A 16-car derailment in Northeast D.C. reignites a debate over freight routes in well-populated areas.
It took less than sixty seconds. On January 12, 2010, a devastating earthquake hit Haiti, altering the landscape of the nation’s capital, Port-au-Prince, and changing the lives of millions of people. Kojo talks with several of the people he met on our November trip to Haiti, and assesses how much progress has been made in rebuilding the country.
- Johanna Mendelson-Forman Senior Associate, Americas Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies
- Joseph Blanchard Fixer and driver based in Port-au-Prince, Haiti
- Michael Delaney Director of Humanitarian Assistance, Oxfam America
- Carel Pedre Haitian Radio and TV Host
- Rene Jean-Jumeau Senior Advisor for Energy and Coordinator of the Energy Sector Management Unit (UGSE), Ministry of Public works, Transport and Communications, Government of Haiti
Graffiti artist Jerry Rosembert talks about his work on the streets of Port-au-Prince and the surrounding areas following the devastating January 2010 earthquake there. Rosembert sees his art as a positive influence even as some politicians try to use it, against his wishes, for their own benefit:
Our producers recorded scenes from their drive around the streets of Port-au-Prince during an advance reporting trip there in October 2010:
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. It happened at 4:53 p.m. a year ago, a massive earthquake struck Haiti, upending not just the earth, but the lives of millions of people. In the year since, tents and tarps have become the symbol of everyday life in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince. More than 800,000 people are still living in camps, a stark reminder of the slow pace of rebuilding over the last 12 months.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIIn the next hour, we'll look at what's happened in Haiti in the last year and reconnect with some of the people we met on our trip to Port-au-Prince in November. We begin with Rene Jean-Jumeau, who works for the Ministry of Public Works in Haiti where he is the senior advisor for energy and Coordinator of the Energy Sector Management Unit. He joins us by telephone from Port-au-Prince. Hopefully, we have a good reception. Rene Jean-Jumeau, thank you for joining us.
MR. RENE JEAN-JUMEAUMy pleasure, Kojo.
NNAMDIRene, as you know, more than 200,000 people were killed in the last year's earthquake. Are there a lot of memorial events taking place today in Port-au-Prince? What is it like to be in Port-au-Prince today? Describe the scene for us.
JEAN-JUMEAUWell, there are a lot of memorial events. They're mostly at churches. There's a big event happening on the big public plaza in the center of Port-au-Prince, right across from the destroyed national palace. And driving around this morning, we found a lot of processions, as in religious activities, a large group of people walking together and singing and praying. So there is a lot of activity on this day.
NNAMDIWe do recall that the earthquake had a crippling effect on the Haitian government, 28 of 29 government ministries were damaged or destroyed. How did the earthquake affect your ability to work?
JEAN-JUMEAUWell, the Ministry of Public Works was one of the buildings very damaged, practically totally destroyed. Therefore, we didn't have a building to work out of for the ministry where I operate normally. We were able to find refuge in a different -- building that was linked to the national public works laboratory where we are to this day. So it had a huge affect on us in terms of being operational.
NNAMDIMany people, both inside and outside Haiti, have criticized the government for not moving more quickly since the earthquake. What do you think? Are those criticisms, in your view, fair?
JEAN-JUMEAUYes. Well, it's easy to say that the government should've been more operational or should've had more help. But considering that most of the buildings are destroyed, most of the government buildings are destroyed, considering that all the administrative and office equipment was destroyed, that there were a number of public servants that were killed, it was very difficult for the government to actually operate right after the earthquake. And for, actually, months afterwards, it was very difficult to start operations again.
JEAN-JUMEAUAnd people forget that some of the government, the government officials, the major people in charge, some ministers, some general directors, actually lost their own family members so that they had to attend to that activity of processing the feelings and the actual situation. And then, some of them were injured themselves. So in that sense, it's very difficult to expect that they would be as effective as they would have been had the disaster happened in another city and they were able to react.
NNAMDIWell, let's talk about the situation now. When you joined us in November, we talked a lot about energy uses and Haitians access to electricity. What's the status of that now a year after the earthquake? What do people do to get light after the sun goes down or to charge their cell phones?
