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U.N. Has ‘Largely’ Met Its Goals In Haiti Since The Quake, Official Says

The U.N. has mostly achieved its short-term goals since a major earthquake struck Haiti on January 12, 2010, Nigel Fisher, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Haiti, said during a video teleconference on Monday, Deutsche Presse-Agentur/M&C reports.

According to Fisher, “immediate objectives agreed upon within the month after the earthquake on January 12 had been ‘largely’ met,” the news service reports. “On the whole, we met our targets,” he said (1/10). Fisher also acknowledged that more needs to be done, the U.N. News Centre writes. “Clearly, speeding up the reconstruction and recovery effort is the absolute priority for 2011,” Fisher said. “Obviously, things could have gone quicker but I think it is important to remember that reconstruction takes time,” he said, adding, “by and large the initial response to the earthquake was a success.”

“As of 1 January there are an estimated 810,000 people still living in the 1,150 camps that we estimate still exist, that is just over half of the camp population which reached its peak of 1.5 million in July last year,” according to Fisher. “Of the 700,000 who have left the camps, about 100,000 have been relocated into 31,000 transitional shelters, 1,000 shelters ahead of the target. He also noted that people are returning to their homes but are living in their yards because they are afraid of further collapses of concrete,” the news service writes. Also the U.N. had received about 72 percent of the funds it requested in its emergency appeal, but a $400 million shortfall remained, Fisher said, noting that camp coordination and management is “critically under-funded” (1/10).

Media Reports On Aid Distribution, Reconstruction Process

The Associated Press/NPR examines the progress of the reconstruction process on the ground a year after the earthquake. “Less than 5 percent of debris has been cleared, leaving enough to fill dump trucks parked bumper to bumper halfway around the world. … Meanwhile, about a million people remain homeless … A cholera epidemic erupted outside the earthquake zone … an electoral crisis threatens to break an increasingly fragile political stability. The promise of a better Haiti remains just that,” the news service writes.

“Progress has been slow across the board, starting with the omnipresent rubble. The U.S.-based RAND organization said donors and the Haitian government are responsible for more not being cleared. Haitian workers are not given personal equipment while heavy lifters have been blocked by customs officials at the border, the report said.” The article looks at how aid delivery has affected rebuilding efforts. “The reconstruction effort overall is hampered by the failure to deliver or spend billions of expected dollars in aid,” the news service writes (1/11). 

In a related piece, NPR’s Morning Edition looks at why some aid groups have not been able to spend all the money they raised and why some are criticizing this practice.

“The American Red Cross says it has helped hundreds of thousands of Haitians and spent more than a quarter of a billion dollars in the past year. However, it raised nearly twice that amount and has been criticized for not spending more. The Red Cross isn’t the only charity with much of its donations still in the bank. A survey of 60 U.S. charities by The Chronicle of Philanthropy shows that less than 40 percent of the nearly $1.5 billion they raised has been spent,” NPR reports. “The Red Cross has a real commitment to spending those dollars wisely and transparently,” said Julie Sell of the American Red Cross. She added that spending the money very quickly would be foolish.

“Unni Karunakara, president of Doctors Without Borders, says it’s unconscionable that aid groups launched cholera fund raising appeals when their coffers remain filled,” NPR writes. “We are indeed accountable to the Haitian people and I think we have a lot of explaining to do,” Karunakara said (Kahn, 1/11).

Meanwhile on Monday the organization Merlin released a report (.pdf), which said that foreign aid agencies have not collaborated with local health workers, the U.K. Press Association reports. “Having been at the forefront of saving lives in the initial aftermath, local health workers found themselves sidelined and undermined, Merlin said,” the news service writes, noting that the report also described the foreign services as “welcome and vital.”  

“The charity said there had been a ‘brain drain’ of Haitian healthcare workers into better paid jobs with international non-governmental organisations (INGOs), worsening the chronic shortage of healthcare workers in the country,” the Press Association reports. “The charity, which provides training, equipment and medical experts to help in global emergencies, said there should be a more co-ordinated and ‘collaborative’ approach to emergency responses. There should also be long-term investment in health workers in ‘high-risk’ countries such as Haiti to help them prepare for health crises, it said” (1/10).

Ros-Lehtinen Travels To Haiti

Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is traveling to Haiti Tuesday for her “first foreign trip since taking over as head of that committee,” the AP/Miami Herald reports.

“In a statement, Ros-Lehtinen says she’s grateful for the opportunity to travel to Haiti as the country prepares to observe the one-year anniversary of a devastating earthquake” (1/11). “There is no question that the last year has presented its share of challenges for the people of Haiti but it is also important to recognize how far Haiti has come in the past twelve months. Having last visited Haiti six months ago, I am looking forward to seeing firsthand the progress made and assessing the challenges that remain,” she said in the statement (1/10).

Major Textile Deal Expected; Prosthetics Program; Photo Essay; State Department Haiti Health Briefing 

  • “Haitian and U.S. officials plan to announce on Tuesday a $250 million deal to develop an industrial park that officials expect to double the size of Haiti’s key textile sector,” the Wall Street Journal reports. The South Korean garment company Sae-A Trading Co. Ltd. “is scheduled to sign the agreement with the governments of Haiti, the U.S., and the Inter-American Development Bank to develop the 623-acre industrial park in northern Haiti … according to the company and officials,” the newspaper writes. Plans for the project aim to create 20,000 jobs over seven years. “Sae-A will contribute $70 million to the project. The U.S. will commit about $124 million to, among other things, generate electricity and build housing, while the bank will provide some $50 million to build factory shells,” the Wall Street Journal writes. “This [project] will be a match that strikes a fire, and gets things going,” said former President Bill Clinton, co-chair of Haiti Interim Reconstruction Commission (De Cordoba, 1/11).
  • “Sprinting on their crutches at breakneck speed, the young soccer players who lost legs in Haiti’s earthquake last year project a symbol of hope and resilience in a land where so much is broken,” Reuters writes in an article looking at how some quake amputees have pushed forward since the earthquake. The article also describes the mood ahead of Wednesday’s one-year anniversary since the quake. “Despite billions of dollars in pledged aid and a generous outpouring of world solidarity for Haiti after the quake, the anniversary promises little in the way of celebration,” according to Reuters. Bill Clinton is “expected back in Port-au-Prince this week and is likely to call for patience in the grueling rebuilding task. Commemoration events this week include a ceremony on Tuesday marking the reopening of Port-au-Prince’s restored Iron Market, a cultural and architectural landmark in the city’s downtown area” (Brown, 1/10).
  • Foreign Policy magazine has a photo slideshow comparing photographs of Haiti just after the earthquake with what it looks like now (1/11).
  • The State Department released a transcript of a phone briefing on Monday with USAID Deputy Administrator Donald Steinberg, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Eric Goosby, CDC Director Thomas Frieden and USAID Haiti Mission Director Carleene Dei. The briefing focused on the health situation in Haiti and the officials described the U.S. government’s work in the country. Dei said, “we’ve been working at health for a while and our most recent projects were – resulted in services accessible to 50 percent of the population. We support services to 50 percent of the population,” adding, “our intent is to build on this base and make it stronger” (1/10).  

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