Haiti continues to face housing crisis three years after earthquake, says Vancouver advocate

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      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).




      Jan 9, 2013 at 6:02pm

      So where did the money go? To the "officials"? Did the money go on the same path as our money goes to the aboriginal chiefs and little to the common aboriginal people in need?

      Ted Campbell

      Jan 10, 2013 at 7:55pm

      Gotta wonder the same thing Larry. The Japanese pulled together after their disaster, Haiti still looks like the wreck of the Hesperus and the health situation must be terrible. Roger Annis could put his efforts to better use elsewhere. As Don Cherry said. "Are we mad???"


      Jan 19, 2013 at 11:54am

      I was in Haiti before the quake, managed to live through it, and have been back 3 times since for a total of about a year volunteering on clean water projects.

      Doctors without Borders and Partners in Health (with a Cdn branch) are two bigger NGOs that do great work in Haiti and go out of their way try to work with and build up the ability of the Haitian government to govern. Some in govt are corrupt but there are many Haitians civil servants working their hearts out. There are a number of smaller NGOs including Cdn based SOPUDEP supporting schools, FIDA which supports Haitian agriculture coops and US based SOIL which does great work on sanitation for the poorest areas.

      A big part of the 'aid' money never touches the shores of Haiti. It is tied aid given by Canada, US and other govts with the condition that it be spent outside Haiti on goods and 'services' from the likes of SNC Lavalin for projects such as Canada's 'gift' to Haiti of a city block sized prison. Or the aid is funneled through the top heavy big NGOs who spend 40% on overhead and lodging of their 'aid officers' in the leafy parts of Port Au Prince. 1% of aid went through the Haiti government.

      The comparison of Haiti and Japan and their ability to rebuild post quake is ludicrous. In the 19th and pre war 20th century Japan was building an industrial economy without interference from the west. Haiti was shunned and hit with trade embargos being seen as a threat to the white slave holding powers. Meanwhile Haiti made reparitions payments to France, for loss of slaves and slave holdings, from 1825 to 1946. In many years this took over half the national budget and crippled the economy. The US occupied Haiti from 1915 to 1934. The US and Canada supported the Duvalier dictatorships while they were in the process of killing 50,000 of their own citizens. Since the fall of Baby Doc Canada and the US have continued to interfere in elections and generally have supported the few ruling families, seen by many in Haiti as a homegrown mafia with a stranglehold on the economy. And surprise, surprise, those same ruling families have been the biggest beneficiaries of post quake aid.