Monday, January 23, 2012

Obama Beach Hotel: there and back again

There's a short-cut out to Route National One, a dusty paved track that cuts along the edge of Cité Soleil, past the landfill at Troutier and past Zoranj, where expensive pre-fab houses have sat empty since a farcical housing expo last year. Once a hotspot for hijackings, UN soldiers patrol here with regularity. The left turn onto the "highway" is now marked by a new, under-construction sewage treatment facility.

I find the stretch of road from here to Arcahaie endlessly fascinating. The road runs along the coast, through desert dotted with the bright blue tarps of displacement settlements. (This blue, also the hallmark color of the new telecommunications giant Natcom, is a discernible part of post-earthquake Haiti's color scheme). The road winds through Titanyan, with its sulfur springs and the area recently re-named Saint Christopher (as if re-naming a place erases its history), body-dumping grounds for presidents and gangs, and of earthquake and cholera victims. Now, Titanyan is covered with a patchwork of stones marking out plots claimed by landless people from Port-au-Prince.

Randomly, the desert contains a sports complex here, a satellite university campus or orphanage there, a few industrial parks, a village of colored houses built by Food for the Poor and the mission compounds of Samaritans Purse and Mission of Hope. Other unidentifiable and out-of-place buildings sprout up among the cactus, weird mirage-like oases surrounded by green and flowering trees. 

The next sizeable town after Titanyan is Cabaret, formerly Duvalierville, a failed development project built by Papa Doc Duvalier in 1962. Saturday is market day in Cabaret and the road is lined with market women selling used clothes and goods brought down from the mountains - vegetables, handwoven rope, mats and baskets. Ben has to squeeze our motorcycle between a stake body truck overloaded with plantains and second-hand yellow school buses, then narrowly avoids hitting an errant goat.

The community of Ti-Sous is on the Côte des Arcadins (the name of this stretch of coastline) after Archaie, after the cemetery and the watermelon stands (where you can buy watermelon almost all year-round), but before the long string of beach resorts: Kalico, Wahoo, Moulin-sou-Mer, Indigo.

You can't possibly miss the turn to get where we're headed. "Obama Beach Hotel" is emblazoned loudly on a white sign with a giant arrow pointing across the street, and then again on cement posts on either side of the gravel road leading down to the beach.  
Obama Beach Hotel is on a cove of pebbled beach with absolutely crystal-clear water and the dying remnants of a coral reef. It's cheaper and simpler than the resorts to the north (though still overpriced, as all hotels in Haiti tend to be) and even though it's Saturday, we're among the only guests. Fine by us - we get pick of the best beach chairs for reading, countless games of backgammon and to watch the sun set over La Gonâve.
On Sundays, the tranquil hotel transforms into a beach party. By 10:00 AM the place is swarming with a significant portion of the UN's Brazilian battalion, in speedos, with BBQ grills, coolers and speakers in tow. So, following breakfast and coffee overlooking the sea, we head back down the coast.

Back again through Archaie and Cabaret, into the desert past the missions, the industrial parks...

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Two Years after the Earthquake in Haiti, “Housing Is Our Battle”

On the second anniversary of the Haiti earthquake, a protestor's sign reads, "If there is land for factories, there should be land for housing." [Photo by Ben]

By Alexis Erkert
January 19, 2012

Remember, you are marching today for those who couldn’t be here,
To say to them, “We haven’t forgotten. We’ll never forget.”
And to say to those that are still here,
We will take a stand for the rebuilding of Haiti.
                - Right to Housing Collective, January 12, 2012

On the morning of January 12, 2012, a group of women, children and men wound their way through the city wearing white, the Haitian color for mourning. Part memorial, they deposited wreaths of flowers on sites that had become mass graves during the 2010 earthquake, and part protest, they carried a banner that read “Two years later: Enough is enough.” They alternated between singing a funeral dirge and chanting, “We need houses to live in!”

