OXFAM: Two years on and Haiti's reconstruction proceeds at a 'snail's pace,' leaving half a million Haitians homeless

OXFAM reports: Haiti: The Slow Road to Reconstruction-Two Years after the Earthquake
In addition to this report announced below by OXFAM Interantional, OXFAM America has produced a report on its activities in Haiti. Read the OXFAM America report here, Haiti Progress Report 2011.

January 10, 2012--In a report released today, international humanitarian organization Oxfam said that two years after the earthquake, reconstruction of the country has proceeded "at a snail's pace" leaving more than half a million Haitians still homeless. It 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. It urges 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.

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 five percent of roads were covered in hard-top before the earthquake, some 430 kilometers (260 miles) of roads have been constructed or rehabilitated since the earthquake, providing vital infrastructure for economic recovery.

Major problems remain however. More than 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 and more than 70 percent 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 in bolstering 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 last 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 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 percent of the $4.6 billion that they pledged for reconstruction in 2010 and 2011. With some 70 percent 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.

Marc J. Cohen, Ph.D. Senior Researcher, Humanitarian Policy, Oxfam America
1100 15th Street, N.W., Suite 600 Washington, DC 20005 USA
Tel.: +1-202-471-3053 Mobile: +1-202-460-5330 Fax: +1-202-496-1190
email: mcohen@oxfamamerica.org               Skype: mjcrtp                web: www.oxfamamerica.org


Housing in post-earthquake Haiti

From an e-mail message on January 15, 2012 to the Corbett mail list by Marc Cohen, Senior Researcher, Humanitarian Policy, Oxfam America:

Only a few units of new housing have been built so far (less than 5,000, while some 250,000 units were damaged or destroyed).* Also, the government has so far not really engaged the capacity of its own public housing agency (the Entreprise Publique de Promotion des Logements Sociaux, or EPPLS) in building affordable housing. Involving EPPLS in a comprehensive shelter strategy would be helpful in generating the types of ideas Lois is looking for.

While around 100,000 transitional shelters have been built, these are not permanent housing. Although they ARE an improvement over tarps and tents, these mainly wooden structures will only be able to withstand a few seasons of Haiti's severe weather.

* CHAN website editor's note: According to the engineering survey of buildings in the earthquake zone conducted by Miyamoto International in the several months following January 12, 2010, app 80,000 buildings were destroyed or damaged beyond repair (20 % of all buildings) while app 110,000 require major structural repair before they can be safe to re-inhabit (26%). Figures from Miyamoto are taken from the 2011 BARR Study.