.” That is how one of Magalie Marcelin’s friends described the death of this women’s rights leader in Haiti’s earthquake January 12.

Magalie was at the forefront of the birth of the contemporary women’s movement in Haiti in the 1980s ("contemporary" because recorded actions for gender equity go back as far as 1820). She started Kay Fanm, or Women’s House, Haiti’s first shelter for battered women, which was also a hub of feminist and anti-violent activities. She was instrumental in passing laws to recognize women’s equal rights in marriage, and to criminalize rape and domestic violence.

Magalie’s political activism started as a teenager during the rule of Jean-Claude Duvalier. She was arrested along with others in a group that used grassroots theater to raise political consciousness. The government then expelled her, and she settled in Canada and studied law. After the dictator fell in 1986, she returned to Haiti and began advocating for women and for political rights. During the 1991-94 military coup, Magalie lived in hiding. Even then she never stopped organizing, hosting secret Kay Fanm meetings at her underground residence.

Though she was a lawyer, Magalie didn’t argue cases herself, but helped women in trouble find lawyers and create defenses. She managed to get a fair trial for a woman who, after having been beaten for many years, killed her husband. On another occasion, according to the feminist sociologist Carolle Charles, Magalie organized women to pack the courtroom during the trial of a man who battered his wife, to offset the man’s political influence. The woman won.

Magalie lived at Kay Fanm, sleeping on a thin foam mat on the floor. That way she was available 24 hours for the needs of the domestic violence survivors taking shelter there, though she sometimes stepped away for a night when she was too worn down. She was not paid for any of this work. It was all volunteer; she supported herself through doing sociological investigations in the countryside as a consultant for an international NGO.

Magalie was also an actress and free spirit. When she was very young, she appeared in the full-length film Anita, about a rèstavek, a child slave. She always hoped to get back into theater, but never found the time; there were too many women to defend and support. Her email moniker was tilangdeng, or "mischief." Part of her philosophy was that, to do this work decade in and decade out, she had to keep her spirit nourished. She spoke of how her hometown of Jacmel provided that nourishment for her.

Magalie wouldn’t play political games and told it like it was. She alienated some people as a result, but she didn’t care. She particularly angered people with a statement she made on the radio: “A penis is not a weapon.” In Haiti, synonyms for penis are ‘machete’ and ‘baton’, and having sex is sometimes called ‘to crush’ or ‘to cut’. One extended study in Cite Soleil found that, for 100 percent of surveyed women, their first sexual experience was rape. This was the context in which Magalie chose not to worry about others’ opinions.

Many of her gestures were quiet and unseen. She continually helped people find jobs, money, or whatever they needed to survive and be safe. She also helped women who wanted to start grassroots women’s groups. This is where she died, in a meeting with a woman in Port-au-Prince who wanted to launch a women’s organization. She was in the woman’s home when it collapsed during the earthquake. Three others who were inside were rescued, but Magalie was not.

Jacques Bartoli, a close friend of Magalie, tells the rest of the story. “The morning after the earthquake, Delano Morel, another of Magalie’s good friends, found out where she was. I got together a sledgehammer, other hammers, and heavy picks they use for construction, and we headed down. The street was blocked so we walked and walked until we reached the house. Magalie’s daughter Maïle and her husband Andy met us there. We got together a couple of volunteers and some other people I paid. We extracted her five hours later but she was already dead.

“Two other women that Magalie had just helped the day before, women who were having trouble with their mates, joined us to go to the morgue. But the morgue had collapsed. There were people trapped there, too. So Magalie’s daughter said, ‘Let’s take things into our own hands.’ We took her body back to Kay Fanm and we laid it out there with ice. We knew she wanted to be buried in her land in Jacmel, on the other side of the river, but the road was broken. I said, ‘Let’s exhume her body in a year and take her to her land.’ So Magalie’s daughter found a place in Port-au-Prince and buried her the next day.”

