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Eight Facts About ZunZuneo

On Thursday, April 3, the Associated Press published an article on a social media program in Cuba funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development. The article contained significant inaccuracies and false conclusions about ZunZuneo, which was part of a broader effort that began in 2009 to facilitate “twitter like” communication among Cubans so they could connect with each other on topics of their choice. Many of the inaccuracies have been re-reported by other news outlets, perpetuating the original narrative, or worse.

Photo credit: Manpreet Romana/AFP

Photo credit: Manpreet Romana/AFP

The article suggested that USAID spent years on a “covert” program to gather personal information to be used for political purposes to “foment” “smart mobs” and start a “Cuban spring” to overthrow the Cuban government.  It makes for an interesting read, but it’s not true.

USAID’s work in Cuba is not unlike what we and other donors do around the world to connect people who have been cut off from the outside world by repressive or authoritarian governments. USAID’s democracy and governance work focuses on strengthening civil society, governance, and promoting human rights.

Here are eight claims made by article, followed by the facts:

1) The story says the “program’s legality is unclear” and implies the program was “covert.”

FACT:  USAID works in places where we are not always welcome. To minimize the risk to our staff and partners and ensure our work can proceed safely, we must take certain precautions and maintain a discreet profile. But discreet does not equal covert.

The programs have long been the subject of Congressional notifications, unclassified briefings, public budget requests, and public hearings. All of the Congressional Budget Justifications published from 2008 through 2013, which are public and online, explicitly state that a key goal of USAID’s Cuba program is to break the “information blockade” or promote “information sharing” amongst Cubans and that assistance will include the use or promotion of new “technologies” and/or “new media” to achieve its goals.

In 2012, the Government Accountability Office—the U.S. government’s investigative arm—spent months looking at every aspect of USAID’s Cuba programs. GAO’s team of analysts had unrestricted access to project documents, extended telephone conversations with Mobile Accord (ZunZuneo) and even traveled to Cuba. The GAO identified no concerns in the report about the legality of USAID’s programs, including ZunZuneo, and offered USAID zero recommendations for improvements.

2) The article implies that the purpose of the program was to foment “Smart Mobs,” funnel political content and thereby trigger unrest in Cuba.

FACT:  The “USAID documents” cited in the article appear to be case study research and brainstorming notes between the grantee and the contractor.  The specific reference to “Smart Mobs” had nothing to do with Cuba nor ZunZuneo. The documents do not represent the U.S. government’s position or reflect the spirit or actions taken as part of the program in Cuba.  The project initially sent news, sports scores, weather, and trivia.  After which, the grantee did not direct content because users were generating it on their own.

3) The story states there was a “shell company” in Spain formed to run the program.

FACT:  No one affiliated with the ZunZuneo program established a private company in Spain as part of this program.  The project sought to do so if it was able to attract private investors to support the effort after USAID funding ended.  Private investment was never identified and thus no company was ever formed.

4) The story implies that the USG tried to recruit executives to run ZunZuneo without telling them about USG involvement.

FACT:  A USAID staff member was present during several of the interviews for candidates to lead ZunZuneo.  The staff member’s affiliation with USAID was disclosed and it was conveyed that the funding for the program was from the U.S. Government.

5) The article states that private data was collected with the hope it would be used for political purposes.

FACT: The ZunZuneo project included a website, as is typical for a social network.  Users could voluntarily submit personal information. Few did, and the program did not use this information for anything.

6) The article says that the funding was “publicly earmarked for an unspecified project in Pakistan,” implying that funds were misappropriated.

FACT: All funds for this project were Congressionally appropriated for democracy programs in Cuba, and that information is publicly available.

7) The story stated, “At its peak, the project drew in more than 40,000 Cubans to share news and exchange opinions.”

FACT: At its peak, the platform had around 68,000 users.

8) The article suggests there was an inappropriate base of operations established in Costa Rica outside of normal U.S. government procedures.