JEAN-JUMEAUWell, the public utility has pretty much gone back online. I'd say they're about 80 percent to 85 percent of what they were before the earthquake. There is one new power plant that was -- that had been commissioned. This is a private enterprise and it will be going online this week. So they have continued -- they were able to continue working right after the earthquake. They had started beforehand. So things, in that respect, are getting back to pre-earthquake habits.
JEAN-JUMEAUHowever, the pre-earthquake status was already very weak in terms of production capacity, in terms of distribution capacity throughout the city of Port-au-Prince and throughout the country. Therefore, it's still difficult for most people. I'd say, just in the rural areas, to have access to (word?) and therefore they use various alternatives means of getting power, either private small generation, little generators or some are starting more and more to use solar panels. But that's still an industry that's in its infancy in Haiti.
JEAN-JUMEAUThe development of alternative energy is still very much -- more of a thought and a project and a hope than it is actual reality.
NNAMDIRene, your connection is not very good. But I do have to ask you one more question because it seems to be at the center of the conversation about Haiti. We're going to be talking in a few minutes about the role of aid agencies in Haiti and how they can better support and strengthen the Haitian government. Is there anything you think the international community can do better to support you and your colleagues in your work?
JEAN-JUMEAUWell, I think that the international community should consider reinforcing actual Haitian institutions as opposed to trying to replace them or do their jobs for them. I understand and respect and actually support the work of aid workers throughout the country. However, once the aid worker leaves and if they haven't reinforced the actual institutions in the country, then you're back to square one. I mean, we will be in a situation where we won't have the capacity to fend for ourselves. Whereas, the reinforcing institutions, capacity building, I think, is more of a durable and long term proposition.
NNAMDIRene, thank you so much for joining us.
JEAN-JUMEAUIt was my pleasure, Kojo.
NNAMDIRene Jean-Jumeau is senior advisor for Energy and Coordinator of the Energy Sector Management Unit in the Ministry of Public Works Transport and Communications with the government Haiti. He joined us from -- by telephone from Port-au-Prince. Joining us in our Washington studio is Johanna Mendelson-Forman, senior associate with the Americas Program with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. She accompanied us on our trip to Port-au-Prince last November. Johanna, good to see you again.
MS. JOHANNA MENDELSON-FORMANHi, Kojo.
NNAMDIThank you for joining us.
MENDELSON-FORMANThank you for having me.
NNAMDIAnd joining us by telephone from Massachusetts is Mike Delaney, director of humanitarian assistance with Oxfam America. Mike Delaney, thank you for joining us.
MR. MICHAEL DELANEYHi, good afternoon.
NNAMDIJohanna, here we are a year after the earthquake. What do you think of the developments, the positive and the negative, in terms of Haiti's reconstruction over the last 12 months, in particular, about the remarks by Rene Jean-Jumeau about the relationship between aid agencies and the government?
MENDELSON-FORMANI think, Rene Jean-Jumeau puts his finger on the problem and, I think, the dilemma. I was just reading a comment that Secretary of State Clinton had made about retreating to bad past practices and not wanting to do that again. And yet, what we're seeing is history repeating itself in the sense that we are not as capable of strengthening some of the institutions that need to be strengthened and on the other hand, relying once again on aid and handout.
MENDELSON-FORMANNow, I think, there's an appropriate division of labor in that, with so many displaced, with so many injured, the safety net which never existed in Haiti, needs to be reinforced in all of the NGOs. And the international workers there are doing a remarkable job and will continue to do it in light of the situation. What is more disappointing has to with a combination of Haitian leadership, which has been really lacking from the get-go, of citizens themselves failing to feel that there is a legitimate government in place and helping them.
MENDELSON-FORMANThat has created this vacuum. So it's wanting to work with the government, but the government not necessarily being as responsive. You and I saw it ourselves when we talked to people on the street. Even in November, about two weeks prior to the election, people were seething. They were frustrated. They were living in tents. They were bathing in water that was fetid. They needed help and they weren't getting that tangible result. And I think that's where we are today. We need governance at the basis for all of this reconstruction.
NNAMDIIf you have questions or comments about the situation in Haiti, the relief effort or anything else, you can call us at 800-433-8850 or go to our website, kojoshow.org, ask a question or make a comment there. Mike Delaney, Oxfam had a very busy year in Haiti. Share with us some of the more important work you've done since the earthquake.
