On January 12, 2010, Haiti experienced a calamitous earthquake. Port-au-Prince was devastated. Property destruction and damage were extensive.
As many as 300,000 or more died. Many others were injured. Impoverished Haitians enduring crushing hardships lost everything, including loved ones.
Two years later, relief efforts belie unaddressed human needs.
A January 11 AFP article headlined, “Haiti quake victims stuck in a time warp,” saying:
Port-au-Prince suburb Petionville symbolizes conditions. Around “2,500 people subsist in a crowded public park near open ditches flowing with human waste, a grim scene frozen in time two years after Haiti’s earthquake disaster.”
Homeless, half-clothed, barefoot children “chase a worn football across a filthy clearing, past puddles of putrid waste water.”
Over half a million survivors endure appalling conditions in hundreds of makeshift camps. They remain homeless, struggling to survive.
Billions in promised aid never came. Grandiose visions proved pipe-dreams. Most rubble remains. Reconstruction is inadequate to meet enormous needs.
“The problems facing Haiti are vast, if not insurmountable, in the short term.” Hundreds of thousands who lost everything live in legal limbo. Cholera’s devastating thousands. Culpable UN Blue Helmets won’t accept blame.
Understated reports show 7,000 deaths and over half a million infected. True figures may be double or more. UN Haiti chief humanitarian officer said:
“What we are looking at in Haiti is not just recovery from the earthquake. It’s not just dealing with a cholera epidemic. Those came on top of a country which was structurally broken” by neglect, persecution, and exploitive US dominance.
One victim told AFP, “My hope is God, not the leaders of this country” who’ve done pathetically little to help.
Its new report headlines, “Children of Haiti: Two Years After – What is changing? Who is making the change?” saying:
“The outlook at the start of 2012 appears bright. Positive progress in the public sector is matched by optimistic forecasts for private sector investment, bringing a much needed boost to the local economy.”
UNICEF admits that over 550,000 Haitians remain homeless in crowded camps. Cholera keeps devastating thousands.
“The vulnerability of the population remains high, primarily as a result of stark gaps in” social services.
Citing its own achievements, UNICEF said children show progress in areas of education, health, nutrition, and child protection. Nonetheless, “critical challenges remain.”
The report claims over 750,000 children back in school, including 80,000 in “193 safe, earthquake-resistant schools constructed by the organization. Over 120,000 children enjoy structured play in one of the 520 child friendly spaces.”
Moreover, thousands of malnourished children got “life-saving care in 314″ UNICEF-supported “therapeutic feeding programs….And 95 rural communities have launched new programs to improve sanitation.”
Efforts to improve child protection included “the first ever Directory of Residential Care Facilities.” Over 13,400 children were registered.
Small victories belie enormous unmet needs, including “serious gaps and inadequacies in Haiti’s basic governance structures….”
According to UNICEF’s Francoise Gruloos-Ackermans:
“Make no mistake: the country remains (in) a fragile state, beset by chronic poverty and under-development. Its weak institutions leave children vulnerable to shocks and the impact of disaster.”
Adults fare no better, especially those disabled, the elderly and ill, as well as women and young girls vulnerable to rape and other sexual abuse in camps.
Major Media’s View
On January 8, aNew York Times editorial headlined, “Haiti’s Slow Recovery,” saying:
The Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC) failed to deliver as promised. Chaired by Bill Clinton and former Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive, it’s focused on corporate development, not unmet human need.
“A United Nations analysis showed that” almost all aid went to private contractors, international agencies, and predatory NGOs. They exploit Haiti for profit.
“The Haitian government badly needs a national strategy for creating permanent housing and jobs….”
It also needs people oriented leaders, not Michel Martelly. His notorious history includes longstanding ties to Haitian elites, militarists, and Duvalierists. He’s also subservient to Washington and other Western interests.
On January 11, Reutersalso highlighted slow Haitian progress, saying:
“Despite billions of dollars” in pledged aid, “reconstruction efforts remain painstakingly slow, with only incipient signs some progress are taking hold.”
