Three years after a devastating earthquake, the “Republic of NGOs” has become the country of the unemployed
“HAITI is open for business”, Michel Martelly, the country’s president since May 2011, likes to proclaim. His government has backed up this talk by making it easier for foreigners to own property and by setting as a goal that Haiti climb into the top 50 countries in the World Bank’s ranking for ease of doing business (it now comes 174th out of 185). In November the president opened a gleaming arrivals hall at Toussaint Louverture airport. Mr Martelly himself is in such constant motion abroad—courting donors and investors, he says—that his peregrinations and the per diems alleged to be associated with them have become a source of mordant jokes.
But gangbuster growth, hoped for as the country rebuilds itself after the earthquake of January 12th 2010 that wrecked the capital, Port-au-Prince, and killed tens of thousands of people, has failed to materialise. In the 12 months to the end of September the economy expanded by a modest 2.5%. It was the second year of dashed expectations: the IMF had forecast growth of 8% in both 2011 and 2012.
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The federal government is signalling a profound shift in its approach to foreign aid that could see Canada’s international development agency align itself more closely with the private sector and work more explicitly to promote Canada’s interests abroad. International Co-operation Minister Julian Fantino will outline his vision for the agency’s future in an address to the Economic Club of Canada Friday morning (Nov 23), his first major speech since taking the job several months ago. The Canadian International Development Agency funds humanitarian aid and long-term development projects intended to help people living in poverty.
Mr. Fantino’s remarks will focus on the role private companies – particularly in the mining sector – can play in helping CIDA achieve its development objectives, part of a controversial change in emphasis for an agency that has historically been careful to differentiate between its work with corporations and non-governmental organizations.
TORONTO, Oct. 29, 2012 — Justin Podur issues a powerful challenge and wake-up call to the international NGO and development community
TORONTO, Oct. 29, 2012 – Haiti is again living under a dictatorship, says author Justin Podur. Podur, author of Haiti’s New Dictatorship: The Coup, the Earthquake and the UN Occupation, explains that Haitians have no effective say over their economic and political affairs; their right to assemble and organize politically is sharply limited; and human rights violations are routine and go unpunished.
Podur says, “Last week conclusive evidence came out that the cholera outbreak that killed 7,500 people in Haiti came from the UN, with an accompanying note that there is no one to blame for it. In a way, this is true: the international regime that rules Haiti today diffuses responsibility so that thousands of people can die and there is no one to blame. Democracy and sovereignty could save lives in Haiti.”
Across Canada, people reacted swiftly to the massive 2010 earthquake in Haiti. As reports of major devastation on the ground went global, thousands in Canada mobilized to support the Haitian people through grassroots benefit concerts, telethons, and community collections in a historic expression of international solidarity and one of the largest disaster relief fundraising efforts in Canadian history.
In Quebec, home to one of the largest Haitian diaspora communities in the world, the earthquake clearly touched a collective nerve. On the streets in Montreal, Haitians held vigils to express collective loss and solidarity. Those who lost or were actively searching for relatives worked tirelessly to mobilize support, holding countless community fundraisers, cultural events, and donation drives.
In the metropolitan area of Port-au-Prince, where nearly a third of Haiti’s population lives, the public health facilities have not integrated cholera treatment into their services, which means that if you present at a public hospital with cholera symptoms you will be referred to the CTC of an NGO like MSF. In the department of Artibonite, where approximately 20 percent of all cholera cases have been reported since the epidemic began, some CTCs are facing medical supply issues, and some of the staff have not been paid their salaries since January. This has direct consequences for patient care. However, these situations are in contrast with the successes in Nord department, where the local health authorities responded well to the last peak in the epidemic. This calls into question the national authorities’ political will to set up an effective national cholera response system.
This situation is further complicated by the decrease in international funding, which has reduced the number of NGOs working on cholera—whether on the medical care level or the prevention level with activities concerning water, hygiene, and sanitation. There are fewer and fewer operators engaged in the fight against cholera in Haiti, but the population is still vulnerable to the disease.
Successful coordination of responses to the epidemic between the remaining operators depends on quality, reliable epidemiological data. Yet the World Health Organization’s (WHO) support to the Haitian government in setting up an effective epidemiological surveillance system—which would make it possible to adapt the cholera response in strategic locations—has been lacking.