Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Haiti's Long Road to Recovery

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Haiti's Long Road to Recovery

Article excerpt

Three years after the earthquake, recovery is distant and progress slow.

On the eve of the third anniversary of the earthquake that devastated Haiti in January 2010, the impoverished island country remains in a fragile state. Billions of dollars in aid and lofty promises to "build back better" have brought it only so far. A recent article by Deborah Sontag of The New York Times showed, in disheartening detail, the distance between hope and reality.

Ambitious projects are stuck on drawing boards or have been held up, she wrote, "by land and ideological disputes, logistical and contracting problems, staffing shortages and even weather." A recovery commission led by the Haitian prime minister and former U.S. President Bill Clinton was meant to oversee the great rebuilding, but was slow to get started and is now defunct, with not much to show for its 18-month mission.

The flood of aid has slowed to a trickle; much of what was promised was never delivered or remains undisbursed, or was disbursed but not actually spent, or was spent on things like emergency food, water and tents, which are important but don't leave a lasting imprint. Money for long-term recovery has proved hard to spend, or slow to show results.

More than $1 billion allocated for Haiti remains in the United States Treasury, almost all of it for recovery, though America is hardly the only donor sitting on unspent aid. And more than 350,000 people who lost their homes that terrible day are still living in tent camps. The rubble has finally been cleared, but building permanent homes has taken a back seat to other matters.

The Times article reads like a catalog of missteps, of old mistakes and new ones that together present -- to put the most optimistic spin on it -- fresh opportunities to learn.

One was the tendency of humanitarian aid organizations to go back to what they had been doing before the earthquake, in areas like sanitation, health, education and transportation, without the guidance of a broad plan and clear priorities for how best to repair the nation. …

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