The response to the Haiti earthquake in 2010 was exceedingly complicated and much did not go well. According to ALNAP, over 45 evaluations to date have examined why. The attached report by the Brookings Institution examines one shortcoming in particular - the failure to protect women and children in an urban environment. Haitian cities remain vulnerable to natural disasters - women and children should be at the forefront of prevention and response.
The International Crisis Group (ICG) recently released a report summarizes the challenges that the Haitian government has faced in rebuilding Port au Prince and facilitating resettlement of the internally displaced. Chief among these challenges has been the lack of a formal land tenure system. While several communities have developed their own local solutions to land ownership, a strategy from the central government is needed. ICG notes that this will require political will, creativity, and consensus. To put off resettlement further is to put off a transition to development.
Stability alone may not be sufficient for sustainable development in Haiti, but it is a prerequsite. One of the ongoing challenges to stability in post earthquake Haiti has been the escape of 4,500 hardened criminals from prison, many of whom were associated with gang violence, drug trafficking, and kidnapping. On January 12th at 9:00, PBS Frontline will air a special on the efforts of the Haitian National Police to aprehened the escapees and efforts to establish a functional justice system. More information on the special, which will also be viewable online, below.
Refugees International (RI) researchers Melanie Teff and Emilie Parry traveled to Haiti in September to assess the needs of Haitians displaced by the earthquake. Attached and below are their findings. For the displaced, this is still clearly an emergency. Less than 30% of camps have managers, a serious problem given insecurity and the fact that the majority of the displaced are not going anywhere until the Haitian government develops a systematic approach for determining land ownership and resolving property disputes. Most agree that the response of UN agencies could have been improved with better surge capacity, clarity over who is responsible for protection and a concerted effort to include Haitians in coordination efforts instead of shutting them out.
In the weeks to come, I’ll provide updates on recovery efforts in Haiti sector by sector. Why start with education? After an emergency or a natural disaster, schools provide an opportunity to protect children physically and psychologically. It re-establishes a sense of routine, stability, and above all, hope for a better future. Technical and vocational education will be critical for developing a new generation of skilled workers and leaders. Without educational reform, Haiti’s recovery and long term development will be held back.
Below is a report released by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the current state of reconstruction efforts in Haiti. It identifies ten critical issues for rebuilding Haiti. A recurring theme is the tension between the desire for the Haitian government to lead and the reality that, without increased human and technical resources, it will not be able to do so. Financial resources alone will not be sufficient. The report also emphasizes the United States Government must do a better job of coordinating with the broader international donor community and ensure that it supports Haitian plans/priorities. For now, Haiti remains at a crossroads between relief and development.
Thank you to Lindsay Poulton for sending us this investigative video footage by the London Guardian concerning sexual violence in Haiti. The piece notes how gender based violence has often been used as a weapon, especially in the slums and during periods of conflict. Protecting women and children is absolutely essential for countering a culture of impunity and promoting a society that respect human rights - not just for some of us, but for all of us.
Some emergencies can be predicted. Every hurricane season, we can anticipate that Haiti will likely be hit with tropical storms. Others such as the collapse of a school in Petionville yesterday are unexpected tragedies. The community was, as is usually the case, the first to respond. They tried to remove as much of the rubble as possible but were hampered by a lack of heavy equipment. Search and rescue operations continued through the night and casualties now stand at 75. According to President Preval, shoddy construction practices could result in other collapses. Below is an AP article by Jonathan Katz on the situation.
Natural disasters are a fact of life in Haiti, both in terms of the inevitable tropical storms/hurricanes and the floods/ mudslides left in their wake, largely as a result of the unabated deforestation. Gustav resulted in 22 deaths, but certainly could have been worse. While Haiti can't stop the storms, it is possible to mitigate the damage that they cause. Preparedness is key. Topix carried a Scoop Media World article on the efforts of the international community to help Haiti better prepare for and respond to natural disasters.