Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Rebuilding Haiti

Today, I came across this article about the rebuilding of Haiti following the January 8, 2010 earthquake that killed upwards of 200,000 people, displaced millions and destroyed the infrastructure of much of the capital city and surrounding area. It's been 11 months since the earthquake and rebuilding is happening at a snail's pace. Cholera outbreaks are now occurring and it makes sense given the impact on infrastructure including water supplies and the large number of IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons). So why can't Haiti get it together?

Haiti has more NGOs per capita than anywhere in the world, it is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and there are decades old issues of governance and infrastructure. There is no easy answer, the UN has created the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, Bill Clinton serves as the U.N. special envoy, Paul Farmer (founder of Partners in Health, the U.N. deputy special envoy, yet, in 11 months, barely 5% of the debris has been removed.

There is no easy answer here - in the U.S. we see similar challenges in the rebuilding of Ground Zero and New Orleans, post-Katrina.

It breaks my heart that this country continues to struggle and that whatever the solution will take years to implement. The situation in Haiti highlights the relationship of NGOs, government, bureaucracy, sustainability and progress. It also demonstrates that solutions to international problems require a great deal of coordination but also an understanding of the resources available. I believe that there are ways to ensure progress, yes, they will take time and investment, but if done correctly will have lasting impacts on this country.

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