Issues in Haiti remain unresolved

On Jan. 12, 2010, an earthquake devastated the nation of Haiti. Just over one year later, the country is still trying to recover. According to the Los Angeles Times, very little reconstruction has been done so far in Haiti. A meager five percent of the debris has been cleared, few landmarks have been rebuilt, and about 1,200 tent camps still dot the capital city of Port-au-Prince. Many are unemployed, and around 800,000 people are still living in the camps, says Nigel Fisher, the U.N. coordinator for humanitarian affairs in Haiti. Other sources estimate the number is closer to one million, according to the Associated Press.

Not only is rebuilding a problem, health is also a major concern. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is a definite cholera outbreak in Haiti, the first in Haiti in at least 100 years. Usually spread through infected food or water, the unhealthy conditions in Haiti make the outbreak especially serious. The lack of clean water and sanitation, a weak public health system, flooding and the many people who are still homeless make prime conditions for spreading the disease. The disease has spread to many areas of Haiti, though the majority is in the Artibonite Departmente, located approximately 50 miles north of Port-au-Prince. More than 3,600 people have died in the outbreak, according to the Associated Press.

Though the country received an enormous amount of help soon after the quake, reconstruction has not made much progress. Many blame relief agencies for the slow recovery, criticizing their lack of support and coordination, according to the Los Angeles Times. For example, the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, headed by former President Bill Clinton and Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive, has only met four times since its formation in April.

Plus, while in March a donors conference promised $5.57 billion to help Haiti in 2010 and 2011, only a portion of the amount has actually been given, says the Los Angeles Times. Clinton’s U.N. Office of the Special Envoy to Haiti estimates that $3.2 billion is still waiting to be paid. Furthermore, the majority of the money was spent to improve living conditions, including vaccinations, housing, water, food and amputations, not reconstruction efforts.

The country’s unstable political situation may also be to blame for the slow rate of reconstruction. According to the New York Times, former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier, known as ÏBaby DocÓ (an allusion to his father, former Haitian dictator Fran¡ois Duvalier or ÏPapa DocÓ) returned from France to Haiti last week, only to be arrested two days later and charged with corruption, misappropriation of funds, theft and other crimes.

Additionally, there is conflict surrounding the upcoming presidential election. The New York Times reports that there is a disagreement about which two candidates finished in the top positions on the Nov. 28 presidential election; two different election reports released two different sets of results, leaving three different candidates vying for only two spots.

Despite all of these difficulties, many people in Haiti have a positive outlook. According to the Associated Press, Haitian Charlemagne Sintia said, ÏWe’ve had an earthquake, hurricane and cholera, but we are still here, and we are still together.Ó

One thought on “Issues in Haiti remain unresolved”

  1. An interesting article on what the work that remains to be done, but it makes one wonder whether our expectations are realistic or not. I’m a little surprised to hear what almost sounds like a tone of surprise at the fact that Haiti, only a year after terrible disaster wreaked its already weak infrastructure, has been unable to completely rebuild or return to a pre-disaster state.

    Foreign Policy magazine ran an interesting opinion piece on why there’s reason to be optimistic about progress in Haiti that you can read here.

    There’s a big difference between disaster relief and reconstruction. The latter is difficult under the best of circumstances and Haiti was far from the best scenario. Instead of using the one year anniversary to focus on why Haiti isn’t closer to being a restored nation, perhaps this is an even better opportunity to reflect on the process of reconstruction, especially in countries with already poor infrastructure and public services.

Comments are closed.