Sorrow over Haiti quake still deep, 4 years later



Four years ago, Marguerite Berthold was standing in her yard in Port-au-Prince when the earth began to shake. She ran into her house and went up to her porch. Her house collapsed but the porch remained standing and she survived.


She spent the next two days searching for her son and fervently praying. Eventually she found him alive but with two broken legs.


On Sunday, Berthold and her son, Wongaton Villace, now 15, attended a special church service in Mattapan focused on remembering those who died and offering thanks for those who survived.


Four years after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake devastated Haiti, left roughly 230,000 dead, hundreds of thousands more injured, and more than a million homeless, about 50 people — many of whom were in Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010 — gathered at First Christian Church Source of Grace on Blue Hill Avenue on Sunday morning.


Conducted in Haitian Creole, French, and English and infused with ecstatic singing, the service was joyful, but also intertwined with grief.


“A lot of our family fell,” said the Rev. Jean Jeune as he began the 2½-hour service.


“We have a lot of suffering in our soul, in our spirit, in our heart,” he said in remarks that were translated into English for a reporter who attended.


The congregation, packed into two rooms on the second floor of an office building, later joined their voices in a song proclaiming their faithfulness.


Backed by keyboard, an electric bass guitar, drums, and an accordion, many of the congregants closed their eyes and raised their hands above their head. Some cried.


“Four years ago, if it wasn’t for God, a lot of us would not be here,” Jeune said before another song began. He encouraged celebration of the blessings that had been bestowed but repeatedly recognized the struggle many of his congregants had endured since 2010.


“Four years of suffering” from the loss and trauma and memories of the devastating tragedy, he said. Read more here:








Unsafe abortions: Haiti’s abortion crisis


















PORT-AU-PRINCE — After one clinic failed to remove the 16-week-old fetus growing inside her, the desperate high school student turned to the “doctor” known to her only as Little Old Father, Ti Le Pè.


Standing in her sparse bedroom, the bearded man with a baseball cap first prepared a special bath — a mixture of Haitian moonshine, essential oil and a “special soap.” He then put her in bed, strapped her swollen stomach and disappeared. At 5 the next morning, he returned with a cold, murky herbal concoction.


The young woman, who had been secretly hiding her pregnancy, sipped the herbal remedy and waited for her contractions to finally expel the embryo.


After three days of vomiting, heavy bleeding and agonizing pain, she stumbled into a maternity hospital. Doctors rushed her into surgery where they stopped the bleeding, and repaired her perforated uterus, botched in the first abortion attempt.


“I thought everything would be OK,” said Marie, 20, her voice, like her emaciated body, devoid of strength a month into her two-month hospitalization. “If I knew things would end up like this, I wouldn’t have done it. I nearly died.”


Abortion is illegal in Haiti but women and girls are losing their uteruses and their lives as they turn to clandestine, increasingly deadly ways to terminate their pregnancies. These unsafe abortions are leading to a public health crisis in a region with one of the world’s highest rates of unintended pregnancies, experts say.


The long hidden crisis has started to emerge publicly as women’s groups, physicians and human rights advocates push for changes in Haiti’s strict ban on interrupting a pregnancy. The push comes as reports of rape and sexual violence increased after the devastating January 2010 earthquake, and as the country’s moribund economy and adolescent pregnancies make taboo practices such as abortion no longer unthinkable.


“A woman or girl who has decided she cannot keep a pregnancy will find a way, and will accept the health risks that go with an unsafe abortion,” said Catrin Schulte-Hillen, a reproductive health advisor with Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in Geneva, Switzerland. “There is a huge gap between the reality and legality of abortion. The price we pay … is the lives of women.”


Read more here:


Hundreds deported to Haiti from DR









At least 350 people have been expelled to Haiti from The Dominican Republic, or have fled of their own accord, after an elderly Dominican couple was slain in an apparent burglary near the border between the two countries.


A mob retaliated by killing a Haitian man, two migrant advocates said on Sunday.



The Reverend Antoine Lissaint of Haiti’s Jesuit Refugee and Migrant Organization told The Associated Press on Sunday that a group of Dominicans killed the man because they blamed people of Haitian descent for the fatal stabbing of the couple.


Dominican police issued a statement saying Jose Mendez Diaz and Luja Encarnacion Diaz, both 70, were killed during an apparent home burglary in which the killers got away with two sacks of coffee.


Detectives found a knife and stick at the scene.


There was no comment from the Dominican government.


A group of Haitians who had been living in the southwestern Dominican town of Neiba the past several years sought refuge at a police station because they feared further reprisals, Lissaint said.


Police handed the group over to soldiers who drove them to the border and expelled them to Haiti on Saturday.


Migrant advocates said some of the people sent out of the Dominican Republic were eager to leave because they feared there would be more mob violence.


Haiti and the Dominican Republic have a long history of acrimony as neighbours on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola.


Worsening relations


But relations between the two have worsened since a Dominican court decision in September threatened to revoke citizenship for residents of the Dominican Republic of Haitian descent.


Jean-Baptiste Azolin, deputy coordinator for the Support Group for Repatriates and Refugees, said not all the people who were repatriated were picked up at the police station.


“Some of them were caught in the streets, with their children, and were sent to Haiti, like that, without anything,” Azolin said.


Workers for the Haitian government’s National Office of Migration greeted the expelled Haitians and others of Haitian descent, many of them mothers with their children, including a 3-day-old boy.


They were taken to a shelter north of the capital, Port-au-Prince, where they received food.


They were also each given the equivalent of $22 to help them return to their former Haitian towns.


The Haitian government objected to the deportation.


Salim Succar, an adviser to Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, said in an email: “We have taken certain measures to welcome these people and disapprove of the way this repatriation was done.”


Human rights advocates say the Dominican citizenship ruling could disenfranchise more than 200,000 people, many of whom have lived there for years or decades.


Why social enterprises can help heal Haiti’s post-earthquake wounds









It’s been nearly four years since the Haiti earthquake and despite the billions of dollars that have been pumped into aid relief projects, the country is still recovering.


“Since the earthquake, there has been a lot of short-term aid in Haiti, but creating sustainable and long-term jobs is a different story” explains Rebecca Troxler from 3 Cords, a social enterprise whose workforce includes a number of amputees and members of a local deaf community, who otherwise would likely be unemployed.


Back in August, the Haitian finance minister, Wilson Laleau, told a reporter “we need basic jobs for people without skills”, while Georges Sassine, a prominent businessman in the garment industry, said that unskilled factory jobs were “passage obligé” – in other words, a necessary route to better things.


A glut of social enterprises, including 3 Cords, seem to disagree with Laleau and Sassine. They are critical of the commitment to low-end jobs and believe that it’s up to socially motivated ventures to develop Haitians’ skills and economic potential.


One such enterprise is Industrial Revolution II (IRII), a celebrity-backed venture producing high-end apparel through the creation of jobs that guarantee the minimum wage – a requirement that, according to a report by Better Work, other garment factories in Haiti have previously failed to meet. IRII are committed to providing skills training and donating half of their profits to community and social causes as part of their long-term plan to bring sustainability to the country’s industry.


Like IRII, Peanuts4Peanuts (P4P) are supporting high-skilled jobs too, but in peanut-butter factories. They have recently raised over $16,000 through crowdfunding and their plan is that for every jar of peanut butter they produce and sell in the USA, a portion of the profits will go towards supporting children in Haiti.


Kendra Wilkins, one half of P4P, who like her co-founder Lizzie Faust has a background in economics, rubbishes any claim that social enterprises operating in Haiti are more interested in self-promotion than altruism. She’s keen to stress that social enterprises can play an active role in bridging the gap between what is currently happening in the country and the public’s lack of knowledge of what more could be done to improve the situation.


“Natural disasters only make international news for so long. Once the media loses interest, people don’t necessarily remain as informed,” explains Wilkins. “By aligning both economic and social interests, we can leverage consumer habits to help increase prosperity in Haiti, by providing job creation and stability through sustainable factory employment.”


