In 2005, the political and social situation in Haiti was extremely volatile, with elections initially scheduled for November 2005. Kidnappings throughout the capital Port-Au-Prince and in some other areas of the country were a continuous threat, with illegal armed groups imposing their law in several slums like Cité Soleil. During the year, Haiti was particularly affected by two major hurricanes, Dennis and Alpha, with the southern regions of Grande-Anse and Artibonite worst affected.
The growing number of expulsions of Haitians living illegally in neighbouring Dominican Republic has become an increasingly serious humanitarian and human rights issue. A total of 20,700 people were repatriated to Haiti in 2005. This escalating repatriation has already negatively affected the political, social and economic relationship between the two countries.
In June 2004, the Humanitarian/Development Unit of MINUSTAH, the UN Stabilisation Mission in Haiti, was given the responsibility to assist the HC. OCHA’s role was to support information management, and it was initially represented by a liaison officer. In September 2005, it added an information management officer.
- Ensure that humanitarian actors, at operational and strategic levels, have access to information management tools to assess, plan, deliver, coordinate and monitor humanitarian assistance in Haiti
OCHA’s information unit only really started its activities late in the year, after the deployment of the information management officer. Once it was up and running, situation reports were prepared regularly and disseminated to all actors concerned. A total of 10 humanitarian situation reports were issued. Four separate situation reports were issued after Hurricanes Alpha and Dennis.
A website portal was designed for the Haiti Humanitarian Information Network and continuously updated after its launch in October 2005. The website averages 210 hits per day, with the document centre section the area most visited. Partnerships were established with WFP and UNDP for information sharing.Meeting calendars, WWW lists and contact lists were among the improved information products designed and made available to the humanitarian community. They were posted online on HaHIN website and distributed to the humanitarian community during the bi-weekly forum humanitaire.
After the arrival of the OCHA liaison officer in May 2005, fortnightly coordination meetings were held with all international humanitarian actors. At least 15 such coordination meetings were held before the year’s end. OCHA contributed substantially to the coordination of humanitarian assistance in response to two major floods during the year. It participated in needs assessment missions, compiled sectoral and need reports and produced situation reports, thereby informing the international community of urgent needs. OCHA also started producing user-friendly maps for better presentation of situation reports and summaries of affected areas in Haiti.
In 2005 OCHA decided to open an independent Humanitarian Information Unit. Since its inception, it has struggled with lack of funds and personnel but, later in the year, increased the flow of humanitarian information and baseline data to and from humanitarian actors. In doing so, it paved the way for a reduction in the duplication of interventions and increased awareness of the humanitarian situation at any given time among stakeholders. It contributed to the availability of timely and comprehensive data, and helped the humanitarian community to provide a rapid, relevant and coordinated response to recurring humanitarian situations.
The Haiti Humanitarian Information Network (www.hahin.org) a portal offering access to a wide range of information products, including those developed by the OCHA Information Unit, is used and appreciated by the humanitarian community, including donors. These products have allowed donors and other humanitarian actors to obtain vital information on different humanitarian partners operating in Haiti, their activities and programme locations. The Humanitarian Information Network was greatly appreciated by all humanitarian partners as an improved coordination tool, particularly in a country lacking adequate humanitarian database management.
The improved humanitarian information system helped collect and disseminate conclusions and recommendations from several humanitarian coordination meetings and fora, involving national authorities, UN Agencies and NGOs in several départments and cities, including Port-au-Prince, Gonaives, Cap-Haitien and Grande-Anse.
The Humanitarian Coordination Forum continued to be convened by OCHA to ensure information dissemination and coordinate humanitarian assistance activities. The forum was regularly attended by some 50 institutions, including MINUSTAH, NGOs, donors, UN Agencies and national authorities, as a useful means to share information; plan programmes; review food security, health and nutrition, water and sanitation, education, shelter and logistics; and address protection and gender issues.
A partnership with WFP and UNDP Haiti made some progress in establishing standards in data collection and sharing destined to develop the quality and quantity of relevant humanitarian information available.