This Ungoverned Haitian City Is Fighting to Stay Alive

OZY.com

Mona Augustin stands on land near the Village Grace de Dieu in Canaan, Haiti, with some of the 126 families who have been together since they met in a tent camp called Mozayik after the 2010 quake. After being evicted from Mozayik in 2012, they bought title to this property. The group was later forced to move from the land by armed men who claim their own title to that land. / Allison Shelley

A short drive north from Haiti’s overcrowded capital of Port-au-Prince, a metropolis is rising from a previously desolate landscape. Some 250,000 people have flocked to Canaan in the eight years since an earthquake ravaged Haiti, destroying 100,000 homes. Born out of a disaster, it’s a city without a government, and for many, it’s an experiment in self-determination. But its future is increasingly uncertain.

Built from scratch by people in poorly governed, disaster-stricken Haiti, the city is emerging as an alternative model of urban existence — and its struggle is holding out lessons for similar future pockets that spring up in the aftermath of disasters.

Read the feature story and see photography by Allison Shelley at OZY. Reporting for this story was made possible by a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

On Haiti and the Ethics of Disaster

Center for Journalism Ethics
/ JACOB KUSHNER

/ JACOB KUSHNER

The death toll from Hurricane Matthew in Haiti—now officially at 336, though likely far higher—is a big part of why the world is paying attention to Haiti right now. It’s in the headlines, it’s in the ledes. It’s the reason news agencies continuously hunt for the highest figures: The higher your death toll, the more fresh, the more ominous your reporting appears, and the more likely it is that TV news stations, newspapers and news websites will choose your story over your competitor’s.

We should care that hundreds of people have died. But we shouldn’t only care when a storm hits. More than 9,000 Haitians have died from cholera in the six years since the United Nations introduced the disease there. Diarrhoeal diseases kill at least 4,600 Haitians each year. Those diseases are usually brought on by lack of clean water and sanitation — things with relatively simple and low-cost fixes that neither Haiti’s government nor the international aid community has invested in sufficiently to fix.

A friend of mine who works for a major aid organization in Haiti messaged me last week that “it’s awful trying to get to the south with the bridge down, blocked roads, etc. So sad.” She’s talking about a bridge on the same road I traveled back in 2010 to cover hurricane Thomas as it struck Haiti’s south. Indeed, bridges in Haiti fall frequently when storms hit. Without them, aid workers can’t get to the affected areas easily, or at all.

How many of us have opened our wallets in the past five years to donate to the construction of bridges in Haiti — or roads?

More to the point, how many news outlets that are gaining clicks and ad revenue by reporting on the current death toll in Haiti bothered to report on any solutions to Haiti’s chronic infrastructure or health problems in the past? Absent any solutions-oriented coverage, the recent barrage of news about the tragic toll of Hurricane Matthew feels an awful lot like disaster porn.

Read the full Op/Ed at the UW-Madison Center for Journalism Ethics or at MediaShift.

Deported From Their Own Country

TakePart

Juliana Pierre at her home in the Dominican Republic. The denial of her attempt to get the national identity card to which she was legally entitled led to the mass exodus and deportation of Dominican citizens of Haitian descent. (Photo: Jacob Kushner)

The Dominican Republic built its economy on the backs of Haitian immigrants and their descendants. Now it wants them gone.

FOND BAYARD, Haiti—On April 28, 2009, Julia Antoine gave birth to a girl in a hospital in the town of Los Mina, in the Dominican Republic. Her husband, Fritz Charles, couldn’t be there—he was busy working his job at a chicken farm.

In the coming days, the couple named the girl Kimberly. When the family went home, Antoine was given a document from the hospital noting the birth, the date, and the word hembra, or female. They didn’t bother trying to get Kimberly an official birth certificate. Although Antoine and Charles had spent many years living and working in the Dominican Republic, they were Haitian citizens, and it was well known that Dominican officials routinely denied birth certificates to children born to Haitian parents if, like Antoine and Charles, the parents couldn’t furnish passports or other legal documents.

Still, Kimberly was, by law, entitled to Dominican citizenship. Yet in 2015, she was deported along with her mother.

