UN Soldiers are not alone in spreading Cholera.
Civilian Contractors are being hospitalized with Cholera patients, infected, and then repatriated.
ABC News January 12, 2012
The vicious form of cholera has already killed 7,000 people in Haiti, where it surfaced in a remote village in October 2010. Leading researchers from Harvard Medical School and elsewhere told ABC News that, despite UN denials, there is now a mountain of evidence suggesting the strain originated in Nepal, and was carried to Haiti by Nepalese soldiers who came to Haiti to serve as UN peacekeepers after the earthquake that ravaged the country on Jan. 12, 2010 — two years ago today. Haiti had never seen a case of cholera until the arrival of the peacekeepers, who allegedly failed to maintain sanitary conditions at their base.
“What scares me is that the strain from South Asia has been recognized as more virulent, more capable of causing severe disease, and more transmissible,” said John Mekalanos, who chairs the Department of Microbiology and Immunobiology at Harvard Medical School. “These strains are nasty. So far there has been no secondary outbreak. But Haiti now represents a foothold for a particularly dangerous variety of this deadly disease.”
More than 500,000 Haitians have been infected, and Mekalanos said a handful of victims who contracted cholera in Haiti have now turned up in Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, and in Boston, Miami and New York, but only in isolated cases
The Hill December 2, 2011
Following the devastating earthquake in Haiti on January 12, 2010, the U.S. launched an unprecedented relief effort, eventually totaling over one billion dollars. But the lead agency in the immediate aftermath was not the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), as is typically the case when our nation provides humanitarian assistance, but the military. Just after the earthquake, the U.S. had over 20,000 troops in Haiti. Of the $1.1 billion in humanitarian funding from the U.S. in 2010, nearly half was channeled to the Department of Defense.
As has been the case in Iraq and Afghanistan, relief efforts have relied heavily on contractors, a number of which have a history of waste, fraud and abuse. An analysis of federal contracts has revealed that Kuwait-based Agility Logistics (formerly PWC Logistics) — currently under indictment for overcharging the U.S. military by up to $1 billion — has benefited from over $16 million in funding awarded in the aftermath of the earthquake.
With so much on the line, the U.S government, across the board, must step up its oversight of contractors to ensure taxpayer dollars are not wasted on companies with poor track records.
Agility has been barred from receiving government contracts since November 2009, when a federal grand jury indicted the company for overcharging the U.S. military on $8 billion in contracts to supply food for troops in Iraq, Kuwait and Jordan. Agility was accused of “intentionally failing to purchase less expensive food items, knowingly manipulating and inflating prices, and receiving product rebates and discounts that it did not pass on to the government as required.” The prospect of additional charges still exists.
In November 2009 Agility was added to the U.S.’s Excluded Party List System (EPLS), which prevents them from procuring contracts from any government agency. The EPLS designation has been extended to over 125 related organizations as the investigation has continued; all of them have been indefinitely barred.
Despite the blacklist designation Agility was able to secure government funding for work in Haiti through a joint venture. An analysis of the Federal Procurement Data System shows that Contingency Response Services LLC (CRS) has received over $16 million in government funding from the Department of the Navy since the earthquake. The particularly bland sounding Contingency Response Services consists of three defense contractor giants — Dyncorp, Parsons and Agility Logistics (then PWC logistics).
One year after an earthquake devastated Haiti, much of the promised relief and reconstruction aid has not reached those most in need. In fact, the nation’s tragedy has served as an opportunity to further enrich corporate interests.
The details of a recent lawsuit, as reported by Business Week, highlights the ways in which contractors – including some of the same players who profited from Hurricane Katrina-related reconstruction – have continued to use their political connections to gain profits from others’ suffering, receiving contacts worth tens of millions of dollars while the Haitian people receive pennies, at best. It also demonstrates ways in which charity and development efforts have mirrored and contributed to corporate abuses.
Lewis Lucke, a 27-year veteran of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) was named US special coordinator for relief and reconstruction after the earthquake. He worked this job for a few months, then immediately moved to the private sector, where he could sell his contacts and connections to the highest bidder. He quickly got a $30,000-a-month (plus bonuses) contract with the Haiti Recovery Group (HRG).
HRG was founded by Ashbritt, Inc., a Florida-based contractor who had received acres of bad press for their post-Katrina contracting. Ashbritt’s partner in HRG is Gilbert Bigio, a wealthy Haitian businessman with close ties to the Israeli military. Bigio made a fortune during the corrupt Duvalier regime and was a supporter of the right-wing coup against Haitian President Aristide.
