How the International Community Failed Haiti

Hundreds of Thousands Homeless in Haiti Three Years After the Earthquake Despite Billions in Aid Funneled to NGOs, Contractors and Internationals

By Bill Quigley and Amber Ramanauskas
January 17, 2013 –

Aid?Despite billions in aid which were supposed to go to the Haitian people, hundreds of thousands are still homeless, living in shanty tent camps as the effects from the earthquake of January 12, 2010 remain.

The earthquake devastated Haiti in January 2010 killing, according to Oxfam International, 250,000 people and injuring another 300,000. 360,000 Haitians are still displaced and living hand to mouth in 496 tent camps across the country according to the International Organization of Migration. Most eat only one meal a day.

Cholera followed the earthquake. Now widely blamed on poor sanitation by UN troops, it has claimed 7,750 lives and sickened over a half a million. The Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti and their Haitian partner Bureau des Avocats Internationaux have filed legal claims against the UN on behalf of thousands of cholera victims. Recently the Haitian government likewise demanded over $2 billion from the international community to address the scourge of cholera.

Haiti was already the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere with 55 percent of the population living below the poverty line of $1.25 a day. About 60 percent of the population is engaged in agriculture, the primary source of income in rural areas. Haiti imports more than 55 percent of its food. The average Haitian eats only 73 percent of the daily minimum recommended by the World Health Organization. Even before the earthquake 40 percent of households (3.8 million people) were undernourished and 3 of 10 children suffered from chronic malnutrition.

In November 2012, Hurricane Sandy leveled yet another severe blow to the hemisphere’s poorest country. Wind and twenty inches of rain from Hurricane Sandy killed over 50 people, damaged dozens of cholera centers, and badly hurt already struggling farming communities.

Despite an outpouring of global compassion, some estimate as high as $3 billion in individual donations and another $6 billion in governmental assistance, too little has changed. Part of the problem is that the international community and non-government organizations (Haiti has sometimes been called the Republic of NGOs) has bypassed Haitian non-governmental agencies and the Haitian government itself. The Center for Global Development analysis of where they money went concluded that overall less than 10% went to the government of Haiti and less than 1% went to Haitian organizations and businesses. A full one-third of the humanitarian funding for Haiti was actually returned to donor countries to reimburse them for their own civil and military work in the country and the majority of the rest went to international NGOs and private contractors.

With hundreds of thousands of people still displaced, the international community has built less than 5000 new homes. Despite the fact that crime and murder are low in Haiti (Haiti had a murder rate of 6.9 of every hundred thousand, while New Orleans has a rate of 58), huge amounts of money are spent on a UN force which many Haitians do not want. The annual budget of the United Nations “peacekeeping” mission, MINUSTAH for 2012-2013 or $644 million would pay for the construction of more than 58,000 homes at $11,000 per home.

There are many stories of projects hatched by big names in the international community into which millions of donated dollars were poured only to be abandoned because the result was of no use to the Haitian people. For example, internationals created a model housing community in Zoranje. A two million dollar project built 60 houses which now sit abandoned according to Haiti Grassroots Watch.

Deborah Sontag in the New York Times tells the stories of many other bungles in a critical article which reported only a very small percentage of the funds have been focused on creating permanent housing for the hundreds of thousands displaced. Many expect 200,000 will be still in displacement camps a year from now.

The majority of the hundreds of thousands of people still displaced by the earthquake have no other housing options. Those who were renters cannot find places to stay because there is a dramatic shortage of rental housing. Many of those who owned homes before the earthquake have been forced to move back into their despite the fact that these homes are unsafe. A survey by USAID found that housing options are so few that people have moved back into over 50,000 “red” buildings which engineers said should be demolished.

One new program, 16/6, promises to pay a one-time $500 maximum rental subsidy for a family to relocate from tent camps but this program will only benefit a tiny percentage of the displaced population because it is currently available only for about 5% of the people displaced. It is limited to those living in the 6 most visible public camps in Port au Prince. With the housing shortage in Port-au-Prince there are few places available to rent even with a subsidy.

