Haiti at 6 months|Managing expectations by not naming them?

A tree is a rare sight at a camp and here, in Tabarre, residents use the shade for community meetings.

When I nearly fainted in the second camp we visited in Tabarre this Monday, some of the women leaders who live there brought me a Tampico juice right quick.  It was sweating, ice cold.  How do they get ice? And where do they keep it? Then I thought, GreatThey’re running to bring me juice while the 250 families that live here get by on 500 gallons of water a day. That’s the same amount of water in a luxe hotel’s fish tank.

Sitting on one of the wooden benches in a makeshift classroom, I sipped enough of the juice to get my sugar up and gave the rest to a little boy who’d been eying it.  Who can blame him.  Cloudless sky, big naked sun, scrub grass, one tree, cooking inside plastic tents: it’s white hot out here for Haitians everyday.

Boys lounge on a dusty cement floor at another Tabarre camp of wooden homes, not tents, run by Saint Vincent de Paul

Why should the foreigner get camp juice?

I’m smiling, now, at the memory of that little boy with sleep in his eyes still, at mid-day.  Specifically I’m thinking that his basic food needs are not being met.  There are millions more like him in camps and some even in the cement houses throughout this city, also without potable water.  Kiss his and succeeding generations goodbye if the Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission (IHRC) doesn’t use these next 18 months to tangibly improve the average Haitian’s day.  It’s crunch time.

Never mind the constant and constantly vague pronouncements of what Haiti will be by 2030. By December 2011, the end of the IHRC’s tenure, what specific targets has it promised to deliver?  In the language of businessmen, what are the deliverables?  I bring up “deliverables” and “by when” dates because I missed them during this week’s six-month evaluation of the relief effort.

According to the media, not much is getting done.  As compared to what?  I have yet to read any document–press or NGO–that enumerates what exactly was supposed to have been accomplished by the six-month mark.

Suppose the state and the unidentified NGO supplying the camp I visited in Tabarre, have the capacity to distribute 1,000 gallons of water/day?  I wouldn’t know because they don’t publicly disclose what’s possible; only what they have done (and can’t do).  But many things still do work, here.  So what is daily capacity for water works? Sanitation? Garbage pick-up? Latrine installation and cleaning? How many land titles does the state with the aid of the Organization of American States (OAS) have the capacity to resolve per month?

Without specific targets, observers can’t truly gauge how well or poorly the relief effort is going.  The absence of deliverables–even discussion around needing them–is not a good precedent as the IHRC gets ready to spend roughly US $250 million/month over the next 18 months.  Current complaints about the lack of progress are meaningless, in terms of accountability.  No decision-maker ever said that by month six, Haiti would have X,Y, and Z accomplished.  This same scenario–the public’s failure to demand officials list tangible deliverables and “by when” dates–should not repeat in December 2011.

8 Responses to “Haiti at 6 months|Managing expectations by not naming them?”

  1. excellent post indeed. question: did you ever figure out how you got the tampoco juice when others don’t have any? was it a case of “share whatever you have with guests”? or was there something unintentionally sinister at work?

    • I believe the women at the camp were just helping someone who was obviously not feeling well (i.e., I was leaning on someone, started to throw up); I had no reason to believe anything else. But here’s the full context so readers can judge: I was visiting the camp with women leaders in Haitian civil society who are the camp’s lifeline. Yes, some unidentified NGO brings water daily but the camp leaders really depend on their contacts in Haitian civil society to bring in (more?) services, goods, etc. And especially, in this case, services targeted to women and girls. So, on the one hand, the camp women could’ve been just being kind and on the other, calculating, i.e. it’s good to help the foreigner who’s friends with Haitian civil society leaders promising to bring services and goods to you.

  2. Great post. You hit the right problems that are hindering any kind of progress. Where is the coordination and the actual communication between NGOs and donors? This land ownership issue is not discussed AT ALL in media here in Canada and as long as it stays in the dark , some people can continue to dictate their whims to others.

  3. This post is excellent. 5 stars!

    One target the shelter cluster has talked a lot about is 125,000 transitional shelters. To be built by… summer of 2011. In this case, the target itself makes no sense to me. Not only would this provide housing for, I don’t know, no more than half of people who lost their homes? But it’s also a freaking year from now, after who knows how many hurricanes, disasters and changes have occurred. The plan between now and next summer for shelter is…? I hear there’s discussion of skipping the transitional shelter phase and going straight to building permanent housing. Hmmm.

  4. Actually, there are some targets set by various sectors of NGOs, such as the Shelter Cluster, WASH Cluster (Water and Sanitation), etc. You can find most, if not all, of their reports at Relief Web http://www.reliefweb.int/rw/dbc.nsf/doc108?OpenForm&rc=2&emid=EQ-2010-000009-HTI. Some of them also have groups on Google which are open to anyone to join. You can sign up for their email updates and get minutes of meetings and PDFs with a great deal of detail about what they’re doing.

    Don’t get me wrong. There’s a lot of problems with delivery of services, lack of coordination and communication being two of the worst.

    The IHRC is another can of worms entirely. I have zero confidence at this point that the “new Haiti” they have planned will do much to give Haitians what Haitians need or want. I hope they prove me wrong.

    • Hey Toni, Thanks for this. I’m looking for the docs that corroborate what you say; the link directs me to an empty page. If they are target setting, that’s a great thing that people like me need to publicize more. Re: the IHRC, sigh. Don’t know what to make of it yet, although the fact that the largest monetary contributor to Haiti, the diaspora, doesn’t get a vote isn’t a good sign. I’m becoming less amazed however, by the number of Haitians I meet who prefer an international governing body over the gov’t. (Well, some have gone as far as to call for a “progressive” dictator, the desire for order and development seems to outweigh the other concerns.) The Haitians I’ve spoken to who want the int’l body, it’s not to say that they don’t expect corruption and graft to continue. But they expect that more of those dollars will still reach the Haitian ppl than if the gov’t has sole control.


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