Haiti earthquake: Six months later, are relief efforts dragging?

While more than $2 billion in aid is helping the Haiti earthquake recovery, critics including singer Wyclef Jean say progress is still too slow.

Alexandre Meneghini/AP
Police raise the Haitian flag in front of the Jan. 12 earthquake damaged National Palace in Port-au-Prince, July 4.

Six months after the catastrophic 7.0-magnitude Haiti earthquake, signs of progress show that the outpouring of donations from the US government, households, and organizations played a major role in helping the relief effort.

• More than $1 billion came from the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the State Department, and the Department of Defense.

President Obama has promised another $1.15 billion, representing about 22 percent of the $5.27 billion pledged by nearly 40 countries and international institutions during the next two years.

Former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton have collected more than $36 million from US businesses and 200,000 individuals.

• Polls show that nearly half of American households contributed to Haiti, donating $1 billion since January through the United Nations and nongovernmental organizations such as the American Red Cross.

• Most of the relief money has been spent on food, emergency services, health programs, and clean water for the 1.5 million that were left homeless in Port-au-Prince.

• The Haitian government says it needs close to $12 billion to rebuild the country.

"The reason so many dollars funneled down there so quickly was because we already had a system in place," says professor Bill Gentry, director of the community preparedness and disaster management program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, referring to the many nonprofit organizations and agencies that were already in Haiti.

Even though the outpouring of aid has helped relief efforts, some critics say progress is too slow.

Wyclef Jean, Grammy award-winning musician and record producer and native of Haiti, expressed his frustration with the speed of recovery in Haiti. The progress he saw during his last visit did not meet his expectations, he wrote on CNN.com.

About 1.6 million are still homeless and the unemployment rate is between 70 and 80 percent.

"Let's do what we have to do to see things start to move more quickly. No more turtle speed; let's try to pick up the pace of Haiti's rebirth," Mr. Jean wrote.

What's more, a new report by the Disaster Accountability Project, a nonprofit organization that tracks the performance of aid agencies and organizations, found a lack of transparency by aid organizations raising money for the relief effort in Haiti.

Haiti's most pressing need is to provide better shelter for those who lost their homes, said Cheryl Mills, the chief of staff to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, in a Monday briefing. Disputes over land rights have been an obstacle in providing more permanent housing, causing many to still live in tents, Ms. Mills said.

"It's going to be a very long path," she said. "I think that process also is going to be one that's going to be a long one and quite challenging."


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