Haiti disaster help lags badly [two years after the quake]

Hundreds of thousands of Haitians still live in miserable conditions and nearly half of $4.5 billion pledged by governments for reconstruction has yet to be disbursed two years after one of the most devastating earthquakes in the Western hemisphere. The quake killed more than 200,000 and left 1.5 million homeless.

As Haiti today observes the second anniversary of a disaster that leveled 300,000 buildings and left its economy and government in ruins, half a million people still live in tents, the United Nations reports.

Few have access to water, sanitation and other basic services, 60% are jobless and the world’s largest cholera outbreak has killed 7,000 people and infected 500,000 more, the U.N. and aid groups say.


The cholera outbreak may be the worst in any nation in modern history. Unfortunately, it is unlikely to stop soon since clean drinking water will not become widespread without major investment. And disaster relief funds are running out.

See my three posts on this thread (one year ago):


I am not surprised at the lack of progress, unfortunately. I am merely disheartened that so litle urgency has been applied by the First World.

That thread concerns the Frontline documentary Battle for Haiti

[quote=Introduction to the Frontline documentary]On the night of the earthquake that devastated Haiti last January, something happened in Port au Prince, the capital city, which would threaten the effectiveness of international aid efforts and undermine the country’s political stability: 4,500 of the country’s most violent criminals escaped from Haiti’s overcrowded National Penitentiary.

Now, on the one-year anniversary of the quake – and in the aftermath of Haitian presidential elections that threatened further crisis – FRONTLINE presents Battle for Haiti. FRONTLINE producer Dan Reed films with the beleaguered special police units tasked with apprehending the escaped gangsters. At the same time, Reed captures the daily lives of the despairing inhabitants of the slums and tent cities who are often terrorized by these gangsters.

Reed also tracks down some of the escaped prisoners themselves. “When I got out, I tried to go straight, but I couldn’t,” one of the escapees tells Reed. “The police are after me and all the other guys who escaped from prison.”


FRONTLINE reveals that the battle for the rule of law in Haiti is further undermined by the lack of a working justice system: Ninety percent of the men who escaped from the National Penitentiary had never had their day in court and had spent four or five years awaiting trial in barbaric conditions, where cells are so crowded that prisoners have to sleep on their feet. According to one prisoner, when another dies, he’s simply propped up in a corner so that someone can use his space on the floor. Wealthy gangsters often bribe their way out of the prison with large payments to corrupt judges.

In light of these realities, Police Chief Andresol takes a candidly dim view of the Haiti’s political future: “Honest people don’t go into politics in Haiti. That’s our great tragedy. To be in politics you have to belong to a group of men who think only of themselves, who can resort to killing and eliminating. We need a revolution. Nothing will change if we carry on talking about democracy.”

The full program can be watched online or you can read the transcript

Main page (where it can be watched)


I wish a followup were available

Haiti is on the island of Hispaniola. The other half of the island is the Dominican Republic.

How did the Dominican Republic make out with respect to the earthquake?

Fortunately, the Dominican Republic did not feel the earthquake nearly as strongly as did Haiti

Despite what you read, last year’s full program was centered on precisely what your thread is centered on:

Haiti disaster helps lags badly.

I actually thought that last year’s Frontline program title was misleading. The televised program, which I saw in its entirety, was about disaster aid, and the reasons for the distressing failure of that aid to reach those most affected.

This thread, addressing the USAToday article, confirms the relative stasis of the situation vs. one year ago.

The magnification of the cholera epidemic was predicted in last year’s program.

And now, cholera?


There is a GAO report addressing this issue and it mentions the following reasons as to why our aide dispersement has been delayed:

  1. Staffing - 10 out of 17 US Foreign Service Officers left Haiti after the earthquake and the U.S. Agency for International Development hasn’t been able to find permanent replacements. This means that we don’t have the engineers needed to design, plan, and implement the projects our billion dollar investment is supposed to pay for.

  2. Contracting - The USAID hasn’t been able to find enough contractors willing to live and work in Haiti. This means that, even if we had the necessary staff to plan the projects, we don’t have enough contractors willing to build them. I imagine that the cholera epidemic has something to do with this.

  3. The Haitian Government - Which has yet to approve the infrastructure developments we do have planned and hasn’t granted USAID titles to the land for construction.

etc etc

We were at a local pizzeria last evening and a husband and wife came in and were greeted by some of the other diners.

