PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Five years have passed since Haiti was ravaged by a magnitude 7 earthquake on January 12, 2010. That day, 230,000 people were killed and 1.5 million Haitians were displaced, giving rise to tent cities where poverty reigns nearly unheeded. Much development has occurred over the past five years, most evident is the reduction of tent cities’ population from 1.5 million to 85,000, but there is still a large amount of work needed to restore Haitians to normal life.
The United States government has played a pivotal role in providing aid to Haiti. Ameliorating the earthquake’s aftermath has been a point of sedulous concern for USAID. Bill Clinton built the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC) to not just provide aid to Haiti, but to help the Haitian government re-establish autonomous self-reliance.
To those who have criticized the Haitian government for being to slow in taking the reins on development, Thomas Adams, the U.S. State Department’s special coordinator in Haiti rebuked that “Haiti’s made about as much progress as one could reasonably expect given the enormous challenges there. Obviously, we and the Haitian people would like for things to move faster, but the reality is, there are a lot of obstacles, and Haiti’s got a lot of challenges.”
There is no denying that Haiti does indeed have much more ground to cover in terms of reconstructing its cities, economy and government.
In 2011 elections were stalled, but have not been resumed since then due to disagreements between Haitian President Michel Martelly and parliament. With 10 senators reaching the end of their terms this January Martelly may allow parliament to dissolve, which would put him in position to rule by executive decree.
The Haitian government set up a program to provide $500 rental subsidies to help people get out of tent cities. However, this inadvertently inflamed problems when those who did not receive subsidies began violently targeting those who did receive them.
According to one Haitian man, Olivier Junior, who’s home was destroyed by the earthquake, “Some families got picked, some didn’t. It even divided families. There have been legs broken, people stealing, one man got stabbed. It’s a war zone.”
Not to mention the protests that have been flared across tent cities.
With Haiti’s government and people in such a state of disarray and imparity, Adams remarked, “This political gridlock could scare off foreign investors,” which would only augment problems.
And if all this trouble were not enough the IRHC came under fire for not disclosing the source and allocation of its funds. Two prominent Haitian lawyers who suspected political foul play have demanded an audit on the IRHC.
In lieu of Haiti’s rocky recovery, it is in a position much further ahead than it was five years ago. USAID boasts $20 million in microfinance loans dispersed by 57 microfinance institutions to develop business. More than 42,000 agricultural loans have aided farmers in production and sales. In a partnership with the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, USAID has contributed $30,000 in loans to develop Haiti’s private-sector.
However, these are just numbers and Haiti’s internal strife tells a different story of violence, fear, corruption and poverty. Five years have seen some positive development, but there is still a long way to go. Maybe five more years, and with continued support, Haiti will have found the strength to become self-sustainable and the Haitian people will be able to lead normal lives.
– Jarad Sassone-McHugh
Sources: USA Today, Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, US AID
Photo: Huffington Post