Most of the people living under tents are on private property and are subjected to official and private violence in forced evictions according to Oxfam. Over 60,000 have been forcibly evicted from over 150 tent camps with little legal protection. Oxfam reports many in camps fear leaving their camps to seek work or food worried that their tents and belongings will be destroyed in their absence.

Dozens of Haitian human rights organizations and international allies are organizing against forced evictions in a campaign called Under Tents Haiti.

The fact that these problems remain despite billions in aid is mostly the result of the failure of the international community to connect with Haitian civil society and to work with the Haitian government. Certainly the Haitian government has demonstrated problems but how can a nation be expected to grow unless it leads its own reconstruction? Likewise, Haitian civil society, its churches, its human rights and community organizations, can be real partners in the rebuilding of the country. But the international community has to take the time to work in a respectful relationship with Haiti. Or else the disasters of the earthquake and hurricanes will keep hammering our sisters and brothers in Haiti, the people in our hemisphere who have already been victimized far too frequently.

Bill Quigley is a human rights lawyer and law professor at Loyola University New Orleans and Associate Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). You can reach Bill at

Amber Ramanauskas is a lawyer and human rights researcher. She can be reached at:

Thanks to Sophia Mire and Vladimir Laguerre for their help. A copy of this article with full sources is available.

Reproduced by consent of the author from:

6 thoughts on “How the International Community Failed Haiti”

  1. It saddens me to know that millions of dollars have been raised to assist the Haitian people since the earthquake, to date many people are still sleeping in tents. Many died of Cholera, some were shot and killed many women were raped, how much more can they take? Who is responsible for the money, what was it used for and when will the suffering people of Haiti receive some support. I understand that the NGO,s are having a wonderful time , I have seen the video while the people are suffering. Haven,t they suffered enough,where id=s the humanity? . Many of their children have been taken out of Haiti only God alone knows what will be their faith. The Haitian government should ask for them to return to their family.

    I plead with those who are in charge to help the people to restore at lease some of their dignity, self-worth and self esteem. Please use the millions of dollars for the purpose it was raised for.

  2. The problem is not money, no nation in the Western Hemisphere received as much money as Haiti did. Rebuilding a nation such as Haiti will take time. Perhaps even another decade.

  3. So , more importantly Mamboo, what is de problem with your Trinidad and Tobago?Is it money,only dem historically maligned alleged criminal Afrikans ,on whose ancestors blood ,dis country was built- with no compensation , in de end , or rather,dat ever divisive , selfish , culturally depraved, psycologically insecure,unpatriotic , ‘bunch oh unmentionables?’
    Tell me something,if white Europeans , and Yankees had targeted your India, Pakistan , BAngladesh, Nephal, or Sri Lanka, in similar fashion ,as was done to de unfortunate Hatians, since UNcle ,Toussaint, and his fellow Black Jacobins, kicked out Napolean, and his fellow savage Frenchmen, then they too might have suffered similar fate , yes?
    If any of those phony democracies, mentioned above , had their President kidnapped by a Superpower, then forced to repeatedly accept American controlled puppets, then who knows how many decades more they would need to quickly assume ‘Fail State status?’
    Whether, it’s T&T,Haiti,Afrika, or the rest of de globe , try to develop a ‘lil bit oh respect/empathy/apprecition ,for de other ,’and who knows , some would likewise be returned you , and de rest of the tribe , mi amigo?
    I wish you nd kind ,well.

  4. It is painful that a country that has always suffered continue to suffer even in times of plenty all around. My heart cry for Haiti. But fixing this country will take not just money, but linking with the government to put certain survival actions in place.As rebuilding can be done.It will be a slow process.