Although Lucke received $60,000 for two months work, he is suing because he says he is owed an additional $500,000 for the more than 20 million dollars in contracts he helped HRG obtain during that time.
As Corpwatch has reported, Ashbritt “has enjoyed meteoric growth since it won its first big debris removal subcontract from none other than Halliburton, to help clean up after Hurricane Andrew in 1992.” In 1999, the company also faced allegations of double billing for $765,000 from the Broward County, Florida, school board for cleanup done in the aftermath of Hurricane Wilma.
Ashbritt CEO Randal Perkins is a major donor to Republican causes and hired Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour’s firm, as well as former US Army Corp of Engineers official Mike Parker, as lobbyists. As a reward for his political connections, Ashbritt won 900 million dollars in Post-Katrina contracts, helping them to become the poster child for political corruption in the world of disaster profiteering, even triggering a Congressional investigation focusing on their buying of influence. MSNBC reported in early 2006 that criticism of Ashbritt “can be heard in virtually every coastal community between Alabama and Texas.”
The contracts given to Bush cronies like Ashbritt resulted in local and minority-owned companies losing out on reconstruction work. As Multinational Monitor noted shortly after Katrina, “by turning the contracting process over to prime contractors like Ashbritt, the Corps and FEMA have effectively privatized the enforcement of Federal Acquisition Regulations and disaster relief laws such as the Stafford Act, which require contracting officials to prioritize local businesses and give 5 percent of contracts to minority-owned businesses. As a result … early reports suggest that over 90 percent of the $2 billion in initial contracts was awarded to companies based outside of the three primary affected states and that minority businesses received just 1.5 percent of the first $1.6 billion.”
Alex Dupuy, writing in The Washington Post, reported a similar pattern in Haiti, noting, “of the more than 1,500 US contracts doled out worth $267 million, only 20, worth $4.3 million, have gone to Haitian firms. The rest have gone to US firms, which almost exclusively use US suppliers. Although these foreign contractors employ Haitians, mostly on a cash-for-work basis, the bulk of the money and profits are reinvested in the United States.” The same article notes, “less than 10 percent of the $9 billion pledged by foreign donors has been delivered and not all of that money has been spent. Other than rebuilding the international airport and clearing the principal urban arteries of rubble, no major infrastructure rebuilding – roads, ports, housing, communications – has begun.”
The disaster profiteering exemplified by Ashbritt is not just the result of quick decision making in the midst of a crisis. These contracts are awarded as part of a corporate agenda that sees disaster as an opportunity and as a tool for furthering policies that would not be possible in other times. Naomi Klein exposed evidence that, within 24 hours of the earthquake, the influential, right-wing think tank the Heritage Foundation was already laying plans to use the disaster as an attempt at further privatization of the country’s economy.
Relief and recovery efforts, led by the US military, have also brought a further militarization of relief and criminalization of survivors. Haiti and Katrina also served as staging grounds for increased involvement of mercenaries in reconstruction efforts. As one Blackwater mercenary told Scahill when he visited New Orleans in the days after Katrina, “This is a trend. You’re going to see a lot more guys like us in these situations.”
And it’s not just corporations who have been guilty of profiting from Haitian suffering. A recent report from the Disaster Accountability Project (DAP) describes a “significant lack of transparency in the disaster-relief/aid community,” and finds that many relief organizations have left donations for Haiti in their bank accounts, earning interest rather than helping the people of Haiti. DAP Director Ben Smilowitz notes, “the fact that nearly half of the donated dollars still sit in the bank accounts of relief and aid groups does not match the urgency of their own fundraising and marketing efforts and donors’ intentions, nor does it covey the urgency of the situation on the ground.”
Haitian poet and human rights lawyer Ezili Dantò has written, “Haiti’s poverty began with a US/Euro trade embargo after its independence, continued with the Independence Debt to France and ecclesiastical and financial colonialism. Moreover, in more recent times, the uses of US foreign aid, as administered through USAID in Haiti, basically serves to fuel conflicts and covertly promote US corporate interests to the detriment of democracy and Haitian health, liberty, sovereignty, social justice and political freedoms. USAID projects have been at the frontlines of orchestrating undemocratic behavior, bringing underdevelopment, coup d’etat, impunity of the Haitian Oligarchy, indefinite incarceration of dissenters and destroying Haiti’s food sovereignty essentially promoting famine.”
Since before the earthquake, Haiti has been a victim of many of those who have claimed they are there to help. Until we address this fundamental issue of corporate profiteering masquerading as aid and development, the nation will remain mired in poverty. And future disasters, wherever they occur, will lead to similar injustices.