DELANEYWell, immediately when the earthquake hit, we transformed what was both a relief and development program in Haiti to one of immediate response. We started providing water and sanitation services to what eventually came to a number of about 500,000 people in and around the Port-au-Prince area. So that was really a big part of our initial response and then moving into transitional housing and starting to work on livelihoods work, cash grants, getting businesses restarted.
DELANEYAnd then, all of a sudden, we saw the cholera epidemic hit. So at a time when normally a response would transition into a bit more of a longer term approach, we were hit with another emergency. So that took a redoubling of our effort. So from that 500,000 number in which Oxfam was responding, we went up to about 1.2 million people in terms of providing water, providing sanitation services and a public health programs. So we're really responding on two fronts in Haiti.
DELANEYBoth, you know, one primarily in Port-au-Prince and the surrounding communities, but also in the essential valley in the northern part of Haiti as well. So it has been quite a challenging year, in terms of just responding to the humanitarian crisis.
NNAMDIOne question that many aid organizations have been facing is, well, why aren't you spending the money that's been donated more quickly? Is that in your view...
DELANEYNo, that's a great question. We, as Oxfam's worldwide, we've gathered about 98 million dollars for the earthquake response. And we've spent about 70 percent of that in one year, which is really an incredible number for that response. And so, you know, we have done. In fact, this response has been so strong that we are now a bit concerned about the longer term because, you know, we're starting from such a level of poverty in Haiti that just getting back to, you know, just providing an emergency response gets people back to where they were. Well, where they were was 80 percent of the people in Port-au-Prince didn't have access to clean water and sanitation services. So...
NNAMDIBefore the earthquake.
DELANEY...that's not good enough. Yeah, before the earthquake. So that's not good enough. We can't just go there. We have to go longer. But this type of a response is not really -- it's not the type the response we want to be doing for the long term. We want to see long-term reconstruction happening. But we're still in the emergency phase.
NNAMDIThere's a feeling, Johanna Forman-Mendelson, among some people in Haiti that the aid agencies use the cholera outbreak, in particular, to raise additional funds, but for Americans watching this event from afar, it can be hard to understand why there are still so many people living in camps. And Mike just pointed out that the situation before the earthquake was not very good to begin with. Can you give us some perspective on this issue?
MENDELSON-FORMANWell, even back in the early '90s, when Haiti had its first democratic election, when President Aristide was elected, one of his goals was to get people from misery to poverty. And I think that's an appropriate line. No matter what you feel about Aristide's presence or absence, he put his finger on the point. In addition to the cliché by now of being the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, one of the amazing statistics, which I came upon, was that Haiti, in the last decade, has had a net decline of gross domestic product of any country in the world where statistics are kept. So you're going through a situation where people were getting poorer, not getting any better, in spite of the fact that there was a little bit of progress there.
MENDELSON-FORMANBut you're in a country where -- there's no sewage system in Port-au-Prince. Cholera, which is now pervasive, is a disease of poverty. Rich countries don't get cholera. So you're in a situation in the rural area, too, where there are no roads, no medical services, no access to electricity, no access to clean water and you're starting from the lowest of levels in a development perspective.
NNAMDIWe're going to take a short break. If you have questions or comments, call us at 800-433-8850. What do you believe the international community needs to be doing better in Haiti? What do you think the Haitian government needs to be doing better? 800-433-8850 or send us a tweet at kojoshow or an e-mail to email@example.com. I’m Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIOne year after Haiti's earthquake, we're talking with Johanna Mendelson-Forman, senior associate with the America's Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, who accompanied us to Port-au-Prince last year. Also joining us by telephone from Rehoboth, Mass. is Mike Delaney, director of humanitarian assistance with Oxfam America. Mike, Oxfam just released a very candid report about the progress being made by the Haitian government and the international community. First off, what do you think are the most pressing needs the Haitian government needs to address?
DELANEYWell, we are -- you know, I agree with your earlier guest, Rene. He talked about how the government actually was, you know, suffered setbacks at the beginning from this earthquake in loss of lives, as well as 13 of the 15 ministerial buildings were actually destroyed. So they were starting from a deficit. But it's really, at this point, it's important that there are some key decisions that they can make in order to facilitate the work around the rehabilitation and reconstruction.
