Saturday, March 31, 2012

photos - fun in the son - part 1

Today was a "family fun day"! We went to the Fun in the Son program that was held on the soccer fields at Sun Auto in the Tabarre area. A steady flow of people headed to the grounds. They were preparing for 100,000 people to attend.

This soccer field had many games and activities for the children.

Benson and Stephanie are heading over to the games.

They got as far as the front door of the air house and then decided they didn't want to go inside :)

Manu took off his shoes and ran! He was excited. His friend Jonas ran after him :)

photos - fun in the son - part 2

Boy scouts helped show people where things were and also served as crossing guards as people entered the soccer fields.

1,000 churches were involved in this large evangelical event.

The UN was there too for security.

The Haitian police were there too.

It was a hot day and no shade. Only people who worked in the tents had any shelter from the sun. A typical day in Haiti :) The children saw this advertisement for Tampico and asked me to buy them one.

photos - fun in the son - part 3

Manu, Fonise, Stephanie, and I were getting thirsty, so Manu rummaged through the knapsack looking for the money.

They then went and bought some tickets for the drinks.

A children's musical program was taking place with a lot of singing and action songs.

A children's choir and their director were dressed in Haiti's colours.

They proudly sang for the audience.

photos - fun in the son - part 4

We walked over to the other large soccer field where preparations for the main evangelical program were going on for what would start late in the afternoon.

The program was called Haiti Broilers and the American evangelist Andrew Palau would be speaking.

Haiti broilers is right. We were there a couple of hours and when we found out it would be another couple of hours until the concert everyone had enough of being broiled in the sun and we went home :) Here are Johnny, Herode and his brother Rosquini sweating in the sun!

We saw this man standing on a mound of dirt in a neat looking suit. The best part of the preliminary show were the motorcycle jumps!

With the assistance of a ramp the motorcycle became airborne and the bikes soared!

photos - fun in the son - part 5

The drivers did some stunts while they were in the air.

The dirt ramp mound was used for the landing.

They were great riders!

It was a challenge taking photos, but some turned out!

We didn't see any of the riders lose control, but when Manu was watching, one rider banged their leg a bit.

photos - fun in the son - part 6

It was fun watching this part of the show.

These drivers would do well on the roads in Haiti!

This is the type of motorcycle needed for the streets of Port-au-Prince :)

After we got broiled, we went outside the park and found a shady tree to sit under. We watched people heading to the soccer fields.

And had fun watching the "Cat Police". These are the names of the police who drive these 4 wheelers. We then headed home and sat in the worst traffic jam I have ever been in! That is what happens when 100,000 people head somewhere at the same time :) I am sure the rest of the program went well.


(Reuters) - By Tim Large

In a recent blog post I referred in passing to some of the hype surrounding “crowd-sourcing” projects in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake.

That’s not to criticise the volunteers – mostly in the United States – who collectively devoted hundreds of hours to charting the needs of quake survivors on online maps, based on SMS texts sent from the disaster zone.

My point was that their gate-crashing of the relief response in Haiti posed a welcome challenge to the traditional humanitarian system – but also generated hyperbole about the effectiveness of crowd-sourcing in actually saving lives.

“There is, without question, a great deal of hype around technology,” BBC Media Action says in a new policy briefing on how communications are used in emergencies.

“Extravagant claims have been made in recent years for its ability to solve everything from election fraud to Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) management. Such claims are often based on little hard evidence, particularly on the practical use of communications technology in emergencies.”

This seems like a good time to ask: How useful is it to draw on the “wisdom of crowds” when mobilising a relief response after a big natural disaster?

The question matters because it’s now almost a matter of faith that crowd-sourcing platforms like Ushahidi will be key tools for aid agencies in future emergencies.

This belief feeds off two desires on the part of relief groups. One is to be more accountable to beneficiaries, which means listening to what disaster-hit communities are actually saying. The other is to embrace mobile technology in a world where even crisis zones tend to be “wired”.

Ushahidi, which means “testimony” in Swahili, started in 2008 as a way for Kenyans to report instances of post-election violence. Anybody could send a text to log an incident – rape, riot, looting, murder – and the system would plot it on a map.

Since then, the open-source platform has been rolled out all over the world. It has been used to map acts of war in Gaza, crime in Indonesia and socio-political developments in Egypt. It is now being used by U.S.-based activists to chart human rights violations in Syria.

All of which makes sense. You can look at those maps and get an idea of where trouble is brewing or hotspots developing. Individual reports are unverified, but like a pointillist painting, they add up to a useful picture.

The Haiti earthquake was different.

