USAID Field Report Haiti Oct 2005

Report
from US Agency for International Development
Published on 05 Dec 2005


Program Description
In response to growing political turmoil in Haiti, OTI began the Haiti Transition Initiative (HTI) in May 2004 with implementing partner International Organization for Migration. The program emphasizes stability-building measures in key crisis spots through the implementation of quick, visible small projects and activities that promote peace with the following objectives: enhance citizen confidence and participation in peaceful political transition with specific focus on disaffected communities; promote peaceful interaction among conflicted populations; and constructively engage groups that threaten the peaceful political transition.

Country Situation

Official election campaigning begins - Presidential candidates held rallies around the country in October to kick off their campaigns. Presidential and parliamentary elections were scheduled for Nov. 20, but the interim government announced that they would be held two to three weeks later, without specifying a new date. The U.N. Security Council issued a presidential statement increasing pressure on Haiti's interim government to hold elections this year. The country's electoral council is struggling to produce and distribute identification cards, hire election workers, prepare ballots, and set up voting sites.

Kidnappings persist -- A gang disguised in police uniforms kidnapped the son and daughter of a U.S. missionary, along with their Haitian foster sister, in October. The victims were rescued by police officers 24 hours later in the Delmas area of Port-au-Prince. The children were the latest targets in a surge of kidnappings that have added to insecurity ahead of elections.

Wilma, Alpha create mayhem -- Hurricane Wilma and Tropical Storm Alpha brought torrential rains and flooding, causing at least 15 deaths in Haiti. Floods and mudslides damaged or destroyed at least 400 homes around the country, leaving hundreds stranded in shelters. Numerous people remain missing.

USAID/OTI Highlights

A. Narrative Summary

The Office of Transition Initiatives implements activities throughout the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area (Cite Soleil, Bel Air, Delmas and Martissant), and in Petit Goâve, St. Marc, Gonaïves, Cap Haïtien and Les Cayes. Haiti Transition Initiative (HTI) team members meet on a daily basis to discuss individual projects with communities and municipal and ministerial representatives and continue to forge formal cooperation agreements with key ministries and national agencies.

Building on the program's initial successes in the Fort National section of Bel Air, HTI activities in Bel Air are mushrooming. The formation of a consortium of community organizations in Fort National and the subsequent wave of HTI projects are attracting the attention of neighboring, previously inaccessible Bel Air communities such as Ti Chery. HTI expects to expand deeper into Bel Air in November.

In Cap Haïtien, planned expansion into Milot has been somewhat stalled by a lack of municipal support. Nevertheless, progress has been made by entering the area through local community organizations. A local vigilance organization approached HTI and Electricité d'Haiti (EDH) with a public-lighting proposal. The resulting collaboration is being used as a model for community-government cooperation in many other HTI communities. Additionally, HTI is building on the progress made through "Play for Peace" summer youth activities, canal rehabilitations and electrification projects by working with communities and the National Service of Drinking Water to develop proposals to improve the water distribution network in Cap Haïtien.

HTI continues to support peaceful community initiatives, emphasizing collaboration between the population and government through public infrastructure, social and cultural activities. Also, as a result of both the enthusiasm and potential for success of the "Communicating Peace" project supporting young journalists through training and mentorship, HTI staff will explore options to extend the reach of the program.

Significant progress has been made on communication and coordination with the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) forces on the ground. After attacks on two Play for Peace summer camps in Martissant and Bel Air in August, the staff of OTI's implementing partner, International Organization for Migration, met with representatives of MINUSTAH to create better channels of communication to prevent project-related incidents and to improve the response by MINUSTAH when such incidents occur. These improvements resulted in an immediate rebuilding of trust with the citizens of Bel Air, illustrated by a move on the community's part to request HTI assistance in increasing MINUSTAH patrols near a project site. Through this successful interaction, the HTI team developed a briefing mechanism to regularly update MINUSTAH teams on the ground on the location and status of projects and to keep communities informed of MINUSTAH efforts to improve security.

B. Grants Activity Summary

In Port-au-Prince, OTI signed 12 new grants, five of which will bring a wave of positive momentum to the embattled Ti Chery neighborhood in Bel Air. Seeing the flurry of activity in adjacent Fort National, residents of Ti Chery worked with community leaders from Fort National to develop similar proposals for their neighborhood. HTI will be working with a consortium of Ti Chery residents on neighborhood clean-ups, road improvements, and a public square.

In continued efforts to target youths in volatile areas, HTI will work with the MINUSTAH disarmament team and the Ministry of Culture and Communication to hold a musical competition on the theme of non-violence in Bel Air, Cite Soleil and Martissant. A jury of Haitian artists will choose finalists, who will then be trained by music professionals. The finalists will perform in "Jam for Peace" concerts promoting non-violence in each of the neighborhoods. The winner will be chosen by popular vote.

