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Haiti, one year on: ‘recovery depends on better leadership’

05 January 2011

by Ed Beavan

Water carriers: above: children fetch water at a camp for people displaced by the January 2010 earthquake AP

Water carriers: above: children fetch water at a camp for people displaced by the January 2010 earthquake AP

ONE YEAR after a massive earthquake ravaged Haiti, an air of gloom still hangs over the Caribbean nation.

As well as the devastating earthquake, Haiti was hit by a cholera outbreak and a hurricane in 2010, and embroiled in political un­certainty.

On Wednesday, it will be a year to the day since the earthquake that measured 7.3 on the Richter scale and is estimated to have killed more than 230,000 people (News, 15 January 2010).

Tearfund’s country representative for Haiti, Jean Claude Cerin, said that the events of 2010 had led to a great deal of discouragement for Haitians, exacerbated by the recent violence and allegations of fraud during the Presidential and legislative elections, which have yet to be decided.

“People are asking, ‘What’s going on? Is God dealing with Haiti?’ They are not seeing the results they were expecting after all the billions of dollars were promised; so they are feeling quite gloomy.”

He said that Haiti’s future success in the recovery process depended on better leadership: “The emergency response to the earthquake was good, and people think NGOs came in and did a good job, but people don’t think the govern­ment has done enough.

“There is a lack of leadership: people feel the government did not take enough of a lead and was overwhelmed,” Mr Cerin said.

Tearfund is working with seven partner-organ­isations in Haiti, which are involved in rebuilding homes and schools, providing edu­cation to avoid potential future disasters, and improving food security.

Christian Aid’s country manager in Haiti, Prospery Raymond, also said that, one year on, the relief effort still lacked cohesion. Mr Raymond said there was frustra­tion at the lack of progress made by the country’s Recovery Commission, a partnership of the government and international groups, which works with local people.

“It’s not easy for the Commission to re­construct houses in Haiti. They need to speed things up, but, at the same time, listen to the Haitian population.

“It’s difficult, as they are trying to provide contracts for local people to rebuild houses, but it’s slow because some people are learning how to build.”

Mr Raymond estimates that about 900,000 Haitians are still living in tents after their houses were destroyed by the earthquake. This is 300,000 fewer than were thought to be in tent-dwellings after the disaster.

Despite the hardships, Mr Raymond said that Haitians remained optimistic about the future, and that many found solace in God.

“The year 2010 was a very difficult one for Haitians to cope with, but people here are thankful for the reaction of the rest of the world, and hope next year will be a better year. Many people find hope in their faith.”

Christian Aid continues to work with several projects helping people get back on their feet by starting businesses — by providing chickens to allow people to sell eggs, for example.

Haiti service. A special service of remembrance and reflection for Haiti is to be held in West­minster Abbey on Sunday 16 January at 6.30 p.m. It will be conducted by the Dean of West­minster, the Very Revd John Hall, and the sermon will be given by Lord Griffiths of Burry Port.

During the service a wreath will be laid at the Innocent Victims Memorial in front of the Abbey’s north-west tower.

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