Haiti: Where irony never sleeps.

slum dwelling Haiti


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Damage from earthquake in Haiti

Poverty entails fear and stress and sometimes depression. It means a thousand petty humiliations and hardships. J.K.Rowling, (speech 2008)

One of the most depressing stories in the aid saga is that of Haiti. Ten million nightmares wake up from the darkness of dreams to meet a new horror each day. Unless you were born into it, you could not hope to cope with the ravages of life in this small Caribbean country.

Before 1990, Haiti had been under the murderous control of the Duvalier family for 30 years. When that regime was toppled a military dictatorship replaced it. The people have had little respite from corruption, hunger and death and, then came the hurricane.

The devastation left behind by the quake of 2010 was 300,000 dead and 1million homeless. A big country would have felt the pain and the anguish but would have found the resolve to re-construct. Haiti, a small nation of approximately 10m, wrapped in a prolonged history of poverty and dependency must find it difficult to stand up, much less to rebuild.

The unrelenting pounding of hardships leaves little hope of rescue and of waking to a brght tomorrow.

  • An estimated $8 bn of damage.
  • 80% live below the poverty line.
  • 54% in abject poverty.
  • 40% depend on subsistence farming.
  • Between 2009/10 all of Haiti’s debts were written off.
  • By 2012 Haiti has amassed a new debt of $600m.
  • Much of the forestry has been cut down.                           

It’s a catalogue of horrors.

The true nightmare for Haiti is the lack of hope for the future. In 2011, Haiti, exported $690m of goods – in the same period imports were an estimated $3,280m. Of course that differential of income is not sustainable, especially when you consider that, ‘The government relies on formal international economic assistance for fiscal sustainability.’ (CIA) In essence without foreign help Haiti cannot climb out of the mire. After the earthquake the international community pledged over $4.5bn for reconstruction but it hasn’t all arrived!!!

Is securing boatloads of aid the answer to Haiti’s problem? In short the answer is an emphatic NO! The problems go much deeper, the whole nation is sorely fractured. The country appears to be a cesspit of corruption and has a myriad of political parties all jostling for any tangible degree of power. In this environment gangs are a means of survival and the more ruthless the higher the pay off. The UN has recently described the human rights situation as: ‘catastrophic.’

There’s an old saying, ‘it never rains but it pours’ and so it is with Haiti. The people were still trying to pick themselves up, when the cavalry arrived in the form of the UN and disaster rode with them. Cholera, has claimed in excess of 7,500 lives and with 600,000 ill and counting. The Guardian newspaper reports that, ‘it is beyond reasonable doubt’ that the UN caused it. Haiti, it seems needs a new water/sanitation system costing -up to $1bn. The cost of keeping the UN troops is estimated at $1bn. (Guardian) Remove one and fit the other seems like a no-brainer to me. The UN is pulling out some troops. What will they do with the money saved?

In August 2012 came the howling wail of Issac in the North destroying some 40% of the crop and many cholera treatment centres. When you consider that 80% of the people depend on agriculture for their living this was indeed a disaster. With little infrastructure, roads like mud lanes, and no irrigation programme a disaster soon becomes a nightmare. Oxfam reports, ‘no coordinated strategy to avert widespread crisis and neglect.’

And just to compound things, Sandy showed up and blasted the South/west of the country causing severe flooding in places. Plantations of numerous crops ruined and over 50% of the people affected.

It’s the daily grind that beats you down, living in tent towns, being forced to move around when the law demands. Crime out of control, with rape a daily occurrence and violence forever there. Murder pours scorn on their already deep trauma. The cost of funerals far exceed what the poor can pay and, loan sharks on the desperate prey.

What can be done?

Mario Joseph, a human rights lawyer makes two telling points:

‘part of the problem is these NGO’s.’

‘…there’s been an improper distribution of the aid that people have sent to Haiti.’

We have to give some credence to the man on the ground who has taken up many cases.


