Foreign aid is not the Answer: What the World can Learn from Haiti
As the earthquake rocked the country and destroyed lives from the root, the global community rushed in swiftly to help a crushed nation; rough estimates suggest that over three hundred thousand lives were lost to the earthquake and about twelve billion dollars pledged with a large portion actually donated to the nation from private and public donations alone. Over ten years later, Haiti lies low, as a country struggled to rebuild itself. Foreign aid is not the answer. Here is what the world can learn from Haiti’s long-term dependency on foreign aid.
One would imagine that given the generously large amount of funds that have been donated to better the fate of citizens of Haiti, then the country would have successfully overcome the challenges created by the catastrophe in the last couple of years, but it’s the complete opposite. The country remains significantly poor and plagued by issues such as cholera. The first cholera outbreak was experienced in 2010 because the country, following the earthquake, functioned with a failed waste management system in the capital city with over three million people; nothing short of a possibility that left several thousand people with no choice but to bath and drink untreated water. In the countryside, people drink the untreated water from the river, which is the main way people contracted the bacteria after UN troops have dumped contaminated sewer in the Artibonite river. Added that to a severe sanitation problem has been a recipe for a disaster. Ten thousand people die from this disease. According to a post in The Guardian from December 2010, despite having nearly 12,000 non-governmental aid agencies present in Haiti at that time, little effort was being made to tackle the issue of sanitation; in addition, the report suggested that people living in Cité Soleil, for instance, at that time had virtually no access to clean, portable and chlorinated drinking water. While this may have been expected in a situation where no support or fund was made available, it is simply incomprehensible when one examines the fact that numerous aid agencies under the UN water-and-sanitation cluster received funds to tackle the issue of water and sanitation. All these issues together led to a severe cholera outbreak that claimed the lives of so many Haitians.
It is public knowledge that Haiti has for over sixty years received billions of US Dollars that was meant to tackle issues of reconstruction and development in the country, but the country remains in near shambles, globally sited as one of the worst. Also, the aid landscape as we have it in recent times is characterized by a cluster system that operates under sanitation, health, water and shelter, the aim of which is to bring together numerous aid organizations, irrespective of their size and capacity under one umbrella and operative unit in Haiti. While the United Nations has successfully put this into play with over four hundred and twenty aid organizations clustered under the health sector alone. Sadly, this collaboration yielded little effect as the cholera outbreak persisted indefinitely, experts predicted that the outbreak continued to claim countless lives in the years that followed. This situation helps to drive home the point that the aid community, in general, has been ineffective in its attempt to solve the large-scale mortality among the Haitian population and a country ailed by incessant catastrophes.
Towards the end of the year 2014, foreign aid funds accrued to about ten billion US Dollars from several individuals, international governments, non-governmental organizations and foundations, even companies, all in a bid to help Haiti recover from the tragedy of the earthquake. According to a web publication by Miamiherald.com, foreign aid for Haiti is predicted to increase to over sixty billion US Dollars before the year 2020. So, one would really wonder why just a handful of the country’s population is better off, the Haitian story following the earthquake has been principally about funds mismanagement and project failures. We can clearly say that those who need the aid the most have received very little of it, the United Nation suggest that only a meager 9.1% of pledged and donated sums have been directed and used for the construction and rehabilitation of Haiti by the government and only 1.6% of the total sum has been utilized for the rehabilitation of the people through private sector and job creation. In addition, more than 60% of the country’s population remains in poverty, as they are forced to survive daily on less $1.25.
While money has gone down the foreign aid’s drain in Haiti, roughly estimated 30 % of people are currently employed in Haiti. Prior to the earthquake, the country had a 9.8 million size population, only less than half of whom were gainfully employed, as the facts show, the country was perhaps better off before the earthquake than it is now even though so much has been donated to improve its condition in from of disaster relief strategies. There are more than a few things that the world can learn from Haiti:
- To begin with it is important to understand that for a nation to develop following severe levels of catastrophe and damage, the people need to have control of the rehabilitation process.
- While the international agencies may be moved by conditions of the country, the people affected remain in the best position to solve their problems, do well to empower them and help them create solutions for themselves.
- Efforts should be redirected towards strengthening the economy itself, rather than offshoots bad strategy to fix the symptoms.
- As soon as relief has helped the wounded and clear the roads etc., the most important issue to be addressed is the economic growth of the nation as well as job creation. However, we see that this has not been the focus of the aid in the past seven years.
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