FACT: The Government of Costa Rica was informed of the program on more than one occasion.  The USAID employee overseeing the program served under Chief of Mission Authority with the U.S. Embassy, as is standard practice.

We welcome tough journalism – and we embrace it.  It makes our programs better.  But we also believe it’s important that the good work of USAID not be falsely characterized.

Cooking With Green Charcoal Helps to Reduce Deforestation in Haiti

An organization in northern Haiti is promoting a cooking fuel made from agricultural waste that can save trees, help farmers increase their yields and generate additional income.

“Our aim is to try to stop deforestation in Haiti by teaching people to switch from cooking with charcoal to using cooking briquettes, small discs made from charred agricultural waste,” said Anderson Pierre, the Supply Chain Manager for Carbon Roots International (CRI), a USAID-supported non-profit organization operating in Quartier Morin.

Workers create cooking briquettes, small discs made from charred agricultural waste, in northern Haiti on Dec. 12, 2013. Photo copyright Kendra Helmer/USAID

Workers create cooking briquettes, small discs made from charred agricultural waste, in northern Haiti on Dec. 12, 2013.
Photo © Kendra Helmer/USAID

Despite the fact that only about 2 percent of Haiti’s forests remain, it is difficult to shift habits of cooking with wood charcoal to methods that are environmentally friendly.  According to Pierre, other alternative fuels are still not well-known – or accepted.

“We work little by little, changing perceptions and providing information on the benefits of using briquettes,” Pierre said.

CRI employs smallholder farmers and entrepreneurs to produce carbon-rich char from agricultural waste such as sugarcane bagasse, the fibrous matter that remains after sugarcane stalks are crushed to extract their juice. CRI uses this waste to create two innovative products: renewable charcoal cooking briquettes called “green charcoal,” and “biochar,” a potent natural soil additive that increases soil fertility and removes carbon from the atmosphere. CRI sells the briquettes as an alternative to traditional wood charcoal through a network of women retailers, and disburses biochar back to farmers to increase crop yields and further raise incomes.

As a result, the project contributes to the sustainability of Haitian agriculture and provides income opportunities for women entrepreneurs. It offers a comparably priced, locally appropriate green cooking fuel to the Haitian marketplace, as well as encourages the adoption of biochar as a viable tool for increasing agricultural productivity and soil resiliency.

CRI’s efforts to promote green charcoal are gradually gaining ground in northern Haiti. While they’ve been focusing on market research and production, they plan to expand to bulk sales and more roadside kiosks this spring. In December, CRI ran a public awareness campaign in Quartier Morin under the slogan “Green Charcoal is Your Charcoal”, using demonstration stands and offering free samples of briquettes.

“The Haitian consumer likes the fact that this comes from a source other than wood. People have heard about a Haiti that used to be green. They understand that deforestation is not good. If they have an alternative, they will go for it,” said Ryan Delaney, co-founder of CRI. The briquettes are 5 to 10 percent cheaper to buy than wood-based charcoal and they can be burned in a traditional cook stove, making it an attractive fuel alternative.

USAID is supporting CRI through a $100,000 Development Innovation Ventures award. The USAID award has helped CRI prove itself — it developed a network of producers, started production and created viable markets for biomass products.

“We want this to be a self-sufficient project,” Delaney said. “We have just purchased a machine that can increase the briquette production from 3,000 briquettes a day to 3 tons an hour. There is a lot of sugarcane production in Haiti providing the needed sugarcane waste…. Right now we sell small-scale, but we have ambitious expansion goals.”

Delaney estimates the charcoal market in Haiti to be valued at about $700 million a year (approximately $90 million in northern Haiti).  “The potential to scale in Haiti and beyond is enormous, as there is little centralized production of charcoal,” he said.

This month, the U.S.-based CRI expects formal operations to begin for their for-profit entity in Haiti, called Carbon Roots Haiti, S.A.  Eventually CRI wants to hand over green charcoal production to Haitians, Delaney said. ”Ultimately, we envision this as a Haitian company run by Haitians.”