Haitian social movements have reclaimed douze janvye, January 12, as a symbol of moving forward. Two years later, 520,000[i] continue to live in appalling conditions in displacement camps. And so, on January 11 and 12, thousands of Haitians – peasant farmers, activists, and displacement camp residents – took to the streets to denounce the situation in tent camps and the forced evictions of residents, and to call on the Haitian government to undertake land reform, provide public housing, and protect women's rights.

Although political and social divisions have long fissured Haitian movements, organizations from across historic divides are demanding many of the same things. One clear, common emphasis is the immediate need for land and housing for the displaced.

Excerpts from declarations and speeches on or around January 12, all with a focus on the right to housing, follow.

From a joint press conference of the International Lawyers’ Office (BAI) and residents of Camp Mariani, denouncing the threat of illegal forced eviction by the landowner in complicity with the local government:

We raise our voices to denounce with all of our might, before the national and international community, the threat of forced eviction, and arbitrary and illegal acts of violence being carried out against us by the major. We can’t take the pressure anymore. We ask all the institutions involved (the president, the government, the mayor, NGOs assisting displaced people, human rights organizations, etc.) to press, press our case, to take this issue into consideration so that the government and mayor sign a moratorium to block the aggression against people living in this camp, to plan what should be done with regards to displaced people, to respect the rights that we have as people. As Article 22 of this country’s constitution and Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights declare, “All people have the right to housing.”

From a speech given by Marie Frantz Joachim of Haitian Women’s Solidarity (SOFA), on behalf of the National Coordination of Women’s Organizations (KONAP), composed of a wide variety of feminist organizations, during the January 12, 2012 memorial march:

Out of respect for the battle our ancestors carried out, we too undertake the struggle to force our leaders to take responsibility for… the people living under tents. The housing problem is a structural problem and demands a structural response. Displaced Haitians cannot continue to live in the chicken cages that are being constructed for them. Haitians should be living in dignity…  And so we say, “This is our battle: the right for people to live in adequate housing.” And we ask that everyone in the social movement, all organizations, come together so that we can clearly, collectively, respond.

From the Eye-to-Eye Platform (Platfòm Je nan Je), a 12-member grouping that includes four of Haiti’s largest peasant associations, in a declaration to the Haitian Parliament following a march attended by thousands of protestors: 

The Eye-to-Eye Platform supports people from all four corners of the country by submitting the following demands and recommendations to the government:
  • Remove people from under tents as quickly as possible; but that doesn’t mean to send them back to pre-existing slums or to the shantytowns created after the earthquake;
  • The government must implement a disaster risk management plan to identify safe construction sites, with land for farming set apart from land for housing;
  • The government must create and implement a housing policy, with urban planning and zoning; In this plan we must clearly see what needs to be done in both urban and rural areas; This plan needs to designate responsibility for land and housing to state institutions;
  • Guarantee the security of displaced people, especially in the places to which they are being relocated…

From the report by the National Human Rights Defense Network (RNDDH), one of Haiti's most prominent human rights organizations: Advocacy for the Situation of January 10, 2010 Earthquake Victims:

Recommendations of RNDDH to the relevant institutions:
  • Plan an effective re-location strategy with the participation of displaced people;
  • Develop a public housing policy with the involvement of the Haitian government's own Public Enterprise for the Promotion of Social Housing (EPPLS);
  • Strengthen state institutions necessary to effectively control the situation in camps and relocation sites;
  • Insist that all actors involved in rebuilding the country adopt a human rights-based approach to everything that they do.

From a speech by Colette Lespinasse and Reyneld Sanon of the Right-to-Housing Collective, made up of 30-some Haitian organizations, grassroots groups and displacement camp associations.

We, organizations of survivors living in internally displaced persons [IDP] camps, as well as social and grassroots organizations, state:
  • The government must define a land use policy for the country;
  • The Parliament must draft and vote on a law to guarantee the right to housing;
  • The government must look for and acquire land though expropriation [eminent domain] so that there is sufficient space to respond to the housing needs of the population;
  • Women, children and the disabled, and the population in general must participate in decision-making regarding housing;
  • All neighborhoods should be places where people can live in dignity and security

We resolve to remain mobilized in the struggle to change our society and our government. We resolve to regain the sovereignty of our country to construct a society in which we can enjoy guaranteed access to housing and all our fundamental rights.