Three other founders and shapers of Haiti’s women's movement died in the earthquake: Anne-Marie Coriolan, Mireille Neptune Anglade, and Myriam Merlet. So, too, did an untold number of women who worked every day without professional title, office, or resources to make Haiti a more just and equitable place. They were all part of a thriving tradition of women’s activism to bring about social, economic, and gender justice. Their work does not appear in the media depiction of Haiti, in which the reports of sporadic street violence have been blown up until Haiti looks like a nation of barbarians. (Curiously, this reporting has largely left out one form of violence which is prevalent today: rapes against women and girls who, since the earthquake, have been forced to sleep in the streets.)

No one will ever know how many women activists died in the earthquake. Many of the bodies were quickly dropped from bulldozer scoops into shallow mass graves, or remain in the buildings that are crushed like sandwiches throughout Port-au-Prince and its environs. Nor will anyone ever know how many of them died needlessly, not from the quake itself but from not receiving the medical care, food, and water that the U.S. government repeatedly turned away from the tarmac so that its soldiers and weapons could land instead. For those women who died in this way, it was the final injustice in a lifetime of injustices.

The battle against more lifetimes of injustice will require everyone. It will require Magalie, too. Good thing she’s on the case, present and accounted for, inside all who care about rights and justice.


_______________________________________________________

Sent by the Haiti Support Group - A British solidarity organisation supporting the Haitian people's struggle for participatory democracy, human rights and equitable development - www.haitisupport.gn.apc.org

Mark Schuller - from huffingtonpost.com

Passing the "Riot Test" in Haiti

FAO - Food crisis looms in rural Haiti

AO and CARE collaborate on cash-for-work programme in Léogâne

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Uncertain Ground: Haiti’s Earthquake and its Aftermath

By Mark Schuller
February 8, 2010

On January 12, a 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti, just outside the capital of Port-au-Prince. The damage is beyond human comprehension. Since then, groups have lurched to deliver emergency aid while the survivors have done an amazing job sharing what they have. As of today (February 8), the situation is still fragile: Haitian people are still traumatized, survivors’ own food and water are running out, and despite the critical need for aid coordination there is no evidence of that happening.

An earthquake of this magnitude and this close to a big city is bound to cause major damage, like recent quakes in Iran and Turkey. Complicating the forces of nature, rendering the tremors more deadly, is Haiti’s vulnerability to disasters. This vulnerability results from a series of human acts and decisions, not some random chance or act of God. The sheer magnitude of the death toll – best recent estimates say 200,000 dead and 1,000,000 homeless – results from how the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area grew up. In the 1980s, before the World Bank, USAID and other donors imposed “Structural Adjustment Programs” as part of the “Washington Consensus,” Port-au-Prince housed 500,000 people. This neoliberal approach resulted in a fast, chaotic growth. Shantytowns appeared to accommodate these quintupling of two million people who were pushed off their land and pulled into very low-wage factory jobs.

Responding to this humanitarian crisis, dozens of NGOs and mission groups sent urgent appeals for funds for emergency aid. Rehabilitating the deteriorating state-run General Hospital, Partners in Health teamed up with the Haitian government and even the U.S. military to provide desperately needed emergency medical aid. The U.S. military seized control of the airport, already under U.N. occupation, and then coordinated aid flights. Commercial flights stopped, and many operating under the U.S. military control were rerouted for lack of fuel. Occupying U.N. forces closed the border with the Dominican Republic. The earthquake destroyed the capital’s port, where most of Haiti’s food, fuel, and manufactured goods arrive, also because of the “death plan” – neoliberalism’s impact on destroying Haiti’s self-sufficiency. In short, no aid could get into Haiti.