Launched in October 2010, USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures (DIV) holds a quarterly grant competition for innovative ideas, pilots and tests them using cutting-edge analytical methods, and scales those that demonstrate cost-effectiveness and widespread development impact. DIV uses a staged-funding model inspired by venture capital to invest comparatively small amounts in relatively unproven ideas, and continues to support only those that prove effective.

For more information on DIV and how to apply, go to http://www.usaid.gov/div. For more information on CRI visit http://www.carbonrootsinternational.org/ and see photos of CRI in Haiti on Flickr.

Read another story about how USAID is fighting deforestation through an improved cooking technology program.

Anna-Maija Mattila Litvak is the Senior Development Outreach and Communications Officer for USAID/Haiti.

Let’s Stand Up For Inclusion, Not Exclusion

The stigma and discrimination faced by people living with HIV/AIDS continues to be a roadblock for access to critical prevention and care. Yet every day I see significant steps that are being taken to overcome this obstacle, especially efforts led by USAID.

I was invited to speak at the USAID-funded Panos Caribbean media launch of its latest publication, “Speaking Out! Voices of Jamaican MSM.” This publication is a compilation of oral testimonies from the men having sex with men (MSM) community in Jamaica and an important product by the Panos Caribbean/World Learning project which works to strengthen and improve the livelihoods of these men. Through this publication, Panos Caribbean develops public awareness about the issues affecting the MSM community and promotes through the media, tolerance and accountability for MSM who are impacted by HIV/AIDS.

Denise A. Herbol

Denise A. Herbol

The social complexities surrounding the MSM community in Jamaica is often polarizing to the public.  There is serious stigma attached to any activities by this community. This is compounded by the fact that HIV remains a complex issue among the most-at-risk populations in Jamaica, including the MSM community. Current statistics on HIV prevalence rates in Jamaica are 1.7% in the general population, or roughly 32,000 persons living with AIDS. Figures are significantly higher in a number of high risk groups: for the MSMs, the prevalence rate is 32%, which in many cases can be directly attributed to the stigma, discrimination and fear of violence or legal sanctions.

In an effort to achieve an AIDS-free generation, breaking down the barriers for all individuals is essential. With support from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), USAID is allocating significant resources to reach populations most at risk for transmitting or becoming infected with HIV/AIDS. PEPFAR seeks to promote an enabling environment of supportive laws, regulations, policies and social norms in order to facilitate meaningful access to HIV services for these populations at both the facility- and community-level.

USAID, in partnership with Panos, is leading positive efforts to promote tolerance and accountability in response to HIV through constructive use of the media.  Panos continues to equip these men with effective tools to expand their voices and concerns so that they can be heard across Jamaica.

Progress will continue to be hampered until we include all people to achieve an AIDS-free generation.  Each of us must do our part to promote inclusivity, celebrate diversity, and eliminate stigma and dehumanizing stereotypes.

Haiti’s Recovery Won’t Happen Overnight

This blog post originally appeared on Devex.

Each morning, the bulky, unwieldy vehicle navigates an uneven, rocky path that in some areas of Haiti is a common road. Only my seatbelt keeps me from hitting the roof as I make my way to the U.S. embassy in Port-au-Prince.

A row of damaged houses and buildings in the Cité Soleil neighborhood in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Four years after the disaster, almost 75 percent of earthquake rubble has been removed and 89 percent of the 1.5 million displaced population have left camps for alternative housing options.

A row of damaged houses and buildings in the Cité Soleil neighborhood in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Four years after the disaster, almost 75 percent of earthquake rubble has been removed and 89 percent of the 1.5 million displaced population have left camps for alternative housing options. Photo by: Andre Mellagi / CC BY-NC-ND

A newcomer to the country, I see each day during my journey a small remaining camp for Haitians displaced by the catastrophic 2010 earthquake. Living in temporary tent shelters, they, children among them, are still waiting for a new place to call home. Then, recently, I noticed that the camp was emptying.

