Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Haiti: One Year After The White-Man-Made Disaster

photo: ©2010 Randall White. This image is from the Haitian Action Network report linked to below

Not many news sites will report to you the extent to which everything that happened on Haiti one year ago was a production called "The White Man's Terror". It stars lots of white men, from Europe and the U.S., some of them colonists, some of them CEOs, some of them former U.S. presidents. The people who will always suffer most at the hands of any atrocity constructed by the White Man is women of color. And so it is in Haiti. Below is a sampling of news stories out in the last 24 hours, explaining aspects of the situation there now. The reports, in order, are from The Haitian Action Network, The New Black Man, Amnesty International/Canada, and The I did my best to ignore news from the U.S., which only ever wants to tell you how GREAT the U.S. is, despite the fact that they are a "Lone Wolf" of terroristic evil on Earth.

I choose to remember, on this day, especially, the deaths of three feminists: Women's rights activists Myriam Merlet, Magalie Marcelin, and Anne Marie Coriolan. For more on each of these women, please see this report from Chicago NOW*here*.

By Bill Quigley and Jeena Shah

BAI - Port au Prince, Haiti — One year after the January 12 2010 earthquake, more than a million people remain homeless in Haiti. Homemade shelters and tents are everywhere in Port au Prince. People are living under plastic tarps or sheets in concrete parks, up to the edge of major streets, in the side streets, behind buildings, in between buildings, on the sides of hills, literally everywhere.

UNICEF estimates that more than 1 million people – 380,000 of them children – still live in displacement camps.
"The recovery process" as UNICEF says, "is just beginning."

One of the critical questions is how many people remain without adequate housing. While there are fewer big camps of homeless and displaced people, there has been extremely little rebuilding. The UN reported that 97,000 tents have been provided since the quake. Tents are an improvement over living under a sheet but they are not homes. Many families have lived many places in the last year circulating from rough shelters to tents to camps to other camps to living alongside other families.

It is important to understand that families may leave the huge unsupervised camps and still be homeless someplace else – like a tent in another part of the city or country. Moving from one type of homelessness to another cannot be allowed to be declared progress against homelessness and displacement.

The key human rights goal is housing, not moving out of the displacement camps.

One illustration of the housing challenge facing the Haitian people can be found in a recent report from the International Organization for Migration (IOM). The IOM December report announced a reduction in the number of persons remaining in displacement camps. The IOM then wrongly concluded that the number of people displaced and homeless was reduced accordingly. Why is this conclusion wrong? Because the IOM report does not even try to track where displaced persons go after they leave a particular camp. They equate homeless families moving out of displacement camps as families finding housing.

These types of erroneous conclusions are not only misleading but threaten to hinder badly needed relief efforts one year after Haiti's devastating earthquake.

Careful consideration of the IOM report provides an opportunity to examine some of the many important housing challenges still facing Haitians.

IOM Assertion: "We finally start to see light at the end of the tunnel for the earthquake-affected population…these are hopeful signs that many victims of the quake are getting on with their lives." IOM reported there has been a 31% decrease in the number of internally displaced people living on IDP sites in Haiti since July.

Fact: Getting on with their lives? Of an estimated 1,268 displacement camps, at least 29% have been forcibly closed – meaning tens of thousands of people have been evicted, often through violent means. Many who are forcibly evicted from one site move on to set up camp for their families in another location, which is often more dangerous. This is not getting on with life; this is searching for less dangerous places for the family tent.

IOM Assertion: People with houses labeled red (uninhabitable or extremely dangerous) or yellow (in need of repair) have "chosen to return to the place of origin or nearby to establish a shelter."

Fact: As of December 16, 2010, only 2,074 of the estimated 180,000 destroyed houses had been repaired and a small percentage of rubble had been cleared. Decisions by desperate homeowners to move back into still destroyed homes is hardly progress.

It is also not even possible for large numbers of people who were renters to return to their destroyed homes. The destruction of more than 180,000 private residences coupled with influx of international aid workers has made Haiti's rental market soar. An estimated 80% of those rendered homeless by the earthquake were renters or occupiers of homes without any formal land title. Current rents are unreachable by the majority of displaced Haitians, many of whom who lost their means of livelihood during the earthquake. The IOM admits "The lack of land tenure and the destruction of many houses in already congested slums left many of those displaced with few options but to remain in shelters."

IOM Assertion: "Some households rendered homeless after the earthquake left congested Port au Prince all-together going home to the regions. Others sent their children to the countryside for a better life."

Fact: Rural Haiti before the earthquake was home to 52% of the population, 88% of which was poor and 67% was extremely poor. Rural residents had a per capita income one third of the income of people living in urban areas and extremely limited access to basic services. Disaster response following the earthquake has not tackled the extreme structural violence that exists in rural areas, and Hurricane Tomas further destroyed livelihoods of rural communities. People moving from displacement camps in the city to living in a tent in the countryside have not really moved out of homelessness, they have just moved.

