Haiti earthquake anniversary highlights faltering aid effort
On the Haiti earthquake anniversary, reminders that many Haitians still go without access to basic services such as access to hospital care despite the influx of over $1 billion in aid.
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Echoing the sentiment of many Haitian citizens, Oxfam was fiercely critical of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (known by its French acronym, CIRH) co-led by Bill Clinton, established in the aftermath of the earthquake to coordinate reconstruction. “The Commission has failed to live up to its mandate,” Oxfam said in a press release.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Haiti: Life in a tent
In Pictures Haiti after the earthquake
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Critics say the commission has delayed the approval of important projects and limited its work to areas such as temporary shelter while failing to deliver on others such as the removal of rubble.
“The idea to have donors and the government sit around a table is great, but it hasn’t worked yet,” Martin Hartberg, author of the Oxfam report, told the Monitor. “But reconstruction cannot be a donor-led process alone, it needs to start from the government.”
The commission’s work is also marred by slow delivery of promised aid. Of the $2.01 billion pledged for recovery efforts in 2010, only $1.28 billion was disbursed, according to the UN Office of the Special Envoy for Haiti, and not all of that has been spent.
“There is no real way to enforce commitment of money to recovery,” says Irwin Redlener, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University, in a telephone interview from New York. “These are promises nations just will or won’t fulfill, and many times they won’t.”
Organizations on the ground, too, need to account for their expenditures, Mr. Redlener says in response to questions on high NGO salaries and operational costs – a lot of which pay for private security and expensive cars that many feel further alienate international workers from poor Haitians.
Too many cooks in the kitchen
The overlapping mandates of myriad NGOs and the UN mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) and an unstable Haitian government partner have added to the confusion.
“There were thousands of NGOs roaming around and you would see reporters with their trucks and behind them Haitians in the rubble and you wondered, 'How did these reporters get on the scene and we can’t even get a search and rescue team in there?' There was a surreal quality to it,” says Redlener.
Last January, it took several days to resolve tensions between the US military and the Haitian government over control of the airport, a delay which paralyzed rescues for days.