A year after a magnitude 7.0 earthquake rocked Port-au-Prince, Haiti, killing more than 200,000 people and leaving over a million people homeless, bodies are still being found in the rubble — a sign of how much remains to be done to get the Caribbean nation back on its feet, the Associated Press reports.
Although hundreds of aid groups were on the ground providing food, water, first aid, and other services within weeks of the quake, efforts to rebuild the impoverished country have been hampered by the scale of the disaster, the extent of the need, and a lack of political leadership and coordination among the more than ten thousand nongovernmental organizations with a presence in the country. Indeed, most Haitians feel as if little has been done to ease their suffering, despite one of the largest and most costly humanitarian aid efforts in history, the Washington Post reports.
According to the most recent accounting, the international donor community spent more than $3.5 billion on immediate relief efforts, pledged another $4.5 billion in recovery aid through the end of 2011, and has committed to an additional $1.1 billion in debt relief. But efforts to rebuild the shattered country have been hampered by a hurricane, an outbreak of cholera that has killed more than 3,600 people, and an electoral crisis that threatens to subvert the political calm that has prevailed in the country for the last few years. The evidence of these and other challenges is all too apparent: less than 5 percent of the rubble in Port-au-Prince and its suburbs has been cleared, about a million people remain homeless, and neighborhood-size camps for the displaced are beginning to take on an air of permanence.
Reconstruction efforts also have been complicated by the slow disbursement of billions of dollars in aid. Americans, for example, donated more than $1.4 billion to relief and recovery efforts, only a third of which has been spent, while the bulk of the U.S. government's pledge of $1.15 billion has yet to materialize. Even former U.S. President Bill Clinton, who has had three prominent roles in Haiti since the earthquake — as co-chair of the reconstruction commission with Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive; as UN special envoy for Haiti; and as the face of the Clinton Foundation's efforts there — has been frustrated by the slow pace of recovery.
And things are unlikely to get much better until the question of who will succeed outgoing Haitian president Rene Preval is resolved. "Everyone is talking about the resilience of the Haitian people, and everyone is taking advantage of that resilience," said Bellerive. "It's going to end. Success for me is to do the basic, the minimum, so we can really build a future. And we have to do it right now."