Rebuilding takes time
From his vantage point in Port Au Prince, Haiti, Nigel Fisher, the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Haiti reminds the world that “reconstruction takes time”.
It is perhaps a mantra he has had to repeat over the past 12 months as Haitians, from outgoing President Rene Preval to those still occupying the 1,150 camps in unsanitary conditions publicly decry the slow pace of reconstruction following the massive January earthquake last year.
“Obviously, things could have gone quicker,” Fisher said on the eve of the first anniversary even as he acknowledged that in retrospect “I think we can say that by and large the initial response to the earthquake was a success”.
But as Haitians prepare to remember the deadly scenes that followed 3.53 pm on January 12 last year when the magnitude 7.0 earthquake virtually turned the capital into a grave yard, destroying buildings and lives in the process, the question remains, what has happened to the billions of dollars in aid promised by the international community.
In its report Children in Haiti: One Year After – The long road from relief to recovery, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), noted that thousands of people were still living in crowded camps with Fisher estimating the figure to be 810,000 as of January 1 this year.
“We are hungry, we don’t have food and we don’t receive help,” said Madeline, a resident of the tent city, adding “I don’t really know what to do with the children. They can’t go to school. I have no husband; I am the man and I am the woman and every day I have to go try to find food for my children.” Carlos Jean Charles, another resident told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that “this country is about misery. I even know about little girls who have sex for money to give their families”.
He accused “many international organizations” of not coming to Haiti to help, but rather “they come here to make money.
“Living in the tent is not better than living in the house. When the sun comes, you can’t stay in, you have to go out and when the rain comes there’s water everywhere. You can’t sleep. You have to go out when it rains and go back when it stops. It’s not better. This country right now needs help. We can’t stay here anymore. We need help with construction and education,” he said. But Francoise Gruloos-Ackermans, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Haiti Representative said while there have been results in the past year, “significant gaps remain and much more must be done,” adding that the French speaking Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country had huge institutional and systemic issues that predated the earthquake. (CMC)