Fragile progress in Haiti three years on, but more needs to be done

January 9, 2013
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Three years after the devastating earthquake that hit Haiti in January 2010, hundreds of thousands of people are still living under tents and tarpaulins and the country and its people continue to be very vulnerable, international agency Oxfam warned today.

“Thanks to the determination of the Haitian people and their government, and the generosity and solidarity of the public and governments around the world a lot of tangible progress has been made. However major challenges remain to rebuild Haiti after the earthquake and overturn decades of collective neglect and weak governance. Basically it´s three steps forward and two steps back,” said Andrew Pugh, Oxfam´s Country Director in Haiti.

Approximately 358,000 people are still living in over 500 camps scattered around Port-au-Prince and its surrounding areas. Their access to basic services, such as sanitation, health care and education is very limited and they are extremely vulnerable to any future shocks.

“At its peak after the earthquake around 1.5 million people were living in some 1, 500 displacement camps around the city, so the numbers have decreased steadily in the past three years. Progress has also been made in reconstruction, with many thousands of homes built, nearly all the rubble cleared and the ongoing construction of roads and outdoor lighting,” said Pugh.

The government has made efforts in the last year to lead the process of reconstruction. It proposed a return and relocation plan that has helped more than 53,000 people move back into neighborhoods, through cash grants, rental subsidies, and stepping up investments in neighborhoods to improve basic services. The government also established a housing policy, but the land available for reconstruction of homes is still insufficient and investment in basic services remains inadequate.

“What continues to be needed is a comprehensive, realistic long-term resettlement plan led by Haitians for Haitians. The international community has an important role to play, but it has to be a supportive role not an alternative role,” said Pugh.

While Haiti slowly recovered from the aftermath of the earthquake and the outbreak of cholera which began in October 2010, it was hit by two tropical storms in 2012. Tropical Storms Isaac and Sandy aggravated the chronic vulnerability of people already living in precarious situations.

“In the face of these ongoing challenges, the government and the international community must continue supporting those who are still living in the camps and help them transition to housing with guaranteed access to essential services and a safe environment,” adds Claude Saint-Pierre, Oxfam-Québec Director in Haiti. “The Haitian government, with the support of the international community, must strengthen its strategy to reduce the impact of future disasters, which threaten the lives and livelihoods of urban and rural families. All of the actors currently in Haiti must review their practices with a view to increasing their effectiveness and to better coordinate their actions, so as to continue supporting the most promising initiatives and enable the Haitian people to pursue the path of sustainable development.”

After the earthquake, and thanks to the generosity of the public, Oxfam received $98 million to mount an emergency response, followed by a further $8 million in 2011, bringing the total to $106 million. By January 2013 Oxfam had spent approximately 96 per cent of these funds.

In the first phase of the response Oxfam reached 500,000 people with access to drinking water and sanitation services (latrines, showers and public health promotion), cash-for-work programs and support for small businesses. Oxfam now is focusing on long-term development in the country, working with partners and the government to support the building of long-term sanitation infrastructure, employment creation through development of small enterprises, working with small scale agricultural farmers to access markets and working with communities to become more resilient to natural disasters.

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For further information, contact:

Juliet O’Neill
Oxfam Canada media officer

Charles Peleg
Media Officer in Haiti


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