Resources Mentioned in Article:
Business Week: “Ex-US official sues contractor in Haiti for fees”
CorpWatch report on Debris Removal
MSNBC report on Ashbritt
Multinational Monitor report on Crony Contracting
The Washington Post: “One year after the earthquake, foreign help is actually hurting Haiti”
Report from Disaster Accountability Project
In a Port-au-Prince warehouse loaded with tarps, plywood, corrugated roofing, nails and other building supplies, company owner Patrick Brun says he had hoped to get contracts from the billions of dollars in international aid promised to Haiti.
His 40-year-old company, Chabuma S.A., sells cement blocks, doors, sand bags and other materials for international companies. But what he wants is a more significant role in his country’s recovery, which is why he says he keeps bidding – without success – for U.S. government contracts.
“You can imagine that if we can’t win the contracts ourselves, we become totally dependent on foreign companies and nonprofits, and there is not much hope in that,” he said. “We may not have the extended capacity of a U.S. company, but we are respectable. We keep good books and records, we have foreign suppliers, we have good credit, we pay our taxes and our customs dues.”
Out of every $100 of U.S. contracts now paid out to rebuild Haiti, Haitian firms have successfully won $1.60, The Associated Press has found in a review of contracts since the earthquake on Jan. 12. And the largest initial U.S. contractors hired fewer Haitians than planned.
There are many reasons for the disparity. Among them, US AID is more familiar with some U.S. contractors and gave out some no-bid contracts out of urgency, and fears the corruption that is rife in Haiti. On the Haitian side, there is a limited understanding of U.S. government practices.
But using foreign aid to give local companies contracts is one of the most important aspects of reconstruction, says Clare Lockhart, chief executive officer of the Institute for State Effectiveness.
“You can’t just provide manual jobs. You need to contract with companies so that the middle tier managers and owners of companies have a stake in the legal system and rule of law, and ultimately a stake in the success of their political system and their economy,” she says.
Of the 1,583 U.S. contracts given so far in Haiti totaling $267 million, only 20 – worth $4.3 million – are going to Haitian-owned companies. And an audit this fall by US AID’s Inspector General found that more than 70 percent of the funds given to the two largest U.S. contractors for a cash for work project in Haiti was spent on equipment and materials. As a result, just 8,000 Haitians a day were being hired by June, instead of the planned 25,000 a day, according to the IG.
The contractors, Development Alternatives Inc. of Bethesda, Maryland, and Chemonics International of Washington D.C., which received more than $31 million each in no-bid contracts, responded to AP in an email saying that together with several other contractors, they had employed 25,000 Haitians a day. Now, they said, 10 months after the earthquake, “priorities have evolved beyond a focus on temporary employment,” a program that has paid Haitian workers $18 million in wages. Please read the entire article here
International organisations, aid agencies and governments mobilised a massive emergency relief effort in its aftermath, bringing immediate assistance to millions of victims. The critical emergency relief phase now remains to be followed by a second phase of recovery and rebuilding, the outcomes of which will be essential to assuring the long-term infrastructural and economic rehabilitation of the country and the wellbeing of millions of Haitians. World leaders and international bodies have envisioned the need for a minimum 10-year reconstruction period. The UN and other organisations such as the World Bank will carry out post-disaster needs assessments to gauge the extent of the damage and needs in all fields in the following weeks.
The private sector will play a pivotal role in long term reconstruction projects in Haiti. The significance of including the private sector in reconstruction operations has been acknowledged by the Reconstruction Principles set out at the recent international summit on Haiti in Montreal, Canada. The private sector is undoubtedly essential to ensure that maximum amounts of aid can be delivered and distributed and that reconstruction projects operate successfully and beneficially.
This not-for-profit event constitutes a partnership between Global Investment Summits and the IPOA. Jointly, we plan to bring relevant international organisations and aid agencies together with key players from the private sector. The discussion and meeting-oriented format of the summit will allow the parties involved to begin addressing the vast efforts required to reconstruct Haitian infrastructure and rehabilitate the country’s economy and society. Most significantly, all profits from the event will be donated to leading Haitian relief funds.
The objective of the summit is to help rebuild the political, economic and commercial hubs of Haiti, particularly in the devastated capital, Port-au-Prince. With an estimated 60% of the country’s GDP eradicated, up to half of building infrastructure ruined and damaged in the capital, and nearly 1 million displaced people, rebuilding the nation will prove to be a massively complex process. The summit aims to contribute to the reconstruction efforts in fields spanning from logistics, transport and communications infrastructure to security sector reform, whilst helping ensure stability for and the welfare of Haitians in terms of medical and nutritional aid and shelter.