Haiti: UN claims progress —two years after quake

International efforts to help Haiti recover from a 7.0 magnitude earthquake that devastated the southern part of the country in 2010 have made significant progress, United Nations Development Program (UNDP) associate administrator Rebeca Grynspan told reporters on Jan. 6. Speaking less than a week before the two-year anniversary of the Jan. 12, 2010 quake, Grynspan cited the creation of 300,000 temporary jobs, with 40% going to women, and the removal of 50% of the debris, about five million cubic meters–enough to fill five soccer stadiums, according to Grynspan. International aid has now shifted “from the humanitarian phase to the recovery and reconstruction phases,” she said. (United Nations News Center, Jan. 6; AlterPresse, Haiti, Jan. 8)

Haitian prime minister Garry Conille was equally upbeat when talking to the press in December. He announced that in the two months since his confirmation, the new government had made many advances in helping the earthquake survivors who still live in temporary camps. Conille said his administration’s priority is relocating the thousands of homeless people camped out in the Champ de Mars, a huge park that faces the National Palace in downtown Port-au-Prince, and making sure “that they’ll be able to go to a zone that is secure.” This is to be done, according to the prime minister, through the “16/6” program, a government plan to move the displaced from six camps into 16 neighborhoods, with each family receiving 20,000 gourdes (about $496) to pay for new homes. (Haïti Libre, Haiti, Dec. 17)

But a Jan. 8 report by the Associated Press wire service noted that hundreds of thousands of people continue to live in camps or badly damaged buildings. While United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon and the UN special envoy, former US president Bill Clinton (1993-2001), promised “that the world would help Haiti ‘build back better,’ and $2.38 billion has been spent, Haitians have hardly seen any building at all,” AP reporter Trenton Daniel wrote. “Of the 10 best-funded projects approved by a reconstruction panel, not one focuses exclusively on housing.”

One of these projects is the Parc Industriel de Caracol (Caracol Industrial Park, PIC), a factory complex being built with $225 million in international financing, $124 million of it from the US. The project includes housing for 5,000 workers, but PIC is located in the northeast, 240 km (150 miles) from the area affected by the earthquake. The best-publicized effort to provide new homes for the displaced was the spring 2010 relocation of 5,000 people from a golf course in Pétionville, an affluent Port-au-Prince suburb, to Corail-Cesselesse, a deserted area 24 km north of the capital. This too was promoted as a plan for providing housing around a proposed industrial park. “That never happened,” according to the AP report. “Today, the people of Corail-Cesselesse are ravaged by floods or bake in the heat in their timber-frame shelters…far from the jobs that sustained them before the quake.”

The Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC, or CIRH in French and Spanish), which international donors set up in March 2010 to monitor the distribution of international aid, is now out of operation. The Haitian Parliament refused to renew the IHRC’s mandate at the end of October on the grounds that the commission, which Bill Clinton co-chaired, had inadequate Haitian representation. (AP, Jan. 8)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Jan. 8.

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