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When Mayor Alexis heard that the new Clinton Foundation classrooms in his community had been built by a company being sued over formaldehyde in FEMA trailers, he said he hopes “these are not the same trailers that made people sick in the U.S.” (The Clayton Homes engineer who designed the trailer classrooms, Mark Izzo, has confirmed that the 20 are a new batch of trailers built by the company in 2010.)
With perspiration dripping from his face as he sits in his new-smelling classroom, INHAC principal and Grade 6 teacher Demosthene Lubert’s disappointment is palpable.
He had envisioned that the foundation of the former U.S. president would rebuild his school as a modern institution with solar-panelled lights and Wi-Fi. At the very least, Lubert said he expected Clinton’s foundation, which is active in global health philanthropy and cholera prevention in Haiti, to help with sanitation, “especially as we’re at the mercy of cholera.”
The number of cholera cases seen per week in Haiti went from 85 at the end of April, to 820 at the beginning of June, said Médecins sans frontières country director, Sylvain Groulx. The disease, which is preventable with proper sanitary conditions, has killed 5,500 people since October. Yet none of the schools where the Clinton Foundation trailers were installed were provided with running water and latrines. And with INHAC’s more than 700 students using only four latrines, which the school rebuilt without any support from the Clinton Foundation, Lubert complains that the school’s current facilities are “insufficient” given the cholera epidemic.
Léogâne had been relying on the Clayton Homes trailers: Before this report was published in the Nation magazine, the trailers were the municipality’s emergency response “Plan A” for hurricane season, confirmed civil protection director Joseph.
Larry Tanner, a wind science specialist at Texas Tech University, was “suspicious” when he heard that trailers were to be used as hurricane shelters in Haiti, and put the odds that Clayton Homes had developed a mobile home that could be safely used as a hurricane shelter at “slim to none.”
Mobile homes are considered to be so unsafe in hurricanes that FEMA unequivocally advises anybody living in a mobile home to evacuate it in the event of a hurricane.
Clayton Homes engineer Izzo said the Léogâne trailers could withstand winds up to 140 miles per hour. The company arrived at this figure through calculations, he said, rather than testing.
But Tanner emphasized that such structures must be rigorously tested for resistance to high winds and projectiles. Clayton Homes’s failure to test the trailer design meant that it would not meet the international construction standard for hurricane shelter. “It certainly would not be accepted by FEMA, either,” he added.
Until they learned of the Nation investigation, both Léogâne’s Department of Civil Protection and the school directors were operating on the assumption that the shelters are “hurricane-proof” – a claim they say has been made by Clinton as well as Clayton Homes. On the Clinton Foundation website, a report titled Emergency Hurricane Shelter Project says: “On August 6, construction on Léogâne’s emergency shelters commenced at the École Communautaire Ste. Thérèse de Darbonne, with President Clinton breaking ground.”
Joseph ascribes the new shelters “infernal” heat, humidity and other problems to lack of on-the-ground consultation.
While the Clinton Foundation and IHRC claim to have worked with local government to implement the shelter plan, Joseph disputes this, saying the foundation simply informed him that they were building four schools in his district. “To me this is not a consultation,” the local official remarked. “To consult people you have to ask them what they need and how they think it could best be implemented.”