In a report released today, international humanitarian organization Oxfam said that two years after the earthquake, reconstruction of the country has proceeded “at a snail’s pace” leaving more than half a million Haitians still homeless. It urged the Haitian Government and countries that have pledged money for rebuilding to accelerate reconstruction of the country.
In the report, Haiti: The Slow Road to Reconstruction-Two Years after the Earthquake, Oxfam called on the Government of Haiti to implement a comprehensive reconstruction plan to rebuild the country and rehouse the approximately 520,000 people still living under tarpaulins or in tents. It urges donors to disburse the funds they have pledged to the reconstruction effort and calls on the international community to strengthen the government’s capacity to effectively coordinate reconstruction.
Oxfam said that while the emergency relief effort following the earthquake was successful in saving countless lives and providing basic services to over a million people, much more needs to be done to meet Haitians’ long-term needs for housing, jobs, and basic services, such as education, water, and health care.
“With a new government in place and billions of aid dollars pledged, Haitians are left asking why there has not been more progress in rebuilding the country, ” said Oxfam’s country director in Haiti, Cecilia Millan. “The second anniversary of the devastating earthquake must be a call to action. Despite the apparent slowness of reconstruction, this remains an opportunity for Haiti´s political and economic elite to address the chronic poverty and inequality that has plagued the country since independence. Haiti must move forward not backward.”
Two years on, there has been some positive progress made on reconstruction. Nearly half of all earthquake rubble has been removed, accounting for 5 million cubic meters of debris. That is significantly faster than the rate of removal in past humanitarian crises in areas not as complex as urban Port-au-Prince. In a country where only an estimated five percent of roads were covered in hard-top before the earthquake, some 430 kilometers (26 miles) of roads have been constructed or rehabilitated since the earthquake, providing vital infrastructure for economic recovery.
Major problems remain however. More than half a million people are still living under tents and tarpaulins; most Haitians do not have running water, a toilet, or a access to a doctor; cholera has claimed thousands of lives and remains a major threat to public health and more than 70 percent of the workforce is under or unemployed – many of these are problems that existed for years before the earthquake.
The Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC) has made some progress on coordinating what reconstruction has been done, but little was achieved in bolstering the government’s ability to take critical, long term actions. With the mandate of the IHRC now expired, aid donors should support the creation of a national coordination body to take a strategic and collaborative role in reconstruction.
While Oxfam acknowledges that elections last year, followed by a political stand-off between the new president and parliament, have impeded progress on reconstruction, it calls on the new administration to take a strong leadership role and produce a comprehensive resettlement policy for those displaced by the earthquake with a clear timetable, as well as engaging more with Haitian civil society in the planning and management of reconstruction to ensure their priority needs are met.
Billions of dollars of aid were pledged for Haiti’s reconstruction, but promises of funding haven’t always been translated into money on the ground. According to the UN, as of the end of September 2011, donors had disbursed just 43 percent of the $4.6 billion that they pledged for reconstruction in 2010 and 2011.
With some 70 percent of the Government of Haiti’s budget coming from development assistance, donor support is essential if the new government is to deliver on its promises to tackle some of Haiti’s most pressing issues.
“Donors must honor their promises to Haiti and stay the course. We must not allow impatience with the slow pace of progress to stand in the way of much needed support to those who remain without access to basic services or opportunities for a secure future. We must work together and keep our long-term commitments to the Haitian people,” said Millan.