Three years and seven months have passed since a devastating earthquake struck Haiti on January 12, 2010. Promises of “building back better” and not repeating the mistakes of the past from policymakers in the United States, the international community, and the Haitian government seem like a distant memory. The rallying cry of the international community sounds more like a disingenuous whimper, more than three years removed.
Many Haitians continue to experience poverty and crisis even though billions of dollars in aid were pledged, and many Haitians wonder where all of the money that was supposed to help them has gone. About 300,000 people continue to live in tent camps and many more are living in so-called transitional shelters.
Even though millions of dollars have been spent, the vulnerable seem to have been forgotten. Those who are still living in tents have few options for finding a permanent home. U.S. aid efforts in Haiti have tended to focus on private-sector industrial growth rather than direct support to earthquake victims. For example, millions of dollars have been spent on an industrial park in northern Haiti. Ostensibly, these types of investments are to create jobs for the Haitian population but it is unclear how low-wage factory jobs will provide a living wage for workers.
Mennonite Central Committee’s (MCC) partners in Haiti continue to call for a development approach that prioritizes the most vulnerable and holistically addresses the needs of the population. For example, the 300,000 people living in tents deserve to have one of their most basic human needs–dignified housing–met. More resources should be devoted to meeting these needs. And the U.S. and other international actors in Haiti should be more transparent and consultative with local civil society when carrying out development projects.
The prophet Isaiah spoke of a day when people will live in peaceful and “secure dwellings places” in quietness and rest. This vision includes justice and righteousness for the “least of these” (Isaiah 32:17-18, Matthew 25:21-46).
U.S. foreign policy in Haiti has, in many respects, ignored the most vulnerable. But it is not too late to support a development process that is inclusive, consultative, and dignifying for the victims of the 2010 earthquake. Even though we are more than three years removed from the disaster, our government can change the way in which it relates to Haiti. Perhaps then we can move towards “building back better.”
Click here to find out how you can urge Congress to promote U.S. aid accountability and transparency in Haiti. Learn more about what MCC
recommends in terms of a comprehensive housing plan – Permanent, Social Housing in Haiti: Recommendations to the U.S. Government. MCC_Housing_Policy_Brief_Update_June_2013