IOM Assertion: "Surviving in poor living conditions during the long hurricane season has persuaded many to seek alternative housing solutions."

Fact: Homeless people are always seeking "alternative housing solutions." Camp conditions even before Hurricane Tomas and the cholera outbreak revealed that displaced Haitians were in camps because they had no "alternative housing solutions."

According to a study conducted by CUNY Professor Mark Schuller before both Hurricane Tomas and the outbreak of cholera:
40% of displacement camps did not have access to water;
30% did not have toilets of any kind;
10% of families even had a tent, many of which were ripped beyond repair during the hurricane season; the rest were sleeping under tarps or even bed sheets.
A study conducted even earlier by the Institute of Justice & Democracy in Haiti found that:
78% of families lived without enclosed shelter;
44% of families primarily drank untreated water;
27% of families defecated in a container, a plastic bag, or on open ground in the camps;
75% of families had someone go an entire day without eating during one week
and over 50% had children who did not eat for an entire day.
Human rights promise housing, not just forcing people away from displacement camps. Haiti needs practical and sustainable solutions for re-housing along with services and protections for the people still homeless.
One year later, it is critically important for the international community to assist Haitians to secure real housing. The million homeless Haitians and the hundreds of thousands who have moved out of the large homeless camps into other areas are our sisters and brothers and still need our solidarity and help.

Bill is Legal Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, a law professor at Loyola University New Orleans and a long-time Haiti advocate. Jeena Shah is a lawyer serving in Port au Prince as a Lawyers' Earthquake Response Network Fellow with the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux and the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti. Contact Bill at and Jeena
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Haiti: Where Did the Money Go?

In January 2010, a 7.0 earthquake devastated Haiti. The international community, including one out of two Americans, pledged billions of dollars in aid, yet the nation has seen little improvement. Three hundred thousand died, nearly two million live in ramshackle tent cities. Cholera has swept through the population, killing thousands and hospitalizing many others. Only about 2% of the rubble has been cleared.

Is this what you expected when you pledged your aid dollars? Independent journalists journeyed to Haiti in November 2010 to see the situation for themselves, and dig into the burning question: what happened to all that money?

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Amnesty International and Women's Human Rights

Amnesty International regularly documents a range of violations of women’s human rights through reports, news releases, public statements, and letter writing actions. We work with women human rights advocates and like-minded organizations to encourage governments to enforce women’s human rights as defined in various international and regional human rights standards. This blog covers the full range Amnesty's concerns in the arena of human rights for women, including sexual and reproductive rights; violence in armed conflict, the community and the home; women human rights defenders; and protection of women’s economic, social and cultural rights.

Haiti: Sexual violence against women increasing

Posted by: Lindsay Mossman
Women and girls living in Haiti’s makeshift camps face an increasing risk of rape and sexual violence, Amnesty International said in a new report released today.

One year after the earthquake which killed 230,000 people and injured 300,000, more than one million people still live in appalling conditions in tent cities in the capital Port-au-Prince and in the south of Haiti, where women are at serious risk of sexual attacks. Those responsible are predominately armed men who roam the camps after dark.

More than 250 cases of rape in several camps were reported in the first 150 days after January’s earthquake, according to data cited in the Amnesty International report, Aftershocks: Women speak out against sexual violence in Haiti’s camps.

One year on, rape survivors continue to arrive at the office of a local women’s support group almost every other day.

Read the News Release

Read the Report

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Haiti one year on: put communities at the heart of reconstruction

Haiti's earthquake drew emergency help from the charity Article 25, but its architects' main focus is finding permanent solutions

Haiti rubble
Haitian children are seen amid the rubble in Port-au-Prince, a year after the earthquake. Photograph: Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images

One year on from the devastating earthquake of January 2010, millions in Haiti are still struggling to meet their most basic needs. With food and water in short supply in the 1,300 temporary camps, serious threats to women's safety widely reported, and cholera having left its mark on an already dire public health situation, architectural solutions may seem low on the list of priorities.
But earthquakes in Chile and New Zealand in the same year are two illustrations that it's not earthquakes that kill people, it's buildings. Despite both measuring higher on the Richter scale than the Haitian quake, intelligent design and safer construction minimised the death tolls in Chile and New Zealand. Article 25, the UK's leading built environment charity, promotes the idea that when we build back in Haiti, we must build back better. Architecture is, as our trustee Lord Foster testifies, "a necessity and not a luxury".
Working with our partner Outreach International, Article 25 is breaking ground on the repair and reconstruction of dozens of schools, reinstating education as a driver for overcoming the trauma of the quake for hundreds of Haiti's children. On the ground for almost a year, Article 25 immediately adopted a long term approach, driven by the belief that without ensuring a sense of permanence in the relief stage, Haitians would remain trapped in a crippling state of dependency. Article 25 sees permanence as intrinsic to genuine recovery.
Our project in Pakistan that trained locals to build seismic-resistant housing within 100 days is an example of how disaster response does not have to adhere to the typical model of sticks and tarpaulin, buffeted by trickling aid agency provision. Following Pakistan's 2005 earthquake, Article 25 worked with communities to build prototype homes using locally sourced materials, designed to withstand future earthquakes. Through effective on-the-job training in construction techniques, locals are still building Article 25 houses, years after the training was completed. In this way, locals are transforming a relief-stage solution into a permanent one.
This experience proves that community participation is at the heart of sustainability in reconstruction projects. By placing local communities at the centre of the decision-making process, Article 25 leaves a community empowered and equipped with the necessary skills to rebuild and maintain their own environment. Article 25's work in Haiti over the past year has included a strong emphasis on community participation, using workshops to diagnose a long list of needs and encourage the community to prioritise those needs. These workshops help parents, staff and children become aware of the strengths and challenges of their existing education infrastructure, and to choose what is most important to them. Asking the community to establish their own needs and preferences means donor money makes the biggest difference on the ground.
With Article 25 staff as facilitators, workshops have included "problem trees", where communities are encouraged to dig deeper and recognise the root causes of problems. What has emerged is that shelter for displaced people, improved nutrition and health, more classrooms, and subsidised school supplies are key collective priorities. These issues are laid out in a "ranking exercise" in which communities asked to vote for the three issues they believed were of highest significance. A lunch programme emerged as the first priority for all participants, with internet access a close second. In a country where just 11% of the population are reported to have internet access, this is a clear sign from the next generation that they want to be better connected.
While the developed world has argued over the right solutions for Haiti over the past year, Haitians have too often been left out of the debate. Our workshop results show the people of Haiti themselves are aware of a lifeline: internet access could empower them with knowledge and and make their views heard. The Observer's recent suggestion box scheme is one that has facilitated exactly that. Recognising that local communities hold the knowledge of vernacular techniques allows a design to develop which becomes more powerful than a building. As a community member commented following an Article 25 workshop: "Thank you for coming to our village: you gave the community a voice."
Oxfam recently called the efforts of the government and international community a "quagmire of indecision and delay". Article 25 finds that only by harnessing local knowledge can we cut through the "quagmire" and make sustainable progress. By placing community participation and capacity building at the crux of reconstruction in Haiti, Article 25 ensures it is the people of Haiti who are becoming the authors of a safer, more sustainable future. It is critical that this kind of work in Haiti continues long after the journalists have gone home, and that we stay with this programme as long as it takes to help Haitians lift themselves out of paralysis and build back better.
• Robin Cross is CEO and Director of Projects, Article 25.

1 comment:


I note the charitable organisation Article 24 rightly emphasises working with communities in order to ensure that those individuals who are directly affected by white men's created disasters are not once again ignored.

However, the word 'community' is often a euphemism for male-centric interests rather than women's needs being taken into account. I have checked Article 24's website and I see no mention of ensuring a gendered analysis is always included when working with 'communities.' I mean not an analysis wherein the assumption is 'women's and men's needs are symmetrical or indeed equal, because women do not commence their lives from an equal playing field. Neither is it a case of 'add women' and claim we've ensured gender is included. Rather charities need to ensure their field staff are well-trained in the complexities of how male domination and male power operates which ensures women's socio-economic needs continue not to be marginalised/invisibilised.

Here in the UK the latest buzz word used by male-dominant government and many voluntary organisations alike is 'community' wherein it is presumed taking into account differing communities needs is the answer.

But this neatly ignores the fact all communities continue to experience male domination and male power because as always it is men's voices and men's experiences which are seen as the default human experience. Women living in differing communities continue to be subjected to silencing and invisibility because women do not commence their lives from the so-called 'equal playing field.' A woman-centric view must be taken when charitable organisations work with 'communities' in order to ensure women's experiences/needs are not marginalised but given equal if not greater importance.

It is not a question of equality wherein the presumption is women need to 'fit into a male-centric view' of re-construction/re-building etc. rather it is understanding how social and economic constraints affect women far more than men as a group.

The fact male sexual violence against women and girls living in Haiti continues unabated continues to be ignored by malestream media because this issue is unimportant (sic) and instead we read/hear claims that Haiti is recovering and the reconstruction process is making good progress. For whom one has to ask? Who benefits when only certain Haitain inhabitants benefit and of course not forgetting the west's primary interest in profit which overrules women's rights not to be subjected to male sexual violence and continued male domination.