Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Massive aid in Haiti, but people don't see it

For the past year, people living in Port-au-Prince have been looking at nothing but rubble and tents. It makes them wonder how much longer it will be before both of those are replaced with stable buildings. According to Oxfam, only five percent of the rubble made by the earthquake has been cleared away. NGOs had hoped to build 100,000 temporary shelters for the earthquake created homeless, but only a fraction of those shelters have been built.

From the Washington Post, writer William Booth has this look at a growing mistrust against the NGOs in Haiti.

International humanitarian organizations, the nongovernment groups that form a kind of parallel government in Haiti, were welcomed as a saviors in the weeks after the 7.0-magnitude earthquake leveled vast swaths of the capital, killing 230,000 and injuring 300,000 more.

Now many people look at the organizations with distrust.

"The only people making money in Haiti are the NGOs who use the Haitian people to raise money and pay for their big cars," Fleurent the barber said.

The dream of 100,000 temporary shelters - versus tarps and tents - has not been realized. New housing starts are at a standstill, except at the edges of the city, where more than tens of thousands of squatters are covering the hillsides with shacks in spontaneous communities they call Canaan and Jerusalem.

"It's like Cite Soleil with a view," said Ken Isaacs, vice president for programs for Samaritan's Purse, a nondenominational evangelical Christian aid organization that has built 10,000 temporary shelters.

Cite Soleil in Port au Prince is one of the world's most notorious slums.

When representatives from donor nations and Haitian government and civil society groups gathered in March at the United Nations to plan the future of Haiti, this pattern of runaway, unplanned development was exactly what they promised not to repeat.

"Haiti is chronically disastrously complex, and the most complex environment I've ever worked in," Isaacs said.

At the studios for Signal FM radio, owner and director Mario Viau recalled that for a full hour after the earthquake, his station played, over and over again, the Eagles's classic rock anthem "Hotel California," with its memorable hook: You can check out, but you can never leave.

"I'm sorry, but it feels like a week after the earthquake, it feels like that song is still playing and nothing is happening," said Viau, who also runs one of Haiti's largest private security companies. "We had the earthquake, then cholera, now elections, now the crisis caused by the elections. Now we are a divided nation, we have lost solidarity."

The Post also has this video of interviews with their journalists reporting on the earthquake and it's aftermath.

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