Also in Port-au-Prince, five school rehabilitation grants were signed between the Ministry of Education and the communities of Bel Air, Martissant and Carrefour. The announcement of the project to the community of Carrefour successfully mitigated a tense situation that had resulted in student rioting; the students returned to a temporary school site with confidence that their need for a permanent school would finally be resolved.

October was another difficult month for Haiti with regard to the weather. Heavy rains from both Hurricane Wilma and Tropical Storm Alpha caused delays in many projects. In Port-au-Prince, for example, a large piece of machinery sank into mud at a Terrain d'Entente (Common Ground) and set the project back three days while the machine was extracted. In Petit Goâve, rains led to significant flooding, highlighting the need for communities and government to expand their efforts to tame the town's rivers. Two new riverbank protection projects were signed that will build on previous interventions in the Ti-Guinen and Fort Liberte areas.

In St. Marc, HTI signed four projects with the communities of La Scierie, Portail Montrouis and Portail Guepes and with the National Service of Drinking Water to improve water distribution. There will be three new Terrains d'Ententes in La Scierie and Portail Montrouis, increasing the volume of activities in these two tense areas. At the request of the community, HTI started the second phase of a successful soil conservation project in the mountains above La Scierie that will create roughly 10,000 person-days of employment. The municipality also has formally requested the extension of clean-up activities through the electoral period, citing how the project contributes to the stability of the town. Also noteworthy, the St. Marc team experienced an unintended benefit from the "Communicating Peace" project. Someone posing as an International Organization for Migration employee began soliciting money from residents with promises of employment on HTI projects. Local youth journalists trained through the project were able to disseminate warnings throughout the communities, informing them that the choice of workers on every HTI project is the responsibility of the community and municipality.

HTI offices in Cap Haïtien and Les Cayes continue to build relationships in their respective areas to achieve a critical mass of projects. Progress in Les Cayes has been hampered by heavy, incessant rains that prevented movement into target neighborhoods. HTI/Cap Haïtien signed two new public-lighting projects and began implementation of three grants approved in September. Youth journalists from the "Communicating Peace" project attended and broadcast a community meeting with the representative of the electrical utility, EDH, and the municipality. The meeting focused on developing a memorandum of cooperation among all parties. In contrast to previous months, there have been no protests targeting EDH since HTI began the projects, a sign of the good faith that is being built between EDH and target communities.

HTI Office
New Grants in October
Total Committed
Grants
Amount ($)
Grants
Amount ($)
Cap Haitien
4
$116,930
25
$ 574,165
Gonaives


11
$ 470,266
Les Cayes
2
$ 96,819
5
$ 177,759
Port-au-Prince
12
$514,187
119
$3,118,425
Petit Goâve
2
$ 94,825
49
$ 1,007,879
St. Marc
8
$ 97,735
41
$ 804,358
Total
28
$920,496
250
$6,152,852

C. Indicators of Success

Just a couple of months ago, the "Big Rock" of Bel Air's Corridor Bastia was the site of voodoo ceremonies held by gangs to strengthen themselves before planning illicit activities. Now, the community wants to remove the rock and turn the site into a basketball court.

This sort of community initiative was unheard of in past months due to the presence of violent gang leaders who left residents paralyzed with fear. However, thanks to an increase in police and MINUSTAH operations and patrols, gang leaders have fled the area or have been arrested. The Haiti Transition Initiative came to the Fort National section of Bel Air on the heels of these security improvements to engage and strengthen the organization of community groups and rapidly began implementing projects to address community priorities, such as clean-up and rehabilitation of public infrastructure.

Within weeks, members of nearby Ti Chery approached the community leaders in Fort National for assistance in duplicating this model in their neighborhood. For several months, Ti Chery had served as a hideout for some of Bel Air's most violent gang leaders, making any intervention in the area impossible. However, in answer to a strong initiative from the community and with some assistance from leaders in Fort National, HTI soon launched five projects in the area.

HTI's rapid response has built substantial good will toward the program among Bel Air residents. After Ti Chery, HTI was approached by residents from St. Martin, Tokio and now Corridor Bastia, extending the reach of HTI into what used to be the heart of Bel Air's gangland. This dramatic change is being felt by residents. Many people who fled the area during the violence of the past 20 months are returning.

Little by little, citizens in the Bel Air neighborhood are rejecting their recent violent history. When an engineer, an HTI partner in Bel Air, talks about the project to remove the gang-related "Big Rock," he says: "We're finished with that story. It's time for a new Haiti now."

NEXT STEPS/IMMEDIATE PRIORITIES

In the next month, USAID/OTI Haiti will:

- Continue engagement of MINUSTAH to improve responsiveness and lines of communication, and to increase patrolling of areas with HTI activities.

- Increase/maintain the level of HTI activities in target communities during and through the election period.

For further information, please contact:

Katherine Donohue, OTI Haiti Program Manager, 202-712-0498, kdonohue@usaid.gov