Haiti – Unfulfilled Promises

13 01 2011

This week marks the grim one-year anniversary of the Haiti earthquake, yet it’s hard to find significant progress in the recovery efforts.

Roughly one million Haitians are still homeless, living in 1,200 tent camps across the country.  Fewer than half of the 45,000 t-shelters (semi-permanent structures) that the U.N. and other housing organizations have pledged to build have been realized.

The rubble has been oppressive for the island country.  Only 5% of the up to 22 million cubic yards of heavy debris has been removed, and at this pace it could take 19 years to clean it all up.

Thanks to the generous outpouring of donations from governments and individuals, nearly $10 billion in short- and long-term aid has been pledged in the past year, but only $1.6 billion has actually been spent.

Stumbling blocks to Haiti’s recovery include Haitian laws and taxes that make it difficult to implement aid on the ground, and the lack of coordination and cooperation among relief agencies.

Why aren’t the agencies and organizations working together more often to solve these problems?  It’s a simple question with no good answers.

A side effect of the slow recovery has been the spread of cholera. While the U.S. has been free of cholera since the early 1900s, the disease remains active in the poorest parts of the world.

Cholera, which is spread through contaminated drinking water and food, has already claimed the lives of over 3,600 Haitians since October, and scientists say the spread of the disease has not yet peaked.

Because cholera was not a common disease in Haiti before the earthquake, many parents don’t recognize the symptoms. They are not taking their children to see the doctor soon enough because they are mistaking cholera symptoms for food poisoning.

There are two vaccines to prevent cholera, but widespread vaccination in Haiti is just not feasible for many reasons:

  • There is literally not enough vaccine in the entire world to cover the population of Haiti
  • The cost per vaccination can be high – up to $40/dose
  • The vaccines are only 60-80% effective
  • Administering the second dose is logistically difficult
  • Immunity takes about three weeks to take hold

Clean drinking water and food, proper sanitation, and hand washing are the best ways to combat the spread of this disease, along with some sort of vaccination program. But, these basic needs are difficult to meet in Haiti.

There are so many needs.

There needs to be an action plan to introduce a more modern culture to Haiti. The goal of getting Haiti to pre-earthquake status is not enough.

The 10,000 nongovernmental organizations that have pledged support need to work together to get Haiti back on her feet.  Few of the report cards from big organizations highlight coordinated efforts with other organizations.

We cannot turn our eyes and give up. We can offer a future to Haiti if all of the helping hands join together in this work.


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