Wilkins adds: “The [continuing growth and] success of social enterprises indicates the desire of consumers to buy socially conscientious products. We can bring positive purpose to a decision that wouldn’t traditionally involve philanthropic considerations.”


It’s not just jobs that social enterprises are hoping to create either; it’s a better education system. This in turn could help more Haitians access economic opportunities in the first place. Camara, an Irish social enterprise, are aiming to do their part to improve education through developing learning skills and digital literacy and by supplying thousands of discarded computers to Haiti.


“Education is the most powerful weapon with which to beat poverty … without digital literacy, a skill we in the developed world take for granted, job creation and getting a job becomes so much more difficult,” says John Fitzsimons, Camara’s chief executive. “Organisations like [us] are in Haiti for the long run and are not subject to short-termism.”


Social enterprises may not solve Haiti’s problems on their own, but what they do seem to offer is transparency and a strong business case for building a sustainable future.

Read more here:


“Fault Lines” Author Discusses Rifts, Challenges of Haiti












Tragic deaths, tragic debt







The UN must finally acknowledge its role in Haiti’s cholera epidemic

A scientific analysis has come close to concluding beyond all doubt what the United Nations has long strenuously and heartlessly denied, namely that UN peacekeepers were responsible for importing cholera to earthquake-torn Haiti.


The revelations must finally awaken the world body to its moral responsibility to aid families of the more than 8,000 Haitians killed by the man-made epidemic.


After the devastating 2010 quake killed more than 150,000 people and brought the island nation to its knees, the UN upped its presence to answer crying needs.


This was a humanitarian mission, one for which Haitians remain deeply grateful.


But it soon became clear that cholera, the terrible bacterial illness that annually kills 100,000 worldwide, had appeared in the country and was spreading rapidly.


Despite the fact that, for over a century, there had been no reported cases in Haiti, men, women and children were suddenly dying of dehydration and diarrhea, hallmarks of the infection.


The ailment soon spread to towns across the countryside.


It turned out that a group of UN peacekeepers came from Nepal, where cholera is common. Powerful anecdotal evidence tracked the outbreak back to their camp, from which sewage had leaked into a river.


As Haitian deaths mounted, so did the accusations. The UN hid behind a characteristic wall of diplomatic mumbo jumbo, insisting that its people were faultless — and that, in any case, they had legal immunity from prosecution.


UN brass, all the way up to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, sent a supposedly independent panel to investigate; two years ago, the group concluded that a link between cholera and the peacekeepers could not be definitively established.


Those very same experts, no longer on the UN payroll, have now changed their tune.


Last week, citing new evidence, including microbiological samples, the scientists reported that “the preoponderance of the evidence and the weight of the circumstantial evidence does lead to the conclusion that personnel associated with the” UN facility “were the most likely source of introduction of cholera into Haiti.”


Haiti has suffered enough. The United Nations has stonewalled enough. It is past time for the world body to acknowledge its role in creating this disaster upon a disaster — and begin paying victims’ families the compensation they are due.



A new report on American aid to Haiti












PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — A new report on American aid to Haiti in the wake of that country’s devastating earthquake finds much of the money went to U.S.-based companies and organizations.


The Center for Economic and Policy Research analyzed the $1.15 billion pledged after the January 2010 quake and found that the ‘‘vast majority’’ of the money it could follow went straight to U.S. companies or organizations, more than half in the Washington area alone.


Just 1 percent went directly to Haitian companies.


The report’s authors said that a lack of transparency makes it hard to track all the money.


‘‘It is possible to track who the primary recipients of USAID funds are, yet on what are these NGOs and contractors spending the money?’’ authors Jake Johnston and Alexander Main wrote. ‘‘What percent goes to overhead, to staff, vehicles, housing, etc.? What percent has actually been spent on the ground in Haiti?’’


USAID did not respond to requests to comment on the report Friday.


