Problems involving twenty pre-fabricated buildings delivered to Haiti by the Clinton Foundation for use as hurricane shelters have raised questions about whether the initiative was misconceived from the start, the Nation reports.
The project — the foundation's first contribution to the efforts of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission — was designed to help create jobs and provide hurricane-proof emergency shelters that doubled as schools. However, when Nation reporters visited the sweltering shelters in Leogane, Haiti, in June, they found a range of problems, including mold and potentially dangerous levels of formaldehyde, a known carcinogen. Indeed, the shelters were manufactured by Clayton Homes, a company being sued in the United States for providing the Federal Emergency Management Agency with formaldehyde-laced trailers after Hurricane Katrina.
By mid-June, two weeks into the hurricane season, two of the four schools involved in the project had prematurely ended classes because of extreme temperatures in the shelters, and one had yet to open due to a lack of water and sanitation facilities. Several students who attended class in the shelters reported headaches and eye irritations. While a number of factors could have contributed to their discomfort, similar symptoms were observed in those living in FEMA trailers in New Orleans.
Moreover, questions remain whether the classrooms are suitable as hurricane shelters. Although Clayton Homes engineer Mark Izzo told the Nation the trailers could withstand winds of up to 140 mph, he acknowledged that the company determined the figure through calculations rather than actual testing.
In Leogane, Department of Civil Protection coordinator Philippe Joseph faulted the Clinton Foundation for implementing the project from afar without any real consultation with locals. And Leogane mayor Santos Alexis told the Nation he is still waiting for the foundation to follow through on the former president's pledge to equip Leogane with hurricane-proof buildings.
Garry Conille, Clinton's chief of staff for the Office of the UN Special Envoy for Haiti, explained that the foundation's decision to purchase the shelters from Clayton took place with the 2010 hurricane season looming and acknowledged that there were many problems with the project.
"It made sense at that time," Conille told the Nation. "I guess someone could argue it wasn't the best idea in retrospect."