Don’t forget Haiti

As has been covered extensively in the media over the past several days, we’ve been reminded of the tragedy that struck Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010.

Just as a new year was unfolding with all its promise and typical optimism, the already poverty-wracked nation was plunged into even more ruin with an earthquake which killed some 220,000 people. Hundreds of thousands were also left homeless.

Adding to the struggle is that months later there was also a cholera outbreak which has also claimed thousands of lives.

Sadly, one year later, observers say that not a whole lot has changed in terms of restoration work.

Questions are rapidly surfacing about why the millions upon millions pledged to the country apparently haven’t been utilized in the rebuilding process as they should be.

According to the Huffington Post, “Although countries around the world promised billions in aid and non-profits raised hundreds of millions in the weeks after the disaster, many have not delivered on their promises and crucial funds have been misspent.”

The article also goes on to say that only 63.6% of the money pledged for 2010 was actually disbursed, according to the Office of the U.N. Special Envoy for Haiti.

Also, some countries have apparently “reneged on their promises, sending less than 1% of the amount they pledged to spend on aid.”

The international aid agency Oxfam was also quick to criticize the grindingly slow rebuilding efforts, pointing out that close to one million people are reportedly still displaced.

The report also says that less than 5% of the rubble has been cleared and only 15% of the temporary housing needed has been built. Oxfam also pointed to what it sees as the ineffectiveness of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission which “has only met a few times,” when obviously there is an overwhelming amount of work to do.

Clearly, accountability and public pressure have been in short supply in a situation where time has always been of the essence. Recommendations have been put forward, including that the Commission needs to work far more closely with Haitian authorities and major stakeholders should “urgently review the workings of the IHRC and speed up delivery of its mandate.”

With images of tent communities seeming to stretch on endlessly in Haiti, the frustration amongst those living in such squalor and those who’ve given money to help is growing.

Let’s hope the outpouring of generosity shown post-earthquake doesn’t shrink with the next natural disaster that is certain to come. But let’s also not sit silently as Haiti in its desperate need waits in overwhelming destitution for help to arrive.

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