From a presentation on housing in Camp Carradeux on January 12, 2012 by Olrich Jean Pierre of Noise Travels, News Spreads (Bri Kouri Nouvèl Gaye), an alternative media group doing advocacy and public education:

When we struggle for housing, we’re not just asking for houses. There are other services that should accompany housing. A house in an area where potable water isn’t available does not respect the right to housing. People need access to healthcare.  The battle for housing is not simply a battle for 4 square meters to live in. It’s a battle for public schools to educate our children so that they don’t have to go work in factories. It’s a battle to have access to healthcare when we’re sick.

We’re not just mobilizing to denounce the situation. No, the struggle before us is the struggle to pressure the government, to ask them, “Where are the houses that you’ve prepared for us?” And then to ask if there are toilets inside of them. Because we are a people with dignity. And with rights that need to be respected.

[i] HAITI Emergency Shelter and Camp Coordination Camp Management Cluster, Displacement Tracking Matrix V2.0 Update, November 30, 2011.

See Other Worlds’ recent article, Home: From Displacement Camps to Community in Haiti, for more detail on the right-to-housing movement in Haiti and how Haitian organizations are responding with advocacy and alternatives.

Copyleft Other Worlds. You may reprint this article in whole or in part.  Please credit any text or original research you use to Alexis Erkert and Other Worlds.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Anniversary Blues | By Edwidge Danticat

An excerpt from Edwidge Danticat's essay in the February 2012 issue of The Progressive

Anniversaries hurt. They brutalize the body. They pummel the spirit. Especially the anniversary of a catastrophe, where we are remembering the death not just of one or two people, but hundreds of thousands: 300,000 to be precise. Just when we thought our pain had subsided, it emerges again, it expands from a daily ache, which we hoped would one day disappear, to the throbbing agony we experienced at the moment that it seemed the world ended.

Two years ago in Haiti, the Earth opened, buildings collapsed, and people died. Armies descended, displaying military might worthy of a war zone. A flock of nongovernmental agencies came, too, growing from an estimated 10,000 to 16,000, making Haiti host to more nongovernmental organizations per capita than almost any other country in the world. Money was pledged by the world’s powers, great and small, $9.9 billion worth of promises, with less than half of that actually delivered.

Two years ago, I watched all this unfold from my home in Miami, mostly with an infant in my arms. Three weeks later, when I was finally able to travel to Haiti, my chest nearly exploded in spite of the pumping and bottling one must do when away from a nursing baby. During that first trip, seeing so many people—including friends and family members—sleeping on the streets, in the shadows of shattered houses, cramped next to each other in public places in makeshift tents, I dreaded the first rain.

Since then lots and lots of rain has fallen. Even a hurricane has blown through.

Two years worth of rain and sun has thinned out the tents. Wherever they could, people abandoned the pretense of temporary shelter and converted cloth and tarp to tin and wood, even where the land was not theirs. Some have been forcibly evicted. Gunmen have come in at night—some sent by private landowners, others by the state.

You will hear that the number of the displaced has been reduced in half since the earthquake, that it has shrunk from 1.5 million to 600,000, but you will not hear where the displaced have gone.

In a devastated city of mostly renters, where unemployment is at nearly 60 percent, the displaced have been accused of purposefully squatting in squalor, living in open spaces where the heat dehydrates babies, and women and girls are raped, supposedly just to catch the attention of nongovernmental organizations. As if they had mansions that they were neglecting, hidden food and water that was going to waste, schools for their children that they were hoping to trade up for a better one, as if they had anything but their dignity left intact.

Sometimes it can feel as though none of us is doing enough. That feeling, especially among those of us children of Haiti who are living in the diaspora, is the opposite of donor fatigue. It is sometimes hope and sometimes guilt. Hundreds of friends and family members rely on us. We finance homes, clinics, schools, weddings, and funerals, but there is always more to do for, and with, people who are eager to get a foothold themselves and do so proudly every day.

