Haiti two years later

Today marks the second anniversary of the devastating earthquake that ravaged the island of Haiti.

Former Haitian President Jean Claude Duvalier once said “It is the destiny of the people of Haiti to suffer.” Those bleak words seem almost prophetic to the lives of Haitians over the past two years.

From all accounts Haiti, today, looks like an earthquake occurred a few months ago, not two years ago.

More than 200,000 people are still living in the makeshift camps we saw on our television screens for weeks after their earth shook.

Chances are you donated money to help Haiti, you donated because you were moved by the plight of the Haitian people and wanted to participate in the relief. The fact is that little of what you donated has helped neither the Haitian people nor the country.

Most all of the debris caused by the quake remains, and because of that cholera — a completely preventable disease — has spread across Haiti. The disease has spread to epidemic proportions causing further death; sickness and suffering to hundreds of thousands more.

As reported by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, most funds went to international NGOs, other governments and private U.S.-based companies. Haiti itself was almost entirely bypassed. Of the 1,490 U.S. government awarded contracts the center analyzed, only 23 went to Haitian companies. The largest recipient of U.S. and International donations was the U.S. government itself.

In January 2010, The Associated Press reported that out of the $379 million in aid sent to Haiti, 33 cents of each dollar was given back to the U.S. as reimbursement for sending 5,000 troops to Haiti. Forty two cents were given to private and public NGOs. The Haitian government received an irrelevant amount.

To say that the distribution of relief funds from the government and involved organizations has been ineffective would be an understatement. To say it’s appalling that some have made huge profits from the disaster is not.

According to Current.com’s Lewis Lucke, a former USAID official in Haiti (and former U.S. ambassador to Swaziland) signed a $30,000 per month “consulting” contract with Haiti Recovery Group Ltd. The group was formed immediately after the quake by a U.S. disaster recovery company (AshBritt Inc.) in Florida. Lucke used the contacts he’d developed as a USAID official to award Haiti Recovery Group $20 million in no-bid contracts.

To be sure, the recovery process has been incompetent at best. At worst, greed at the expense of human suffering reared its ugly head. The international community had become much more aware. The pressure is on to make this right, and to continue the recovery in more transparent and effective ways.

Today, Reuters reported that Haitian President Michele Martelly “has vowed to redouble government efforts to help people rebuild their lives and reverse a painfully slow recovery marked by squalid tent camps home to more than a half a million people in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince.”

“This year is a year when we will really start rebuilding physically but also rebuilding the hope and the future of the Haitian people,” the President said.

While the news in Haiti today is not very bright, good will and hope are always alive somewhere. It’s never too late to set this effort in the right direction. Certainly it’s never too late to ensure Duvalier’s visions for Haiti will not be their destiny.