By Jacque Schrag
In 2013 the MCC U.S. Washington Office continued to advocate for aid transparency and accountability in Haiti. After the earthquake hit Haiti in January 2010, Congress appropriated $1.14 billion in reconstruction funds to help.
In February 2013 our office participated in a series of briefings on Capitol Hill commemorating three years since the earthquake. Theo Sitther, our Senior Legislative Associate for International Affairs, moderated a panel discussion on addressing long-term housing concerns in Haiti. MCC partners from Haiti testified on the panel highlighting the need for adequate housing for the displaced.
The MCC U.S. Washington Office supports the Assessing Progress in Haiti Act, a bill that was introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) in the House and Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) in the Senate. The Assessing Progress in Haiti Act would help bring some transparency and accountability to U.S. aid efforts in Haiti by requiring the State Department to report on and account for the status of post-earthquake reconstruction and development efforts in Haiti.
The Washington Office, in coalition with other faith based and non-governmental organizations, worked to gain Republican support for the bill and advocated for its passage in the House of Representatives. The Assessing Progress in Haiti Act passed in the House with bipartisan support in December. In the coming months, we will continue to advocate for its passage in the Senate.
In June 2013, Kristen and Wawa Chege, MCC advocacy workers in Haiti, visited Washington to meet with policymakers to convey MCC’s experience and analysis from Haiti.
Our office has also advocated for sustainable solutions to the cholera epidemic. In October 2010, U.N. peacekeepers inadvertently introduced the disease to Haiti by tainting Haiti’s largest river system with waste. More than 8,000 people have died from the disease and more than 600,000 people have contracted it. The disease has also begun to spread to other countries, leading to additional deaths.
The MCC U.S. Washington Office has worked with Congress to urge Ambassador Samantha Power, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., to hold the United Nations accountable for the outbreak and fully commit to funding the Cholera Elimination Plan to stop the spread of the disease. Reconstruction efforts in Haiti should include a proper water and sanitation infrastructure.
Reconstruction efforts should also focus on building sustainable housing. Four years after the earthquake, more than 100,000 people are still living in emergency shelters or substandard housing. In the summer of 2013, the MCC office in Haiti released a policy brief titled “Permanent, Social Housing in Haiti: Recommendations for the U.S. Government.” The brief outlines the numerous challenges that Haitians face when it comes to housing, including a lack of funding that is dedicated to housing, a government relocation plan and illegal forced evictions.
As Haiti commemorates four years since the devastating earthquake, MCC will continue to advocate for U.S. policies that promote justice and holistic development and reconstruction efforts in Haiti.