Analysis, Opinions: Haiti Relief, Rebuilding; NTDs

‘Revolutionary Solutions’ To Rebuild Haiti

Associated Press reporter Michelle Faul, who covered Haiti for a decade with the news service, offers this analysis: “Yes, the earth-shattering quake was powerful enough to bring many countries to their knees. But Haiti’s horrendous death toll and cataclysmic damage must also be blamed on a history of bad policies pursued by its own weak leadership and the foreign powers – governments and aid institutions – that have long held sway here.” Faul explores several “revolutionary solutions” for transforming Haiti in an article that features comments by Haitian political commentator Michel Soukar, Haitian-American commentator Richard Morse, Simon Fass, of the University of Texas, and the University of Virginia’s Robert Fatton Jr., author of a book about Haiti, who draw on lessons of the past in offering recommendations for rebuilding the country. Faul writes, “This latest in a history of Haitian calamities may offer an unmatched opportunity to turn the tide in a country where decades of food aid still have left desperate mothers feeding their children chalk to stop hungry stomachs from rumbling” (1/25).

Challenges Facing Haitian Rebuilding

In a CNN analysis article, CNN State Department Producer Elise Labott takes stock of the challenges facing Haiti. “We have been here before, though. The international community has sent billions of dollars in aid to help Haiti after previous calamities only to have to start from scratch after the next one. The goal for the U.S. and aid groups in Haiti is for this time to be the last time – to rebuild the country into a better-functioning, economically more stable nation that can withstand future setbacks without relying on international aid,” she writes. According to Labott, “any reconstruction plan for Haiti would have to go beyond rebuilding the country’s damaged infrastructure. Money is no substitute for leadership. Which is why a true ‘rebuilding’ effort must start with Haiti’s fragile government and weak institutions. Ultimately Haiti must learn to do for itself what the world has done for it. …While rebuilding Haiti will take years, the impressive outpouring of generosity the world is displaying for humanitarian relief efforts could trickle to nothing … once the cameras leave” (1/25).

U.S. Response To Haiti No Better Than Katrina

“Four years ago the initial medical response to Hurricane Katrina was ill equipped, understaffed, poorly coordinated and delayed. … Unfortunately, the response to the latest international disaster in Haiti has been no better, compounding the catastrophe,” according to a Wall Street Journal opinion piece by doctors from the Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City. The doctors write about their efforts to organize a “relief team” the day after the quake struck. “We wanted to reach the local hospitals in Haiti immediately – but were only allowed by the U.S. military controlling the local airport to land in Port-au-Prince Saturday night. We were among the first groups there,” they note before outlining recommendations for how the response could have been more effective. “With an organized central command dedicated to medical relief, we could have done much better. A reconnaissance team, managed by government or U.N. officials in conjunction with medical and logistic specialists, could have immediately come to Haiti to evaluate local facilities,” they write (Eachempati/Lorich/Helfet, 1/25).

Lessons For U.S. Involvement In Haitian Reconstruction

As the U.S. helps to rebuild Haiti, “it will probably not go well … because Washington policymakers unfamiliar with development practice still don’t understand how to help the Haitians erect a functioning civil society, private economy, and competent government. It’s not about reconstruction and humanitarian aid; it’s about institutions. And without them, Haiti will remain a failed state,” former USAID Administrator Andrew Natsios, now a professor at Georgetown University, writes in a Newsweek opinion piece. “It’s a truism that ports, roads, sewage, schools, health clinics, bridges, and clean water are preconditions to a stable country and expanding economy. But if that’s all we do, Haiti will simply revert to dysfunction, and whatever is reconstructed will begin to crumble over time without institutions to ensure maintenance,” he notes. According to Natsios, “Aid efforts in Haiti in the past have focused too much on delivering public services through nongovernmental organizations and international groups instead of the trying to reform the Haitian institutions that should be delivering these services. But simply providing aid funds through Haitian government ministries, however – the newest international-aid fad – will strengthen the predatory forces that control them” (1/22).

To Strengthen Global Security, Treat NTDs

According to Peter Hotez, chair of the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Tropical Medicine at George Washington University and president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, “The people at highest risk for acquiring [neglected tropical diseases (NTDs)] also live in areas of greatest concern to the global security interests of the United States.” In a Foreign Policy opinion piece, Hotez writes: “As much as one half of the world’s poor who suffer from NTDs live in the nations that comprise the Organization of the Islamic Conference, including Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, and Afghanistan. Almost as many live in pockets of poverty in middle-income countries … In these countries, people are not only trapped in poverty because of their health conditions, they are also trapped in conflict.” Hotez outlines the connection between NTDs and security, noting that “security risks created by high endemic rates of NTDs argue strongly for seeking low-cost solutions for their control and elimination.” Hotez concludes, “As we move into the 2010s, the medical community and the diplomatic corps must work together to translate global public health victories in NTD control and elimination into diplomatic rapprochement with the countries that make up the Muslim world and nuclear weapons states” (1/21).

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