Typical politician

The situation may seem insuperable as the country is imitative of a pre-industrial society which is in need of being dragged into the 21st century. Achieving political consensus will be a bigger mountain to climb than Everest. Moi, is the first word a baby politician speaks. Yet change is as essential as the sun in Haiti. Tears from the Liberal hearts will dampen a wet rag as they wipe from their hands any positive solution that may hurt a fly.

Each donor nation must accept responsibility for the aid/ loans it passes over. This will entail that country administering a given area of development. Example; USA, takes on the role of re-afforestation, brings in experts from its own forests and works with and trains locals. After a period of 20 years it can pack up! Any other charities NGO’s can feed into the deal but must accept USA as administrator. Groups of donors can band together but must have a national policy and one admin nation. E.g. France agriculture, Germany education etc. Using this strategy would make monitoring and evaluating the spend and efficiency sound. It should also limit corruption and waste.

It may take some ruthless entrepreneurial leadership to force change, but this would be at loggerheads with the ‘guilt clause’ of the Liberal elite. They will probably prefer to toss dosh at the problem and keep their distance. However, if it is not sustainable you fail the people. You end up just kicking them in the teeth! Titbits!!

An obvious candidate for change is farming; the setting up of co-operatves to maximise crop yield and bring modern methods would help. Or enclosure may be necessary to force change. It cannot continue at subsistance level.

Re-afforestation is a must. Properly administered on a long term basis.

Housing: a serious development plan that covers the country as a whole. Not a patch work of charities doing their own thing.  No temporary shacks that a huff & a puff will blow down. One donor nation in charge!

Mineral wealth: allow established companies to operate and run the mineral deposits on a non profit basis for 20 years. Then sell to the highest bidder.

Corruption: this must be tackled by the setting up of a new police force. With careful use of gathered intel- deal ruthlessly with organised crime.

I may be blowing in the wind but, but, but, peeing in a lake never caught a fish.

Aid: A Dependency Culture


Agony does not sleep

South Sudan – Liberia – Malawi – Uganda – the nightmare continues:

For decades, Sudan has been torn apart by war and, famine rages. As of July 2011 Sudan is two countries; a northern Arab state and a predominately Black and Christian South Sudan. Over the years war has cost 1.5 million lives, the destruction and displacement is untold. Even today the conflict continues in the Darfur and tension is high in the Blue Nile region.

What future, what hope for such a ravaged landscape? Aid pours in relentlessly but to what effect? South Sudan is in the top 3 for humanitarian aid and in the top 10 for general aid. It has received over $4billion in aid since 2005. War, hate and distrust abound; the government of the north are accused of genocide against the people of Darfur. And the army of the new government in the south has been accused of human rights abuses in the Jonglei region.  There are border disputes, oil disputes; how soon before tension gives way to conflict? In such an environment it is so easy to impose or become dependent. In that scenario dependency just adds hopelessness to the existing nightmare.

The situation in Liberia is not a whole lot better. The Civil War may have ended in 2003 but there is still massive disruption in all walks of life. Liberia has the worse infant and maternal mortality rate in all sub-Sahara Africa. The UK recently gave another £8 million, the USA considerably more. Aid constitutes around 30% of gross income, yet the horror story continues.

Malawi has only recently been reintegrated into the world community. The late president was believed guilty of human rights abuses and the aid was suspended. When he died suddenly in April, his successor, Joyce Banda the vice president took over. She promised changes and the aid came flowing like a waterfall. Altogether the international aid donors sped $500 million to a beleaguered Malawi.

Same government – change of faces – loads of money!

The wheels on the bus…..  Sorry, it’s the cynic in me.

Aid now accounts for about 40% of gross income while 80% of the people survive at subsistence level in agriculture.

Uganda is a real horror story of aid not being any aid whatsoever! Most recently (12th October) it was reported that ten million Euros (€10m) given in aid had been frittered away, many suspect into Swiss bank accounts. The Irish, Swedish and Dutch governments are furious and are demanding an investigation. Their anger is justified but this is just one of a host of stories about corruption in Uganda. But, but, but the aid still pours in; £100m annually from the UK alone.