The group has been a critic of U.S. foreign policy in the past, accusing the U.S. of a top-down approach to aid that does little to alleviate poverty in impoverished Haiti.


The report also finds that the biggest recipient of U.S. aid after the earthquake was Chemonics International Inc., a for-profit international development company based in Washington, D.C., that has more than 4,800 employees.


Aside from the World Bank and United Nations, Chemonics is the single largest recipient of USAID funds worldwide, having received more than $680 million in fiscal year 2012 alone. In Haiti, Chemonics has received more than the next three largest recipients since 2010, a total of $196 million, or 17 percent of the total amount.


In Haiti, Chemonics’ mandate has involved setting up a temporary structure for Parliament, renovation of public plazas and repair of the country’s main courthouse, as well as organizing televised debates for the 2011 presidential election.


Typically, major players such as Chemonics subcontract project work to smaller firms, some of them of them local.


USAID has awarded $27.8 million of the $1.15 billion to Haitian and Haitian-American firms since the quake, according to the agency’s website.


The obstacles blocking Haitian businesses from the contracts are many. They’re often not competitive because they may not be able to get the financing they need from local banks.


Smaller firms also lack the resources to prepare costly, time-consuming applications, nor do they have the big companies’ track records in other parts of the world or the kinds of connections that help open the right doors.


The report said subcontract information should be made available and called for increasing direct contracts for Haitian entities.




What Happened To The Aid Meant To Rebuild Haiti


After a devastating earthquake hit Haiti in 2010, governments and foundations from around the world pledged more than $9 billion to help get the country back on its feet.

Only a fraction of the money ever made it. And Haiti’s President Michel Martelly says the funds aren’t “showing results.”

Roughly 350,000 people still live in camps. Many others simply moved back to the same shoddily built structures that proved so deadly during the disaster.

Martelly says the relief effort is uncoordinated and projects hatched from good intentions have undermined his government. “We don’t just want the money to come to Haiti. Stop sending money,” he tells Shots. “Let’s fix it,” he says, referring to the international relief system. “Let’s fix it.”

Although progress has been slow, there are signs of construction in Haiti. A neighborhood near downtown Port-au-Prince that was in shambles after the quake has been rebuilt.

Disaster specialist Dr. Tom Kirsch from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine agrees with Martelly. “Clearly we saved lives,” he says. “Clearly we put people in tents. Clearly we did all kinds of stuff. But at the same time the level of chaos and the overall ability to reach needy people, we don’t know how well we did.”

Kirsch, who’s been in Haiti several times since the quake, added, “We could have written a check to everyone in Haiti for — I don’t know — $10,000 a piece, which would support them forever rather than the way we spent it.”

So where did all that money go?

We got to put that question to reporter Jonathan Katz, author of the new book The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster. He was Haiti bureau chief for The Associated Press at the time of the quake. Here are highlights from the conversation, edited lightly for length and clarity.



Haitians help to rebuild Staten Island after Sandy

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. – The big blizzard hit areas that have barely started to recover from Superstorm Sandy a little more than three months ago. Fortunately, one New York City neighborhood is benefiting from what you might call island-to-island help.

The language is Creole. The message is: “Let’s get to work rebuilding this damaged house.”

” I’m here because after the big hurricane Sandy,” said Frank Joseph, “some of us saw how…you know…devastated.”

Joseph and his colleagues are from Haiti. They survived the 2010 earthquake that devastated their nation. And they haven’t forgotten the kindness of so many American strangers.

“Because they helped us to rebuild, we ready to put in insulation, to put in sheetrock, and everything that needs to be done,” said Joseph.

The Haitians arrived Thursday, just in time for weather they’ve never seen. Icy temperatures and blizzard conditions as they began rehab work in a Staten Island neighborhood wrecked by Superstorm Sandy.

They were brought here by Richard Hotes whose foundation, he says, built some 500 homes in Haiti for people living in refugee camps after the earthquake.

“They were living on the dirt,” said Hotes. “They had nothing. They actually said to us, ‘One day we want to do what you are doing. We want to go and help people.'”

