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Today's Top News
Haiti One Year On: Suffering, Lost Opportunities and Political Paralysis
1 million people still live in makeshift accommodation and only 5% of rubble left by earthquake cleared, Oxfam report says
Government dithering and lack of coordination between aid agencies and donors have crippled rebuilding efforts in Haiti, leaving the country in ruins almost a year after the earthquake, a report says today.
Nearly 1 million people remain under tents or tarpaulins and rubble still clogs Port-au-Prince, reflecting a "year of indecision" which has put recovery on hold, according to Oxfam.
The report, published a week before the anniversary of the earthquake, follows an announcement that political wrangling has delayed the second round of the disputed presidential election until February, leaving Haiti's leadership also in limbo.
The anniversary will fuel recriminations about why a wave of global sympathy and funding pledges appears to have dissolved into lost opportunities and continued suffering.
The destruction of the capital and death of an estimated 230,000 people, including civil servants and technicians crushed in collapsed ministries, prompted a huge international relief effort, with $2.1bn (£1.4bn) pledged. Thousands of aid agencies and missionary groups poured into the Caribbean nation. According to the UN's special envoy for Haiti, only 42% of that was spent.
Roland van Hauwermeiren, the country's Oxfam's director, said near paralysis in Haiti's government had been compounded by mistakes in the international response. "Too many donors from rich countries have pursued their own aid priorities and have not effectively coordinated amongst themselves or worked with the Haitian government," he said.
The agency accused the interim Haiti recovery commission, led by the former US president Bill Clinton and Haiti's prime minister, Jean-Max Bellerive, of being "lacklustre" in managing funds and improving Haiti's technical capacity to spend them.
An emblematic failure is the fact that only 5% of rubble has been cleared. Privately, aid agencies have said it is easier to raise funds for shelters and medical treatment than to clear debris which, one said, is "less emotional, less sexy".
Haiti's sense of drift was underlined by this week's announcement that final results from the 28 November presidential election, which was widely criticised as flawed and fraudulent, remain mired in backroom disputes between candidates, electoral authorities and foreign observers.
The runoff, originally slated for 16 January, will take place next month, said the provisional electoral council. It remains unclear if President Rene Preval's protege, Jude Celestin, will make the next round. "Today we are at a dangerous crossroads," Preval said last week.
To a litany of woes – unemployment, cholera, extreme poverty – an Amnesty International report today adds sexual violence. Armed men prey with impunity on girls and women in displacement camps, worsening the trauma of having lost homes, livelihoods and loved ones, says the report.
Gerardo Ducos, the advocacy group's Haiti researcher, said: "For the prevalence of sexual violence to end, the incoming government must ensure that the protection of women and girls in the camps is a priority,. This has so far been largely ignored in the response to the wider humanitarian crisis."
The report cites the case of Machou, a 14-year-old raped in March at a camp toilet in Carrefour Feuilles, who said: "A boy came in after me and opened the door. He gagged me with his hand and did what he wanted to do. He hit me. He punched me. I didn't go to the police because I don't know the boy, it wouldn't help. I feel really sad all the time. I'm afraid it will happen again."