The wife had just gotten off the plane from a week-long mission to Haiti.

She was extremely upset at the local conditions.

After TWO YEARS, the water supply is still unsafe to drink.

In other words, the various bureaucracies have been utterly unable to perform even the most basic task.

People are still living in tents. [Well, in the tropics, that isn’t the worst possible situation, although I’m sure the mosquitoes are terrible and probably disease-ridden]

The cholera was BROUGHT THERE by the United Nations troops and has now spread to next door Dominican Republic.

So, it looks like what is happening is compounded ineptness by government bureaucracies.

What a mess!

Thanks for posting … good find.

The link is interesting …

So far, I only got to the first paragraph … because … [excerpt}

**“As of September 30, 2011, USAID and State had allocated almost $412 million for infrastructure construction activities, obligated approximately $48.4 million (11.8 percent), and expended approximately $3.1 million (0.8 percent).”

In other words, the U.S. Government [correction: the State Dept and USAID] has a checking account with almost half a billion dollars in it and after two years has spent exactly $3 million.

FEMA has a far better record than that.

This is a crime.

They have the money but are unable or unwilling or too incompetent to spend it.

All you do is pick up the phone book for Miami and call up companies that sell water purification equipment and tell them to get some stuff and hand deliver it to Haiti. This is not some new “procedure”. You pick up the phone.

"USAID, lacking a process for expediting the movement of staff to post-disaster situations, had difficulty replacing them and recruiting additional staff. "

In other words, there is massive unemployment in the United States, but the State Dept / USAID was unable to put a help-wanted advert in the newspaper or in Engineering-News Record or in Contract Engineering Weekly.

In fact, FEMA has, in-place, a phone tree. When a disaster strikes in the United States, people are already under contract to immediately travel to the site and get the work started. When the World Trade Center was bombed in 1993 and blown up in 2001, work started immediately. In the course of three months, hundreds of millions of dollars were spent and a stupendous amount of work was gotten done. And 7WTC and the Pentagon were completely rebuilt in a year.

I had bureaucrats complain to me that the WTC work was done with NO PAPERWORK … When contractors submitted their invoices, they were paid on the spot. Auditors took YEARS to reconstruct the papertrail, but no corruption was found back then. However, the auditors told me, with some anger, that if they had had THEIR, there would have been NO WORK done until ALL of the paperwork had been done first.

And that is how our State Dept is functioning.

"As of October 2011, USAID had drafted eight Activity Approval Documents (AADs) that include planned activities, costs, risks, and assumptions. AADs for the education, energy, food security, governance and rule of law, health, and shelter sectors have been approved. The AAD process has been more comprehensive and involved than is typical for such efforts, according to USAID officials. "

Translation: The State Dept and USAID have spent TWO YEARS doing paper work on a normal schedule business-as-usual basis.

This is what got the United States into trouble in Iraq … there was no budget for police training and the State Dept [Ambassador Paul Bremer] fired the entire Iraqi Army, which then sat around, and since they plenty of guns and ammo began shooting at the United States. We could have just paid them to direct traffic or do security details on the museums.

Thanks again for posting the link.

If you read through the whole report, which is very brief … it is obvious that all of the progress mile stones are based on the speed of the movement of a glacier … business as usual, paperwork first.

For example, they want electric power generation but are spending YEARS wrangling over the paperwork for how do you retain an architect or planner. And with revised paperwork for contracting with people to do the work.

Instead, they could call up General Electric or Solar or any one of many companies and have a large truck-mounted power plant delivered on a turn-key basis … meaning that the vendor provides fuel and staff … all you need is an American Express card. 30 days. Done deal.

The State Dept and USAID is unable to do that.

I apologize for getting agitated.

In the face of such a huge disaster, … for example, at least 1/3 of the locally available key government bureaucrats, paperpushers, engineers and ?skilled trades people? were killed in the earthquake … ok, now read this:

**"Some of the delay was to allow contractors time to respond to USAID’s clarifications and new contract requirements that were the result of contractor questions, changes to documents in the original solicitation, and the addition of environmental mitigation requirements. Some of the delay was also due to time spent by USAID mission staff focusing on a bid protest of the Port-au-Prince substation rehabilitation contract.