Hotes paired the Haitians with local contractors. Asked if the skills he acquire will help him back in Haiti, Joseph said: “We’re learning. Right now if I go back to Haiti and anybody who have this kind of work, I say, ‘Okay I’m ready.'”

He also learned something not useful in Haiti: how to have a snowball fight.

The Haitians will be in Staten Island through next week.

“From all of our hearts, we are grateful to be here,” said Joseph.

They hope to help rebuild 100 homes by then.

Haiti tackles housing troubles


CROIX-des-BOUQUETS, Haiti — The bright green, orange and blue box-shaped tiny buildings beckon like neon signs on a dark night. Partially built and the size of a tiny motel room, the two-room structures are a huge improvement over the tattered tents and tin shacks where 347,284 Haitians still linger three years after the devastating Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake.

But as Haiti’s government moves to resolve the biggest reconstruction issue — permanent housing — officials are facing a lack of funds to solve the problem and getting criticized over the size and location of the houses that are being built. Some even question whether the government should be in the construction business.

“It’s better than a tent, but it’s not the real aspirations of the people,” said Leslie Voltaire, an urban planner who worked on housing issues after the quake. “I think it’s a bad idea to give a product like that to the people. They want respect and you are downgrading them.”

But Patrick Rouzier, housing adviser to President Michel Martelly, said the 344-square-feet houses are more than dignified. They consist of two-rooms, a kitchen and bath.

“We cannot cross our arms and say we won’t do anything for the people underneath the tents,” said Rouzier, a businessman. “We saw what [hurricane] Sandy and the other guy, Isaac, could do. Do you still say, ‘Listen since we don’t have the money to give them houses, let’s keep them in the camps?’ I rather help them and at least for the next hurricane season they won’t be in the tents.”

At a cost of $48 million, the 3,000 houses being built on the outskirts of Croix-des-Bouquets are only part of the government’s housing fix. The plan also includes revitalizing quake-damaged neighborhoods and urbanizing slums and undeveloped areas.

Internationally, there has been a low success rate for the type of contractor-built, government-sponsored post-disaster projects the new community represents. The reasons are complex, say housing experts, and include issues of poor or non-existent housing policies, tenant selection, remote locations and the costs to expand the starter homes. What seems logical is very difficult to replicate in a way that creates thriving new communities occupied by formerly-displaced families, the experts say.

Even before the quake left more than 300,000 dead and wiped out 410,000 homes across Port-au-Prince and its surrounding cities, Haiti’s housing stock was substandard. The poor lived mostly in deplorable slums scattered around the capital. Houses that didn’t pancake in the trembler were later tagged as green for inhabitable; yellow for repairable or red for demolition.

But after promising to help Haiti “build back better,” donors hesitated to pour money into permanent construction. Instead, they financed repairs for homeowners, rental subsidies for tent dwellers and the construction of 160,000 temporary shelters for a half-million people.

Nowhere are the failed promises of reconstruction as glaring as in the empty model homes sitting inside Zorange, a public housing village near the Port-au-Prince airport. Designed mostly by foreign architects and builders, the homes were promoted as part of a housing expo championed by former President Bill Clinton. But the project never received the donor financing or Haitian government ownership to match Clinton’s enthusiasm.

“It was hoped that either a private sector or maybe an investor, or maybe a large donor would pick up and scale up one of these models. But this is where the money has run short,” said Jessica Faieta, the United Nations Development Program’s deputy regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean.

Not far from the failed expo is one of the few donor-financed permanent housing projects that did happen. The 400 houses, also in Zorange, were financed by the Inter-American Development Bank for about $8 million, with construction overseen by the government.

The houses, however, remained unoccupied for about eight months before quake victims like Marie Therese Pierre were identified by a government agency and allowed to moved in. For Pierre, the sparsely furnished two-room house with a kitchen and bath, is a big upgrade from her poorly-constructed Cité Soleil house that fell in the quake.


Read more here: