Why Haiti has not Recovered a Decade After the Earthquake

“We are free today because we are stronger; we will be slaves again when the government becomes the stronger,” said Toussaint Louverture, leader of the Haitian Revolution. Two centuries and two decades later, Haiti is not free.

On January 12, 2020, an earthquake claiming an estimated 316,000 lives devastated the country. Measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale, it left 1.5 million Haitians injured and another 1.5 million homeless.

The international community reacted en mass, pledging $13.3 billion to support the decimated Caribbean country.

“The international community was very efficient during three or four months to provide water, shelter in the form of tents and provisional shelters, provide medicine, food, etc.,” said Leslie Voltaire, a Haitian urban planner.

Efforts to rebuild Haiti, however, failed. Very few permanent houses have been built and notable landmarks – the presidential palace and the cathedral – have not been rebuilt. The Haitian government has been accused of mismanaging funds and keeping aid for themselves. Even worse, humanitarian ground often focuses on giving Haitians fish rather than teaching them how to fish, further destroying Haiti’s already broken economy.

“Negative aid … is undermining the natural development of the Haitian people,” Bertrhude Albert, founder of P4H Global, a non-profit organisation that trains and properly equips teachers in Haiti, said.

“Instead of giving people T-shirts, they are begging for us to train them how to make their own T-shirts. Instead of giving them American rice, they want us to revitalize their rice industry. There are a lot of missionaries still going to Haiti, but we are giving the inappropriate type of aid.”

Aid, nevertheless, stopped pouring in, as charity and humanitarian organisations gave up on the country. To make matters worse, many who had pledged financial aid to Haiti would renege on their promises.

“It has been a disaster,” Voltaire continued. “All the displaced people are found in Canaan or other slums area. They don’t have real shelter. They have been building by themselves and without proper guidance by the state. If there is another earthquake it will crumble again.”

In December last year, it was reported that UN peacekeepers to Haiti had offered transactional sex to many girls and women in exchange for money, abandoning them once they became pregnant. Some girls and women had been raped.

“All day, I heard women who are complaining about the sexual violence that MINUSTAH [UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti] did to them. And they had given them AIDS through sexual violence. Some of them are pregnant,” a local from Cité Soleil said.

Another local described the situation that UN peacekeepers left behind: “The soldiers destroy these young girls’ futures by getting them pregnant with a couple of babies and abandoning them.

“Basically, these actions of the soldiers can have a negative impact on the society and the country in general because these young girls could have been lawyers, doctors or anything that would have helped Haiti tomorrow … Now some of them are walking in the street, or in the flea market and other places with a basket over their head selling oranges, peppers, and other goods to raise children they have with the MINUSTAH soldiers.”

The same troubles plague Haiti today as did the country after its independence. Under the unlawful Haiti indemnity controversy, France would demand reparations worth FRF150 million from Haiti. Haiti was to pay for French slaveholders’ property lost during the revolution. The reparations would cripple the country right from its independence.

Today, the country continues to putrefy, in part because of outside sources corrupting its internal system. Following the earthquake, France agreed to cancel the country’s debt, but this was not enough. When activists called upon the former colonial power to return reparations to Haiti (worth $40bn) for the sum it had paid, France refused.

Haiti has a long history of governmental corruption. In 2019, the country faced three different nationwide shutdowns, as citizens protested against Jovenel Moise’s presidency. The protesters barricaded streets and prevented movement within the capital and between cities. The countrywide lockdown occurred after protesters demanded the resignation of President Jovenel. Elections that were supposed to occur in October 2019 have been postponed indefinitely.

The same troubles plague Haiti as plagued its past. The earthquake only exacerbated the country’s political and financial strife.

“As a nation, as a state, we have failed,” Voltaire added. Despite Louverture’s proclamation, Haiti is enslaved once again.

“Everything is falling apart,” said Haiti expert, Robert Fatton, at the University of Virginia. “There is a complete vacuum of authority. There is massive popular discontent against Jovenel and his government, but the opposition doesn’t seem to have the strength to force him out, and the international community, they may dislike Jovenel but they don’t see any alternative.”

“I am extremely pessimistic about the country’s future. The only good thing I can say is that history is full of surprises and unexpected developments.

“No one at the time could have predicted the Haitian Revolution; no one predicted the fall of the Berlin Wall.

“In addition, several devastated countries, which were considered corrupt basket cases, managed phenomenal economic and political developments in the midterm and long term; see the examples of South Korea, or more recently Rwanda.”

In the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide, Rwanda taught itself to fish. Haiti must do the same before anarchy and destruction take over.