Almost four years after the earthquake, 89 percent of Haiti’s 1.5 million internally displaced persons have left the tent camps for alternative housing options. Almost 75 percent of earthquake rubble has been removed. Security throughout the country has improved and, recognizing the importance of employment, the government is committed to attracting foreign investment, with agriculture, tourism and the apparel industry the most promising growth areas. Health indicators are up, with improvements in infant and child mortality rates and more public access to health services.

International donors — among them the U.S. Agency for International Development — have learned lessons along the way in Haiti in terms of how we can do better.

As the country leaves behind the era of post-earthquake relief and focuses now on longer-term development, USAID is striving to build the capacity of local organizations to lead and manage development initiatives.

This necessarily involves building public and private institutions so Haitians can lead and manage their own development. On our part, we are enhancing the capacity of the Ministry of Health to manage a national healthcare system using its own human and financial resources, so it will no longer be dependent on donors. Similarly, efforts are underway to build the financial and programmatic capacity of local NGOs to provide services and advocacy that are too often provided by international organizations. The country must also advance the rule of law, a prerequisite to the creation of durable institutions and economic growth.

Every USAID mission director’s goal is to help the host country one day reach a point when it no longer needs foreign economic assistance. Indeed, all donors and development organizations should be devoted to that goal. In Haiti, this will not happen overnight. But four years after the earthquake, Haiti remains a U.S. government priority to continue and improve our efforts to help Haitians building the opportunity and prosperity they are capable of and that they are so deserving.

John Groarke is USAID Mission Director in Haiti since August 2013. An expert in international law and counter-insurgency, he previously served in hotspots like Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt and Morocco, as well as senior legal advisor for West Africa and South Asia.

LGBT Rights in Jamaica: A Conversation with Maurice Tomlinson

From November 25th (International End Violence Against Women Day) through December 10th (International Human Rights Day), USAID joins the international community for 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence. During this time IMPACT will highlight  USAID’s work to combat gender-based violence.

Regina Jun, Gender Advisor for the Bureau of Latin America and the Caribbean, spoke with Maurice Tomlinson, who is an Attorney-at-Law, law lecturer on sexual rights, and HIV/AIDS advocate. He is leading an initiative, on behalf of AIDS-Free World, to have the region’s anti-sodomy laws repealed.

In 2012, Maurice was awarded the inaugural David Kato Vision and Voice Award. Maurice is featured in the Abominable Crime, a documentary that explores the culture of homophobia in Jamaica. 

Photo of Maurice Tomlinson. Credit: Maurice Tomlinson.

Photo of Maurice Tomlinson. Credit: Maurice Tomlinson.

Q1: How have the situations for the LGBT persons changed in Jamaica?

For the past 4 years, AIDS-Free World has been working to eliminate homophobia in Jamaica. This includes working with civil society groups on the island to document and respond to human rights violations against the local LGBT population. In that time, we have seen a near 400% increase in the number of reported homophobic attacks. In the last few months alone there have been several brutal assaults, including murders and home invasions.

Q2: Why is the violence against LGBT persons such an important issue in the Caribbean?

Violence against LGBT persons in the Caribbean has been identified as a significant reason that the region has the second highest HIV prevalence rate in the world. This violence drives LGBT citizens underground, away from effective prevention, treatment, care and support interventions. Jamaica, where homophobic violence is most acute in the region, has the highest HIV prevalence rate among men who have sex with men (MSM) worldwide at 33%.

Q3: What projects are you currently working on in the Caribbean?

I am working on several court cases challenging anti-gay laws across the region. These include the first ever domestic challenge to Jamaica’s anti-sodomy law, as well as a case before the region’s most senior tribunal, the Caribbean Court of Justice, to strike down the sections in the immigration laws of Belize and Trinidad which ban the entry of gays.  As part of a team, I conduct LGBT sensitivity training with police across the region and also train civil society groups on how to effectively document and report human rights violations against LGBT citizens.