While aid was being blocked, Haitian people – survivors, not victims – took very good care of themselves. Already a proud, generous, and resourceful people, Haitians got over their very intense divisions in order to survive. I was in Haiti for the 2004 coup and can attest to the very real divisions over Aristide, but the biggest divisions and most dire concerns for Haiti’s poor majority have been economic. Haiti is the poorest country in the Americas – with 4 out of 5 people making 2 dollars per day or less – but it is also home to the most millionaires per capita. It is not a coincidence.. For the moment at least, in my neighborhood at least, both political and economic divisions have become the ancien régime. In the new Haiti, middle class and pèp la (Haiti’s poor majority) are all sleeping on the ground, looking out for one another and sharing what resources they have. By themselves, people in my neighborhood set up a medical clinic and an information gathering apparatus. I have more hope than ever that Haitian people will survive this crisis because I have seen what Haitian people are accomplishing on their own, together.

But the survivors’ resources are indeed limited. Particularly urgent are food and water. This is where foreign aid in whatever form is urgently needed at the moment, in addition to medical needs. Partners in Health and French NGO Doctors without Borders are doing great work delivering this critical need. I went to my neighborhood in Haiti to and with Hospice St. Joseph as part of a grassroots medical team that was coordinating with Partners in Health. This team delivered aid to 1,000 people in a week. Many grassroots efforts to give aid to Haiti are underway, but the scale is still too great for the grassroots at the moment. The U.S. military is the most efficient and effective agency to deliver aid to Port-au-Prince at the moment, but especially since Haiti has been occupied following the coup in which the Bush government played an important role, survivors have no reason to trust them. I am told that big U.S. NGOs who used to deliver food aid to the countryside are poised to do the same in Port-au-Prince. The old plan – P.L. 480 – not only didn’t work, it actually hurt the peasant economy. So this “cutting-the-cake” plan has to learn the lessons of the past and not repeat the mistakes of hoarding, corruption, high overhead, and creating “big men.” And they have to be in direct contact with the grassroots, who are organizing. NGOs’ role should be one of support, not direction, decisions need to be made out in the open, and the NGOs’ points of contact must be fluent in Haitian Creole and have at least some understanding of Haiti. At bare minimum the Haitian survivors need the respect that they deserve, as a people who have survived despite very many obstacles, including those imposed by foreigners.

The urgent challenge that we must face is how to help survivors articulate their needs and to connect them with outside resources. Coordination will be literally the difference between life and death. Specifically, donors have a choice between violence in the form of understandable riots and --- military repression or a rocky and imperfect transition into medium-term plans of self-sufficiency (which must include rebuilding Haiti’s peasant economy destroyed by neoliberalism) and long-term plans of rebuilding Port-au-Prince. If anyone harbors plans to profit – call it disaster capitalism – please stop, if nothing else out of respect for the survivors and the thousands of dead whose bodies are still rotting underneath the rubble.

I don’t and can’t know how long Haitian survivors’ communal food supplies will last, but time is of the essence.

For now, nou la. We’re here.

The motto on Haiti’s flag offers the best advice of all: L’Union Fait la Force. In unity there is strength. The survivors have already learned this lesson. It’s our turn now.

Mark Schuller is Assistant Professor of African American Studies and Anthropology at York College, the City University of New York. He co-edited Capitalizing on Catastrophe: Neoliberal Strategies in Disaster Reconstruction and co-directed documentary Poto Mitan: Haitian Women, Pillars of the Global Economy. He is completing a book about foreign aid and NGOs in Haiti.

1 Known as Reaganomics in the U.S., neoliberalism is the belief that the state should step aside and let the free market take care of everything.
2 For a fuller discussion, see http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/01/15-11
3 See http://www.worldpress.org/Americas/3131.cfm and http://www.thenation.com/doc/20080602/lindsay
4 See Richardson (1997) Feeding Dependency, Starving Democracy for a detailed account.
5 For example, Food for the Poor was censured for mismanagement in 2006.
6 See Naomi Klein (2007) The Shock Doctrine and Nandini Gunewardena and Mark Schuller (2008) Capitalizing on Catastrophe: Neoliberal Strategies in Disaster Reconstruction

Victory in Iqaluit - From One.org

Last weekend, seven of the world's most powerful countries announced their commitment to complete debt cancellation for Haiti. And ONE was there to help make it happen.