On this anniversary, while remembering the dead and celebrating those still living, I also want to recognize more than ever the marginalized members of Haitian society—people like my grandparents and their grandparents, poor, urban and rural, self-reliant and proud men and women who are the backbone of Haiti. Without their full inclusion and participation in the reconstruction of their country, Haiti will never fully succeed.

Originally published here.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

January 12, 2012

Re-posted from January 12, 2011. Though another year has passed, I'm struck by how similar Haiti feels today. In brackets I've made changes that differentiate the situation today from one year ago.

[Two] years ago today, at 4:55 PM, we heard a deafening sound and our house started to shake violently. For the next 35 seconds, we struggled to stay standing as it seemed like the world was collapsing around us.

Today, we mourn the hundreds of thousands that were killed in the earthquake, the millions displaced, the loss of massive amounts infrastructure, of schools and hospitals and government buildings. We mourn the ongoing tragedy of an inefficient response, mired in bureaucracy and corruption and exploitation. We mourn that [half a] million people are still living in tents, that foreign companies are benefiting more from reconstruction contracts than Haitians. We mourn that such a devastating disaster did little to uproot the social, economic and political structures that oppress the majority of Haitians.

The city feels as though it's wrapped in a shroud. This morning the streets are empty, but churches are overflowing with Haitians wearing white and black, the colors of mourning. The government is launching [their program to re-locate one of the city's largest displacement camps]. A ceremony is taking place [in Titanyan, the site of the earthquake's mass graves], masses being held at cathedrals around the city. We grieve.

We also celebrate. We celebrate life, our lives and the lives of the people around us that are active and engaged in trying to shape Haiti’s future. We celebrate a vision for how things could be different for this country. We celebrate what has been done, the rubble that has been moved, the houses that have been repaired, the small businesses that have been rebuilt. In the midst of the mourning, I can also hear people singing.

[And we protest. Haitian social movement are reclaiming douze janvye, January 12, as a symbol of moving forward. Yesterday and today, thousands of people have marched through Port-au-Prince, denouncing the situation in tent camps, and calling on the Haitian government to undertake land reform, provide public housing, and protect women's rights.]

Please pray for this country today. Pray that today Haiti will recapture the sense of solidarity that was so prevalent in those first weeks after the earthquake and, along with that, the energy to move forward towards healing and real, just and participative reconstruction.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

2-Year Link Round Up

Memories are powerful. Today I opened a random Haiti article that popped up on my twitter feed and upon reading the first line ("Two years ago this Thursday, at least 150,000 people died one evening in Haiti"), promptly dissolved into tears.

Probably, Ben and I should have escaped to Kenscoff or the beach this week to ignore the anniversary buzz and nurture ourselves. Instead, I am torturing myself by reading every 2-year anniversary article, editorial and reflection that crosses my desk [meaning my lap, really] via google, twitter, facebook, email and the local newspaper. Believe me, there are a lot. Haiti-philes are usually prolific in their research and analysis; aid groups have a lot of explaining and defending to do; and the mainstream media is capitalizing on the anniversary as a time when more people are paying attention.  

A random assortment of things that I've read have stood out to me. 

For reality (& sobering statistics):
Haiti 2 years later: Half a million still in camps (Trenton Daniel, AP)  

Haiti: Seven Places Where the Earthquake Money Did and Did Not Go (Ramanauskas and Quigley)

Did you drink Soup? Strains on Solidarity in Haiti (Mark Schuller, Huffpost)

For overall depth of coverage: 
Haiti Experiences Progress, exasperation 2 years after quake (Jacqueline Charles, Miami Herald)

For passion:
Two Years Later, Where is the Outrage? (Let Haiti Live, Melinda Miles)

For contrast
Les Nanti's d'Haiti (Paolo Woods' photographs of Haitian elite in Le Monde)

For thought
A Stubborn Savior: Is Bill Clinton Haiti's Hope for Salvation? (Marc Hujer, Der Spiegel 

For laughs:
It's Haiti Week over at the Cartoon Movement, a great collaborative of political cartoonists from around the world. Today's cartoon, Haiti: Paradigm Shift, was especially excellent.

