Too Little, Too Late: Haiti Recovery, One Year Later

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“As Haitians prepare for the first anniversary of the earthquake, close to one million people are reportedly still displaced. Less than 5 percent of the rubble has been cleared, only 15 percent of the temporary housing that is needed has been built and relatively few permanent water and sanitation facilities have been constructed,” concludes Oxfam in a hard-hitting report on the world’s response to the devastating earthquake in Haiti.

Oxfam’s report claims that despite an outpouring of initial support, poor coordination and little consultation with Haitian civil society and government, including by the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, limits the effectiveness of aid. “Many aid agencies continue to bypass local and national authorities in the delivery of assistance, while donors are not coordinating their actions or adequately consulting the Haitian people and key government ministries when taking decisions that will affect Haiti’s future.” The report also notes that “for their part, the Haitian authorities have been moving extremely slowly to address vital issues. They have not resolved legal complications related to the repair of houses or the removal of rubble from the streets, and have not acted to support people living in camps to move back into their communities or to other appropriate locations,” as well as failing to develop an effective public works program.

The risk of rape and other forms of gender-based violence in Haiti’s camps has increased dramatically in the past year, according to a new report by Amnesty International. “Perpetrators are often members of youth gangs who operate after dark. Women and girls, already struggling to come to terms with the grief and trauma of losing their loved ones, homes and livelihoods in the earthquake, are living in camps in tents that cannot be made secure, with the constant threat of sexual violence.”

Over 3400 people have died from a cholera epidemic that could have been prevented.

And what has our government done to help? The U.S. government has not stood idly by, but its response is far from good enough. A substantial aid package took months to wind its way through the Congress and is only slowly being delivered. Although the United States granted Temporary Protected Status to Haitians in the United States, allowing them to stay, our government has failed to take other immigration measures that could help Haitians. Some 55,000 family members of Haitians in the United States had been approved for visas prior to the earthquake, but because of a U.S. back log in admitting approved visa-holders, they still could face more than four years of waiting in Haiti, leaving them in a precarious limbo. The administration could make an exception for them given the extreme situation in Haiti, allowing them immediate entrance to the United States. And recently the Department of Homeland Security announced it would resume deportations of Haitians with criminal convictions. According to Jesuit Refugee Service, deportations could be a death sentence, given that many will be sent to detention centers that lack basic clean water and sanitation, and are already affected by cholera.

Through all this, as this New York Times article reports, Haitians struggle to rebuild their shattered lives.