12 JAN 2012
“A call to action” for the Haiti Earthquake: Two years on, Reconstruction is slow, Half a million people homeless
In a report published today, Oxfam said that two years on from the devastating earthquake, the reconstruction of the country has proceeded “at a snail’s pace”, leaving more than half a million people still homeless, and urged the Haitian Government and countries that have pledged money for rebuilding, to accelerate reconstruction.
In the new 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 re-house the approximately 520,000 people still living under tents or tarpaulin. It urges aid donors to disburse the funds they have pledged to the reconstruction effort and calls on the international community to strengthen the government’s capacity to effectively coordinate reconstruction.
The agency 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 percent of roads were covered in hard-top before the earthquake, some 430km 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 or tarpaulin; 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; and more than 70 per cent of the workforce is under- or unemployed – many of these are problems that existed for years before the earthquake.
The Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC) has made some progress on coordinating what reconstruction has been done, but little was achieved to bolster the government’s ability to take critical, long-term actions. With the mandate of the IHRC now expired, aid donors should support the creation of a national coordination body to take a strategic and collaborative role in reconstruction.
While Oxfam acknowledges that elections earlier in the year, followed by a political stand-off between the new president and parliament, have impeded progress on reconstruction, it calls 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 was 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 honor 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.
Note to editors:
Two years on, Oxfam has provided aid to more than one million people through emergency earthquake response and cholera prevention work. In 2011, with the new Government of Haiti in place, Oxfam began to shift its focus from emergency needs to working with Haitian partner organisations on initiatives aimed at boosting the country’s reconstruction. This includes job creation and improved water and sanitation systems in Port-au-Prince and in rural areas.
Oxfam is dedicated to fighting poverty and inequity worldwide. The international and independent development and humanitarian organisation tackles poverty in four main ways: sustainable development in poor communities, disaster relief, local and global advocacy, and education with Hong Kong youth. Established in Hong Kong in1976, Oxfam Hong Kong is a founding member of Oxfam, an international confederation that has assisted poor people in 92 countries. Oxfam Hong Kong alone has supported poor people in over 70 countries/regions.