Read about our petition delivery at the G7 meeting in Iqaluit, Canada, on the ONE Blog:
http://www.one.org/r?r=307&id=1450-4530865-C9gXy8x&t=1

On Friday, the Treasury Department announced U.S. government support for complete Haitian debt cancellation. But even as we celebrated the power of your grassroots efforts, we kept the campaign going globally to secure similar commitments from other countries.

That breakthrough happened at the G7 finance ministers' meeting in Iqaluit, Canada. The meeting’s host, Canadian Finance Minister James Flaherty, announced that all the G7 countries – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, and the U.S. – have agreed to support complete cancellation of Haiti’s $1 billion international debt.

Your signature was one of 400,000 delivered to the G7 finance ministers' meeting by ONE member Michèle Bertol, a Haitian-Canadian living in the small arctic town of Iqaluit. More than 200,000 ONE members signed the petition, and a further 200,000 signatures came from Avaaz and similar petitions at Oxfam International and Jubilee USA. These and other organizations have helped make this a proud moment for the entire anti-poverty community.

Visit the ONE Blog to learn more about Michèle’s story and the delivery in Iqaluit, and share your thoughts on this victory:
http://www.one.org/r?r=307&id=1450-4530865-C9gXy8x&t=3

Though the InterAmerican Development Bank, IMF, and World Bank have not yet canceled Haiti's debt, the G7 countries hold considerable influence over them. We hope to see the G7 follow through by using their votes when these institutions meet over the next couple of months.

Still, this is a great victory and I’m particularly proud that it came in response to such dire circumstances. Once again, you’ve shown that when we come together as ONE, we can take on great challenges and create real change.

Thank you,

Sheila Nix
U.S. Executive Director, ONE

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Problems of Relief Effort by Ryan McCrory

Date: Tue, 2 Feb 2010 08:52:40 -0800
From: ryn_mccrory@yahoo.com
Subject: Haiti Relief Debacle


Hello tout moun,

It has been an interesting experience sitting here in Port-Au-Prince being part of a coalition of 25 non-profit organizations coming together to coordinate the dispensation of food, water, and medical supplies. It hasn't been easy because of the extreme difficulty of passing through the myriad loops that the large NGO's require before anything will be given out. There is a 100 question form that they are passing out to communities to fill out bring back in order to receive aid. This alone can take them a week or so. The questions they ask are very difficult to answer and explaining location in Port-Au-Prince, is nearly impossible. Often Haitians use directions like, next to the large tree around the corner from so and so market. The UN wants GPS coordinates because many streets are not marked here and navigating the city has proven to be difficult.

After the one riot that took place in the worst part of the city, they are only sending out non-food items at first to see if the communities can function without a disaster taking place. I understand their concern for safety, but it seems to be quite a long process to go through before any nutritional needs are met. It has been nearly three weeks now and communities all over the place are living on minimal amounts of food if any. The Haitian government has been completely bypassed in all of this. The president has thrown his hands up in the air because he is not being included or informed about anything that is happening involving this process of bringing aid relief to the people.
Boats full of goods are being redirected to pass through the Dominican Republic (DR) which is a very lengthy process as well. We actually have a boat waiting in the DR which hasn't received any clearance by the port of Jacmel to debark.

When did it occur that our society got so disorganized. Where paperwork and numbers are given priority over bringing actual aid to the people. Smaller organizations have given up all over the place trying to deal with the larger NGO's and the UN because there still has been any sign of the goods being distributed. They have warehouses full of boxes and can't organize their dispensation to the country. The small organizations have given up and are buying local food to distribute and/or taking trips to the DR and driving truck loads of good back to the communities they are working in.