DELANEYSo Oxfam put out this report really suggesting that the government focus on clearing the rubble. At this point, only five percent of the rubble has been cleared and this is certainly a setback for getting people back to homes and into -- and actually starting businesses. Housing repairs, there's been a study looking at the existing housing and the housing stock and there's approximately 50 percent of the homes could actually be rehabilitated.
DELANEYAnd so that's good news for people that are living in some of the tents and tent cities and the camps. But they need support in going back and repairing those homes and then allocation of land for those who don't have it and that's a big one. And that takes a lot of political capital and it takes a lot of nerve for political leaders to actually take steps along those lines. But those are the kinds of things that we need real leadership...
DELANEY...that would like to take the government on.
NNAMDIJohanna, what's your assessment of the job that's been done by the government of President Rene Preval in the past year?
MENDELSON-FORMANWell, President Preval's government actually was supplanted by an interim Haiti reconstruction commission, which was approved in March of 2010 to actually begin to find projects and disperse the international funds collected. So it's hard to just talk about Preval's government because it was actually incorporated. The co-chairs of that were the Prime Minister, Jean-max Bellerive, and former President Bill Clinton, who's the special envoy.
MENDELSON-FORMANI think the performance of that commission, which has only met three times, is highly disappointing and disappointing in several respects. One, while it's been approving projects, many of those projects have not started as yet. The staffing was very slow and I understand that about 40 percent of the slots of that commission are still vacant. So that even when you try to incorporate a national with an international body, the success rate was troubled.
MENDELSON-FORMANAnd I think we have to get to the reasons why this is. And I hate to get into politics, but there was a great advantage for President Preval and his party and his associates of keeping people close to cities and not moving them out. And that was because in a year coming up, which we just saw with an election, which has had many, many problems and deficiencies, it was thought that if you kept people closer to the areas where they lived, you might get people turning out to vote.
MENDELSON-FORMANWell, we've seen what happened at -- the story is yet unfolding, but I think that the combination, which was toxic, of the political environment which followed the earthquake, an upcoming election coupled with large amounts of money and, frankly, a photo-op, which was well used by the government in Haiti to continue to focus attention, but not thinking about the victims, the people who were sitting on the ground is really what we saw over the last year. And...
NNAMDIMike Delaney, you have also pointed a finger at the aid agencies and other international actors say they need to be doing much more to support, what you call, good governance and effective leadership in Haiti. What do you mean by that?
DELANEYWell, I think it's important that we see that -- the government as the primary actor and the leader in this reconstruction aspect. And so that requires a fundamental support and good models as well. So the international community should be very clear and transparent on its money, how it's supporting the Haitian government and should be looking at building up the institutions of the government. Not just thinking about infrastructure and roads and buildings, but thinking about how the Haitian government will be strong in the long run and what it needs, in terms of technical support, to get through this phase but also that it will be strong and accountable to the people of Haiti for the future.
NNAMDILet's get a Haitian perspective on this. Joining us now by telephone from Port-au-Prince is Carel Pedre. He is a popular Haitian radio and television host. Carel, thank you for joining us.
MR. CAREL PEDREThank you for inviting me. It's my pleasure for me to be there.
NNAMDICarel, what more would you like to see, both from the Haitian government and from the aid organizations working in the country?
PEDREI think that what we need for the government is basically--is leadership that is really upset for years now. We don't really have a government who has a vision to develop the country because I look and see the situation of Haiti was already bad before January 12 and that's because of political trouble, political fights between politicians. They didn't really care about the majority of the population who are living in misery. I think that what we need is we need, like, a new team or maybe the actual team to find a way to give priority to the benefit of the country, to find a way to help the less fortunate. Because right now when you can see (unintelligible) after January 12 last year with all the songs that they create for Haiti, with all that fund raising, all these (unintelligible), we were fine with it.
PEDREWe hope that maybe one year after, we would be this position today. And right now when you look back, you say that we spend, like, one year without doing nothing efficiently, you know. And I think that that's shameful of Haitian because we are the ones who are to lead the aid. And for the international community, I think that they have to, as your other guest just said, to support good leader to Haiti. You can't really finance or support a corrupt government. You can't really finance and support inefficient leaders. You have to really work with people who will get the result or who will get the job done and that's really what we need. And I think that all these organizations, all these international community did good work for the relief support. They provide shelter. They provide food, water, sanitation, health care to the people day after January 12.
