The Haiti Donors' Conference is taking place today, which you can view by clicking here. In the meantime, the International Crisis Group (ICG) has released a report and recommednations for stabilizing and reconstructing Haiti. The report makes clear that stability demands a difficult balancing act between meeting immediate humanitarian needs, which will only become more pronounced during the rainy season, and laying the groundwork for long term recovery. An accountable government, an informed civil society, and an engaged Diaspora are key. The executive summary/recommendations are copied below and the complete report is attached.
Each year, the U.S. State Department Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor is mandated to release country specific human rights reports that address individual, civil, political, and worker rights, as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As this report pertains strictly to 2009, it does not address human rights issues in post earthquake Haiti. Still, it is highly relevant as long term recovery and reconstruction will depend in part upon creating a culture that respects human rights and a government that can enforce them.
Immediately after the earthquake, information came out of Haiti in a trickle. It is now more like a flood. As of February 3, the Government of Haiti (GOH) increased its death toll estimate to over 200,000. 300,000 are reported to have been injured, 250,000 homes destroyed, and 30,000 businesses disrupted. Assessments carried out by MINUSTAH now indicate a 15-20% population increase in the South, Grand Anse, Nippes, and Central Plateau departments due to displacement from Port-au-Prince. Below is a summary of where things stand in terms of emergency response and recovery.
Haiti is forever changed. At least 150,000 people, equivalent to the population of Tallahassee, have died. At least 600,000, more than the population of Seattle, are without homes. Over 130,000, approximately the population of Syracuse, have left Port au Prince for the countryside. After a disaster of this magnitude, life does not go back to normal. Still, even in the face of great uncertainty, life goes on. Telecommunications are mostly up and running, some banks are opening, more gas stations are functional, markets and factories are re-openening. Neighborhood committees are meeting and people are attending church services. All agree it will take many years to rebuild. The question is how Haiti can recover and be built back better than it was before?
The suffering caused by the earthquake is difficult to fully comprehend. Haitian authorities report that at least 72,000 bodies have been recovered. Some predict the final death toll will be as high as 150,000 in Port au Prince alone. Up to 1.5 million people may be homeless. ICRC reports approximately 55,000 people in 40 informal temporary camps throughout the city. As you read this, many people are going back to the countryside. While most of the damage took place in the southern portion of Haiti, the whole country will be affected. The Government has declared a period of national mourning until February 17. We all grieve for what Haiti has lost.
Right now, the priority is saving lives by ensuring access to food, water, and health care. Recovery will take many years and the assistance of the international community will be required in order to do so. But what kind of asssistance will be most effective? The New York Times, in its blog series "Room for Debate", asked a number of individuals connected to Haiti for their thoughts on what kind of aid should be provided and how. They may have very different beliefs, backgrounds, and perspectives but all care for Haiti. Taken together, their feedback is interesting food for thought that should be taken into account now and over the long term.
Haiti was struck today by the largest earthquake in the region since 1770. Information is spotty but we do know the following: The General Hospital, the Ministry of Commerce, the National Palace (left), and many homes have collapsed. What we do not know is how many have been injured and how many have died. Power lines are down. Comms were also down but are slowly improving. The international airport is still intact. We heard from Matt and he is ok. If half of the Twitter reports are true, this has been a major catastrophe. We will post updates in the comments section, please do the same.
Robert Maguire, with Trinity University and the United States Institute for Peace (USIP), recently wrote a well thought out report (attached and below) on obstacles to stability and growth in Haiti. Maguire highlights important issues such as the neglect of rural Haiti, where most Haitians live, and the need to bolster Haiti's Health and Education Ministries. Throughout, he states success depends not just on securing resources, but on allocating them in a way that is accountable, effective, and demonstrates the committment of the government to reform. Something to keep mind if investment picks up in Haiti.
Although one would not know it from most mass media coverage of Haiti, it is a beautiful, little country. For that reason, I was happy to read Amy Wilentz's excellent article in Conde Naste. She describes her own love affair with Haiti and then lists where a person can stay and play. As I read it, I thought of all the things I miss about Haiti - the sandy beaches, drinking rum punch, listening to racine music, going to vodoun ceremonies, napping on straw mats, talking on porches, as well as the countryside camraderie and never-ending jokes and pranks. For some, it is time to visit Haiti for the first time. For many of us, it is time to go back.
Human trafficking is a global problem that affects every country in the world. Last week, the U.S. State Department released its 2009 annual report on how well partner governments are preventing and responding to human trafficking. Understanding trafficking in Haiti requires understanding the situation in the Dominican Republic. Neither country complies with minimum standards for eliminating trafficking, although both governments acknowledge the need to do more. This is an issue that clearly requires cross-border collaboration.