Kimberly and her mother now live in a lean-to hut made of sticks in a refugee camp on borrowed land in Haiti. Their predicament offers a glimpse into what happens when a nation that bestowed citizenship on people born within its territory decides to take that citizenship away.

Read the full longform feature at TakePartReporting for this article was funded by a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and through a Daniel Pearl Investigative Journalism Initiative Fellowship from Moment Magazine.

Why Being ‘Haitian’ Made Them Stateless

Columbia Global Reports

Juliana Deguis Pierre sits outside her home in the Dominican Republic. / JACOB KUSHNER

Haitians today face all manner of stigma—for perennially being “the poorest nation in the western hemisphere,” for devolving into political chaos every few years. Much of that prejudice takes root just next door, in the country with which it shares the island of Hispaniola.

In January of last year I met Felix Callo Marcel, a 22-year-old born in the Dominican Republic but who was refused a Dominican identity card and even had his school enrollment certificate confiscated by the Dominican government. His parents were immigrants from Haiti. Marcel is one of an estimated 200,000 people who have had their nationality officially stripped away from them. Now, tens of thousands of people of Haitian heritage are being deported or fleeing for their own safety to Haiti, where many live in refugee camps akin to those that popped up after Haiti’s devastating 2010 earthquake.

Dominicans take pride in their recent emergence as a middle-income nation. And yet, there’s no denying that Dominicans built their modern economy on the backs of their other half. Now it is the kids and grandkids of those Haitian immigrants whom the government says no longer belong.

Read the full article at Columbia Global Reports.

Haiti’s half-billion dollar question

VICE Magazine

Photo by Santiagockn / 2010

The Red Cross has adopted a better approach to help Haitians recover from the 2010 earthquake—but past mistakes might plague its future.

When an earthquake decimated Haiti’s capital and nearby cities in 2010, people around the world pledged $13 billion in aid, $488 million of which was donated to the American Red Cross — the largest branch of the world’s largest relief charity.

In June, an NPR/ProPublica report alleged that the Red Cross had misused and wasted funds it devoted to housing, building only six out of 700 planned homes and failing to shelter anywhere near as many displaced Haitians as it had claimed.

But if the agency misappropriated its resources, it did so largely at the direction of Haiti’s leaders.

Five years after the earthquake, some 64,000 Haitians remain officially displaced, and tens of thousands more reside in temporary shelters or on land from which they face eviction. Roughly 150,000 of them live in a desolate stretch of land at the foot of the mountains north of Port-au-Prince that Haitians call Canaan — the biblical Promised Land.

The Red Cross’s forthcoming work in Canaan illustrates its evolving understanding of the infrastructural challenges that disaster recovery entails. But critics of its effort in Haiti insist that this does not absolve it of what they say were harmful mistakes. Read: VICE

Paradise Is Overbooked

Foreign Policy Magazine

Claudia Altamimi

In 2013, the Haitian government began seizing land on a picturesque island to construct a $260 million tourism hot spot. Two years later, the country’s opaque land laws have all but sunk the project.

Five years after a devastating earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people and caused some $8 billion in damage, Haiti’s leaders are banking on tourism to help buoy recovery and drag the nation out of poverty. The Île-à-Vache project is ground zero for these hopes. Wooing investors with tax breaks and the promise of internationally funded infrastructure upgrades, the government has developed a plan that includes a new airport, a series of hotels, and an 18-hole golf course.

But just two years after it began, the project has stalled. As of March, not one of the 2,500 hotel rooms anticipated by Haiti’s government has appeared. The Île-à-Vache project has been stymied by conflict between the government and local residents over ownership of the island’s land.

Read: Foreign Policy Magazine

Here and There’s David Marash interviews Jacob Kushner on Haiti

Uncategorized

Today on Here and There we talk with reporter Jacob Kushner, who has spent recent months and years in Haiti, where the President now rules by decree…the Parliament has passed its re-elect-by date and gone home, where hundreds of thousands are still homeless, and disputes over who owns land threaten to paralyze economic development.

Listen to the full interview. 

Reporting was supported by a grant from the Pulitzer Center. 

Five years after the earthquake, Haiti remains on unsteady ground

GlobalPost/GroundTruth, uncategorized

IlE-A-VACHE, Haiti — One day in October, 81-year-old Mascary Mesura was working in his garden of corn and coconut trees when the mayor of this small island off the southern coast of Haiti approached and told him to get out of the way.

