IoS Appeal: Hope in ruins - Haiti two years after the quake

More than 500,000 people are still living in tents, despite massive aid operation

For a country that this week will mark two years since it was ripped apart by an earthquake of magnitude 7.0, Haiti has all the hallmarks of a place in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. More than half a million people are still living in squalid camps, vulnerable to attack and disease; around 200 people are diagnosed with cholera ever day and, according to the UN, half of the rubble left from destroyed buildings has yet to be cleared.

Inside the camps, sexual violence and other serious crime continues to be a problem. The tightly packed temporary settlements are hard to police, and a flimsy tarpaulin or tent wall offers little protection from intruders, who need little more than a shaving razor to break in. Conditions are so desperate that many will go to any lengths to seek a better life. Last week 128 Haitians were returned home after being found by the coast guard attempting to flee to the US aboard a sailing boat. The failed escape is one of many recent attempts, the most deadly of which took place last month, when 38 migrants died in a shipwreck off the coast of Cuba. The remaining 90 were sent home.

The international community has already given more than £1.5bn in humanitarian aid in response to the quake, though this is barely half of the nearly £3bn pledged in the immediate wake of the disaster. Despite what has already been invested, witnesses describe Haiti as looking more like a country two months on from a natural disaster than two years.

Perhaps the biggest setback to progress was the cholera epidemic – a plague that has itself been blamed on foreign intervention. Cases of cholera had not been reported in Haiti for nearly a century before the outbreak in October 2010. Now nearly 7,000 people have died from the disease in an epidemic that is one of the world's worst in recent history. The arrival of the highly infectious diarrhoeal disease has been widely attributed to a camp of United Nations peacekeepers from Nepal, and lawyers representing victims are now demanding that the UN pay hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation.

On top of the recorded deaths, more than 520,000 cholera cases were reported by the Haitian government up to December. Jon Kim Andrus, deputy director of the Pan American Health Organisation, said it was "one of the largest cholera outbreaks in modern history to affect a single country". The earthquake itself killed an estimated 316,000 people, a death toll which will now be supplemented by the thousands who have died from disease thanks to unsanitary living conditions.

The country has been called "The Republic of NGOs" as it has a higher ratio of aid workers per capita than anywhere else in the world. At the height of the crisis it was estimated that 12,000 aid organisations were working in the country. This figure has made it even harder for observers to comprehend how around 520,000 Haitians could still be subsisting under tarpaulin.

Bill Quigley, legal director of the American human rights organisation the Center for Constitutional Rights, who has been working with community groups in Haiti, said: "International intervention has been a colossal failure for hundreds of thousands of people. I don't think anyone would have believed that two years afterwards, when you look at all that the international community has said and done, and at all the money that has been raised around the world, it would be such a bad situation for hundreds of thousands – if not millions – of people. Haiti would be clearly worse off if the international community had not joined in to help. That said, you couldn't walk down any street in Haiti and believe that two billion dollars had been raised."

Mr Quigley is one of many legal campaigners who believe part of the reason Haiti's rebuilding has slowed is that Haitians themselves have been marginalised in the process. Only 1 per cent of the money donated was given to the Haitian government, and a similar proportion is estimated to have gone to Haitian organisations. "Concern about corruption in the Haitian government is legitimate, but if you don't want to partner with government you have to look to civil society," Mr Quigley said.

"Haitians are hired as drivers and security; they're not full partners in this work. And because of that what recourse do people in Haiti have? The international community has come and spent money and done what they wanted to do. You can't just skip the government; it has to be built up and there has to be partnership."

Although the number of Haitians living in camps has decreased by 66 per cent since July, when it peaked at 1.5 million, the rate at which people have left the internal refugee camps has slowed in recent months. In the last four months, the population living in temporary tents and under tarpaulin has fallen by only 6 per cent. Complicated rules over land rights – and a lack of stable government in the year immediately after the quake – have made it harder for resettlement to happen quickly. Because the earthquake hit an urban area, where many people had already been living in cramped, sub-standard housing, there is still an enormous amount of uncleared rubble blocking development, making the search for suitable land even more difficult.

It was always obvious from the scale of the work to be done that the clear-up would not happen overnight. Almost 300,000 houses were destroyed or badly damaged, along with 80 per cent of the capital's schools and 60 per cent of hospitals. Before the earthquake hit, Haiti was already ranked 145th out of 169 countries on the UN Human Development Index, making it the poorest country in the western hemisphere.

Despite these challenges, big questions remain over why the country is not further along the path to reconstruction. Romain Gitenet, head of mission at the medical aid organisation Médecins sans Frontières, blamed some agencies for being too slow to react to the disaster: "If you thought after two years things would be rebuilt, you'd be wrong. Things are not rebuilt at all. After the earthquake and the cholera you expect NGOs to react quickly but most don't react quickly. Sometimes we felt alone at these critical moments at the beginning of an emergency."

Many international organisations privately blame the government and the new President, Michel Martelly, for the continued delays in getting people into stable accommodation. One senior figure working for an international charity in the country, said: "The new government has done very little to get people out of the camps. The President has very little experience of politics; he's a singer."

But Leonard Doyle, of the International Organisation of Migration, believes the regime has turned a corner. "The current government is very together, certainly in contrast with other times," he said. "They are managing to get people out of camps at a rapid rate and two really prominent camps are now nearly empty."

Mr Doyle now believes that the only way to ensure a future for the country is to start encouraging business and breaking up the culture of dependency that has been built up around aid organisations. He said: "If you have a population that depends on aid, then what happens when the NGOs leave?"

The IoS christmas appeal: Bringing medical aid wherever it's needed

The international medical relief charity Merlin, which The IoS chose for the paper's latest Christmas Appeal, began work in Haiti days after the earthquake struck in 2010. The quake destroyed 60 per cent of all hospitals in the region and many doctors and nurses were killed.

Despite the chaos, Merlin worked with the government to agree a location for a field hospital in Port-au-Prince, where surgeons performed emergency orthopaedic and plastic surgery to save lives in the immediate aftermath. They also recruited local staff, and at least 125 of their 140 employees are now Haitian. Pamela Gordon, Merlin's project co-ordinator in Haiti, said: "One of our strengths is that we pride ourselves on working with the government right from the beginning. Even when it's an emergency and it's hectic we involve governments in decision-making. The Haitian government helped us find a location for an emergency hospital after the earthquake."

At the peak of the cholera outbreak in November 2010, Merlin had eight cholera treatment units and one 24-hour treatment centre. It has now treated more than 5,000 cholera patients. It also sends Haitian community health workers into the field to teach prevention techniques.

The charity has now begun to pull out of the capital and is moving to the north and north-east provinces, where far fewer organisations are operating. Ms Gordon said: "We came after the earthquake and tried to respond to immediate needs; now we want to respond to structural problems with the health system that were here before. We will continue with our cholera response programme, but now we've noticed an extremely remote and immense population that don't have access to basic primary healthcare services."

To make a donation visit: www.merlin.org.uk/independent-on-sunday-appeal or call  0800 035 6035 (24 hour, seven days a week - donation line).

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
Voices
Joseph Kynaston Reeves arguing with Russell Brand outside the RBS’s London offices on Friday
voicesDJ Taylor: The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a worker's rant to Russell Brand
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
News
i100
News
Xander van der Burgt, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
scienceA Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick