New Internationalist

Unfulfilled promises leave Haiti ‘sick and broken’

There are questions about aid in Haiti that I’ve long been trying to find an answer to, but which I’m still searching for: Who gets aid? Who gets support? And who doesn’t? These lead to a secondary underlying question: Where did the money go and why is there still no accountability? I’m not the only one asking the question; this report from the Guardian on the third anniversary of the 2010 earthquake suggests some of the answers.

It seems that about 94 per cent of humanitarian funding went to donors’ own civilian and military entities, UN agencies, international NGOs and private contractors. In addition, 36 per cent of recovery grants went to international NGOs and private contractors. Yet this is where the trail goes cold – you can look at procurement databases to track primary contract recipients, but it is almost impossible to track the money further to identify the final recipients and the outcomes of projects.

One example of grand promises that haven’t been fulfilled is the one made to the Hospital of the State University of Haiti (HUEH) or the General Hospital in Port-au-Prince, by Partners In Health (PIH). The report was produced by PIH and the hospital as an invitation for donors to support the rebuilding.

The report, written in March 2010, stated:

Over the next five years, there is an opportunity, with appropriately administered strategic investments, to significantly alter the track of public healthcare in Haiti by making large-scale improvements to HUEH.

Since then nothing has been done and the hospital is ‘sick and broken’. Meanwhile, PIH have built a state-of-the-art hospital, the University Hospital of Mirebalais (HUM). It is understandable that Partners In Health, and its co-founder Paul Farmer, wants to raise funds for Haitian health projects such as this hospital. But it is important to ask why donors have not invested in rebuilding the present teaching hospital – which is run by the Haitian government –and instead prefer to support a foreign health initiative run by a foreign NGO, albeit one of the few with an impeccable reputation.

A report by

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Over the past year there have been a number of fires in the markets of Port-au-Prince and questions have been raised as to whether something sinister is taking place or whether they were simply accidents. Last week, on the streets of Petiton-Ville, market traders had produce confiscated, and in some cases burned, as the police cleared the streets in a brutal ‘women-cleansing’ action. I noticed similar actions on Friday morning on the streets of Frere, and on Saturday around Delmas 33. Women are by far the majority of street traders; they sell everything from fresh fruit, meat and vegetables to household goods and cooked food. Many of the women are extremely poor. They are invariably the sole income earners for their families, providing for themselves and their children.

None of this is peculiar to Haiti; similar urban cleansing of the poor is taking place in cities across the Global South and also in many European and US cities. In Lagos and Accra, systematic people- and women-cleansing has been going on for the past three or four years with no provision of alternatives. With the poor driven to the margins and even greater poverty, or swept up by factories on the outskirts of town paying them a pittance, cities can be presented as havens of middle-class progress and open for business and mass consumption.

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