Port-au-Prince rubble shows what ordinary Haitians face. “Few new or renovated buildings can be seen. And throngs of Haitians line the streets every day in a jarring reminder that (80%) of the population is either unemployed or underemployed.”
Prime Minister Garry Conille admitted that “aid is too scattered, (and) there is a lack of coordination,” It’s also way short of amounts needed to rebuild and address human need.
“Housing for the hundreds of thousands made homeless by the quake remains a crucial issue.” So do poverty, unemployment, vital unmet needs, and appalling living conditions.
Things remain so bad that economist Michael Clemensbelieves escape is the only way to escape poverty.
On October 14, his Center for Global Development article written with Tejaswi Velayudhan headlined, “Migration as a Tool for Disaster Recovery: US Policy Options,” saying:
America has no ameliorating policy. As a result, “(t)here is scant sign of economic recovery, and a cholera (epidemic) has infected hundreds of thousands.”
Washington simply doesn’t care. Migration remains Haitians’ best option. “Four out of every five Haitians who have escaped destitution did so by leaving….”
On January 9, Foreign Policy contributor Charles Kenny agreed in his article headlined, “The Haitian Migration,” saying:
Progress rebuilding and helping Haitians has been slow. Human need remains extreme. Billions in promised aid never came. Most allocated went to predatory foreign contractors, international agencies and NGOs. Haitian firms got only 1.6%.
Hundreds of thousands still suffer. A ready solution’s at hand: “migration.” Undocumented Haitians in America got “temporary protected status.” Their ability to work and remit funds home “may be the greatest contribution America has made towards Haiti’s reconstruction to date.”
Haitians qualify for temporary low-skill work visas (America’s H-2 program). However, the country isn’t on Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) approved list. Congressional approval can add it. Helping impoverished Haitians demands it.
Moreover, DHS can grant permanent residence visas to “Haitians already approved for a green card….on the basis that a family member is a US citizen.” Given today’s deplorable conditions, it’s the least America can do to help.
On January 9, Center for Constitutional Rights lawyer Bill Quigleyheadlined, “Haiti: Seven Places Where the Earthquake Money Did and Did Not Go,” saying:
Today’s Haiti “looks like the earthquake happened two months ago, not two years.” Virtually no funding “actually went directly to Haiti.” It was diverted to private contractors, other nations, international agencies and predatory NGOs.
America was the “largest single” beneficiary. Haitians, domestic NGOs, and local companies got practically nothing. International aid agencies, and “big well connected” NGOs profited handsomely. So did private companies specializing in reconstruction and disaster relief.
Moreover, large amounts of pledged funds never arrived, and other allocated money wasn’t used. In fact, USAID and America’s State Department spent less than 1% of “$412 million in US” infrastructure reconstruction funds.
International aid followed the same pattern.
The Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC) and Haiti Reconstruction Fund (HRF) faired little better. As of July 2011, only $84 million of IHRC’s approved projects worth $3.2 billion was spent. In addition, only five were completed. HRF performed so poorly that its mandate wasn’t renewed last October.
In contrast, a “Haiti First policy could strengthen public systems, promote accountability, create jobs, and build” local skills. Eventually, Haitians will have to help themselves. They’re deserve direct aid to begin trying.
On January 10, Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) Co-Director Mark Weisbrot called conditions in Haiti dire. As a result, the lives of most Haitians haven’t improved “and in many cases have deteriorated.”
At issue, is international unaccountability. “It is hard to see how the situation today is any better than a year ago. In many areas, such as provision of sanitation facilities and housing to internally displaced persons (IDPs), there has been very little improvement.”
Moreover, cholera infected “hundreds of thousands more Haitians during the past year, and killed thousands, with no end yet in sight.”
Neglect, indifference, unaccountability and injustice ravage today’s Haiti. Vital aid’s inadequate. Prioritizing housing, sanitation, healthcare, clean water, and other essentials is long overdue.
Instead, Blue Helmet occupation militarized Haiti. People hate them and want them out. Imagine if MINUSTAH’s budget went for people needs. It’s an idea whose time has come. In fact, it long ago arrived.