Remember Haiti?

Human Wrongs Watch

New York – Two years have elapsed since the devastating earthquake destroyed a whole country—Haiti, killing over 200,000 people. Still, three quarters of the population earn less than two dollars a day, 70 per cent do not have stable jobs, more than half of children do not go to school, and the great majority –70 to 80 per cent– had no access to electricity.

Credit: UN

This was the scenario before and even after the January 2010 earthquake, as depicted by Nigel Fisher, Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Haiti, who recently emphasised that to be able to provide an integral picture of the situation in Haiti, pre-earthquake conditions need to be considered.

Before the earthquake, Haiti was already the poorest country in the Southern Hemisphere, he said.

“The earthquake highlighted decades of chronic political instability, lack of basic social services and economic opportunities that left so many Haitians in deep poverty and chronic vulnerability.”

Significant Advances?

Fisher added that, however, “There have been significant advances on education, health, job creation, and infrastructure, among other sectors, through effective reconstruction projects, he said, noting that large-scale recovery projects that were already starting to have a visible impact in the country.

In July 2010, 1.5 million Haitians were sheltered in camps receiving clean water, food, medical care and access to latrines. Today, 500,000 people are still in those camps. While this is still a significant number, it represents a two-thirds reduction in just over a year,” he said.

Fisher stressed that even as things improve, aid is still needed to continue the work carried out so far. “Even as housing and resettlement programmes accelerate, thousands of people still have basic social needs at a time when humanitarian funding is decreasing and too many partners are closing essential operations.”

He also addressed criticism of aid distribution as being too slow by pointing out that 88 per cent out of the $4.6 billion in aid pledged by countries last year, have already been dispersed or committed to specific programmes for transport, debris removal, education, job creation, water and sanitation, public administration, health, housing, energy, among other areas.

Five Million Cubic Metres of Debris

Fisher underscored that there is still much to be done on all fronts in the country, but urged countries to see the bigger picture, and keep supporting Haiti in the long-term.

Progress should be put into context, he said. As an example he said Haiti has managed to get rid of almost 50 per cent of debris, equivalent to five million cubic metres. In contrast, it took five and a half years to remove 1.3 million cubic metres in Aceh after it was hit by a tsunami in 2006.

The suggestion that no progress has been achieved is to paint a false picture,” Fisher said. “There have been significant advances on education, health, job creation, and infrastructure, among other sectors, through effective reconstruction projects.”


Also read:

Haiti: Half a Million Cases of Cholera in One Year

Annual Spending on Nuclear Weapons, Equivalent To UN Budget For 45 Years

2011 Human Wrongs Watch

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