I understand that indeed this is quite a difficult project, but how could it be so disorganized? I hope that there will be a reflective inquiry into what made this all such a mess, so in the future aid relief will arrive and actually be given out to the people in timely manner and avoid the watching the population deminish everyday while groups run around like a chicken with its head cut off staring at piles of papers and computer screens, forgetting that behind the numbers are real people in dire need.
This has been a huge disaster, not only with the earthquake, but with the response. I only can hope that we get it together before more and more Haitians perish because the loads of aid aren't quite ready because they haven't been given the go by those in charge. If this doesn't reflect the depth of our Orwellian times, and not wake us up from this great mess we have gotten ourselves into, I am not sure what will.

The Haitian people are unfortunatley used to living with very limited resources including food and water and have a high tolerance for suffering. If this was to happen in the US there would have been no tolerance for such suffeering. With great hope and determination we will overcome this all and Haiti will revive itself.

Thank you,
Ryan McCrory

HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE FOR HAITI - Colectiva Mujeres Y Salud/CAFRA

February 2, 2010

Dear Friends,

Many thanks for all of your contributions to any and all organizations that are providing support to the people of Haiti. These are greatly appreciated. Unfortunately, in many camps essentials such as food and clothing are not yet widely available, especially for women and children.

As with most other natural disasters, the strongest and the fittest tend to dominate disaster supply chain and distribution. Women and young girls are the last to have access to the supplies chain and distribution points. So they do not receive the supplies that they most urgently need in addition to food and water. So it is in Haiti. Rape of young girls and women is also a growing problem.

Haitian women, young girls and youths are in need of:

· Feminine supplies, combs, feminine wipes, panties, bras and clothes and other support (especially for pregnant women and new mothers).

· Personal/household supplies for birth delivery and after: (rubbing alcohol or disposable anti-germicidal substitutes; baby wipes, baby wraps, pampers, socks and caps and supplies for nursing mothers/newborn; (It is cold at nights so there is need to cover the feet and heads of the newborns).

· Clothing and under garments for women and young girls

· Bedding & blankets for babies and mothers.

· Urgent need for the morning after pill (rape of girls and young women is becoming a problem, as is common in the aftermath of most disasters).

· Any items that you think would be useful for women and girls.

· In general any supplies (such as toothpaste, tooth brushes etc) that can be used for daily living for men, women, boys and girls are welcome.

We need your support for these resources and any financial contribution towards shipment that you are able to make.

Donations can be left in the accompanying box and or may be sent directly to:

HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE FOR HAITI
Sergia Galvan and Mayra Tavarez
Colectiva Mujer y Salud
Calle José Gabriel García # 501
República Dominicana
Ciudad Nueva. Santo Domingo

Tel: 1-809-682-3128 or 1-809-315-0571

US contacts: Mariama Williams/Stephanie Ebanks, 561-512-3756

Email: Email: mariamawill@gmail.com and stephamar@msn.com


This is a specific drive for Emergency Supplies for Haitian women and girls that is being sponsored by the Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Action (CAFRA) and Colectiva Mujers Y Salud (Women’s Health Collective), Dominican Republic, and the CAFRA Youth League in Haiti.

This assistance is being transferred primarily through the Myriam Merlet International Solidarity Camp directly to women and women´s organizations.

*Myriam Merlet was a National Representative of CAFRA who was killed during the earthquake.

Many, Many thanks!!!



Important information for those sending supplies on their own to the address above

Please properly label the supplies and include a list of what is in it. The Women in the Dominican Republic have negotiated with the Government in the DR for quick and duty free clearance of our supplies for Haiti, but it will go through alot quicker if there is a list. That way customs can simply do spot checks, rather than digging through everything to get an idea of what the supplies consist of.

Please also an email to the DR as well as the CAFRA Secretariat in St. Lucia which is coordinating logistics. The email addresses are as follows:

cafra@candw.lc (CAFRA´s Admin Officer)
sergiagalvan@hotmail.com (Leader of the Women´s Collective in the DR) and
Mayra Tavarez (CAFRA´s National Representative in the DR).

This is so that the can know what is coming and also plan necessary transport logistics to get it to Haiti across the border.

Thanks everyone!

Haiti govt gets only 1 cent of every US aid dollar

Article from The Grio website