An awkward translation from English into... English of the article I co-authored last week on grassroots housing alternatives:

And for a truly bright spot in a week of mostly tragic, condemning news coverage:
Haiti Can be Rich Again (Laurent Dubois and Deborah Jenson, NYT op ed)

Smoke Signals

[I (Ben) have been working in the Dominican Republic for the past week and my bus trip back to Port-Au-Prince on Saturday (usually a 7-hour trip or so) took 22 hours. My bus arrived in the border town on the DR side, Jimani, around 3pm and most of the town was out in the street burning tires - trying to smoke signals to local politicians, perhaps? We couldn't drive through so we waited, but the border closes at 7pm. A few people left the bus on motorcycles to try and make it through the border, but they didn't make it either. One was held up but only had 30 pesos so he was let go, another couple got caught in some shooting between an angry driver and protesters and they hurried back, terrified. The bus parked in front of a police station and we all slept on the bus. Thankfully, there were restaurants nearby with food and plenty of Presidente.]

Friday, January 6, 2012

Ginger Honey Mead

Mead is the ancient liquor of gods and men, the giver of knowledge and poetry, the healer of wounds, and the bestower of immortality. 
-- Robert Gayre, 1948 (from Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers: The Secrets of Ancient Fermentation)

the first ferment - started a week ago
soak ginger to remove the peel
ginger and water in pressure cooker to speed things up
add the honey and water
watch Luna watch
airlock it
wait for bubbles

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Home: From Displacement Camps to Community in Haiti

Displaced Haitians are actively claiming the right to housing through
advocacy and alternative housing models. Photo by Ben Depp.

By Alexis Erkert and Beverly Bell
January 4, 2012

As 2012 begins, a growing movement of displaced people and their allies in Haiti is actively claiming the right to housing, which is recognized by both the Haitian constitution and international treaties to which Haiti is signatory.

Haitians displaced by the earthquake two years ago face many crises, but perhaps none worse than ongoing homelessness. One of the 520,000 people still living in displacement camps, [i] Dieula Croissey describes conditions where she lives in Cité Soleil: “We’re living in insecurity, our lives are threatened, our daughters are used.” In addition to insecurity and violence, especially against women, people living in camps face deteriorating shelter materials – shredding plastic tarps and tattered tents – hunger, and lack of adequate water or toilets. Despite Haiti’s declining rates of cholera infection,[ii] the dearth of sanitation options leaves real risk for contracting the disease.

Meanwhile, reconstruction projects, especially permanent housing projects, have been slow in materializing. According to figures furnished by UN-HABITAT, only 13,000 houses have been repaired and 4,670 permanent homes built for the more than half a million people originally displaced. Though current numbers are hard to come by, approximately 100,000 temporary shelters have also been built.[iii] Tiny (less than 100 square feet for an entire family), with few windows, and usually made of untreated plywood or heavy plastic sheeting, these do not provide a long-term solution for people in need of housing.

The first step toward a real solution, according to the housing movement, must be development of a comprehensive national housing policy by the government, with broad input by displaced people themselves. Currently, no such policy exists; instead, homeless people’s fates are in the hands of piecemeal efforts from groups ranging from respectful community churches to profit-motivated businesses. One component of a national policy is that the government begin invoking eminent domain, exercising its right (guaranteed by a Decree on the Recognition of Public Interest in 1921) to claim private property for public use.

The second urgent need, activists say, is for the government to create public housing on the claimed land. The governmental Public Office for Public Housing Promotion (EPPLS by its French acronym) exists for this purpose, but currently has no budget or authorization to move forward. Housing activists stress that the residences built must be safe; have access to roads; provide water, electricity, and sewage; offer community and recreational spaces; be accessible to people with disabilities; and provide women with equal access.

The housing rights movement is also calling on the government to:
  • Pass a law guaranteeing the right to housing. While Article 22 of the Haitian Constitution recognizes the right to decent housing, it does not guarantee it;
  • Enforce existing rent control legislation. Renters report prices rising up to 17 times higher than pre-earthquake; 
  • Take proactive measures to sort out land tenure and create a registry of ownership, as a first step toward an urban and rural land redistribution program; 
  • Define a land use policy that prevents housing speculation and facilitates decentralization from Port-au-Prince by encouraging rebuilding outside the capital; 
  • Give small grants and credit to help people repair or build their own houses, where the government doesn’t provide public housing. The movement is calling on foreign organizations to do the same; 
  • Tackle gender bias in housing and land ownership, so that women’s names are consistently included in titling and their legally protected right to own and inherit land is enforced; and
  • Ratify the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. This covenant, recognized by 160 countries, has been signed by the Haitian government but not yet passed into law. Doing so would hold the government responsible for providing housing, education and other human rights accountable to international standards and monitoring. 
While urging systemic and legislative solutions, Haiti’s right-to-housing movement is also constructing transformative paradigms of housing and community. This is especially important because what little housing has been created since the earthquake has largely missed the mark in terms of need. Colette Lespinasse, director of the Support Group for Repatriates and Refugees (GARR by its French acronym) says, “What we were seeing in terms of housing plans has come largely from foreigners, with proposals for pre-fabricated houses that responded more to the interests and needs of businessmen. In general, the proposals don’t correspond to Haitian culture or our climate, and also don’t give people a chance to learn techniques themselves that they can use to continue building on their own.”

In public forums and in interviews, women in camps make a distinction between housing and homes. They point out that while lodging can provide a roof over their heads, what they want is a nurturing space that is free of violence, where the common good is prioritized, and where power dynamics between men and women can shift. In the absence of initiative by the government, some Haitian non-profit and human rights organizations have stepped out of their normal missions to provide different kinds of housing. They have teamed up with local communities to create do-it-yourself solutions. They hope to inspire others, including their government, to envision and to dare to create viable community spaces with local participation.

Colette says, “You can’t just denounce what you don’t want. We’re meeting with others, as well as drawing inspiration from housing movements, networks and cooperatives in other countries. We want to propose alternatives that our country’s leaders could use as models.”

In one of these alternatives, the peasant support group Institute of Technology and Animation (ITECA) in Gressier, 90 minutes or so west of Port-au-Prince, is building 1,700 permanent homes for residents who lost theirs, in an approximately ten square kilometer area. With funding from Caritas Switzerland, the houses offer water and electricity, almost unheard of in the countryside, and moreover in environmentally low-impact ways - through a rainwater collection system and solar panel on each roof. Each is equipped with an outdoor latrine. They are earthquake and hurricane-resistant and use local building materials, like stones, to the degree possible. Another rare feature is that the home-owners themselves do all of the work that doesn’t require specialized skills. ITECA is also working with the mayor to ensure that each owner will receive proper land and housing titles.

Chenet Jean-Baptiste, director of ITECA, explains, “We aren’t building houses to meet a need for housing, but rather as a work of community process. For us, housing is an entry point for re-organizing concepts of land ownership and social and economic relationships. Our fundamental mission is to accompany communities and encourage them to become principal agents of change. After all, what’s the point of giving someone a house only for them to die of hunger inside it?”

A second initiative is GARR’s dream to create land and housing cooperatives. The vision springs from a 40-year-old experiment in Uruguay, where 25,000 members of housing cooperatives manage their housing and land communally. It is also reminiscent of land reform communities in Brazil and elsewhere. In this model, according to Colette, “the very poor pool their money together and pull their internal resources to resolve their own problems, to find land and care for the land together. Everyone is responsible for the community.” GARR has started two model cooperatives, made up of 42 families on the Haitian-Dominican border. One is a landowners’ cooperative where families with small properties merge their properties to manage together. The second is cooperative housing, on land donated by the government. With assistance from Christian Aid, GARR has constructed 15 out of 40 projected houses on this land. The visionaries hope that the cooperatives will continue to grow and that “villages of life” will evolve, thriving communities with on-site or nearby clinics and schools, and job opportunities in agriculture or small business.

