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Friday, January 14, 2011

After the Haiti Earthquake

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Progress in rebuilding Haiti continues to be sluggish a year after the tiny Caribbean country was hit by a strong earthquake that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and caused massive damage to the impoverished nation’s infrastructure.

It is worth noting that the international response in the immediate aftermath of the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake helped save hundreds of lives but, despite a year of relief work, there is little evidence that people’s lives have changed for the better.

Oxfam International has estimated that less than 5 percent of earthquake rubble has been cleared so far, while UNICEF noted in a recent report that more than 1 million Haitians are still living in camps. The situation is further compounded by a cholera outbreak which has claimed more than 3,600 lives, as well as the contested outcome of November’s presidential elections.

Some individuals and groups have blamed the slow spending of aid for the sluggish recovery. A recent analysis by the U.N. Office of the Special Envoy for Haiti has revealed that only 63.6 percent of the USD2.01 billion earmarked for reconstruction work in 2010 has been disbursed so far.

Meanwhile, a report by Oxfam International blamed donor countries’ pursuit of their own priorities, the Haitian government’s indecision and the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission's lackluster performance. The European Union also identified the country’s political instability as one of the main reasons behind the slow reconstruction. The fragile political situation is also hampering the delivery of humanitarian assistance to people in need, top EU foreign policy, development and aid officials have noted.

Slow progress has left frustrated Haitians skeptical that the billions of dollars pledged by donors could get them out of poverty. “The only people making money in Haiti are the NGOs [non-governmental organizations] who use the Haitian people to raise money and pay for their big cars,” Clenor Fleurent, a Haitian barber, told The Washington Post. “With my own eyes I don’t see progress. I don’t see anything.”

Despite the largely negative assessment of progress in Haiti, the international community continues to roll out projects and make new aid commitments toward rebuilding the country. Canada. Germany, Oxfam International and Inter action, a network of U.S.-based development and humanitarian organizations, have all unveiled new Haiti projects. For its part, the U.N. said it will work to speed up recovery in the country.

“Clearly, speeding up the reconstruction and recovery effort is the absolute priority for 2011,” U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for Haiti Nigel Fisher told a news conference in New York on Jan. 10. “Obviously, things could have gone quicker but I think it is important to remember that reconstruction takes time.”

Here Ban Ki – moon emphasizes G77’s role in achieving UN Goals -

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged the Group of 77 and China, a bloc representing more than 130 developing countries, to make their voice heard within the U.N. as the global organization works toward its goals of fighting poverty, tackling climate change and empowering women.

- Global Development Briefing

Key words : Haiti, earthquake, Ban Ki- moon, U.N. 

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