“Corruption thrives at a large scale in government”. Nicholas Kallingi. The Monitor.

  •          The World Bank estimates that Uganda loses $300m in corruption each year.
  •          The President has a private jet, the Prime Minister a new Mercedes.
  •         Auditors have found 7,600 ghost workers whose names appear in payroll & pension payments.
  •          Global Fund has given Uganda the lowest grant – of $300m to combat HIV, TB and malaria because of their concerns over corruption.
  •          NY Times, of Uganda – “…to be one of the most corrupt nations in the world”.

What is really sad is that Uganda could be a beacon state in sub-Sahara Africa. It has all the means necessary to be a strong, independent and wealthy country.


In Uganda, US aid has ultimately created more problems than it has addressed. NY Times.

….aid has continued to stunt economic, democratic and private sector development in Uganda……..the country remains hooked to aid despite its rich mineral wealth.                    Observer (Feb 2012)

Moreover, several states in the region of sub-Sahara score very poorly on the Transparency International Perception Index. With ten (10) as a high, many score below five (5).

A crystal ball could not help the aid agencies. They have poured their Liberal guilt into Africa by the boatload and created an insipid mire.

A Genuine Legacy?

  •          Rwanda – 33% of income is aid.
  •          Liberia – 30%
  •          Malawi – 40%
  •          South Sudan – 40%+
  •          Uganda – 40%

    Help or hindrance?

Can anyone honestly say that these countries have not become dependent on aid? Not only have they become dependent on aid but that very balance of their economy determines the politics of these nations. It gives the incumbent government an enormous power of patronage which can be fully utilised to their advantage come election time. Thus elections may appear free & fair but there’s a whole shipload of buts here!   See Post: Made of Sand, Rwanda. Aid: Where Doubts Arise.

Aid – corruption – elections

You decide

Hope: An Internal Spring?

“Let us not become addicted to free things….people have learned how to be fed and not feed themselves”. Salva Kiir, President, of South Sudan. (2012)

“Money from rich countries has trapped many African nations in a cycle of corruption, slower economic growth and poverty”. Dambisa Moyo (2010)

“Huge bureaucracies are financed (with aid money), corruption and complacency are promoted, Africans are taught to be beggars and not independent”. James Shikwati (2005)

These statements make it abundantly clear that many Africans are conscious of their continent’s need. What is required now is a seismic shift from the aid donors in attitude and programme. Listen and learn; let there be an internal spring!


Aid:Where Doubts Arise

Doubts arise when the question is asked whether we know how the aid is spent and what on. Perhaps we need to be more cynical than sceptical as there seems to be a big mess out there!

The UK government has handed out £163million since 2006 for a Reproductive & Child Health Programme in India. Unfortunately, the money was siphoned off and used for a separate programme of sterilization on both men and women. Another twist in this sordid tale is that many of those who opted for the sterilization programme were bribed to participate. Does this come under: misuse, corruption, manipulation of the vulnerable or all the above?

Q. Was anyone sacked for misappropriation? No one at all? Nobody!

Is this a puzzle?

  • We give aid to Nigeria – it has its own oil supply.
  • We give aid to Angola – it has its own oil supply.
  • Ghana – ditto.
  • South Sudan – ditto.

Am I detecting a pattern here or has cynicism poisoned my faculties?

A Cover Up?

In Southern Africa attempts to establish a tarpaulin business has failed to find a world market and has thus become dependent on aid agency purchases. It seems the locally sourced raw materials are not as good as that sourced by India and China. The upshot is that the African tarpaulin is not up to international standard and so is dependent on the donor agencies buying it.

Q. If the aid agencies are prepared to subsidize a business, as they are, why not start a good business, one that can develop and bring long term employment and value to the area?

A bit of a Tiff!