Q4: What are some of the positive changes you have seen so far?

We have seen unprecedented editorial support for LGBT rights by the major newspapers across the Caribbean. There have also been positive statements from politicians — especially Minsters of Health — who underscore the need to repeal homophobic laws in order to address the region’s HIV epidemic. Mainstream civil society groups are also taking greater interest in and actively advocating for the human rights for LGBT persons.  Further, the polling pioneered in the region by AIDS-Free World on the levels and drivers of homophobia points to a small but important movement towards greater tolerance for LGBT citizens.  Finally, while the number of police attacks against LGBT persons has decreased, they still occur too frequently, especially involving LGBT citizens from the lower socio-economic strata.

Q5: In your opinion, what can be done to increase acceptance of greater sexual diversity in the Caribbean?

The visibility of LGBT persons will help to dispel some of the myths and misconceptions about sexual minorities. Once persons realize that someone they know and quite possible care deeply about is gay, this will help to humanize the issue of homosexuality.  It is easier for people to hate what they do not know. That is why AIDS-Free World has produced and tried to air tolerance ads showing positive images of LGBT persons.

Furthermore, political leaders continue to be very influential in the young nations of the Caribbean region. They can help to encourage more rational discussions about homosexuality by making unequivocal statements condemning homophobia.  Such statements would help neutralize some of the more virulent anti-gay pronouncements being disseminated by powerful religious fundamentalists across the Caribbean.

Like Maurice, USAID is committed to advancing the rights of the LGBT community, including providing support to local LGBT advocacy organizations to extend democratic governance and respect for human rights to all individuals, and creating blueprints for increased access of comprehensive healthcare services to transgender and transsexual persons. Learn more about USAID’s work against gender-based violence

Pounds of Prevention: Focus on Haiti

This installment of USAID’s Pounds of Prevention series (PDF) takes us to Haiti where we are working to reduce the risks posed by floods in Port-au-Prince. By leveraging the successes, lessons learned, and extensive mapping conducted as part of USAID/Haiti’s WINNER project, USAID is now taking specific steps to help communities in both the upper and lower Millet Ravine watersheds protect themselves from floods. Do you want to know what a gully plug is, or why pineapple plants are a part of the solution to slowing runoff and preventing erosion? Read on to find out!

The photo is of Ketlin Polinic, who is optimistic that disaster risk reduction activities in the Millet Ravine watershed will help protect her vegetable plot. Photo is from Nina Minka, USAID.

A Lesson in Holistic Care: What I Learned from Working with Transgender Women and Health Providers in the LAC Region

November 20 is Transgender Day of Remembrance.

I have collaborated closely with transgender women and health providers in Latin America and the Caribbean to learn more about the needs of transgender populations and to train health workers to provide quality services. Working alongside transgender women on needs assessments, trainings for health providers, and in the development of a blueprint (PDF) for comprehensive transgender services, opened my eyes to their experiences, gaps in existing programs that limit access to critical services, and the opportunities we need to pursue. To help you understand my recommendations, I would like to share a story I heard repeatedly from transgender women:

I was 13 years old when my family threw me out of the house because of who I am. I tried to continue my studies, but I dropped out of school because my classmates insulted me every day and sometimes hit me, and I was afraid to use the boys’ bathroom (the only one I was allowed to use) because I was afraid of being assaulted by male students. The teachers looked the other way or called me names. I have developed a thick skin because when I step out of my home, people stare, make comments and give menacing gestures. Going to a clinic is also unpleasant. I get sick like everybody else, but the nurses always assume that I am a sex worker and that I have HIV. Frequently, they give me condoms and an HIV test and send me home. One time I was jumped by four guys in the street, and I ended up in the emergency room. When one of the nurses opened my robe and saw that I am a transgender woman, she gave me a look of disgust and called me a homosexual. She must have told others about me because several nurses came, opened my robe and walked away laughing. I waited for a long time before a doctor saw me. He told me that real men do not dress like women, and that I should cut my hair and stop wearing make-up so I could get a job. I had a cut in my head that needed stitches and the doctor did not even clean the blood in my hair.