PEDREBut right now, one year after, we have to now start thinking about the future, how many universities are we going to build? How many hospitals are we going to build? How are we going to build more work? How are we going to give people access to the basics, like clean water, health care and everything? How can somebody in a tent city right now or when can somebody in a tent city right now can afford to send his kids to school? And how will be the (unintelligible) of education in Haiti? That's how you build a country and I think that's what we need, that's what is going to be done.
NNAMDIWe're talking with Carel Pedre. He's a popular Haitian radio and television host. He's talking to us from Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Carel, can you tell us a little bit about your experience on January 12, 2010 and whether you're participating or doing anything today to remember the victims?
PEDREI'm with a lot of friends, that -- some friends who were stuck under the rubbles for more than 24 hours after the earthquake. We are going to church today. And at the radio, we have a special program where we have people coming to share their experience on January 12 or remembering their family or other friends that they lost and, you know, it all. But after that, it is not really a special thing. And also what I did is I'm trying to keep raising awareness about this situation we are living in, whether it's on the phone with you right now, or on my radio station or other radio station because what's happening is, like, I feel that Haitian are losing the hope.
PEDREHaitian are losing this feeling that the country will be better soon because we think that somehow that someone or a group of persons or maybe -- it's maybe our misfortune to stay in this misery, to stay in this condition because everything we did -- every time we feel that hope sometimes, something kills it. Maybe it's because of the cholera outbreak, it's because maybe of the electoral crisis. But somehow right now, the nation needs hope and I think that the international community, the local leaders, should stand up and bring that hope to those people because...
PEDRE...right now, you can see -- and what we're doing, it's just surviving. So on this day, we're remembering and we're thinking about the future.
NNAMDILet's talk, in fact, about the electoral crisis and I'm going to be bringing Mike Delaney and Johanna Mendelson-Forman back into the conversation very soon. But Carel, we last talked with you in November right after the presidential election in Haiti. At that time, you were essentially in hiding after endorsing...
NNAMDI...candidate Michelle Martelly, also known as sweet Micky. How has your life changed since then?
PEDREI will tell you I'm very careful of what I'm saying on the radio right now and what I'm posting on Facebook. As a matter of fact, I didn't give any information or comment any news regarding the election 'til now because I received intimidating calls, people didn't like what I was doing. And one of the things that I did that put me in trouble was to post on my blog a video where a (unintelligible) supporter was killing somebody at the (unintelligible). I had to take the video down because I received a lot of e-mails, calls, people telling me that what I'm doing is not good because it's like I was trying to destroy the image of the candidate.
PEDREBut I just did it for my country, just to put the truth out. And since then, for the protection of my family and myself, I'm a little bit quiet. That's why I'm back in my country, staying quiet, not really comment on politics and keep doing my show on the radio. Commenting news, but not really to put politics in it or supporting anybody. That's how my life changed somehow. But I truly believe at the end of this crisis, I will be certainly more active in (unintelligible) politics and then of -- give people that sense of information that they really need to see clearly what's going on in the country right now.
NNAMDIThe organization of American states is apparently challenging the presidential results, which has, as we all know, found that candidate Jude Celestin should go on to the next round. Does that challenge from the OAS mean that the political gridlock in Haiti will be over soon? First, you, Johanna Mendelson-Forman, what do you think?
MENDELSON-FORMANWell, we know that OAS...
MENDELSON-FORMAN...has reported that they feel that the people from the far -- the percentage of the votes that they've examined is that Celestin did not come in second, but probably came in third. That has to be agreed to by President Preval and the electoral commission. The sense is that nobody wants to go and have a new election, mainly because of the costs and also because there's no guaranty that it'll be any less chaotic. So at this point, I think what's pending is whether the electoral commission and the president will accept this. But if that happens, there will be a runoff next month and hopefully one of the two candidates, Miss Manigot and Mr. Martelly will run against each other and there'll be a result.
MENDELSON-FORMANBut the biggest challenge is the winner-take-all philosophy, which has permeated Haitian politics. And right now what Haiti needs less than winner-take-all is some kind of consolidation or power sharing, but that doesn't seem to be a point yet in that political history.
