One Year Later, Why Isn't Haiti Recovering?

The year since Haiti's devastating earthquake has been disappointing

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On January 12, 2010, a 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck near Port-au-Prince, devastating much of Haiti's already frail infrastructure, economy, and health services. The year since has been at times grim and difficult for Haiti which, despite a massive outpouring of aid from around the world, has struggled to recover. Most recently, a cholera epidemic has claimed hundreds of lives, as living conditions and water sanitation remain poor. Looking back over Haiti's hard year, here's what observers are saying about the country's climb out from the January 2010 earthquake.

When visiting journalists parachute in to Port-au-Prince for the anniversary of the earthquake, they will see few signs of progress and many of stasis. ... This landscape of neglect and degradation mocks the widespread hope in the weeks after the quake that Haiti could 'build back better,' as Bill Clinton, the United Nations special envoy to the country, put it. The government’s promising reconstruction plan, unveiled at a donor conference in March, envisioned moving many people outside the swollen capital and injecting economic life into rural areas, as well as rebuilding Port-au-Prince. Little of this has happened.
  • The Rubble Problem  "Most donors," Oxfam laments, "provided funds for transitional housing but very little money for clearing rubble or repairing houses. One year on, only five percent of the rubble has been cleared and only 15 percent of the required basic and temporary houses have been built. House building on a large scale cannot be started before the enormous amount of rubble is cleared. The government and donors must prioritize this most basic step toward helping people return home."
  • Bureaucracy Slowing Recovery Efforts  "Dithering by the government and a lack of co-ordination between aid agencies and donors," Rory Carroll writes in The Hindu, " have crippled rebuilding efforts in Haiti ... Nearly one million people remain in tents or under tarpaulins and rubble still clogs the capital, Port-au-Prince, reflecting a 'year of indecision' that has put recovery on hold."
  • Tent Cities Declining, if Slowly  UN Dispatch's Mark Leon Goldberg writes, "for the first time in a year, the number of people living in spontaneous settlements--those tent cities housing Haitians made suddenly homeless by the earthquake--has fallen below 1 million people." He cites an International Organization for Migration report that says, "810,000 people are still living in informal sites in Port-au-Prince and provinces. This is nearly half the figure last July of an estimated 1.5 million internally displaced Haitians."
  • The Digicel Success Story  Foreign Policy's Amy Bracken tells the story of how an Irish cell phone company became one of "the most competent actors amid the reconstruction's larger disarray." In short, "Digicel created its own infrastructure. Instead of waiting for the government, the company built roads to many of its sites and kept its reception towers going with hundreds of generators. Annual diesel costs alone are in the millions. All in all, Digicel has poured more than $400 million in Haiti--more than any other international company ever." That infrastructure has helped Digicel turn a profit and built up Haiti.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.