On January 10th, 2010, Haiti got struck by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake. Thousands of people lost their lives or their family members and millions had to flee their homes. To this day the majority of them remain dislocated or homeless.
Text: Emma Koponen
After the earthquake, there was a moment of hope where it seemed that the world would come together in solidarity to help Haiti recover and rebuild from destruction. However, the good intentions of international humanitarian aid didn’t turn out quite right. Billions of dollars of poorly managed funds and the lack of a well-rounded administration led to a crisis in the Haitian recovery process. Looking at the situation now, it almost seems like the earthquake stroke one year ago rather than eight years before. This is also partly because of hurricane Matthew, which damaged the country even more in 2016, leading to the resurgence of nationwide sicknesses while destroying the country’s infrastructure and leaving people without a roof above their heads.
Observing the aid Haiti received after 2010, it is hard to disregard all the things that went wrong on behalf of the outside help. The cholera epidemic introduced by UN troops, the misuse of aid money, a top-down approach in aid programs and most recently president Trump’s hostile foreign policy are some of the problems that define the progress. The humanitarian work in Haiti is marked by the complete lack of accountability in the administration that mishandled billions of dollars of received funds. Only a fraction of it reached the locals as a remarkable amount was used on organizations’ internal costs for example. Added up with relatively recent changes in US foreign policy, the light at the end of the tunnels seems to be fading. During Trump administration it has been decided for example, that thousands of Haitians who moved to the US after the quake, will be deported from the country by 2019.
However manifold the challenges, positive progress can be found. Due to its geological location, Haiti is prone to natural disasters. Since 2010 the country has been working on damage prevention and geosciences, as well as safe construction to avoid further disasters among housing. It is crucial to remember that there are still a ton of things to fix, such as thousands of people still living in temporary housing, struggling with bad health and no clean water. The ongoing progress of rebuilding is slow and for some parts it is just at the very beginning.
A bigger number of Haitians are now involved in the rebuilding of the country, which adds to the goal of grass root level action that was missing in the relief work during earlier years.
Although the UN and other big worldwide organizations are still in the most influential position in Haiti (and probably will be for some time), smaller agents have arisen as well. Partnership with Haitians is a key element in a successful recovery and local led projects are not as likely to suffer from bureaucracy bred issues with funds for example. A bigger number of Haitians are now involved in the rebuilding of the country, which adds to the goal of grass root level action that was missing in the relief work during earlier years. Some have found an entrepreneurial spirit and started a business relying on the local resources and labor force. Some take part in the work of small aid organizations that work on community or individual levels. This kind of involvement is a huge leap forward in terms of recovery.
Haiti was a somewhat broken country even before the earthquake, suffering from problems like corrupted government, enduring poverty, natural disasters and poor education. The earthquake made it even worse on the international level as most of the news about Haiti are full of negativity and portray the country as a bundle of problems. The Haitian people rarely get a voice of their own. One can only hope that they will be heard and that past mistakes are now a new learning ground for future progress.