Moral Low Ground


One Year After Catastrophic Earthquake, Haiti Still in Ruins

January 12, 2011 by Brett Wilkins in Latin America/Caribbean with 1 Comment

It was one year ago today that a catastrophic magnitude 7.0 earthquake devastated the dirt-poor nation of Haiti, killing more than 230,000 people and leaving over a million more homeless. The hapless country was then ravaged by one disaster after another– Hurricane Thomas, a cholera epidemic and political chaos all hampered relief efforts and created thousands more victims.

Then there is the disaster of broken promises and failed recovery. Although countries and nonprofit organizations all across the globe promised billions of dollars in assistance for the devastated people of Haiti, many have not delivered on their promises and much of the money that has been donated has been misspent.

The Huffington Post reports that of the $1.4 billion that Americans donated to earthquake relief aid, only 38% has been spent on recovery and rebuilding aid. Only 63% of all the money pledged in 2010 has actually been delivered; some countries have failed to pay what they promised.

“Big promises were made and there was very little follow through,” fumed Julie Schindall of the anti-poverty charity Oxfam International. “That’s very typical of how things work in Haiti. People are dying because promises are not being kept.”

The Haiti recovery commission led by former US President Bill Clinton and Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive has been blasted as inept at managing funds and  enabling local authorities to spend them.

The result? Nearly a million people still live in emergency tents or under tarpaulins. The streets of Port-au-Prince, the capital, remain clogged with debris. Less than 5% of the rubble has been cleared. Only 15% of the temporary housing that is needed has been built. Water and sanitation remain abysmal. Poor sanitation and UN peacekeepers from Nepal who dumped human waste into a river used as a water source caused a cholera epidemic that killed more than 3,600 people.

Additionally, Amnesty International reports that armed men are preying upon women and girls in refugee camps, raping and terrorizing with impunity.

Nobody expected a full recovery after just one year. Haiti was desperately poor and had an abysmal infrastructure even before the earthquake struck. The country’s political system was notoriously inept even before it was eviscerated by the quake, which destroyed the Presidential Palace as well as other key government infrastructure.

But this isn’t all Haiti’s fault, not by a long shot. The failure of the international community to follow through on its promises coupled with humanity’s ephemeral attention span have doomed countless Haitians to prolonged lives of misery. The whole world ought to be ashamed of itself.

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One Comment

  1. David DeshlerJanuary 18, 2011 at 5:24 pmReply

    What is going on behind the scenes? Former dictators are being allowed to return to Haiti, but the kidnapped former elected president is not allowed to return. Is the US willing to install a former dictator in order to protect US corporate interests once again in Haiti’s history? How can Bill Clinton explain this given his history with Haiti?

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