Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Shelters That Clinton Built

When Demosthene Lubert heard that Bill Clinton 's foundation was going to rebuild his collapsed school at the epicenter of Haiti's January 12, 2010, earthquake, in the coastal city of Léogâne, the academic director thought he was "in paradise." The project was announced by Clinton as his foundation's first contribution to the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, which the former president co-chairs. The foundation described the project as "hurricane-proof...emergency shelters that can also serve as schools...to ensure the safety of vulnerable populations in high risk areas during the hurricane season," while also providing Haitian schoolchildren "a decent place to learn" and creating local jobs. However, when Nation reporters visited the "hurricane-proof" shelters in June, six to eight months after they'd been installed, we found them to consist of twenty imported prefab trailers beset by a host of problems, from mold to sweltering heat to shoddy construction. Most disturbing, they were manufactured by the same company, Clayton Homes, that is being sued in the United States for providing the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) with formaldehyde-laced trailers in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Randy Maddalena, a scientist specializing in indoor pollutants at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, characterized the 250 parts per billion finding as "a very high level" of formaldehyde and warned that "it's of concern," particularly given the small sample size. More>