Haiti, Development: Four Years after Earthquake, Housing, Sanitation, Health Care are Still Pressing Needs in Haiti

May 17, 2014
Center for Economic and Policy Research

“International community’s response remains misplaced,” CEPR Co-Director Says

Washington, D.C., January 9, 2014 – Four years after an earthquake devastated Haiti and killed some 220,000 people and displaced 1.5 million, housing, sanitation and health care remain woefully inadequate, Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) Co-DirectorMark Weisbrot said today. Weisbrot noted that while some 200,000 people are still stuck in internally displaced person (IDP) camps, and many others have beenforcibly evicted onto the streets – and while under-funded sanitation and health care allow a cholera epidemic to continue to ravage the country — many of the urgently-needed funds meant to assist the people of Haiti have gone instead into the pockets of contractors, or have been used to fund projects that benefit foreign corporations far more than they do Haitians.

“The lasting legacy of the earthquake is the international community’s profound failure to set aside its own interests and respond to the most pressing needs of the Haitian people,” Weisbrot said. “Four years of exposés in the international media, appeals from the U.N. and international aid groups, and pleas from the Haitian government, Haitian grassroots groups and many others have failed to change the misplaced priorities of the international response to the earthquake and the cholera epidemic.”

Weisbrot applauded the Assessing Progress in Haiti Act, introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee and cosponsored by 34 other legislators, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives last month. The Act is meant to foster greater transparency in U.S. government contracting in Haiti through regular progress reports to Congress.

Much of the U.S. government aid earmarked for Haiti following the quake has gone to foreign contractors, providing little benefit to Haitian businesses, organizations or workers. 67.1 percent of USAID contracts has gone to Beltway-based firms, while just 1.3 percent has gone to Haitian companies. The Haitian government has also largely been bypassed as aid funds have gone to foreign contractors, international agencies and the many groups that populate what is known as the “republic of NGOs.” Of the $6.43 billion disbursed by bilateral and multilateral donors to Haiti from 2010-2012, just 9 percent went through the Haitian government.

Weisbrot noted that although the massive displacement of people from their homes was one of the most visible and damaging aspects of the earthquake, four years lateronly 7,515 new houses had been built. A U.S. government plan to build 15,000 new houses has reduced its goals by over 80 percent.

The cholera epidemic, brought to Haiti by U.N. troops, has killed 8,500 people and sickened over 695,000. While the U.N., the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Haitian and Dominican governments launched a $2.2 billion plan to eradicate cholera over a year ago, it remains woefully underfunded, and the U.N. itself has pledged just 1 percent of the funding needed, even as the U.N.’s mostly military and police mission in Haiti costs over $572 million a year.

Projects such as the Caracol industrial park, meanwhile, continue to receive additional funding, with the Inter-American Development Bank announcing last week that it would commit another $40.5 million for the facility’s expansion. The project has come under scrutiny over poor working conditions and low pay for garment workers; theWorkers Rights Consortium [PDF] found that “On average, workers were paid 34% less than the law requires” at Caracol.

“The least that the U.N. and international community could do is to clean up the mess that they themselves made,” Weisbrot said. “This means providing the infrastructure for clean water, as quickly as possible, to get rid of the deadly cholera bacteria that U.N. troops – who did not come to Haiti for earthquake relief – brought to the country.

“The millions of dollars brought to contractors and big NGOs have often not been used to meet the urgent needs of the Haitian people.”

For more background on the state of reconstruction in Haiti four years after the quake, see CEPR’s “Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch” blog.

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