Nine months after the devastating January 12, earthquake, Haiti still has a long road to recovery. According to a September 8 United Nations News Service report, “the Haitian government estimates that 1.3 million people are still uprooted…It is estimated that hundreds of thousands will still be in camps or impoverished shelters over the coming year.”
The quake, according to a July study by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee, “directly or indirectly affected almost one third of the Haitian population” and was “the most significant disaster requiring a large-scale multi-sectoral international response since the Pakistan earthquake in 2005.”
Though the public eye has since moved on to other stories, the aftereffects of the quake still have a profound impact on Haiti.
So where is the country now in terms of relief and reconstruction? Are things improving? And how are NGOs such as GENESIS continuing to play a role in Haiti?
A recovery delayed
The Washington Post, in a July 17 editorial, noted aid effort’s effect on Haiti’s stability and stated “Haiti has made it this far without the starvation, epidemics or civil unrest that many feared.”
However, the Post noted that, by that time, “only 28,000 of the [1.5 million] displaced have found permanent shelter” and the job of rubble removal was being handled by only 300 trucks, doing a job “[taking] at least three years with 1,000 trucks to complete, according to some estimates.”
Writing in an October 11 column for CommonDreams.org, Loyola University professor and Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti member Bill Quigley noted
“only 2 percent of the rubble has been removed and only 13,000 temporary shelters have been constructed…not a single cent of the US aid pledged for rebuilding has arrived in Haiti…[and] only 15 percent of the aid pledged by countries and organizations around the world has reached the country so far.”
On October 7, it was reported by the Associated Press that “this week the U.S. funds [1.15 billion] were prepared for release…but in part because a lack of detail it will take at least weeks and perhaps more for the funds to start being delivered on contracts such as rubble removal.”
The U.S. contribution is part of a $5.3 billion total in international donations promised to the recovering nation for 2010-2011; as of October 7, only $732 million was released.
Former President Bill Clinton, co-chair of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission with Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive, was also reported as expressing frustration at the slow flow of aid money. The commission Clinton co-chairs has not been immune to the slow pace of things either; its executive director, Gabriel Verret, was finally hired in August. By that time, the New York Times noted, “about 30 crucial staff positions” still went unfilled.
Chartered on April 19, the Commission, which has an 18-month mandate, only had two board meetings as of August. All in all, this has to be considered a less than stellar start to the organization’s work.
Alongside the beginnings of long-term recovery and development efforts, Haiti is set to hold new elections on November 28 to have a new government in place next February; current President René Préval, who is constitutionally barred from running again, won parliamentary approval to have his term extended into May 2011 if his replacement is not chosen by February 7. Nineteen candidates are running to replace him, and according to a July 16 Newsweek piece “the country’s government has all but dissolved” in the period before the election.
The impact of the January earthquake extends to Haiti’s ability to prepare for this event; National Public Radio noted on October 7 that it “destroyed 40 percent of the polling stations in the country, killed tens of thousands of voters and displaced hundreds of thousands of others. And numerous people lost all their documents and no longer have voting cards.”
A worrisome factor regarding the elections is allegations of corruption by the administration; Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council rejected 15 potential candidates, with the two most controversial being former Ambassador to the U.S. Raymond Joseph and a candidate from former President Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas party.
Writing in a September 9 Christian Science Monitor opinion piece, Joseph questioned the stated reason for his disqualification and remarked that the Haitian government had “failed the first fundamental test in holding credible elections-certifying candidates, and affording each due process under the law, equally and without discrimination.”
To build and maintain confidence in the reconstruction effort, a transparent and efficiently-run election is a necessity.
GENESIS’ work and other promising NGO initiatives
The GENESIS Network has been active in the Haitian relief effort, providing direct support in areas most devastated by the quake. Now, we are looking for new ways to help as the focus turns towards reconstruction.
Projects GENESIS has undertaken in Haiti are.
- A joint effort with AquaSafe of Australia to provide water filtration where infrastructure has been damaged.
- Providing tents to Haitians left homeless in and around in the epicenter of the earthquake, in collaboration with Sumitomo’s Olyset Net of Japan and with the support of International Action and the Lafana Institute of Hope.
- Donating medical, food and clothing supplies to children orphaned by the disaster with US-based companies and organizations including Red Skies Publishing, Notre Dame d’Haiti Churches and the Haitian communities of Miami.
As well as this, we are seeking new prospects for a project similar to Kid Launch in Thailand that will focus on sustainable development through education and vocational training, creating long-term solutions in an environment where short-sidedness continues to plague relief efforts.
Other NGOs are stepping up to the plate in providing new ideas and rebuilding Haiti for the future. Examples include:
- The Cooperative Farm Initiative for Haiti was founded by Haitian-Americans Patrick Belizaire and Jean Velarus, alongside others. Working in the country’s Artibonite Region, it introduces modern farming equipment and better methods to Haitian farmers. Because of the massive decline in Haiti’s rural economy over the past two decades, leading to an 80 percent unemployment rate, the restoration of a sustainable and productive agricultural sector is critical.
- Zafen is an interest-free microloan program established in 2010 “with the objective of having a positive impact on Haiti’s economic, social, and physical environment by providing micro, small, and medium sized enterprises with enhanced access to capital.” It was created with “the collective expertise of the worldwide Vincentian Family.” Partners in Zafen include Fonkonze, DePaul University, and the Haitian Hometown Associations Resource Group. A list of projects Zafen is currently working on is available here.
Building on its own initiatives and working in concert with other NGOs helping Haitians on the ground level, GENESIS hopes to find new ways to make an impact as the picture moves towards long-term rebuilding of Haiti.
Questions for discussion: Where do you see Haiti headed in the future? And moving forward, how can GENESIS play a role in continuing to stay engaged with Haiti during its ongoing recovery? Answers to these, as well as other comments and questions are greatly appreciated.
Robert Moreau is Research Analyst/Outreach for the GENESIS Network. A 2008 Master’s graduate of the University of Massachusetts Lowell in Regional Economic and Social Development, Moreau has been working for GENESIS since July 2009. His work has included freelance newspaper pieces and a newsletter published for a Lowell-area social services agency in 2008.