On Jan. 12, 2010, the world turned their attention to the Caribbean nation of Haiti after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake left roughly a quarter of a million people dead and more than one million survivors displaced. Countries such as Canada, the United States, Italy, the United Kingdom and Brazil came forward to help contribute to the relief efforts and, according to the United Nations, $4.5 billion has been put forward to help rebuild the country.
Canada has been very involved in the relief effort, pledging about $80 million in aid. Canada even spearheaded a project to rebuild a major road running between the city of Jérémie and the nation’s capital at Port-au-Prince, a project that was necessary even before the earthquake.
Yet, even with all of this going on, Haiti is still in bad shape.
Jonathan Katz, an Associated Press correspondent in Haiti during the earthquake, has noticed that relief efforts have been fairly ineffective at dealing with major issues. To this day, three years later, almost 350,000 people are still living in tents.
According to Katz, one of the main obstacles blocking the relief aid from being effective is the lack of trust outside governments are giving Haiti. Instead of sending the money to Haiti directly, the money is going to other sources outside of the government.
“The main thing that happened was that the international community kept doing aid and development in the same ways they had been done in the years and decades before the earthquake,” Katz explained to CBC News, “and that is going around governments, going around national institutions, giving money to their own government’s agencies, and to [non-governmental organization] from their own countries and from other powerful countries.”
Another major roadblock is that not all of the funds donated have been put to use yet. At the end of last year, only about half of the $4.5 billion had been disbursed. This isn’t helped by the privatization and use of independent NGOs to try and rebuild the country.
It is important to note that there have been quite a few factors that affect the implementation of relief efforts. For example, former Haitian Prime Minister, Garry Conille, resigned in February of 2012, leaving the government without a leader for six months until his replacement was voted in.
The magnitude of this event also hindered initial international aid. This earthquake displaced about 1.5 million people and caused large amounts of damage to Port-au-Prince, and damaged important government buildings as well. The amount of rubble from destroyed homes and buildings caused a real hindrance in delivery of emergency supplies. Outbreaks of cholera infected the already strained relief force.
Still, no matter how you look at these excuses, there is no reason the relief effort should be as delayed as it is. Three years is a long time to be living in a tent, waiting for a home to be rebuilt. While the international community was quick to jump in, their lack of coordination and communication, coupled with the challenges this event caused, means that the situation has not been fully addressed yet. Even as I am writing this, the reconstruction efforts aren’t going towards making buildings which are able to better withstand a natural disaster. The generosity of donors around the world speaks very little when the aid being received is still not being implemented effectively. When partaking in the recovery of a country from such a disaster, it’s vital that the aid is implemented thoughtfully and quickly, with awareness of what the future might hold. What the world has done is good, but it needs to be ten times better.