For the first time, the idea of bearing witness became confused with humanitarian needs assessment and relief response. Big claims were made about this new twist on crowd-sourcing.

“The service was able to direct emergency response teams to save hundreds of people, and direct the first food, water and medicines to tens of thousands,” says the website of Mission 4636.

Mission 4636 was a coalition of “crisis-mappers” and volunteer translators who mobilised in the United States around text messages sent by survivors in Port-au-Prince (4636 was the SMS “short code” the coalition used).

Hundreds of people saved? Aid directed to tens of thousands? This is where the rhetoric starts to look like hyperbole.

It’s worth backtracking to January 2010, when the unprecedented information ecosystem that would become Mission 4636 was first evolving.

Thomson Reuters Foundation was part of that ecosystem. I declare an interest: I was in Port-au-Prince setting up AlertNet’s Emergency Information Service (EIS). EIS sent out, in Creole, critical information from the United Nations, NGOs and Haitian government. Anybody could register to receive the free SMS alerts by texting 4636 (we publicised the service mainly by radio).

Survivors could also text their needs and locations to 4636, and the messages flowed to a variety of online platforms via RSS feeds.

Early on, we ourselves had big ideas about crowd-sourcing. The EIS platform allowed us to map incoming messages and categorise data. The idea was that this could be useful information for the “Clusters”, the different sectors of the U.N.-led response – food, shelter, water and sanitation and so on.

Nice idea, but there were problems. For one thing, few people in the quake zone had the bandwidth to use the maps. For another, it set up false expectations on the part of survivors, who reasonably expected the information they sent to be acted upon, or at least responded to.

I can still feel the wincing pain of watching those heart-rending appeals for assistance roll in, knowing few people would receive replies.

On the radio, I did my best to explain that 4636 was not a hotline for help. Rather it was a means for people to say what they needed so aid workers could build up a rough picture. But inevitably, people turned to it as a lifeline.

It’s not that incoming messages fell into a void. In the United States, plenty of people were pouring over them.

Scores of volunteers mobilised by crowd-sourcing organisation CrowdFlower and social enterprise Samasource were translating the Creole texts into English. They categorised and geo-tagged them too.

Then Ushahidi volunteers mashed the data onto online maps and performed a kind of triaging service, sending high-priority messages to the U.S. military.

Anecdotal evidence suggests some of this information may have been acted upon by U.S. Southern Command, which by virtue of proximity was involved with early emergency operations.

A member of the Marine Corps wrote that crowd-sourced data “was saving lives every day”, without specifying how. And a member of the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency Task Force told Ushahidi: “No matter what anyone else tells you, don’t stop mapping. You are saving lives.”

An independent evaluation of the Ushahidi Haiti Project said the section of its work concerned with assessing the impact of the initiative was “supported with the weakest evidence base”. It lists a handful of “possible” and “probable” examples of people being rescued, taken to hospital or sent supplies.

Why isn’t there more evidence of impact?

One very simple reason – the crowd-sourcing efforts happening in living rooms in the United States were completely disconnected from the U.N.-led relief response in Haiti.

It wasn’t the U.S. military who coordinated the search-and-rescue teams piling into Port-au-Prince, or the many U.N. agencies and NGOs who followed in their wake. That was the job of the United Nations, led by the Office of for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Even MapAction, OCHA’s official crisis-mapping partner, didn’t know about what Ushahidi and the other crowd-sourcers were doing. Camped in their tents, first at the airport and then at U.N. Logistics Base, they didn’t have the bandwidth either.

Of course, it’s possible to imagine a future in which things are more joined up, and much is being done to make sure that happens. For example, the interagency Communicating with Disaster-Affected Communities (CDAC) Network is trying to bridge the divide between the humanitarian sector and new info-tech players.

The real problem isn’t coordination. It’s a flaw in the model of response that crowd-sourcing seems to promise.

Think of this model as “retail relief”, in which specific services – food or water distributions, say – are delivered to individuals based on individual needs (assuming they have a mobile phone to text in those needs).

In fact, the vast majority of disaster relief is delivered wholesale. This makes sense, because in a crisis zone like Port-au-Prince after the quake, nearly everybody has needs.

If you look at the Ushahidi maps of Port-au-Prince, or AlertNet’s EIS maps, you saw the same kinds of messages everywhere. All they told you was that the whole city was in trouble.

Getting food, water, shelter and medical care to hundreds of thousands of people in an earthquake or tsunami zone is not a series of surgical strikes, made on a first-call-first-served basis. It’s a grinding, blunt, often slow process, involving massive needs assessments over wide areas.

It means overcoming huge logistical hurdles. It involves coordinating hundreds of aid agencies and NGOs across a broad sweep of sectors.

