Haiti: Cholera Down But People Still “Living Like Stray Dogs”

haiti choldera

Cholera Source, October 2010. (Photo: Georgianne Nienaber)

There is mixed news from Haiti in the last few weeks, but all of it reflects a government paralyzed by a combination of foreign meddling, an administration hamstrung by a balky Parliament, and the refusal of foreign donors to make good on pledges made in March 2010. So far less than 40 percent of the funds ($1.74 billion) promised for 2010-11 have made it to the ground, and maybe that is a good thing, considering recent housing reports.

First, here is the good news. According to OCHA‘s (United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) latest bulletin, the number of new cholera cases in Haiti declined by “over 50 percent” in the last two months. This downward trend of new cases and deaths in all ten departments has resulted in a reduction of mortality rates from 1.6 percent in May to 1.4 percent in August. It might seem like a small reduction, but 376 people are alive today because of this trend.

If rains and flooding do not increase and spread the contagion, new cases will total 75,000 by the end of the year. OK, so this is not great news for the 75,000 made vulnerable by poor access to water and sanitation, especially if one lives in Port-au Prince, Quest, or Artibonite, where people will be “most affected” according to OCHA.

haiti cholera

Meye River (Photo: Georgianne Nienaber)

Let’s not forget that it was the United Nations that introduced cholera into the Artibonite River system in October 2010 due to the dumping of latrines into the Meye Tributary System. No one mentions that anymore, but it is fact.

In a very mixed bag of statistics, OCHA says the number of IDPs made homeless by the catastrophic January 2010 earthquake is now 595,811 people. Let’s call them “people” for the sake of clarity and not “people” for the sake of clarity and not “internally displaced persons.”

These people now face forced evictions at the rate of 400 percent in one year, OCHA says citing the latestInternational Organization for Migration (IOM) report.

Around 121,405 people live in the camps, which are currently threatened with forced eviction. This represents 20.41% of all people living in camps.

IDPs living in 99 sites housing 47,395 people have already been evicted by landowners. Additionally, 19,767 individuals left 26 camps as consequence of partial evictions of the camps carried out by the landowners.

The United Nations, through its representatives, has urged the Haitian National police not to cooperate with the eviction processes instituted by private landowners, but it is unclear whether the police will heed the restraint requests, especially since President Michel Martelly appears unable to govern.

Especially troubling is a report by a local Haitian grassroots organization, Ayiti Kale Je. In the investigation “Abandoned Like a Stray Dog,” student journalists and others went to Leogane, near the epicenter of the earthquake, to talk with camp residents and examine the “quality” of construction of T-Shelters that have been promised by NGOs and other donor organizations. The investigation is shocking and above all, heartbreaking.

The Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC) has approved $254.5 million worth of housing repair and reconstruction projects that will reportedly fix, upgrade or build about 41,759 housing units. Take a look at this video and see if quality is reflected in this shabby construction of plywood and plastic. Former President Bill Clinton leads the IHRC.

Worse, Ayiti Kale Je reports: “At least 5,400 of the planned new or repaired units are actually slated for Haiti’s North Department – far from the earthquake epicenter and its victims, but right next to the where foreign companies are planning a new industrial park with low-wage assembly factories.”

The planned industrial park is the result of a 2010 deal between the US State Department, led by Hillary Clinton’s Chief of Staff, Cheryl Mills, and South Korea.

The subtext is that US foreign aid is underwriting a Korean development on Haitian soil that benefits wealthy landowners but does little or nothing to help the peasants and others displaced by the earthquake.

Landowners and homeowners are the main group receiving the 116,000 “T-Shelters” (“transitional” or “temporary” shelters) which cost humanitarian agencies and their donors over US$200 million. But over half of the 304,020 displaced families counted last fall – over 173,000 of them – didn’t own a home or land.Most of the camps in the Palms region, and nationwide, lack adequate water and sanitation facilities. People often bathe, and sometimes even defecate, in the open, use unchlorinated water, lack hand-washing facilities and live in squalid, infrahuman conditions in a country where every day hundreds are infected with the deadly Vibrio cholera.

And where is musician President Michel Martelly in all of this? After all, he was elected with the support of Hillary Clinton after running on the populist notion that he would fix all that is/was wrong with Haiti. AlJazeera has stayed with this part of the story since the earthquake.

No sooner had Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly been confirmed the winner in Haiti’s deeply flawed presidential election than he jumped on a plane and headed to Washington, where he met with his country’s real power brokers: officials from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the US Chamber of Commerce and the State Department.

There, he committed his desperately poor country – where some 700,000 people are still homeless as a result of last year’s earthquake – to fiscal discipline, promising to “give new life to the business sector”. In exchange, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave him a strong endorsement. “We are behind him; we have a great deal of enthusiasm,” she said. “The people of Haiti may have a long road ahead of them, but as they walk it, the United States will be with you all the way,” she added.

georgianne nienaberMartelly has still been unable to establish a Parliament, in a climate of “great confusion,” after the Haitian parliament in June rejected his choice of prime minister Daniel-Gerard Rouzier. The BBC reported, “Several deputies argued that there could be a possible conflict of interest as Mr. Rouzier runs companies that have government contracts.”

Who is really running Haiti? Look north to the US/South Korea deal in the industrial park, dig deeper, and the answers might be buried along with the memories of over 200,000 deceased victims of the earthquake, and the over 6,000 UN cholera dead.

Georgianne Nienaber

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