Houses Passes Assessing Progress in Haiti Act of 2013

December 18, 2013

This year, the MCC Washington Office has asked for your support in urging Congress to pass the “Assessing Progress in Haiti Act.” This legislation would help increase transparency and accountability of U.S. aid efforts in Haiti by requiring Congress to receive comprehensive updates from the State Department on how the funds are being spent. These updates and reports will give Congress more thorough oversight to the disaster reconstruction process.

On December 12, the “Assessing Progress in Haiti Act” (H.R. 3509) passed the House. This bipartisan legislation was sponsored by Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and is similar to previous legislation on aid transparency in Haiti.

“The Haitian people have continued to demonstrate resiliency, strength, and bravery despite the tragic events that have occurred. It is beyond time that in turn, Congress supports Haiti by ensuring that relief and reconstruction funds are effectively spent to maximize their long term impact. We need to make certain that the people of Haiti are on the road to recovery and not forgotten,” said Congresswoman Lee prior to the passing of the bill.

Thank you to everyone who contacted their Representative and urged them to support the Assessing Progress in Haiti Act. The bill now moves to the Senate.

Haitian IDP Camps Removed from Official List

October 23, 2013

This week, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) announced that of the 1.5 million people originally displaced by the 2010 earthquake, less than 200,000 people are still living in displacement camps. This is a an 89% decrease in the number of people living in these camps since July 2010.

However, these numbers do not include the 54,045 people who live in the Canaan, Jerusalem, and Onaville camps. In July 2013, the government Haiti requested that these three displacement camps be removed from the IOM’s official tracking list, stating that they were “new neighborhoods needing urban planning with a long term view,” and did not meet the characteristics of an IDP site. It is important to note that these camps are also located in regions targeted for industrial and tourism development; developments that have been delayed because of the presence of the camps.

A peaceful protest on the 26th anniversary of the Haitian constitution calling for permanent and  affordable solutions to the IDP shelter problem in Port au Prince. 28 March 2013. Photo Credit: Jackson Doliscar

A peaceful protest on the 26th anniversary of the Haitian constitution calling for permanent and
affordable solutions to the IDP shelter problem in Port au Prince. 28 March 2013. Photo Credit:
Jackson Doliscar

The people living in these three camps, however, do not have the same security of those families that live in a planned neighborhood. Amnesty International reported this week that residents living in these areas are subject to forced evictions by “police officers accompanied by armed men.” Their homes are destroyed, they have been the victims of attacks, and several members of this displaced community have been imprisoned on unfounded charges. No longer officially considered IDPs, residents of these camps won’t have protection or oversight to prevent additional evictions and acts of violence.

In the summer of 2013, MCC published a brief titled “Permanent, Social Housing in Haiti: Recommendations for the US Government.” This brief looks at the lack of housing aid that has been effectively put to use in Haiti to help those living in IDP camps. Despite recognition from the Haitian Reconstruction Fund that there is an obligation to take care of these people, little funding has been appropriated for these specific projects and to help build permanent, safe housing for the residents of these camps.

MCC urges government officials to put an end to these forced evictions, investigate the cases of violence, and work towards a permanent housing solution for all IDPs, whether they are on the official list or not.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Discusses Haiti Aid Funding

October 18, 2013

On Wednesday, October 9th, the House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing on the “Administration of Haiti Reconstruction Funding.” The discussion was based on a report issued June 2013 by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that investigated and reported on the USAID funded Caracol industrial park in northern Haiti. The hearing took place in two parts: the first with a panel from the GAO, represented by Dr. David Gootnick, the primary author of the report and the second with a panel comprised of Haiti Special Coordinator Tom Adams from the State Department and Beth Hogan, Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator of USAID.

