Just Weeks After Matthew, Global Community Has Forgotten Haiti

In the three weeks that have passed since Hurricane Matthew devastated the Caribbean nation, survivors have faced a lack of shelter and access to clean water and health services. (Photo: E.U. Delegation to Haiti/flickr/cc)

Just Weeks After Matthew, Global Community Has Forgotten Haiti

United Nations criticized for raising paltry amount of promised aid package to compensate cholera victims

The international community has forgotten about Haiti in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, and immediate aid has dwindled to an insufficient long-term response as the island nation faces a new cholera epidemic amid recovery efforts, a broad spectrum of officials are warning.

"The low response is not fair to anybody, it is not fair to the people of Haiti, and frankly it's not fair to the people working in the response effort there at the moment," Dr. David Nabarro, an adviser to U.N. secretary general Ban Ki-moon, told the Independent on Friday.

In the three weeks that have passed since Hurricane Matthew devastated the Caribbean nation--the poorest in the Western Hemisphere--survivors have faced a lack of shelter and access to clean water and health services, particularly in remote regions, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) reported from the ground.

"During our medical consultations, our patients tell us they don't know how to feed their families," said Emmanuel Massart, MSF project coordinator in the large coastal department of Grand Anse. "Families lost livestock, fruit trees, and their entire personal reserves during the storm, and what is left is decaying because of insufficient protection from the rain."

MSF emergency medical coordinator Chiara Burzio added, "Women, men, and children are in a very vulnerable position. We are particularly concerned by the heightened risk of infectious diseases, cholera, and the deteriorating nutritional status of children under five in the isolated areas affected by the hurricane."

News this year offered further proof that cholera was introduced to Haiti by U.N. peacekeepers in 2010, whose mission there was later found to have poor hygiene standards. Vibereported Friday that the U.N. is rolling out a plan to compensate the nation's cholera victims with a $400 million response package, but critics, including Dr. Nabarro, say that strategy is more about the U.N. clearing its conscience--and it's failing at that, too.

Nabarro said nations around the world have so far come up with roughly a quarter of the U.N.'s $120 million appeal for immediate relief, and barely $1 million of the $200 million needed to assist families already harmed by cholera. According to the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IDJH), the cholera death toll there has reached 10,683.

Philip Alston, U.N. special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, also cautioned this week that "It will be a travesty of justice if, having moved so far in such a short time, the United Nations finds itself at the last moment unable to accept the principle of accountability."

At the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), research associate Jake Johnston elaborated:

An analysis of UN Financial Tracking Service data shows that the vast majority of the funds raised are destined for U.N. agencies or large, international NGOs. Reading press releases, government statements, and comments to the press, it would seem that many lessons have been learned after the devastating earthquake of 2010: the importance of coordinating with the government, of working with local institutions and organizations, of purchasing goods locally, and of building long-term sustainability in to an emergency response.

But, as one Haitian government official posed it to me, "we all learned the lessons, but have we found a solution?" Based on the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) appeal, the answer is not yet.

On his visit to Haiti last week, Secretary Ban said he was "disappointed" with the global response to the U.N.'s appeal. But in his remarks with Ban, Haiti's provisional president Jocelerme Privert noted, "There will always be hurricanes, there will always be catastrophes. We need concrete actions to mitigate the damage from the next hurricanes that have not hit yet."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.