In Cap-Rouge, in South-eastern Haiti, the Haitian Platform to Advocate Alternative Development (PAPDA) is working together with an organization called Hope for the Development of Cap-Rouge (VEDEK), to repair 500 destroyed homes using local building materials. According to Franck St. Jean, coordinator of PAPDA’s Food Sovereignty Advocacy Program, core principals of the project include strengthening local wisdom, culture, and economy; conserving biodiversity; and empowering community. Though currently funded by European non-profits, PAPDA and VEDEK are ultimately trying to create a model that doesn’t depend on external funding or knowledge.

Similarly, the Support Group for Rural Development (GADRU) is repairing homes around the towns of Carrefour and Kenscoff in Haiti’s western province. Their objective? To promote community development wherein konbits, or volunteer, collective labor teams, of 10 families each build one another’s homes. GADRU, too, is working with local construction techniques and materials – wood, stone and earth – and designing the homes to withstand natural disasters.

As with every other element of reconstruction from the earthquake, displaced people and grassroots organizations are insisting that they must have input in developing solutions. Calling on the Haitian government to provide a comprehensive solution to the housing crisis, they are also paving the way with participative models of what that solution could look like. Reyneld Sanon of the Force for Reflection and Action on Housing (FRAKKA) says that people have to be part of planning the reconstruction of “their neighborhoods, of their cities, of their country, and of their dignity.”

“People have needs and they have ideas, they have visions for the way that houses can be built,” he said. “Go into a camp, and ask any child to make a drawing that shows what kind of house they want to live in. And you’ll see. You’ll see. Even children have ideas and ideals.”

[i] This is the most recent figure available. (HAITI Emergency Shelter and Camp Coordination Camp Management Cluster, Displacement Tracking Matrix V2.0 Update, November 30, 2011).

[ii] When rainy season ended, the number of new cholera cases declined from an average of 500 a day to 300. As of November 18, 2011, 521,195 people have contracted cholera and of those, almost 7,000 have died. (UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Humanitarian Bulletin (19 November -19 December 2011), December 19, 2011; Republique d’Haiti Ministère de la Santé Publique et de la Population, Rapports journaliers du MSPP sur l'évolution du choléra en Haiti, January 3, 2012,

[iii] In August 2011, the Haiti Shelter Cluster reported that 9,4879 temporary shelters had been constructed. (Haiti Shelter Cluster, Shelter Report by Municipality, August 31, 2011).  

Alexis Erkert is the Another Haiti is Possible Coordinator for Other Worlds. She has worked in advocacy and with Haitian social movements since 2008.You can access all of Other Worlds’ past articles regarding post-earthquake Haiti here

Beverly Bell has worked with Haitian social movements for over 30 years. She is author of the book Walking on Fire: Haitian Women's Stories of Survival and Resistance and is working on the forthcoming book, Fault Lines: Views across Haiti’s New Divide. She coordinates Other Worlds, which promotes social and economic alternatives. She is also associate fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies.  

Copyleft Other Worlds. You may reprint this article in whole or in part. Please credit any text or original research you use to Alexis Erkert and Beverly Bell, Other Worlds.

It's a New Year

We danced 2012 in around a fire with a bunch of earthloving friends in Kenscoff, in the mountains, with drums, flute, tambourines, maracas and a massive bamboo rain stick. It was cold and we drank mango-infused cane liquor, ate chiquetaille [my favorite Haitian party food], goat stew and cake soaked in rum, and set off some dangerous-looking fireworks. After midnight, when it was officially Haitian Independence Day, we shared a pot of pumpkin soup.

I love the symbolism of the new year - transformation, improvement, fresh starts - and all the better combined with the birthday of this revolutionary nation. I'm sorry to say that excitement about this year is being tempered as the second anniversary of the earthquake looms, and anxiety and sorrow are surfacing in ways that I didn't expect.

Still, it's a New Year and if our entrance celebration of 2012 was any indication, it's going to be a good one.


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