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Little Has Changed For Haitians Year After Earthquake

A young resident walks past an abandoned helicopter in the middle of La Piste camp Jan. 11, 2011 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Mario Tama, Getty Images.

Not much has changed for Haitians a year after a catastrophic earthquake hit the impoverished island nation a year ago.

Bodies continue to be removed from the rubble; only a small fraction of the debris — five percent — has been cleared; approximately one million people remain homeless, living in makeshift shelters and tent cities; a smattering of schools have opened; a cholera epidemic has claimed more than 3,600 lives; the political situation remains fragile and a significant amount of the aid promised by the international community has yet to be delivered.

Some have blamed Haitian leaders for the continued suffering of their citizens since Jan. 12, 2010, claiming President Rene Preval has shown a lack of leadership and has been ineffective in launching clear reconstruction efforts.

The United States donated approximately $1.4 billion but only 38 per cent of that has actually been spent to help survivors, according to a survey of 60 leading relief groups. Canada repaid its share of Haitian debt.

Oxfam is holding the international community to account, claiming it hasn’t done enough to ensure good governance in the devastated nation and that donors aren’t coordinating their efforts effectively and consulting with the Haitian people.

Big promises were made, but many remain unfulfilled.

Ericq Pierre, Haiti’s representative to the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington said there was an “excess of optimism” within the international community as to just how fast Haiti could be rebuilt.

RAND, a U.S.-based organization, blames both donors and the Haitian government for the slow pace at which rubble is being removed. It claims Haitian workers weren’t supplied with the necessary and basic equipment required for such work, including boots, gloves and hard hats. Heavy equipment has been left stuck at the border, blocked by customs officials.

Haitians’ basic necessities have yet to be met. Only 15 per cent of the desperately needed temporary shelters have been erected and there are only a few permanent water and sanitation facilities.

With files from the Association Press.