REDTRANS and Miluska staff conducting a workshop on HIV and human rights. Photo credit: Manuel Contreras

REDTRANS and Miluska staff conducting a workshop on HIV and human rights. Photo credit: Manuel Contreras

This story, and the others that I heard through this work, underscored the need for a new approach to transgender health:

  1. Prevention efforts must engage families and schools to foster supportive environments.  Transgender teens frequently experience rejection from their families and bullying in school. Homelessness, low literacy, and lack of family protection not only increase the likelihood that these teens will experience exploitation, but also severely limit their opportunities to find jobs.
  2. Many people, including health providers, do not clearly understand the spectrum of sexualities, genders, and identities. Their confusion often leads to stigmatizing attitudes and discriminating practices in health care settings, which in turn discourages transgender women from seeking care.
  3. Increasing access to counseling and testing and other HIV services should not be an end in itself. Securing the human rights of transgender communities and creating a safer environment where they can access appropriate services without fear of violence or discrimination should be the focus.
  4. Increasing access to condoms and HIV information are cornerstones of HIV prevention, but national prevention programs need to go beyond these two strategies. Policies and programs should also support employment and education opportunities for transgender persons. The pressure to put food on the table and a roof over their families’ heads can lead to poor decision making, resulting in risk-taking behaviors.
  5. Engaging transgender persons in program activities as facilitators or data collectors strengthens their technical capacities and allows them to engage with health providers and communities as professionals and peers. This can effectively dispel myths and negative beliefs about transgender women, their capacity, and their behavior.

By sharing my observations and the stories I heard, I hope to raise awareness of the issues that come into play and to encourage all of us to reconsider how our programs can better contribute to the well-being of transgender persons and their communities. We can make that commitment today on Transgender Day of Remembrance, an internationally recognized day to memorialize those who suffered or died as a result of anti-transgender hatred or prejudice.

Aysa Saleh-Ramirez, MPH is AIDSTAR-One Senior Technical Advisor at John Snow, Inc. AIDSTAR-One is funded by PEPFAR through USAID.

Haiti Holds First National Reading Championship

The finalists with the Director General and Deputy Director General of MENFP and well-known author Frankétienne. Photo credit: MENFP

The finalists with the Director General and Deputy Director General of MENFP and well-known author Frankétienne. Photo credit: MENFP

Out of 11,000 students from 172 schools, the Government of Haiti recently chose 72 finalists to attend the first National Reading Championship. From this talented bunch, six were national finalists. The two shining stars who came out on top in the final round were Bruna Samika Délomme, a fourth grader from the Northwest, and Loveda Movin, a third grader from Nippes. After participating in community reading activities during their summer, they proudly walked away as the top readers in their country.

At the event, Minister of National Education Vanneur Pierre stated that the National Reading Championship was a stepping stone in efforts toward improving the education system in Haiti. “The country is at a difficult crossroads today where education is the only tool to get the nation out of this impasse. Fortunately, the government has chosen to put the emphasis on education,” he said.

Samika Bruna Delhomme (L) of Northwest and Loveda Movin of Nippes were named finalists. Photo credit: MENFP

Samika Bruna Delhomme (L) of Northwest and Loveda Movin of Nippes were named finalists. Photo credit: MENFP

The competition has set a precedent for the nation and for the students. By acknowledging and supporting the endeavors of its brightest students, the Government of Haiti is helping to instill a culture of reading in this country and to secure a better future for its students. Ensuring that children can read in early grades often determines their future educational success, thus opening the door to greater economic opportunities in adulthood.

The National Reading Championship was hosted by USAID and the Ministry of Education, helping students like Bruna and Loveda maintain their reading competencies and comprehension during the summer vacation.  In addition, it inspired Minister Pierre to initiate Reading Fridays, which will be implemented in public schools to promote and encourage reading fluency and comprehension.

