ACT Situation Report: Haiti (Gonaives flooding)

ACT Appeal LAHT-43: Assistance to Flood Victims in Gonaïves

Information provided by ACT member Lutheran World Federation-Haiti

Security situation

The interim government's handling of the security situation has come under sharp criticism as a result of ongoing violence. Unofficially, estimates are that three people a day on average are killed as a consequence of political or criminal violence. Those killed include police officers, ordinary citizens, gang members and even three MINUSTAH (U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti) soldiers over the past few months. Kidnappings for ransom have also become a common daily occurrence. In February, 492 of the 1,200 inmates in the prison in Port-au-Prince escaped. Almost all of them are still free.

There is also evidence of a power struggle between various factions including the former military, gangs, and the government. Members of the former army took the residence of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, but were expelled by MINUSTAH forces. The leader of the group that took Aristide's residence was later killed by Haitian police along with another gang leader.

Throughout the countryside, patches of territory continue to be controlled by the former military. Only in the past month has MINUSTAH begun taking control of these areas. Although violence is mainly concentrated in Port-au-Prince, the security situation in Gonaïves is not favorable either. MINUSTAH and a few embassies (German and U.S., for example) recently issued warnings to limit travel outside Port-au-Prince as much as possible and to be aware of whether the security situation would allow such a trip.

Political situation

The government announced municipal elections for October and parliamentary and presidential elections for November, with the second round of presidential elections in December. The electoral process is further complicated by Lavalas, Aristide's political party, which is refusing to take part in the elections, thereby in effect excluding a large part of the constituency.

Yves Neptune, the prime minister under Aristide, has been imprisoned since early 2004 and is accused of masterminding a massacre in St. Marc during his term. He was one of the prisoners who escaped, but he returned to prison. Afterward, he went on a hunger strike to protest his imprisonment and lack of charges against him. The government allowed him to be transferred to an Argentinean MINUSTAH prison. Several media outlets alleged that the government was preparing his release and that he should stay under control of the Haitian State. Neptune has not yet been formally charged by a judge, as is the case of most prisoners. Only one to two percent of prisoners have been prosecuted.

Donors have been very slow in releasing funds and are stating that they prefer to release funds when a new, democratically elected government is in place.

Program activities

Some new pledges have been received recently, enabling full implementation of activities under the appeal. At the same time, LWF reassessed the situation in Gonaïves, adjusting the budget to meet the most pressing needs. The main emphasis of the program continues to be school rehabilitation, but the rehabilitation of canteens was removed from the plan. However, it was decided to include construction of wells and latrines in schoolyards and to supply school equipment.

In January, a team (using Sphere standards) undertook a needs assessment and feasibility study for constructing wells and latrines in the schoolyards. LWF's partner organization, ALEHG (Association of Evangelical Leaders of Haiti in Gonaïves), had submitted a list of 20 schools that qualified for this component of the program. The assessment indicated that only ten of those schools were adequate for this kind of support because of the problematic water and hygiene situation in Gonaïves. Of the schools that were turned down, some had yards that were too small for constructing a latrine, and for others, it was apparent that clear, pure drinking water could not be attained for the wells. Another assessment showed the great need for school equipment.

Based upon these results, and after discussion with LWF's partners - FPH (Protestant Federation of Haiti), SCH (Service Chrétien d'Haiti) and ALEHG - LWF publicly announced it was looking for: an engineer; contractors to construct latrines and wells; school kits, blackboards, desks and banks.

The adaptation of the budget proposal to the requirements in the field, taking into account opinions and observations from LWF's partner organizations, was time-consuming. Following ACT's approval of the adapted budget at the end of April, LWF contracted a water and sanitation engineer who has already started his work. Before the end of May a contract with one of the latrine construction companies will be signed.

At LWF's request, ALEHG has submitted an additional list of 25 schools in its network that fulfilled the criteria agreed upon:

- affected schools situated in the most seriously affected areas

- schools which did not receive any assistance with cleaning, sanitation, furniture, and water systems

- schools with access for pupils of all denominations (non-discriminatory)

- private schools (Michael Kuehn, LWF representative in Haiti, explains: "Almost 90 percent of schools in Haiti are private, as the state is not able to maintain a public school system that guarantees a certain level of quality and does not have enough money to run that system properly. Public schools are overcrowded as the revenue of the average Haitians does not allow them to pay fees for private schools." Kuehn adds that students must apply to attend private schools and that they are not much different from public schools in term of school fees. "Public schools don't charge tuition fees but all kinds of other, indirect fees that in the end makes the private schools more appealing for the students. [Anybody] can open a school in Haiti," says Kuehn.

The engineer has already visited 24 of the 25 schools.

LWF's Gonaïves team consists of two LWF staff (the engineer and the logistician) and one ALEGH staff (the project facilitator), whose task is to maintain contact between ALEGH and LWF, facilitating project implementation, as well as to make ALEGH more responsible and conscious about project management, implementation, and accountability.

Three companies were selected for supplying school equipment. Contracts have already been signed with two of them. As a result of the competitive bidding process, LWF will be able to provide more schools with school equipment than foreseen.

For more information, please contact:
ACT Communications Officer Callie Long (mobile/cell phone +41 79 358 3171) or ACT Information Officer Stephen Padre (mobile/cell phone +41 79 681 1868)
ACT Web Site address: http://www.act-intl.org

ACT Communications
Geneva, Switzerland
+41 22 791 6039/6711
fax: +41 22 791 6506