Helping Haiti: Two years afterward, the quake's effects linger
Share with others:
The second anniversary yesterday of Haiti's devastating earthquake raises the question of how the recovery and reconstruction have proceeded.
The outside responses to the humanitarian and economic disaster were substantial, given an estimated 300,000 dead, many more injured and about 1 million displaced when their housing was damaged or destroyed. Haiti's infrastructure was also hit hard. In the wake of the quake, Haiti also carried out what in the event were sketchy presidential elections and endured a cholera epidemic, which is still under way.
An estimated $4.6 billion in humanitarian and reconstruction aid was pledged by the world, including more than $1 billion from the United States. There were problems with that as well. The first is some countries promised aid that they didn't send, or sent only in part. The second is that it is difficult, by the nature of aid, to assure that much of it isn't gobbled up by elements of the party giving it. Even nongovernmental, ostensibly nonprofit bodies can absorb large amounts of money for salaries, travel, offices, housing and vehicles for their personnel. Haiti has had trouble with this, since a high number of groups have been providing aid and the coordination of aid has been difficult.
That is directly linked to the third problem. The neediest countries are also frequently the ones that are hardest to help. They lack the infrastructure and leadership that can make it possible for them to use efficiently the aid that they are provided. India or Japan, for instance, can tell a donor what to do to help. Haiti, Somalia or South Sudan cannot easily do so.
In Haiti, two years after the initial disaster, it is fair to say that the glass is half-full and half-empty. Reconstruction is under way. New president Michel Martelly, an entertainer by background, is reportedly providing some coherent direction to the rebuilding process, perhaps having shelved some of his earlier wilder ideas such as restoring the Haitian army. The donors need to hang in there and deliver. Haitians are definitely worth helping in spite of the difficulties.
First Published January 13, 2012 12:00 am