Dr. Gootnick answered numerous questions from members of Congress about how USAID was utilizing the $651 million appropriated for post-earthquake relief efforts. The primary focus of the hearing was on the Caracol Industrial Park in northern Haiti, which is one of the largest projects that USAID has helped fund with the aid money. U.S. funded portions of the part includes:

  • A sea port for exporting goods from the industrial park,
  • a power plant for electricity generation for the park,
  • And housing for park employees

The GAO report found that USAID had underestimated the costs and timeline of construction. The committee members were most shocked by the “scandalous” lack of oversight regarding housing construction. The initial estimate was for USAID to construct 15,000 homes, however 3 years after the earthquake only 2,649 homes were actually built. Several factors that influenced the increased cost were discussed during the hearing, such as:

  • A complicated land tenure system
  • Lack of adequate infrastructure like indoor plumbing
  • Difficulties with importing materials
  • Problems with post-earthquake rubble removal

The hearing made clear that there was a serious, overarching problem with U.S. aid to Haiti: a lack of oversight and accountability. The GAO report made several recommendations to help address the issues of USAID’s reconstruction in Haiti. The most important, and the one that congressional members present at the hearing seemed to agree on, was requiring additional and more accurate reports from USAID, so that their projects could continue with more congressional oversight

Read the GOA Report here and watch the recording of the Hearing here.

Faith and Action for Haiti’s Displaced

July 15, 2013

Danielle Crooks writes about housing issues in Haiti in the latest Third Way Cafe.

Currently, Haiti is experiencing a housing crisis and its government does not have a centralized institution to manage it. The country’s constitution requires the government to recognize the right to decent housing for those who cannot find a home for themselves. An example of a housing program is the 16-6 program, which called for the clearing of six displacement camps and the rehabilitation of sixteen neighborhoods. As part of the rehabilitation process, the government offered a $500 one-time rental subsidy for those who did not own homes.

Read the entire article here.

Support U.S. Aid Accountability and Transparency in Haiti

July 2, 2013


Pictured is Grace Village (on the property of Grace International Church), a tent camp where 500 families live who were displaced after the earthquake. (MCC Photo/Ruth Keidel Clemens)

On January 12, 2010, a deadly earthquake hit Haiti causing severe physical, social and economic damage. It resulted in over 230,000 deaths and 2 million people were displaced from their homes. Three years later, little progress can be seen in regards to development efforts. Over 320,000 Haitian still reside in camps and forced evictions are occurring on a regular basis. In addition, the cholera epidemic continues to plague the country. As of February 2013, there have been reports of over 8,000 deaths and more than 647,000 people infected with the disease. In total, the U.S. government  pledged approximately $3.6 billion in aid and as of March 2013, $2.6 billion has been disbursed. Many are wondering, where has the money gone?

Recently, legislation was introduced in the House and the Senate that would help bring transparency and accountability to U.S. aid efforts in Haiti. The bills would require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to produce a report on the status of post-earthquake reconstruction and development programs in Haiti. The finding would ensure that U.S. taxpayer dollars are being spent efficiently towards projects that will improve the lives of Haitians.

Contact your senators and representatives today. Urge them to support the Assessing Progress in Haiti Act (H.R. 1749 & S.1104)

Haiti: Letter to Organize Support for U.N. Cholera Initiative

February 21, 2013

On Wednesday February 20, 2013, Representative Conyers and four other Members of Congress sent a letter to Susan Rice, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, encouraging her to urge the United Nations (UN) to support an initiative aimed at eliminating the deadly cholera epidemic in Haiti.

According to the letter, a plan for eliminating cholera in Haiti was developed in November of last year by the Haitian government, international organizations, and U.S. agencies. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced his support of the plan two months ago. But months later there are no signs that its implementation has begun: only 10% of the funding has been secured and only 1% of this funding has been pledged by the UN. The UN bears responsibility for introducing cholera to Haiti.

The letter insists that the UN must take action to eliminate cholera in Haiti, and urges Rice to communicate to the Secretary-General and other key UN actors the urgency of full funding and speedy implementation of this initiative.

To view the letter to Ambassador Rice, see: Letter to UN Ambassador on Cholera Initiative

Addressing Hunger in Haiti

November 21, 2012

Photo: ActionAid

The Washington-based Haiti Advocacy Working Group (HAWG) released a report last week, highlighting a need for the international donor community to refocus its policies on programs that enhance the ability of farming communities to deal with pressing threats to Haitian food security.  Currently, about one third of the Haitian population is ‘food insecure’, or lacking a nutritious and calorie-sufficient diet because of inadequate resources with which to purchase or produce food.

Issues surrounding agriculture in Haiti are significant because the sector employs around 60 percent of the Haitian workforce, contributing one-quarter of Haiti’s GDP.  Haiti’s farming sector has become more vulnerable due to increasing dependence on export-driven industrial growth, food imports, and neglect of smallholder farmers who all too often suffer from hunger themselves.

Read the rest of this entry »


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