USAID Low-Balling Number of Quake Dead and Homeless: Prelude to a Reduction in Its Haiti Aid Budget?

Posted on May 30, 2011

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This draft report prepared for USAID by a contractor is an insult to those who died in the 2010 earthquake and those still homeless after living in squalid camps for more than 17 months. Here are just two of the many “conclusions” found in this report:

“Challenging the commonly accepted death toll of 250,000 people, it proposes a far smaller figure.

“The number of fatalities that resulted from the earthquake is estimated at 46,190 to 84,961, approximately 2.2 percent of the population,” it says.”

“It also suggests that many of those still living in squalid tent cities did not lose their homes in the disaster.”

US report queries Haiti quake death toll, homeless

By Emily Troutman (AFP) – 1 day ago

PORT-AU-PRINCE — Haitian officials have reacted sceptically to a draft US report that questioned both the death toll in last year’s earthquake and the numbers left homeless.

The draft report, based on a survey commissioned by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), argues that far fewer people died in the devastating 2010 quake than has been thought.

It also suggests that many of those still living in squalid tent cities did not lose their homes in the disaster.

The draft report, dated May 13 and which has yet to be released, draws its estimates from door-to-door surveys carried out by the agency over 29 days in January.

Challenging the commonly accepted death toll of 250,000 people, it proposes a far smaller figure.

“The number of fatalities that resulted from the earthquake is estimated at 46,190 to 84,961, approximately 2.2 percent of the population,” it says.

The report, a copy of which has been obtained by AFP, also questions official UN figures that around 680,000 people remain homeless.

It argues that only between 5 percent and 10 percent of that number moved into the street from crumbled homes.

The draft report said its own findings — and data from Haiti’s ministry of public works — suggested that the UN estimates were “improbable figures”.

There was no comment Friday from the office of President Michel Martelly.

But a government spokesman, who asked not to be named, expressed surprise, saying: “Honestly, I have never heard of these figures.

“The official figures remain the same. It’s surprising that we would talk about new figures now.”

And one government minister, who also spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity, said he found it “curious that the new figures had appeared more than a year after the catastrophe.

“The official numbers that I am aware of remain the same and that is between 250,000 and 300,000 dead,” the minister added.

US State Department Mark Toner, which oversees USAID, acknowledged they had commissioned the report from Washington-based firm LTL Strategies.

But he added: “The first draft of the report contained internal inconsistencies with its own findings.

“We are reviewing these inconsistencies with LTL Strategies to ensure information we release is accurate.”

In the months after the disaster, the USAID’s Foreign Disaster Assistance funded a multi-million project to assess the safety of nearly every earthquake-damaged home in Haiti.

The project was led by the Pan American Development Foundation, working with the well-known structural engineering firm, Miyamoto International and Haiti’s ministry of public works (MTPTC).

It moved across the island, identifying which homes it considered “totally unsafe” or “mostly unsafe”.

The follow-up study, commissioned by USAID and carried out in January, conducted more than 2,000 in-depth surveys across low-income neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince.

It found that 64 percent of houses designated as “totally unsafe” and more than 90 percent of those designated “mostly unsafe” had already been reoccupied.

Entitled “Building Assessments and Rubble Removal in Quake-Affected Neighborhoods in Haiti,” the report could have major implications for the future of aid and reconstruction to the impoverished nation.

The United States, along with other international donors, has pumped millions of dollars into Haiti in a bid to help it get back on its feet after the quake leveled much of the capital, Port-au-Prince.

The issue of the homeless was brought to the fore this week when Wilson Jeudy, the mayor of Delmas, a large district of Port-au-Prince, evicted residents from two camps in public spaces.

Jeudy told Le Nouvelliste daily he was concerned the camps had become havens for criminals.

He said he offered no compensation or housing alternatives, as he did not support paying people to move. “If you give money to these people, they will relocate to other camps to wait again,” he said.

Posted in: Haiti, Imperialism, UN, US, USAID