Oxfam Criticises Haiti's Government

A year after the devastating earthquake in Haiti, a Thames Valley based charity says the country is still suffering it's affects.

Oxfam's been telling Heart they're giving out the equivalent of 120 sized Olympic swimming pools of water each month. 

They've accused the government in Haiti of not being quick enough to rebuild the country. Oxfam's told Heart there's still loads of rubble around and people don't have proper homes and sanitation. One million people still living in tents and under tarpaulins to resettle or return home.

The report, “From Relief to Recovery”*, blames a lack of progress on a crippling combination of Haitian government indecision, rich donor countries’ too frequent pursuit of their own aid priorities, and a lacklustre Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, which was established to coordinate reconstruction efforts and build state capacity.

Roland Van Hauwermeiren, country director for Oxfam in Haiti said:

“This has been a year of indecision and it has put Haiti’s recovery on hold. Nearly one million people are still living in tents or under tarpaulins and hundreds of thousands of others who are living in the city’s ruins still do not know when they will be able to return home.

“Rebuilding this shattered country will not happen overnight, but there are key decisions on jobs, clearing rubble, house repairs and allocating land for people who will not be able to return to their homes that can and must be made urgently. We now need the incoming government of Haiti to take its leadership role. The international community, including NGOs, must unite to support the government so that Haitian authorities will have a chance of succeeding.”

Despite the success of emergency lifesaving aid after last year’s earthquake, long-term recovery from the disaster has barely begun. Public donations as well as funding from donor governments and multilateral institutions for the emergency aid effort were exceptionally generous. However, of the $2.1 billion pledged by governments for reconstruction in 2010, only 63.6% had been given by the end of the year according to the UN Office of the Special Envoy for Haiti.  

“Too many donors from rich countries have pursued their own aid priorities and have not effectively coordinated amongst themselves or worked with the Haitian government. This seriously weakens the government’s ability to plan and deliver on its sovereign responsibility – to lead reconstruction,” Van Hauwermeiren said.

Most donors 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.

The Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, led by former US President Bill Clinton and Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive, was set up in April 2010 to facilitate the flow of funds toward reconstruction projects and to help Haitian ministries with implementation. So far, the Commission has failed to live up to its mandate. Many Haitian officials still do not have the technical ability to lead projects, and almost no major reconstruction projects have started. The Commission is a key element for reconstruction and it must cut through the quagmire of indecision and delay.

Despite the current political crisis Haiti’s political and economic elites still have a once in a lifetime chance to address many of the issues that have held back the country's development. But the process must start now.

“If Haitians are to support themselves then the reconstruction effort must also give priority to helping people earn a living. Above all else, Haitians want to get back to work and provide for their families. They aren't asking for charity, but for a chance to be part of the process to rebuild their own country. After going through so much last year, Haitians deserve that chance,” Van Hauwermeiren said.

One year on, Oxfam is providing aid to over one million people as part of two emergency responses: one for earthquake relief and one to respond to the cholera epidemic that has swept the country since October, killing over 2,600 people.

Oxfam has provided clean drinking water and sanitation facilities for 400,000 people in and around the capital. Each month the agency provides 300 million litres of chlorinated water, the equivalent of 120 Olympic sized swimming pools. The agency has built 2,500 latrines and over 1,000 bathing facilities.

Nearly 42,000 families were assisted with food and helped to earn a living. This included cash grants of between £80 to £160 to re-establish small businesses to over 23,000 families. Some 1,441 plumbers, carpenters and masons were helped with tools and cash.

To help stimulate the local market and provide food, Oxfam also provided 10,000 families with ‘food kits’ made up of locally sourced food. Oxfam also distributed 135 metric tonnes of seeds and 7,000 farm tools to rural areas.

Oxfam helped 94,000 people with emergency shelter, mosquito nets and essential household items.