The Despair of Haiti Six Months After


The spotlight was once again placed on Haiti on July 12th, the sixth-month anniversary of the quake. There has been renewed hope that the high level of promised aid and charity could provide the springboard to lift the island out of centuries old poverty and misery.

There is one great obstacle to this salvation though. The pace of aid delivery is slow and frustrating. This has therefore impacted on the recovery efforts with over 1.6 million people still homeless.

Bishop Pierre Dumas of Caritas Haiti, had previously described the situation by stating that, “the earthquake destroyed the foundations of social life in Haiti and plunged many families into grief and distress”. The picture today is the same.

Almost two million remain in tent shelters, the infrastructure of society remains in tatters, with high unemployment, insufficient housing, poor health facilities, inadequate supplies of water and an escalating crime problem.

There are still everyday scenes of Haitians roaming the streets in search of food, water, jobs and information. Residents continue to complain that the government of Rene Preval is not communicating with the ordinary folks, providing updates on the relief activities and plans for the way forward out of the nightmare of the quake’s aftermath.

Added to the spate of crime, is the increasing challenge of the mentally disturbed for whom there seems to be little or no assistance. When the earthquake struck, the island’s lone psychiatric hospital, which was opened in 1958, released all inmates. Since then some have voluntarily returned while others have been rounded up by the police and military and a few have made their way back on their own accord.

Over 5.3 billion in aid had been pledged by more than 50 countries and organizations, but only 2% is said to have been released to Haiti. Reports indicate that only four major countries have actually forwarded funds. These include Brazil, Estonia, Australia and Norway. Though the US pledged 1.5 billion, Congressional squabbles have prevented any of it to be disbursed to the island. Instead of paying the 1.3 billion promised by Venezuela, the government of Hugo Chavez has only agreed so far to forgive a portion of the debt owed by Haiti to oil rich Caracas.

Even the World Bank has faltered and not delivered the full $479 million dollars that was promised. Media reports indicate that only just over $56 million has so far been handed over for certain government projects.

According to a CNN report, a number of private organizations such as the Red Cross have said that they are honouring their commitment. Some of the money will be used in the following areas:

  • A $3.8 million agreement to pay the salaries of more than 1,800 Haitian doctors, nurses and medical staff at the largest general hospital in Port-au-Prince, the capital, who have been working without pay since the Jan. 12 quake.
  • Funds for prosthetics and rehabilitation totaling $1.4 million.
  • Funds totaling $8.6 million to build semi-permanent shelters for people living in tarps and tents in and around Port-au-Prince.

The Red Cross has reported that it has raised about $468 million for the Haiti relief effort and spent about a third of that.

Over 220,000 are said to have been killed while some 300,000 were injured by the earthquake. Sixty percent of government buildings and infrastructure were destroyed.

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