“He said ‘the tractors are coming. We are going to build a lake to grow fish,’” says Mesura. “I asked for an explanation. I told him all the things we grow there. I was standing in my garden and he told the tractor to advance.”

The mayor, Fritz César, stood and watched while police handcuffed Mesura and his wife, forcing them to watch as their livelihood was uprooted, all 28 of their coconut trees toppled to make room for a fish pond to feed tourists.

The demolition was part of the Haitian government’s $260 million plan to develop Ile-a-Vache into a Caribbean tourism destination akin to the Bahamas or St. Martin.

Five years after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake ravished an already troubled nation, Haiti’s leaders hope tourism along with mining, manufacturing and agriculture will help the country leave its legacy as an impoverished nation behind.

Read the full GroundTruth story on GlobalPost. 

Reporting was supported by a grant from the Pulitzer Center.

50 years a tourist in Haiti

Vocativ

Vocativ

One Wisconsin couple have been vacationing in troubled Haiti for 50 years, and they reckon it’s high time you made the trip

January marks the 5th anniversary of Haiti’s devastating earthquake. The country’s leaders are trying to move the nation past the “recovery” phase and into the future as a middle-income nation that attracts tourists and their money. Across the border in the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, tourism is the No. 1 driver of GDP, and Haiti wants a piece of the action.

Beset by a string of misfortunes and natural disasters, Haiti isn’t many people’s idea of a fun Caribbean getaway. But one Wisconsin couple have been vacationing there for half a century, through all the troubles, and they just can’t figure out why they’re a rarity.

Read the full story at Vocativ.

Tarnished: The True Cost of Gold (eBook)

Uncategorized

Tarnished: The True Cost of Gold tells the stories of those who mine gold—the lustrous, coveted symbol of wealth. Eleven journalists traveled to 10 countries to tell these stories. Their work combines first-rate reporting, vivid imagery and video, previously published by the Pulitzer Center, an innovative non-profit that supports international journalism.

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In Chapter Four, Jacob Kushner investigates the future of mining in Haiti, a land ravaged by an earthquake in 2010. Gold remains its hidden treasure, one of the country’s few unexploited natural resources. Kushner asks where the wealth will go when—and if—tons of precious metals are unearthed. (A version of this chapter was originally published by Guernica Magazine).Download the eBook for iPad, iBooks for Mac or Kindle.

Four years after the Haiti earthquake, what have billions in US aid bought?

GlobalPost/GroundTruth
The United States spent $2.8 billion to help Haiti rebuild, but the results have been a disaster of a different kind.

By Jacob Kushner

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — In the four years since Haiti’s disastrous earthquake, the United States has promised $3.6 billion in aid, at least $2.8 billion of which has already been spent.
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Has it helped? GlobalPost examined more than one dozen studies and audits to estimate how much of that money made it through US government and NGO bureaucracies to the ground in Haiti — and what good it did there.

Read the article at GlobalPost.

In post-earthquake Haiti, a forgotten island is left to recover on its own

GlobalPost/GroundTruth

A ferry arrives at the wharf in Anse-a-Galets on the island of La Gonave, Haiti. /Jacob Kushner

Thousands sought refuge on the island of La Gonave four years ago. But little help ever arrived, something permanent residents know all too well.

ANSE-A-GALETS, Haiti — To traverse the 13-mile stretch of Caribbean Sea to the island of La Gonave, one must choose between three types of boats, none particularly safe.
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First there are the “fly boats,” speed boats with outboard motors that race a dozen people from one side to the other. From time to time they flip over. Few records exist as to how many people survive.

Then there are the two large steel ferries that carry a few hundred passengers slowly across the sea each day. In 1997, one of those ferries sank, killing 200.
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Last, there are the sailboats — wooden ships built from hand-carved lumber and pieced together with hammered nails. Their canvas masts are reminiscent of those in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie franchise. They carry everything from rice to dry cement, motorcycles, cars and trucks.

In better times, Haitians travel to and from the 300-square-mile island as a matter of routine, however risky. In times of emergency, like the massive earthquake of four years ago, they come to La Gonave in droves.

