Nearly three years after the devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit Port-au-Prince, Haiti on January 12, 2010 and killed over 300,000 people there are significant signs of improvements in the reconstruction of the world’s poorest country despite subsequent natural disasters after the quake, notably hurricanes Issac and Sandy. However, when you read and hear multiple accounts from the ground progress is slow-going and there is still much work to be done.
“The US and the UN have been working side-by-side with the Haitian community and the government to rebuild that country, and while there is still a lot of work to do, there is also good news,” said United Nations Foundation CEO, Kathy Calvin on a conference call yesterday. “The UN has been on the scene in Haiti since long before the earthquake and it continues to address the needs of their people helping to rebuild and transform their country.”
According to key statistics laid out by the United Nations Foundation 80% of all debris generated from the earthquake has been removed by the Haitian people and Haitian government, as well as by the United Nations and other organizations. 158,000 people have been moved into new housing, nearly 3 million children under age 10 have been vaccinated against polio, measles and rubella, and 470,000 temporary jobs have been created, of which 40% have gone to women.
Despite these improvements, over 300,000 people remain displaced and still live in nearly 500 squalid tent cities where cholera, poor sanitation, and rife poverty remain rampant. According to the International Organization for Migration 84% of tent city dwellers have been living in temporary housing since the earthquake hit three years ago.
“There are 358,000 people living in really sordid camps now,” said Amy Wilentz, longtime journalist on Haiti and author of ‘Farewell, Fred Voodoo: A Letter from Haiti’, in a January 10 NPR interview with Michel Martin. “It’s a little more than the estimate of people killed in the earthquake.”
Since a cholera outbreak hit the tiny island country shortly after the earthquake, nearly 8,000 people have died and over half a million people have been sickened. To respond to the cholera problem, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is focusing on the quality of water and sanitation in order to stop the transmission of the infectious disease across the island. Additional reconstructive efforts such as the improved rebuilding of structures, particularly hospitals, are being overlooked by PAHO as well as continued vaccination programs.
As it stands now reconstruction efforts continue to progress and centralized, coordinated efforts appear to be the next step to progressive action in order to avoid overlaps in development and also to give more power and leadership to the Haitian government.
“As we see progress we also see the long-tern challenges that the country has,” said Jessica Faieta, Deputy Assistant Administrator and Deputy Director, Regional Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean, UN Development Programme (UNDP) on a conference call. “Now we are looking to the longer term engagement of the donors and the continued engagement of UN partners and the international community.”
Common to all reconstruction efforts it will take time to remedy all of the earthquake damage and its residual effects, but there is optimism in the midst of a barrage of critics.
“The progress in the last three years has been enormous,” Faieta said.
Photo: The Haitian Government and international agencies are ramping up efforts to relocate people still living in camps across Haiti as a result of the January 2010 earthquake. UN Photo/Logan Abassi