Nearly three years after a devastating earthquake struck Haiti, a Canadian group is raising concerns about living conditions for residents in the Caribbean country, where many remain without homes.
According to Roger Annis, a Vancouver-based coordinator with the Canada Haiti Action Network, official counts indicate almost 360,000 people in Haiti are still living in emergency camps that were established following the earthquake. He noted that tally doesn’t include “hundreds of thousands” who are living in other unofficial camps, or temporary and inadequate shelter.
Annis noted that since the June 2010 disaster, international aid has provided emergency relief, cleared rubble from the streets, and improved health-care services. However, he called the overall picture in the nation “very troubling and negative”.
A delegation with the network travelled to Haiti in March 2012, and described the living conditions in one of the camps as “deplorable”.
“The services that were there a year and two years ago simply aren’t there anymore–clean water, medical services, schools for the kids to go to–it’s all gotten worse,” Annis told the Straight by phone. “So that remains a very big concern in the camps.”
In addition to the organization’s concerns about housing conditions, Annis noted the country continues to deal with a recurrent cholera epidemic.
“These are big and very troubling questions that point to…a failed international relief effort in Haiti,” he said.
In a news release dated January 8, Doctors Without Borders said Haiti’s healthcare system remains “devastated”.
“The majority of the population lacks access to drinking water and proper sanitation, but cholera treatment has still not been properly integrated into the few existing public health facilities,” said Joan Arnan, the head of mission for Doctors Without Borders in Haiti.
Annis noted that while there are organizations in Haiti that are building new housing, their efforts don’t come close to meeting the need.
“There are these efforts happening, but on the scale of what’s required, it’s still a very small scale,” he said. “It really requires a commitment by the government and by its international allies.
“There’s only one solution to the housing crisis in Haiti, and that is to have a vast program of building public housing.”
Canada’s Minister of International Cooperation, Julian Fantino, told Montreal newspaper La Presse on January 4 that Canada has frozen funding destined for new projects in Haiti as it determines its next steps.
The minister has since issued a statement indicating the Government of Canada is reviewing its "long-term engagement strategy" with Haiti. Fantino noted Canada has provided more than $1 billion in assistance to Haiti since 2006.
“We continue to make progress on areas of long-term development that we have previously committed to, and we stand ready to offer our support for the people of Haiti should future humanitarian crises arrive,” he said in the statement dated January 8.
The Canada Haiti Action Network is hosting a screening of the documentary “Haiti: Where Did the Money Go?” with director Michele Mitchell at VanCity Theatre tonight (January 9), followed by a panel discussion. The film will also be screened at Simon Fraser University at 12 p.m. on Thursday (January 10).