It’s always about money

How can a solution to Africa’s problems ever be found when major donors can’t agree on the best route forward? (Daily Mail) Under the umbrella of Affordable Medicines, the UK government is part funding a programme to combat disease, e.g. malaria. Launched in 2009, the UK has given £72m to subsidize the purchase and distribution of the medicine.  A body known as Global Fund is administering the programme. Both the UK government and Global Fund say it is proving a success (no real data).

However, Oxfam argue that the programme is missing out the poorest and not reaching the most at risk. Oxfam further argue that the money spent, would be better used to fund professional health workers.

The tag team of UK & Global insist they are making good progress. Global, going for a knock out, suggest that Oxfam’s nose is out of joint because the scheme involves buying the medicines from the big drug companies.

This situation epitomizes why aid to Africa is failing; there is no coherent policy! See post Made of Sand: Rwanda

Help, I need somebody……..


Too many agencies making too much broth;

Too many noses stuck in the trough.

Too much dumping causing too little growth.

Being too dependent brings too much sloth.

Too many nice guys, looking for praise,

Too much politics causes too many graves.

Aid: Made of Sand?


Where does all the money go?

Is the money well spent?

Why are we spending so much?

The UK is to increase the amount of foreign aid by a whacking 35% over the next few years. That will bring the total spend by 2015 to £12 billion, and change.

It’s a rich man’s……

The Government are keen to point out that it supports many laudable programmes via aid:

  • Supporting freer and fairer elections in 5 countries. (Where?)
  • Vaccinates some 12 million kids. (Great)
  • Supports 5.3 million children going to primary school. (Smashing)

And much more beside; but where is the evidence?

There are numerous stories about schools being built but have no equipment. Of others being supplied with computers but have no electricity. Hospitals constructed but without sufficient staff or medicine to cope with demand.


In support of fairer elections the government might point to Rwanda, where since the genocide of 1994 millions of dollars have been poured in. A previous Labour government under Tony Blair, was quick to praise Rwanda and its leader Paul Kagame, for the excellent work carried out. However, in the recent period the UK has withheld £16 million in aid because of a suspicion that the Rwandan government was/is supplying arms and supporting rebels in the Congo.

But, but, but,

Andrew Mitchell, the Conservative minister for International Aid has unfrozen the money and the first tranche of £8 million was released in early October 2012, with the second lot due to in December. The PM, David Cameron, has characterized Rwanda as a ‘success story’. However, Amnesty International says that the Human Rights record in Rwanda is appalling. While the UN, has accused Rwanda of giving aid and weapons to the rebels in the Congo. The leader of the rebel force, Bosco Ntaganda, and his M23 army are suspected of war crimes.

Land locked Rwanda

Why has the aid been re- established? Has Mr Kagame and his government agreed to do what they are told in the future. Were they perhaps looking towards China for help? Was it a case of better the devil you know?

What do Blair, and Cameron, know about Rwanda and its leader Paul Kagame, that no one else seems to know?

It has also emerged that the UK already gives £37 million from the general budget, – not the aid budget. Why is Rwanda so deserving?

There is considerable dispute as to the leadership of Paul Kagame, with several people calling for him to be tried for war crimes and various atrocities and suppression of opposition within Rwanda. Notwithstanding, the UK, the USA, and several Non Governmental Organisations, (NGO) continue to grant substantial amounts of aid to the country.

As aid makes up an estimated 33% of Rwandan government income, it does not take much imagination to see a link between aid and the supply of weapons to the rebel force in the Congo. How long was the suspicion held regarding Rwanda before the aid donors halted the flow of cash? It would seem that aid money was being used and therefore the international aid community were party to criminal activity. Well done guys.


Typical farm worker

Meanwhile, 90% of the population were busy surviving at subsistence level in the country’s agricultural sector. Over 45% of the population live below the poverty line. The main exports are coffee & tea; though the country has to import food. Is it just me or is there something wrong here?

Do the guys who dish out the dosh really know where the money is going and how it is being used? I would have thought that they were bright enough to have ‘intel’ on the ground. Hmm, I might be wrong on both counts.