Some key USAID activities experienced delays in their original schedule due to technical issues, and other activities do not yet have a planned award date. These delays are in part related to issues such as the length of time it takes contractors to submit construction proposals, difficulties obtaining building sites, and incomplete environmental assessment documents. In addition, some activities do not yet have dates set for award of construction contracts because the scope and location of the infrastructure have yet to be determined."**

In other words, business as usual.

Bureaucratic bafflegab is what is causing disaster help to lag badly.


Your government in action.

[And these are the same people who think they can run the U.S. economy better than the private sector.]

What you do in a disaster, is just pay the contractors what they want … and tell them to work fast. And you bring in outside contractors, but it looks like perhaps the local bureaucrats don’t want outsiders to come in and upset their nice little applecart.

Final quote before I get ill from reading:

**"It has taken longer than planned to identify the sites, negotiate agreements with the Haitian government on the selection of beneficiaries, and negotiate agreements with nongovernmental organizations building some of the housing.

The sustainability of USAID-funded infrastructure activities depends, in part, on improvements to Haiti’s long-standing economic and institutional weaknesses, the Haitian government’s political will to implement change, as well as the success of planned capacity-building activities.

Based on data from the UN Office of the Special Envoy for Haiti, aid from bilateral and multilateral donors represented approximately 57 percent of the government of Haiti’s total revenue in 2009. Following the earthquake, the percentage increased substantially, to an estimated 80 percent of total government revenue in 2010.27

Additionally, more than 16,000 civil servants died in the earthquake and, including those who left the country, the Haitian government workforce is now reduced by 33 percent, according to the United Nations Development Program.28

Further, according to the U.S. government strategy and USAID documents and officials, electricity laws, the structure of the health care system, the customs code, and housing and urban development policy, among other areas, all need reform."**


Key sentence:

"The proportion of Haitian graduates who lived abroad was 84%, he added."

That’s how bad things are there. No one who is able to “escape” Haiti wants to live there.

The United States has gone in there countless times to correct the situation and each time it reverts back to lawlessness.

Sorry … got to thinking about this.

Water purification. Building water purification system or drilling new wells or piping water is really so basic and so easy. And if they need electric power to run the pumps, you provide a portable generator, which come in huge sizes. And if you need fuel, you tell the contractor to import his own fuel.

Most likely some bureaucrat will insist on inspecting all the stuff before he will let it into the country. But you can make “facilitation payments” … not a bribe … it’s payment for the guy to do his job. And you re-imburse the contractor.

The bureaucratic corruption is a crime and a sin.

I’ve been doing this kind of work for decades and decades and the bureaucrats thrive on paper. Mounds and mounds of paper.

And when you say you are going to provide a turn-key quick solution, they say, “Well, it’s not an ideal solution. I’m sure you can do better than that.”

And when you reply that we are in a tough situation and quicker is better than working for an ideal situation, then they come back saying they don’t want some patchwork job.

So, what happens is that they stop the project.

And the people don’t get clean water for drinking.

Or electricity.

Or building materials.

Always in search of the ideal situation … regardless of how long it takes.

The storms of the tropics would make life in a tent rather unpleasant.

I am not sure of the security situation in the tent campgrounds, but I imagine that protecting against theft would be difficult. Assuming someone had electricity to run a fan to help cool off, keeping the fan might be difficult.

Here are some large photos of Haiti, two years after the quake:

(some of them are combination photographs, showing the progress made during the past two years)

The tent camps don’t appear someplace I’d want to live for two years, with no end in sight.

I don’t mean to be flip, but when construction and services need to be done in a hurry, there are contractors available who can and do provide those services in places that are difficult to access. Of course, they do get criticized … but they do provide potable drinking water and other essential services.

We need to update this thread so see how folks in Haiti are doing seven years after the earthquake and five years after the Hurricane.

The billions ‘got spent’ but somehow not to build housing for the poor.

For example, The Red Cross had $500 million in Haitian relief money, but it built just 6 houses

What Does Haiti Have to Show for $13 Billion in Earthquake Aid?

Haiti is one of two countries on the island of Hispaniola.

The other country is the Dominican Republic. Which seems to manage its affairs very successfully.

If the fence between the two countries was to be moved 100 meters west each year, and as the additional land accrued to the Dominican Republic, then after a while, the entire island would become the Dominican Republic.

And while earthquakes and hurricanes would continue, the problems would gradually ease as the Dominican Republic gradually applied its successful approaches to the area of land currently referred to as Haiti.

I thought the earthquake in Haiti happened longer than 2 years ago.

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