Four-Year Anniversary of the Earthquake in Haiti

October 20, 2016

On January 12, 2010, a 7.0 magnitude struck Haiti about 16 miles from the capital of Port-au-Prince. Over the next 12 days, 52 after-shocks continued to rock the already destroyed country, the largest of which measured 4.5 on the Richter scale. Four years after the devastating quake 300,000 Haitians remain homeless while another 650,000 have contracted cholera. Following the earthquake, thousands of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), non-profits, and foreign governments rushed to Haiti in an effort to provide humanitarian relief. These organizations and various nations aimed to assist with rescue and recovery efforts, medical and food facilities, and long-term infrastructure reconstruction. The largest contributor, the United States pledged $3.6 billion towards earthquake relief yet recently questions have developed over the use of this funding.

The Government Accountability Office found the United State Agency for International Development (USAID) has not yet distributed a large amount of the money. The report released in June revealed that Haiti’s biggest projects overseen by USAID are still awaiting funding. It is estimated that merely 31% of funds have been spent. In September 2012, a law requiring the State Department to document the progression of reconstruction programs ended. As a result, Congress can no longer track the spending by USAID and other agencies. However, it is known that $170 million was used on an industrial park and power plant which was pushed forward by the Clinton Bush Haiti fund. The plant is located in northern Haiti, more than 80 miles away from the earthquake zone. Further frustration followed the release of a report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research, which uncovered that US companies were receiving the majority of reconstruction contracts. About 1,500 contracts were awarded to US authorities while less than one percent, or 23 contracts, were awarded to Haitian companies. USAID has also slowed much of their projects involving infrastructure.

Following the destruction of the earthquake, a huge cholera outbreak has resulted. Researchers believe cholera was brought to Haiti by United Nations aid workers beginning in October 2010. Since then more than 8,300 Haitians have died from cholera and approximately 650,000 are currently suffering from it. The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention found evidence that UN workers from Nepal were the source of the cholera, although a study from the UN denies this connection.

USAID has spoken out following the release of these reports, maintaining that all $1.3 billion it was allotted has been spent on humanitarian relief in Haiti. The agency also cited difficulty in acquiring land titles from the Haitian government for impeding reconstruction plans. One bright spot, highlighted by the American Red Cross, said that 90% of those displaced by the earthquake have resettled into a community. Despite small victories such as this, Haiti still remains devastated and continues to fight a cholera and other diseases. Hundreds of thousands still remain homeless and the country is far from being rebuilt, and with new reports of missing US aid money, it may be another four years before Haiti has fully recovered.

About Author(s)

Kelcey Hadden-Leggett
Kelcey Hadden-Leggett is an undergraduate student at the University of Pittsburgh pursuing a degree in Spanish, a Certificate in Latin American Studies, and a related area Certificate in Portuguese. She recently completed the Pitt in Ecuador program in the Amazon.