That’s why the job falls to the United Nations – assuming the sovereign government of the country concerned calls for international help, as the Haitian government did.

Many traditional humanitarian players see crowd-sourcing as an unwelcome distraction at a time when they are already overwhelmed. They worry that the noise-to-signal ratio is just too high.

Committed crowd-sourcers counter that the solution is not less technology – but more.

Patrick Meier, director of crisis mapping at Ushahidi, writes that the Syria project is leading the way with a mixture of automated data mining and crowd-sourced human intelligence.

At a CDAC Network “media and technology fair” last week, John Crowley, a research fellow at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, said such approaches were the Holy Grail. The trick is to combine sophisticated algorithms with human feedback loops.

“That’s where the cutting edge is, and ultimately we’re not there yet,” he said.

Until then, the jury is still out, at least for me. I’d be happy to be proved wrong, and would welcome real evidence of lives saved.

If aid agencies are to invest time and resources in handling torrents of crowd-sourced information in disaster zones, they should be confident it’s worth their while.


(Haiti Libre) -

The heavy rains that fell on the capital Port-au-Prince, on the night of Thursday to Friday, caused a landslide in Morne Accra, destroying several anarchic houses built on the hillside. An entire family perished when a mudslide swept away their fragile home. The rains also affected several other neighborhoods, where alluvium, stones and rubbish in large quantities covered the streets; in some places, making the movement of vehicles difficult.

According to Nadia Lochard, of the Office of Emergency Preparedness Coordinator for the West, five adults and one child were killed during the heavy rains. The Civil Protection calls the populations in at risk areas to a greater caution due to meteorological conditions.

Although the rainy season begins in April, for the last two weeks Port-au-Prince receives almost every night heavy rainfall, which increases a little more each day, the unhealthiness of the capital, and greatly complicates the lives of the 500,000 people still living in refuge camps, for 2 years now...


(Haiti Libre) -

In order to increase the operation logistics capabilities of governmental entities, the UN Mission for Stabilization in Haiti (Minustah) proceeded on Wednesday, March 28, to the delivery of 160, 4x4 vehicles to the Government of Haiti.

The ceremony of delivery was held at the Logistics Base of the Mission (Logbase) on airport road. Attending, among others were the Secretary General of the Prime Minister, and Kevin Kennedy, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations in Haiti, and Acting Head of the Mission.

This gesture is part of the logistical and financial post-earthquake support provided by the Minustah to the Government of Haiti, under Resolution 1927 of June 4, 2010, which invites, among other things, the Mission to: "provide to the Government of Haiti, at its request and within available resources, the logistical support and technical expertise necessary to continue its operations, build capacity of institutions responsible for enforcing the rule of law at the national and local level [...], provided that such measures are temporary, and will be lifted gradually for the national capacity building"


(Haiti Libre) -

Continuing its commitment with the Haitian people and the government in the development field, the European Union inaugurated this Friday morning a series of development and infrastructure works implemented in the neighborhood of Martissant. This work is part of the program "Establishment of basic services in water supply and sanitation in the planning area of Martissant" funded to the tune of 1,225.000 Euros and implemented by the organization GRET (Development professionals).

Initiated in November 2008 within the framework of Urban Revitalization Program of neighborhood of Martissant that is built around the creation of the Park Martissant and that is implemented by a consortium of partner organizations including the French Development Agency (AFD) and conducted by the Fokal, this project allowed firstly to contribute to the cleaning of this area highly exposed to violence, and to improve and streamline the management of access to potable water services. This action falls in line with the development strategies favored by the European Union in Haiti and which, in the case of Martissant, define themselves through a comprehensive approach for the rehabilitation of the area, integrating the Haitian authorities, Haitian and European organizations, and neighborhood communities.

The work that will be inaugurated this Friday for the occasion concerns especially :

The channeling of the Leclerc gully

The rehabilitation of the Leclerc spring catchment

The development of multiple pathways along the Leclerc canal for vehicule and pedestrian traffic

The construction of community public fountains, to promote access to safe drinking water for residents.

The development of a basketball court in the neighborhood of Krepsak, equipped with bleachers, for a capacity of 200 to 300 people.

Mr. Jeroen Witkamp, Chief of the Economics Section and Social Sectors of the European Union delegation in Haiti, will speak to highlight the importance of these developments and their impacts, in the context of providing better public access to basic services, and the improvement of their living conditions.


(Haiti Libre) -

During his stay in Haiti [26 to 29 March], Dr. Arun Gandhi met the First Lady, Sophia Martelly, and community leaders of two difficult neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince, in Bel-Air and Delmas, at the initiative of Viva Rio and Jenkins/Penn Haitian Relief Organization (JPHRO) of the American actor Sean Penn.

