ART BY SHIRLEEN KWONG
It only took thirty seconds for Haiti’s economy, government, infrastructure, and population to be ravaged—and with ten years passing, the country has yet to recover.
On January 12, 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck the capital of Haiti, Port-au-Prince, into silence. The immediate shock evoked multiple response groups across the globe to aid the island country. With numerous countries pledging more than a total of 8.3 billion dollars in helping Haiti, it should be expected that there was at least some progress made to Haiti’s situation. Right?
However, as today marks a decade after the disaster, Haiti has shown no signs of improvement, and even with the efforts of many non-governmental organizations (NGOs), it has solemnly gotten worse. One question remains: If the donations were not used to recover Haiti’s facilities, where exactly did the money go?
While it was a global effort made by separate countries, the U.S. comes out on top for making the largest donation, hence, highly impacting Haiti. Unfortunately, however, Haiti marks yet another case of the U.S.’s lack of planning with extensive promises that were never fulfilled for years since the incident.
Ultimately, the U.S.’s several aid programs’ mistreatments of funds have played an integral role in the stagnant progression in Haiti’s recovery efforts.
Particularly, many of the promises dedicated to Haiti’s recovery have been neglected. According to the Congressional Research Office, of the 1.6 billion donated for humanitarian relief, none of the money was allocated directly to public Haiti institutions, instead, about 40 percent went to the U.S. military. Haiti’s United Nations deputy special envoy even reported that less than one percent of relief aid was donated to the institutions. Essentially, this was not necessarily “aid” at all, as almost all of the funds went to foreign organizations.
Moreover, money was being spent on the wrong causes, and especially in the wrong hands. For example, since the 1990s, the Clinton Foundation has been an avid supporter of Haiti, overseeing 4.4 billion dollars that Congress designated for recovery aid by the U.S. Agency for International Development. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have expressed their desire to improve Haiti’s economy through creating an infrastructure that attracts investments and creates stable jobs. Specifically, a quarter of the money that was left was spent on a project for a new industrial park in Caracol, an area completely untouched by the earthquake. The Clinton Foundation has committed its efforts to the building of the park instead of investing in the actual problem: the damages of the earthquake. As evidenced by the malicious usage of relief money, it is obvious that Haiti’s situation is not improving because of unnecessary and risky investments that lead further away from the solution.
Additionally, this has also made many Haitians lose land and jobs in the process. According to the Haitian Times, thousands of farmers and families had lost their source of income and food security to make room for the Caracol Industrial Park. While families were ultimately compensated, the results showed more or less of a disappointment and a waste of time to the Clinton Foundation as the number of created jobs was only about 1.6 percent of the expected amount.
With this, the poor allocation of resources has ultimately led to Haiti’s inability to recover from the earthquake. In 2012, the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) revealed 3.67 million Haitians were suffering under a massive hunger crisis—a crisis that was the result of the U.S. food aid that helped citizens to access cheap food, but in the end, due to the U.S.’s lack of planning, it drove many Haitian farmers off the land.
Ironically, with the promise to focus on helping Haiti and the people’s needs, the U.S.’s intention to build certain infrastructures and factories that harm the environment in order to fix Haiti’s faltering economy will ultimately lead to Haiti becoming more susceptible against the looming threat of climate change.
According to In These Times, Haitian workers are paid less than six dollars a day to sew up clothing for American brands like Gap, Walmart, and Target. Although Haiti is in great need of work to revitalize the economy, however, the extremely underpaid jobs introduced many problems that include increased exposure to pollution. As a result, Haiti is forced to face severe droughts and disastrous events like Hurricane Matthew for which they are not well-prepared.
It should be noted that it is not the first time the U.S. has become the prime example that long-term help can become disadvantageous for both parties. The U.S. foreign aid has hindered more than helped in past situations like Haiti’s. U.S. foreign aid causes many problems to both sides as the U.S. loses funds while the people still suffer under a fraudulent government. In addition, it loses the purpose of aiding them as long-term support can cause any country to grow dependent on the United States which prevents the country to reform and improve.
To clarify, it is likely that the best solution is to leave Haiti alone. Of course, not by completely abandoning them, but for U.S. organizations to put in more support for Haitian institutions to help their own country. While it is true that Haiti suffers from economic debacles and political crises, however, as shown in ten years of foreign aid efforts, it is unlikely that more U.S. aid groups are what Haiti needs.