Three Years Later, Haitian Recovery Efforts Stumble

It has been almost three years since the earthquake that devastated Haiti on Jan. 12 2010. However, despite billions in international aid, hundreds of thousands of Haitian citizens are still left homeless and hungry. Government leaders in charge of spending have been accused of mismanagement, and as it stands now, reconstruction is still a ways off.

“When you look at things, you say, ‘Hell, almost three years later, where is the reconstruction?’” Former Prime Minister Michèle Pierre-Louis said to the New York Times “If you ask what went right and what went wrong, the answer is, most everything went wrong. There needs to be some accountability for all that money.”

The provided aid has not been exclusively used for earthquake related causes, as the government works to support new infrastructure and medical programs. Areas outside of the central disaster zone, which included country capitol Port-au-Prince, have benefited from relief funding as well. With rising conflict between foreign donors and the state, funding and contracts are dispersed to independent entities, increasing the amount spent on third party administrators.

“All the money that went to pay the salaries of foreigners and to rent expensive apartments and cars for foreigners while the situation of the country was degrading — there was something revolting about it,” Ms. Pierre Louis told the Times.

Former president Bill Clinton currently serves as the United Nations special envoy for Haiti, supported a “build back better” strategy for Haiti’s reconstruction, but many of his efforts were blocked by the issues of communication and diplomacy with the Haitian government.Clinton’s U.N. office and the Times report at least $7.5 billion in recovery funding provided to Haiti, but assert that the bulk of that money remains unspent.

Clinton was the co-president of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission in the months after the earthquake, but the group only met seven times before disbanding. “As a tool for Bill Clinton, the commission was good; it helped him attract attention to Haiti,” commission member Reginald Boulos said, according to the New York Times. “As a tool to effectively coordinate assistance and manage the reconstruction, it was a failure.”

The first three years of Haiti’s recovery effort have been characterized by a lack of diplomacy and poor management. Though the aid is present, the country will not be able to “build back better” if its leaders do not step up and take the lead in place of foreign interests.

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