Invited by the Section Community Violence Reduction (CVR) of the MINUSTAH, Dr. Arun Gandhi accompanied by Brian Polkinghorn, Executive Director of the Centre for Conflict Resolution at the University of Salisbury (United States), shared with the Mission staff the foundations of nonviolence, and the philosophy of his grandfather, Mahatma Gandhi, who struggled against racial discrimination, poverty and human rights. He argued in favor of an introspection that can turn anger into positive energy rather than into acts of physical violence.

Stressing that this is a personal work, in the long term, which requires patience and perseverance, he stated that the transformation of a violent society into a non-violent society is not done in one day, and requires monitoring, perseverance and especially the transmission of what is acquired to those who will take over, "So that the wire does not break", and to prevent the targeted community plunging back into violence.


(Haiti Libre) -

Michel Brunache, the Minister of Justice and Public Security, announced the end of the certification process for members of the Supreme Council of Judicial Power (CSPJ), paving the way for the installation and the operationalization, in the coming weeks, of this new entity; which will constitute the administrative body for the control, discipline and deliberation of the judicial power.

Certified members composing the CSPJ:

Me Anel Alexis Joseph: President of the Court of Cassation,
Me Antoine Norgaisse, Judge at the Court of Cassation: vice President
Me Thiers Malette, Government Commissioner at the Court of Cassation
Me Max Elibert, elected by its peers (Judge at the Court of Appeals of les Cayes)
Me. Gustave Pharaon, elected by the Courts of First Instance of the Republic (Dean of the tribunal of First Instance of Gonaïves)
Me. Jean Alix Civil, chosen by the Minister of Justice (Government Commissioner of the Court of First Instance of Petit Goâve)
Me. Jean Etienne Mercier, Representative of the judges of the courts of peace of the Republic (Judge of Peace of Delmas)
Me Dilia Lemaire, Representative of civil society
Me. Néhémie Joseph, Representative of the Assembly of barrister in exercise (Dean of the Bar of Gonaïves)

During this announcement, Michel Brunache, the Minister of Justice reiterated his determination to work in accordance with the Constitution, and the law, for the effective independence of judicial power, an essential step in the establishment process for the rule of law advocated by the Head of State.


(Defend Haiti) -

PORT-AU-PRINCE - The Senate committee charged with investigating the nationality of members of the Government says that a counterfeiting network is working for the executive. These forgers counterfeit paperwork for some government officials whose nationality is being investigated.

The Chairman of the Committee, Senator Jean-Charles Moïse (Nord/Inite) said in an interview with AlterPresse, that he suspected that there are in the country "a network of forgers and malefactors" devoted to Martelly.

This statement comes following the announcement that the commission found that government officials have apparently submitted correct Haitian passports, while detaining foreign nationality.

The National Police should work to "dismantle all networks that provide these fake passports," said Moise Jean-Charles.

Moise Jean Charles says that the commission will take the time it takes before submitting its report on this issue. The report had been announced for March 29.

The Committee also informs that a letter is addressed to President Martelly for him to shed some light on his case.

"Yesterday, we sent a letter to President Martelly, through which we ask him to clarify certain aspects of his case," informed Senator Moise Jean Charles. However, the spokesman of the presidency, Lucien Jura, has indicated, during a short interview with AlterPresse that "we have not yet received a letter from the commission."

The mystery remains over the passport Martelly used during his trips abroad during the election campaign in 2010 and 2011. One of the passports of the former singer said that he had made 21 sorties to countries....

Another of President passports is dated from 1981 to 1991, while a Haitian passport is valid for 5 years.

Moreover, the MP Arnel Belizaire (Delmas/Independent) presented March 28, 2012, a record of about a thousand pages that provide evidence that the head of state would have used "forgery", and that at least one member of his government has a foreign nationality.

On another level, the commission studying the issue of the ratification of the prime minister designate, Laurent Lamothe, awaits the report on the nationality of members of the government to move forward.


(Defend Haiti) -

PORT-AU-PRINCE - Pierre Leon St-Remy Junior was appointed coordinator of the Presidential Security Unit (USP) to replace Alexandre Carel, said Wednesday a source close to the Presidency.

Pierre Leon St-Remy Junior, a relative of the First Lady, replaced Carel Alexandre through a change that would have been imposed by Washington determined to bring down several former police officers close to Michel Martelly, who are considered human rights offenders involved in drug-trafficking.

