Two years on and Haiti’s reconstruction proceeds at a “snail’s pace” leaving half a million Haitians homeless

Emergencies, Humanitarian Advocacy, Media Releases, News article written on the 10 Jan 2012

The reconstruction of earthquake-stricken Haiti has proceeded at “a snail’s pace” leaving more than half a million people still homeless two years later, international aid agency Oxfam said today.

In a new report, Oxfam urged the Haitian Government and countries that have pledged money for rebuilding to accelerate reconstruction of the country.

The report, Haiti: The Slow Road to Reconstruction-Two Years after the Earthquake, calls 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.

Oxfam also urged aid donors to provide the funds they have pledged to the reconstruction effort and called on the international community to strengthen the Haitian Government’s capacity to effectively coordinate reconstruction.

The earthquake that struck Haiti on 12 January 2010 was the most powerful quake to hit the country in 200 years. More than 220,000 people were killed, 300,000 injured and more than one million made homeless.

Oxfam said the emergency relief effort following the earthquake was successful in saving countless lives and providing basic services to more than a million people. But 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 5 per cent of roads were sealed before the earthquake, 430 kilometres of roads have been built or repaired since the earthquake, providing vital infrastructure for economic recovery.

However major problems remain. More than half a million people are still living under tents and tarpaulins; most Haitians do not have running water, a toilet or access to a doctor; cholera has claimed thousands of lives and remains a major threat to public health and more than 70 per cent of the workforce is under or unemployed. Many of these are problems that existed for years before the earthquake.

The Interim Haiti Recovery Commission has made some progress on coordinating what reconstruction has been done, but little was achieved to bolster the government’s ability to take critical, long-term actions. With the commission’s mandate now expired, aid donors should support the creation of a national coordination body to take a strategic and collaborative role in reconstruction.

Billions of dollars of aid was pledged for Haiti’s reconstruction, but promises of funding haven’t always been translated into money on the ground. According to the UN, of the $4.6 billion pledged by aid donors in 2010 and 2011 only 43 per cent of those funds had been delivered by the end of September 2011.

With 70 per cent of the Haitian Government’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,” said Millan.

Note to editors:
Two years on, Oxfam has provided aid to more than one million people in Haiti through emergency earthquake response and cholera prevention work. In 2011, with the new Government of Haiti in place, Oxfam began to shift its focus from emergency needs to working with Haitian partners on initiatives aimed at boosting the country’s reconstruction, from improving water and sanitation systems to creating jobs in Port-au-Prince and rural areas.

A copy of the new report can be accessed here. For interviews or more information contact Oxfam Australia Media Coordinator Chee Chee Leung on 0400 732 795 or