  5. You know folks sometimes the naivety of my people ,are so laughable , that sometimes in de words my late ,and extremely wise grandmom, “you feel you could cry, just like Lisa perhaps.”
    Hre are the fact:-The Haitian people ,since they had the audicity to liberate themselves from Francophone ,slave owning savages , under the great Afrikan Toussaint , were repeatedly pumished – up to present time -by Europeans , where ever they were located , starting with North America- yet few Global Afrikans are perturb.
    Fast forward to 2013, and in like manner , ( just as they were in the past) would be punished , if influential PP supporter ,Sat Maharaj, has his way ,since they had some gumption to exercise their constitutional rights , and vote as they deem fit ,yet Afro Trinis , as well as folks of good conscience , are mainly silent , and we wonder why?
    Look Sistaz Lasa, tears are ‘well ,and dandy ,’but no oppressed people ,were ever liberated as a result of crocodile tears.I am referring to, Unempowered indeginious folks, politically disenfranchised , regional elements, abused women, neglected kids, low caste economically ignored, criminals in a police state ,without means to obtain equal playing field justice, and the list ones on.
    Answer me the following questions ,’Sistaz Lisa’:- If Haiti was made up of a majority of white , and say , Jewish folks, do you think the situation would be the same,and if as I suspect , your answer is no, why do you think not?
    Care to guess how ,in the aftermath of a devastating WW2, Europe remained so peaceful, and was able to develop so sustainably, via the much proclaimed EU, and NATO?
    You bet ,starting with the Marshall Plan , their white counterparts in America ,ensured such. Think a country the size of New Jersey , in the America adoring ,Middle Eastern fiefdom , of Israel, just evolved into a powerful, nuclear, economic , and political giant , with the 3 most powerful military in the world , while recieving billions of yearly aid from America , just by magic?
    Nope , but the concerted efforts of her people globally , to ensure ,it became a symbol for Jewish resiliency, and success, that would never again ,succumb to another Holocaust did .
    As for Afrikans, starting with Haiti? Ask any Afrikan kid , if their Teacher, ever recommended , The Black Jacobins , by T&T own reknown author, activist, and philosopher , in CLR James , and they’ll laugh at you.They all know of the evils of Haitian Voodoo however, and that ghashly , Haitian economic immigrants, should be kept out of all countries – especially America -since they transmit AIDS ,just because some white racist News anchor , parrot , such garbage.

    You see people , self pitiful gestures, while awaiting positive responses due to the kind nature of other races ,and worst yet , praying to that revengeful, blue eyed ,sky god , ain’t the solution for global Afrikans in distress.
    We stood idly by and applaud self serving ,NGO fake police , and conniving , racist media agents , who condem Fugees own Whycliff Jean,as some Civil Society crook , when all he wanted to do was help his people.
    We dismissed him,as some clueless American made rapper , with no good intention, but embrace another musician for President, and this is what we get.
    We applauded Yankee Cowboy , Iran / Contra criminal , Ronald Reagan , as he unleashed his assault on Afrikan folks , which resulted in the murder of Grenada Maurice BIshop , and look where Grenada is today.
    When Dr Walter Rodney was murdered in Guyana by fake Afrikan bozo Forbes Burnam , and thousands of Afrikan murdered during white , evil Jim JOnes cultish forays, all under the watchful eyes of Burnam ,and socialist pal CHedi Jagan , Afrikans smiled across the region, while others inwardly cheered, and so this evolved into pathetic modern Guyana .
    We stand by and allow political bandits to further divide Sudan , via some phony democratic operation,and we see how that political shenanigans ,has evolved into an international refugee cesspool.
    We applauded when Bill Clinton , and his bandits kidnapped FAther Aristied , Haiti’s first elected BLack Liberation Theology ,elected President, and yet is surprise , that the rabid , mainly half breed , Mullato elites , are still raping that country.
    In the interim ,Irish singer BUno, decadent America singer MAdonna , morally suspect Angela Jolie, GEorge Clooney, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and finally Sean Penn , are all made to look like heros amongst Afrikan peoples , even as they push their own self serving ,narrow agendas.Go figure!
    Keep crying , and or praying Lisa ,for maybe a miracle is in the works.
    Hope I did not offend your sensibilities . Some of my very insecuure ,fellow bloggers , are in such desperate need to get their egos massage, on dis here information highway, that it ain’t even funny anymore.
    Tell dem for me Lisa , that they are looking at the wrong person my friend.For de record m too much is at stake.
    A greedy 400 pound bozo , with an insatiable penchant for T bone stakes , greesy French fries, KFC, creamy milk shakes , and buffet eating ,needs a reality check , not lame platitudes by the well intentioned, health gurus, dear friends ,or doctors.
    Similarly , where socio political despair abounds …..? Well…., you get the message my dear new friend Lisa.At least , I hope so- on both score .
    Luv Humanity folks!

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