(originally posted at LA Progressive)
Could it be true that transactional sex, kickbacks, and other "favors" are de facto requirements for Haitians applying for work that is funded by USAID?
When journalism students from the State University of Haiti heard rumors about possible corruption in a "Cash for Work" program funded by USAID and implemented by the non-profit Cooperative Housing Foundation (CHF) International, they decided to investigate the Silver Spring, Maryland, organization's project in the Ravine Pintade neighborhood.
Thursday morning CHF went on radio in Haiti to respond, "as it is important that our Haitian partners know how seriously we take any such allegations," said Director of Communications, David Humphries, in an email.
The Haitian Press this week picked up the story of the two-month investigation, which was conducted in conjunction with Haiti Grassroots Watch -- a partnership of the Haitian online news agency AlterPresse, the Society for the Animation of Social Communication (SAKS), and community radio.
Like many neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince, Ravine Pintade was a humanitarian disaster long before the January 2010 earthquake. Aptly named, the neighborhood consisted of 1,000 shacks and huts perched on the edges of a ravine. There are many neighborhoods similar to this in the capitol, and the geography demonstrates why the shacks were so vulnerable and unable to withstand the earthquake.
CHF and other NGOs funded by USAID use the Cash For Work program to remove rubble in Port-au-Prince. The program is controversial at best, as shown in this overview video produced by Ayiti Kale Je in 2010.
In our own visits to Port-au-Prince in January 2011, workers used five-gallon pails to attack mountains of rubble, while bulldozers stood idly nearby.
In Ravine Pintade, Ayiti Kale Je asks who is actually receiving "cash for work," or in some cases "sex for work?"
According to the investigation, 30% of the Cash For Work beneficiaries said they had to pay a kickback for their jobs, 10% of women beneficiaries said "their friends" had to give sexual favors to get a position, and residents said "the program has caused strife, between inhabitants and foremen
During the multiple visits to work sites, journalists noted that the majority of workers did not appear to be typical "vulnerable" residents (older, etc.). Instead, they were young men and women who appeared to be well-fed and in excellent health. The workers said they were chosen by the foremen, who themselves have been chosen because they are the supposed "leaders" of the neighborhood, according to CHF. These young men decide who will, and who will not, get "cash."
Allegedly, the foreman draws up a list of potential workers, and then asks each one for 500 gourdes (US$12.50) each on the side.
Women reported that they have traded sex for jobs.