NNAMDICarel Pedre, if there is, in fact, a runoff between Merlan Manigot and Martelly what do you think -- how do you think that will resolve the situation?
PEDREI think that it's just been polled that it was a fair report. What I mean by a fair report is that they didn’t sacrifice (unintelligible) just to have peace in the country and move on over, you know, to our crisis. I think that at least I can prove that somehow we have people trying to steal the election, punish them and maybe that would create a better situation in Haiti to hold a second vote. But if not, I think that (unintelligible) supporters could go in the streets and protest, as we'll see (unintelligible) supporters did it last month. I think that what we really need right now is a fair election.
PEDREFair election for everybody even for you to (unintelligible) anybody and you have, like, other pieces in this puzzle because somehow the other candidates, the 12, were (unintelligible) They are claiming that they really need to, for the international community to cancel these elections and also while President Preval who will stay in power after February 7, to continue his term 'til May and nobody knows what will happen after that.
PEDREAnd also the president himself said that the OAF report was just a report. It's up to the electoral commission to decide whether or not they're gonna cancel or they're going to move them (unintelligible) according to the report. But for now, nothing is decided yet and I think that what we really need, the majority of the population really need -- it's like the vote is counted and so people can really see that we had an election. We call it (unintelligible) and now we're moving on. I think that if they can prove that it was done in a fair way, we're going to be happy with it and move forward.
NNAMDIMike Delaney, if this electoral crisis is successfully and peacefully resolved, what effect is that likely to have on the work of Oxfam America and other aid organizations?
DELANEYWell, having a strong, solid democratic government that can be accountable to the people is really the driver to reconstruction and long-term development and it's essential. You know, we did a survey last year with people in and around Port-au-Prince and the results were that people wanted jobs. They wanted education and they wanted housing.
DELANEYAnd so those are the things that the government will need to focus on no matter who is elected. You know, the idea of accountability is so important, you know. Oxfam in our programs with our water tanks and our different projects that we have around, we have a number, an 800 number, where, you know, or a toll-free number where people can call and give us feedback on if there's a problem or if things are good.
DELANEYYou know, we work with local organizations in Haiti and just being present and being accountable to these organizations where we're hoping to grow local organizations so they can offer their voice and be a part of a democratic system. And so getting a good government in place that is responsive to the voices that come from the communities and the neighborhoods is vital so that people can have a say in where they want this reconstruction to go. Having the Haitian's drive, it is vital for long-term success.
NNAMDIWe're going to have to take a short break, but Carel Pedre, thank you so much for joining us.
PEDREThank you so much.
NNAMDICarel Pedre is a popular Haitian radio and television host. We’re talking about Haiti's earthquake, one year later. If you have already called, stay on the line. We’ll try our best to get to your call. Also you can make a comment or ask a question at our kojoshow.org or just send us a tweet at kojoshow. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIIt's been one year since the earthquake in Haiti and we're talking about the progress, or lack thereof, that has been made with Johanna Mendelson-Forman, senior associate with the Americas Program at the Center of Strategic and International Studies. She joins us in studio. Mike Delaney joins us by phone from Rehoboth, Ma. He is director of humanitarian assistance with Oxfam America. On to the telephone, let's go to Melinda in Springfield, Va. Melinda, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
MELINDAThank you, Kojo. I'll preface this with I've been able to travel to Haiti several times over the past five years and twice since the earthquake. And I guess I have a better frustration, having been a volunteer for a non-profit, that only once in that five years has the U.S. embassy called together all the U.S. NGOs to try to consolidate efforts and support in Haiti. The biggest continuous answer they get from people in Haiti on, what do you need, he top of the list is jobs. And I think these NGOs who are on the front lines every day and have been on the front lines for decades can do that the best. And so my question is, how do we get our government to talk and relate more closely to the NGOs who have been in Haiti for the long haul and will continue to be in Haiti for the long haul?
DELANEYWell, it's a great point. It's important that the U.S. government be supportive of both the NGOs who are there, but really be a leader in helping support the institutions of the Haitian government to get strong. And so we, as an international NGO, we consider our role there is to support, be supportive of, that Haitian government.