Read more about USAID’s education efforts in Haiti.

Like USAID Haiti on Facebook and follow @USAID_Haiti on Twitter for ongoing updates in the region. 

Video of the Week: Adapting to Melting Glaciers: A Partnership Approach

Through the USAID-supported High Mountain Partnership (HiMAP), Peru and Nepal are addressing the impacts and risks of rapidly melting glaciers in high mountain areas. The HiMAP brings scientists, governments officials, and local people together to share lessons learned on managing high-risk, high-impact floods caused by rapidly melting glaciers.

Learn more about USAID’s work in climate change and promotion of development based on climate-smart planning and clean technologies.

Housing Development Fuels New Hope for Haitian Families

The Haut Damier housing settlement stands neat and orderly near Cabaret off Route National 1, a main highway on the west coast of Haiti, north of Port-au-Prince. The development’s 156 pastel-painted houses received their first residents in September. The families, many of whom lost houses as a result of the 2010 earthquake and who until recently lived in tents and other substandard housing conditions, now have permanent homes, with running water and flush toilets, for the first time since the disaster.

“We are so pleased. We have never had piped-in water in the house before,” said Albert Julien, a father of a family of six.

A beneficiary prepares to move her belongings into her new USAID-funded house near Cabaret, Haiti, in September 2013. Photo credit: USAID

A beneficiary prepares to move her belongings into her new USAID-funded house near Cabaret, Haiti, in September 2013. Photo credit: USAID

The Haut Damier housing settlement, an $8.3 million housing and community development project, is one of several new settlements supported by USAID in partnership with the Government of Haiti and nongovernmental organization (NGO) partners to provide homeownership opportunities in proximity to employment and transportation hubs for earthquake-displaced families and other vulnerable households. Beneficiaries were chosen by the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC), in collaboration with local municipal authorities. IFRC is also partnering with USAID to assist in the move-in of the beneficiaries and help them begin a new life in the community.

Another key partner on this housing development is the Government of Haiti’s Public Agency for Social Housing, which has a team dedicated to provide management and maintenance of the housing complex. USAID will help the agency strengthen its management and governance capabilities.

The Haut Damier homes have two rooms, a bathroom with a shower, and a kitchen, and are connected to electricity and sanitation facilities. The buildings are made from locally available materials which allow the residents to repair and expand their homes as needed. To ensure structural durability, the houses meet the International Building Code earthquake and hurricane safety standards. Of the 156 houses, 16 are built with access ramps to accommodate people with disabilities, while all of the houses meet accessibility standards that include wider doorways and bathrooms.

“This will be a big change for my family,” said Etienne Masita, a mother of five. “In the tent, the children get diseases and life is difficult.”

Masita has already joined a variety of community development activities in her neighborhood. She and other incoming residents have worked five days a week tending vegetables in the gardens surrounding the houses. The IFRC-sponsored gardening project enables residents to assume responsibility for their neighborhood.

USAID’s NGO partners United Methodist Committee on Relief and IFRC are jointly providing nearly $3 million of their own funding to support community and livelihoods development programs. These partnerships along with community engagement in developing and maintaining the Haut Damier housing site are essential for creating an enriching and sustainable living environment.

The beneficiaries will be given title to their home after paying a monthly fee of about $45 for five years. This fee will help cover site management and maintenance costs, ensuring sustainability.

The new settlement, where streets are lit by solar lights at night and where residents will play a role in its future development, will significantly improve the well-being and safety for many.

“I am so thankful to USAID. We will finally get out of the tents, where we suffered so much,” said Max Fils-Aime, one of the beneficiaries slated to soon move to his new home.

Since the earthquake, USAID has helped more than 328,000 people (more than 20 percent of those displaced by the quake) find shelter solutions. These include a range of solutions from transitional shelters, repairs to damaged houses, support to host families who took in displaced people, and rental vouchers.

Resources:

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