Officially, no reason has been advanced to justify this change. However, according to some reliable sources, it would be the result of intense pressure from representatives of the international community, particularly the United States, insisting that President Michel Martelly gets rid of some former police officers who have a bad reputation.

The new head of the USP Unit - close security of the Head of State- is a relative of the First Lady, Sophia Saint-Remy.

The sidelining of Carel Alexander, former head of the company to maintain order (CIMO), has not pleased others responsible for presidential security, the sources said.

A few months ago, the National Network of Human rights (RNDDH) expressed serious concerns to President Martelly, facing the reintegration into his security team or the National Police of several former commissioners returned for many years and particularly suspected of involvement in drug trafficking and human rights violations. The human rights organization had specifically named Carel Alexandre, Godwork Noel, Gilbert Dragon, Jacky Nau and Will Dimanche.

Will Dimanche became the meantime the head of the central management of the traffic police (DCPR).


(Defend Haiti) -

PORT-AU-PRINCE - The Prime Minister-designate, Laurent Lamothe, expressed concern about the issue of demobilized soldiers grouped in several public sites throughout the country, and said he hoped that the problem can be resolved in the shortest time.

According to MetropoleHaiti, Lamothe, the outgoing Minister of Foreign Affairs, gave attention to the need to take into account the wage claims of former members of the Armed Forces of Haiti, and advocated a search for durable solutions for the soldiers. Lamothe welcomed the involvement of the ministers of interior and justice in efforts to restore order.

The man designated to be the next Prime Minister recalled the promise of President Michel Martelly to restore the armed forces, and assured that this process is achieved with order. Lamothe called for continuing the process of creating the army, without the illegal occupation of public buildings by former soldiers.

Asked about a possible use of force, the Prime Minister-designate argued that the problem must be resolved, without confrontation. Lamothe said that through dialogue the authorities can convince the demobilized military of the illegality of their actions.

He noted that dialogue will enable the demobilized soldiers to present their demands to government authorities. The use of weapons as a means of negotiation is not acceptable, insisted Mr. Lamothe.


(Haiti Libre) -

According to Senator Francois Lucas Sainvil, Recording Secretary of the Commission responsible for the verification of the documents of the Prime Minister designate, Laurent Lamothe, the Commission had started Friday, on the revision work and on the correction of the final report, which should in principle, be delivered Monday to the Senate Office; who will have to decide when it will be submitted to the Assembly. Note that on Friday, only 3 members were "at work..."

The Second Secretary of the office of the Senate, Senator Mélius Hyppolite (OPL), has indicated that due to Easter holidays many senators have left for the province in their departments, while others are traveling abroad. Consequently, the report may be presented after the holidays...

In any other country, the Senators would have been recalled from their holidays for the ratification vote of the Prime Minister-designate, but it seems that Haiti, once again creates the exception...


(Haiti Libre) -

The Board of Directors of the American Chamber of Commerce in Haiti, AMCHAM, urges the parliament to speed up the analysis of the record of the Prime Minister designated, Laurent Lamothe, to give a new impetus to the Haitian economy currently in full stagnation.

AMCHAM indicated that the business community, like the rest of the country, is highly affected by the negative effects that accompany the transition of a resigning government, which can only deal with the current affairs.

This situation, indicates AMCHAM, "has the effect of slowing the decisions of potential local and foreign investors, to delay the initiation of projects that create jobs needed for the development of the national economy, and wealth creation essential for the improvement of living conditions of the Haitian population."

Friday, March 30, 2012

photos - bills' village - part 13

This farmer has cut small trees/scrub brushes down in order to make charcoal. We walked by as he was preparing the sticks.

It was a fun time with the children of the village.

The children had fun following the "blanc" to see what they were up to :)

Bill, looking back that we didn't forget anyone.

You can't be lonely in a village :)

photos - bill's village - part 14

We met up with Michelore's brother.

It is neat to see how a surgery can eliminate a handicap and give a child a normal life, like Doudeleimy.

Rob walking with some of his new friends :)

We walked past this family's cooking shelter.

It was a Victory for Bill :) He was able to see Paulna's family again and make the village children happy!

Photos - bill's village - part 15

The children here at Coram Deo like to look at the pictures of themselves on the blog.

That's why I take lots :)

Paulna picked up some things at her mothers' house and then walked to join us.

Voodoo is a strong presence in this village. This is some sort of offering on the ground to a voodoo spirit.

Saying goodbye to the children of the village.

Photos - bill's village - part 16

Paulna rushed back home to pick up something she forgot.

The children were determined to accompany us to the truck.

A well was recently capped for water so that people could use a hand pump.

A child in the community.

Crossing the mud pit :)