DELANEYAnd so we have regular meetings, particularly with the water and sanitation area with the Haitian government and -- on a weekly basis. And we talk about where the gaps are and how we can support them. We have technical assistants in the Haitian ministry of water and sanitation so that we can support their dealings there. I think it's really vital that we think of it in those terms. That we're there -- we can do a lot, but it has to be under the coordination and leadership of the Haitian government. And where there isn't, we can fill that gap, but we have to do under their guidance.
NNAMDIAnd Melinda, you also talked about unemployment. And before I get Johanna Mendelson-Forman to respond to that, there's another voice I'd like to include in this conversation because it deals with the issue of unemployment. This is the voice of a man who helped us with our coverage while we were in Port-au-Prince.
NNAMDIJoseph Blanchard works there as a translator and fixer, but he's really trained as a computer specialist and that's the work he wants to do, but he can't. He spoke with us from Port-au-Prince this morning and he talked about the challenges he has faced in the past year.
MR. JOSEPH BLANCHARDI work for a company (unintelligible) in the South of Haiti, and I studied technology, electronics. I went to school in Wisconsin, North Central Technical College and I lost my job in August 'cause they robbed the business and, like, I lost my job. And a friend of mine called me to work as a fixer, the camera -- I'll meet you in the airport. This is the day I start working as a fixer.
NNAMDIThe first day you started working as a fixer is the day you met us?
BLANCHARDI was in the airport.
NNAMDII want our listeners to understand clearly. You had a scholarship offered by Georgetown University, which is here in Washington D.C., to attend a technical college in Wisconsin. Where was that technical college?
NNAMDIYou went there, graduated from that two-year program, went back to Haiti, got a job in technology. The place was robbed and you could not find any other employment?
BLANCHARDAny other employment.
NNAMDITell us, Joseph, what were you doing a year ago when the earthquake struck?
BLANCHARDI was driving in town with a friend of mine. I had a car crash. I hit my back a little bit and watching a lot of people die. In front of me, houses collapsing, it was terrible. And after one hour, I started helping people around and tried to understand what was going on 'cause I didn't understand what was going on. I never understand before 'cause I never understand before what is an earthquake. That's the time people say, it's an earthquake. But I didn't realize it was an earthquake when the things happened.
NNAMDIYou are trying to return to the United States to continue your studies. How is that going?
BLANCHARDI'm still working and it's like, 'cause I want to continue my studies. I was supposed to spend three years in Haiti before I go back. I stay in this country for my two years (unintelligible), I want to continue with my studies to (unintelligible) go back again in my country, do something in this country.
NNAMDIWe're talk -- that was the voice of Joseph Blanchard, who worked as a fixer and driver with us when we were in Haiti. Johanna Mendelson-Forman, Joseph's story is not unique. Roughly two-thirds of Haitian's are unemployment or under-employed. What needs to happen to kick-start the economy in that country?
MENDELSON-FORMANWell, I guess the answer to that, if you would, where do we begin? But I think with 60 percent unemployment, there are several things that I think we've learned out of this earthquake and that is livelihood creation after caring for the emergency needs is essential. And that even in discussing with women sitting in a market or women sitting in a tent, they don't want the food handouts. What they want are some kind of micro-credit to start their own business, to begin to work.
MENDELSON-FORMANBut the broader macroeconomic needs to be able to have a sustainable economy are not going to be only done through a textile industry, which is what is being developed. It’s going to be done by helping Haitians have roads to bring their products to market, have ports that function, have a government that isn't a kleptocratic government that allows people to work.
MENDELSON-FORMANAnd that right now is at the heart of the government's question because if you have a legitimate government and they can help funnel money, then these aid groups that the caller mentioned can function and begin to start with some small projects and micro-credit. But the bigger need is to make the island viable and that is where, I think, the aid has to be focused. Not handouts, but basically getting people to do a job and have respect for themselves by being livelihood owners.
NNAMDIBack to the telephone. Melinda, thank you for your call. We move to Juan Hendrick in Middleburg, Va. You're on the air, Juan Hendrick, go ahead, please.
JUANAbout a year ago, shortly after this horrendous earthquake, there was a lot of talk about using this to an advantage to make a clear break with the past and the past being this long history of dysfunctionality, particularly within the government. And what we've seen now is this sort of ludicrous situation with some sort of commission which is not really in power, which gives Mr. Clinton an opportunity to have some photo ops three times a year.
