The early morning calm of January 12, 2010 in Haiti was shattered by a magnitude 7.0 earthquake that devastated the Northern Hemisphere’s poorest nation. Despite more than a billion dollars having been spent since that fateful morning, much of the nation still lies in ruins and the death toll from the after effects continue to rise.
At 4:53am local time the massive temblor struck while much of Haiti still slept. Centered 10 miles from Port-Au-Prince, buildings were reduced to rubble within minutes burying thousands of people alive. Aftershocks rocked the nation for weeks collapsing structures that had withstood the initial shaking.
- In pictures – Earthquake recovery in Haiti hard to find
The toll was staggering. By latest count 230,000 people are estimated to have been killed although no one knows for sure. As many as 300,000 people were injured and 250,000 residences and 30,000 businesses were destroyed.
Billions of dollars in aid pledged
Individual countries, charitable organizations and the United Nations rushed aid to the impoverished country. By March, 2010 more than $12 billion in aid had been pledged but it has been slow to arrive and its disbursement toward relief efforts even slower.
According to the United Nations, funding from all types of organizations was to total $2 billion in 2010 alone. A failure to follow through by all groups has resulted in only $1.3 billion being received.
Squalid living conditions bring disease
The earthquake left as many as 1.5 million residents without homes. Tent cities erected by humanitarian groups are now home to 1.2 million people, 375,000 of whom are children.
The conditions are deplorable and concerns of disease outbreaks came to fruition last year. An outbreak of cholera afflicted 155,000 people and has killed nearly 4,000.
All the good will in the world fails to overcome bureaucracy and corruption
Haitian earthquake relief became a cause célèbre for many. Hollywood stars threw their support behind relief efforts in the form of words but few opened their checkbooks or got their hands dirty.
One of the few successes is the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund. Former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have led their own charitable group on fundraising and the results are being felt on the ground.
Government at all levels continues to prevent relief efforts from truly getting traction.
From local Haitian officials to the nation’s weak government, corruption reigns supreme and relief agencies are hesitant to allow them any control over funding or supplies. Elections for president took place in December but highlighting the problems, the winner is still unknown.
It is estimated that less than 5% of the rubble from the earthquake has been cleaned up. Equipment sits at the airport with weeds growing around it waiting for enough organization to take place that it can be deployed.
The United Nations is heading up the efforts but the massive multi-national bureaucracy continues to stumble. Its leadership has been slow to respond and the lack of results speak volumes.
Many accuse the organization of sapping needed financial resources to support its own top-heavy weight. The UN had budgeted $732 million for its Haiti mission in 2010 – two thirds of that, $495 million – was slated simply for paying the salaries of its staff.
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