Oxfam: Reconstruction proceeds at a ‘snail’s pace’
Two years on from the earthquake, reconstruction of Haiti has proceeded “at a snail’s pace” leaving more than half a million Haitians still homeless, a new report by international agency Oxfam shows.
Oxfam urged the Haitian Government and countries that have pledged money for rebuilding to accelerate reconstruction of the country.
In the report, “Haiti: The Slow Road to Reconstruction-Two Years after the Earthquake”, Oxfam called on the Government of Haiti to implement a comprehensive reconstruction plan to rebuild the country and rehouse the approximately 520,000 people still living under tarpaulins or in tents.
The agency has also urged donors to disburse the funds they have pledged to the reconstruction effort and called on the international community to strengthen the government’s capacity to effectively coordinate reconstruction.
Oxfam said that while the emergency relief effort following the earthquake was successful in saving countless lives and providing basic services to over a million people, much more needs to be done to meet Haitians’ long-term needs for housing, jobs and basic services, such as education, water and health care.
“With a new government in place and billions of aid dollars pledged, Haitians are left asking why there has not been more progress in rebuilding the country, ” said Oxfam’s country director in Haiti, Cecilia Millan. “The second anniversary of the devastating earthquake must be a call to action. Despite the apparent slowness of reconstruction, this remains an opportunity for Haiti´s political and economic elite to address the chronic poverty and inequality that has plagued the country since independence. Haiti must move forward not backward.”
Two years on, there has been some positive progress made on reconstruction. Nearly half of all earthquake rubble has been removed, accounting for 5 million cubic meters of debris. That is significantly faster than the rate of removal in past humanitarian crises in areas not as complex as urban Port-au-Prince. In a country where only an estimated 5 per cent of roads were covered in hard-top before the earthquake, some 430 kms of roads have been constructed or rehabilitated since the earthquake, providing vital infrastructure for economic recovery.
However major problems remain. Over half a million people are still living under tents and tarpaulins; most Haitians do not have running water, a toilet or a access to a doctor; cholera has claimed thousands of lives and remains a major threat to public health. At the same time, more than 70 percent of the workforce is under or unemployed.
Oxfam called on the new administration to take a strong leadership role and produce a comprehensive resettlement policy for those displaced by the earthquake with a clear timetable, as well as engaging more with Haitian civil society in the planning and management of reconstruction to ensure their priority needs are met.
Billions of dollars of aid were pledged for Haiti’s reconstruction, but promises of funding haven’t always been translated into money on the ground. According to the UN, as of the end of September 2011, donors had disbursed just 43 per cent of the $4.6 billion that they pledged for reconstruction in 2010 and 2011.
With some 70 per cent of the Government of Haiti’s budget coming from development assistance, donor support is essential if the new government is to deliver on its promises to tackle some of Haiti’s most pressing issues.
“Donors must honour their promises to Haiti and stay the course. We must not allow impatience with the slow pace of progress to stand in the way of much needed support to those who remain without access to basic services or opportunities for a secure future. We must work together and keep our long-term commitments to the Haitian people,” said Millan.