JUANThere is a president that is not really in power either. There is this charade of an election where there really shouldn't have been one and I...
NNAMDIWhat do you think should happen, Juan Hendrick?
JUANWell, I -- a year ago, I've asked Haitians here in Washington, 'do you think this is time for a UN trusteeship?' And they were adamant in saying no. And I've been reading up on these trusteeships and I understand the problem has been a conflict between the military and the development part of them because they were usually in post-conflict countries. Haiti is not a post-conflict country. Wouldn't -- is it too late or will there still be time...
NNAMDIWell, I’ll tell you, we talked with the head of the UN mission in Haiti and Johanna Mendelson-Forman can tell you not what only he said, but what he also observed. And that is an increasing resentment of the UN presence in Haiti so, Johanna, I am not sure that a UN trusteeship in Haiti would be accepted by the Haitian people.
MENDELSON-FORMANWell, I don't think that is a solution either for the short-term or the long-term. The UN plays a very vital role right now. It is providing security, which is one of the main functions of any operating state, but I think ambassador Bullitt, who heads that mission, would be the first to say what really needs to happen is for a government to be supported by the international community that can get money distributed and in the eyes of its citizens being a functioning state.
MENDELSON-FORMANThat's what really needs to happen. You do have, in many respects, parts of the state function that are taken over, but I think we're beyond the age of trusteeship. No one has mentioned the Diaspora and I think it's a very important point to say...
MENDELSON-FORMAN...that the Diaspora very much wants to be part of the solution. And I feel in this last year, while there's been outreach to them, the government of Haiti, the Haitian citizens, you know, are desperately in need of the talent that has left Haiti, that is living in the U.S. and Canada and parts of Europe and needs to have those individuals with the greatest stake come back and help rebuild the country.
NNAMDIAnd in order to have them do that, they're going to have to empower them in one way or another. But, Mike, we're running out of time. Very quickly, can you talk about the short-term future in Haiti? What do you think the things are that the country needs to focus on over the course of the next year?
DELANEYWell, it's, you know, I think that the key is really getting some of the institutions, the government institutions, stronger. Having the interim commission play a more supportive role to the government and then, I think, these small pieces, like the removal of the rubble, getting people back in homes where they're livable and getting the jobs created so that we can be focused on people supporting themselves and being sustainable in the long run, those will be the key issues for the future.
NNAMDIJohanna, we only have about a minute left. And you've traveled to Haiti a lot, but we got this e-mail from Bill that I’d like you to respond to who says, ''what I have never seen is any real personal incentive on a country-wide basis among the citizens of Haiti to fend for themselves. The people always seem to be looking for a handout and I wish I saw more sweat equity in terms of the people there personally working to resolve things." You've traveled to Haiti a lot over the years, if you would like Bill to know something about Haiti that he may not know about the Haitians and might find surprising, what would that be?
MENDELSON-FORMANMy sense is that the Haitians are one of the hardest working people I’ve ever seen. They're not only a talented group of individuals, and it's hard to generalize, but they work very hard. They've been given a bad hand. They've been given a government, time and time again, that doesn’t respect the needs of a citizen. There's no social contract. But as far as hard working, they don't want handouts. You can go on the street, whether it's Port-au-Prince or in the Artibonite, people want to be able to make a living for themselves and to live safely and comfortably and I think that's an aspiration that every citizen of the world has. I don’t think the Haitians in any way like being on the public dole.
NNAMDIJohanna Mendelson-Forman is senior associate with the Americas Program with the Center for Strategic and International studies. Johanna, always a pleasure.
MENDELSON-FORMANThank you, Kojo.
NNAMDIMike Delaney is director of humanitarian assistance with Oxfam America. Mike, thank you for joining us.
DELANEYThank you, Kojo.
NNAMDIAnd thank you all for listening. To the people of Haiti, God bless and good luck. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
Most Recent Shows
A year after a massive cyber-breach compromised the databases of the Office of Personnel Management, Kojo talks with OPM Acting Director Beth Cobert about her agency and key issues facing the federal workforce.
Where does Washington restaurant food really come from? Kojo explores how the phrase "farm to table" is used and discusses whether it should be retired altogether.
In light of two separate proposals to raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2020 in the District, Kojo explores what the wage increase would mean for tipped workers – particularly those in the restaurant industry.