In the first 19 days after the earthquake, 630,000 people fled Port-au-Prince, 7,500 of them to La Gonave, according to a 2011 study. Untold thousands more fled there from other earthquake-affected areas. Some NGOs put the total at 20,000, which would mean the island’s normal population of approximately 100,000 increased by between 15 and 20 percent almost overnight.
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To feed and house them all would have required a substantial amount of the $9 billion pledged by international governments for Haiti’s recovery. But little of that aid — or the aid allocated by private donors — reached the people of La Gonave, GlobalPost found. Most of the migrants returned to the mainland in the months after the earthquake, leaving permanent residents in a dire state.

Read the full story at GlobalPost.

In Haiti, all eyes on US to reform food aid program

GlobalPost/GroundTruth
US Congress is on the verge of rejecting a money-saving proposal that would deliver US food aid to more people and boost foreign farmers in the process.

Sacks of American rice for sale at a Port-au-Prince market. (Jacob Kushner/GlobalPost)

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — The idea that the delivery of American food aid needs an overhaul goes almost without question here in the capital of a nation still recovering from the devastating earthquake of four years ago.

Farmers in Haiti and many of their counterparts in the United States are joining foreign aid organizations calling on the United States to stop sending American crops to Haiti through what many critics say is the deeply flawed and wasteful strategy of the current, multi-billion-dollar US Department of Agriculture Food for Peace program.

“Unfortunately US policy doesn’t consider first the political interests of farmers abroad, but of its own,” said Camille Chalmers, director of a Haitian farmers’ association.

“But now there is a chance to change that,” he added.
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Read the full article at GlobalPost. 

New hospital encourages doctors to stick around as Haiti continues to rebuild

GlobalPost/GroundTruth

Pediatricians in residence Dr. Roosler Billy Telcide, 27 (right), and Dr. Ben Bechir Beaubrun, sit in the children’s waiting room at the Partners in Health University Hospital in Mirebalais. Telcide said he’s excited to learn first rate patient care at the new facility– and to carry those standards with him as he practices medicine to his hometown once he completes his residency. /Jacob Kushner


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MIREBALAIS, Haiti — When Roosler Billy Telcide completed medical school in Port-au-Prince, his hopes for finding a residency to prepare him for a career as a pediatrician were modest.

“I had a dream when I was a medical student to do my residency where I can find a scanner, an MRI, and all those things Partners in Health has,” said Telcide, 27, in reference to Boston non-profit whose state-of-the-art teaching hospital opened last year in the town of Mirebalais, north of Port-au-Prince.

Funded by private donors and grants, and using equipment donated from the Boston area, the $25-million, 300-bed University Hospital of Mirebalais (HUM) already handles some 800 outpatient visits a day, offers chemotherapy to cancer patients, delivers 200 to 300 babies per month and operates a 24-hour emergency ward. Its mission: provide free, first-rate health care to Haitians who could otherwise not afford it.
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Read the full story as it appeared at GlobalPost.

New hospital encourages doctors to stay as Haiti continues to rebuild

GlobalPost/GroundTruth

Pediatricians in residence Dr. Roosler Billy Telcide, 27 (right), and Dr. Ben Bechir Beaubrun, sit in the children’s waiting room at the Partners in Health University Hospital in Mirebalais. Telcide said he’s excited to learn first rate patient care at the new facility– and to carry those standards with him as he practices medicine to his hometown once he completes his residency.

MIREBALAIS, Haiti — When Roosler Billy Telcide completed medical school in Port-au-Prince, his hopes for finding a residency to prepare him for a career as a pediatrician were modest.
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“I had a dream when I was a medical student to do my residency where I can find a scanner, an MRI, and all those things Partners in Health has,” said Telcide, 27, in reference to Boston non-profit whose state-of-the-art teaching hospital opened last year in the town of Mirebalais, north of Port-au-Prince.

Funded by private donors and grants, and using equipment donated from the Boston area, the $25-million, 300-bed University Hospital of Mirebalais (HUM) already handles some 800 outpatient visits a day, offers chemotherapy to cancer patients, delivers 200 to 300 babies per month and operates a 24-hour emergency ward. Its mission: provide free, first-rate health care to Haitians who could otherwise not afford it.
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Read the full story as it appeared at GlobalPost.