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A SPECIAL SECTION: Haiti, Since the January 12, 2010 Fierce Earthquake

Posted , Saturday, June 4, 2011 

Untold number of flaws have been found in controversial U.S. report estimating death toll from Haiti's fierce earthquake last year

By TRENTON DANIEL, Associated Press

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) Flaws have been found in a controversial U.S. report estimating the death toll from Haiti's earthquake last year was far lower than previously thought, a U.S. official said Friday.

earthquake photo

A street of Haiti's capital city of Port-au-Prince, a few days after the killing earthquake. AP/Gregory Ball

It was the strongest statement yet by U.S. government officials since a leaked draft report commissioned by the U.S. Agency for International Development raised questions over just how many people died and were displaced in the January 2010 quake, an unparalleled natural disaster that unleashed an outpouring of foreign aid.

Mark Feierstein of the U.S. Agency for International Development said the report is problematic because the authors used a statistical sampling that was not representative. The study didn't include data from heavily damaged areas in Haiti's countryside or from the number of houses that collapsed and killed people, he said.

"Those are all serious flaws," Feierstein, USAID's assistant administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

The report's lead author, Timothy T. Schwartz, couldn't be reached for comment Friday.

Based on a statistical sampling from a hard-hit, densely populated section of downtown Port-au-Prince, the study estimates the quake's death toll was between 46,000 and 85,000, much lower than the figure of 316,000 cited by Haitian authorities.

The report, obtained by AP early in the week, has not been officially released and is under review.

It arose after USAID hired a Washington consulting firm, LTL Strategies, to look at the impact of rubble removal programs so people could move back into their homes. To figure out how many people left their homes, the authors wanted to know how many people died and wouldn't return.

The report also estimates that up to 895,000 people moved into temporary settlements around the capital after the quake and that no more than 375,000 people are still living in them. The U.N. International Organization for Migration puts those numbers higher: as many as 1.5 million people moved into the camps and 680,000 remain.

Schwartz, an anthropologist long critical of the aid process, posted on his blog Friday that he was eliminated as a candidate for a consulting job for a USAID food program in Haiti.

"The reason has nothing to do with the death count report on which I was lead researcher and that has garnered a lot of media attention," he wrote. "I've been disqualified, it is rumored, because of my critique of food aid."

The office of outgoing Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive, who was in office at the time of the quake, stands by its figures. The administration of newly elected President Michel Martelly declined to comment because the report hasn't been officially released.

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