Two and a half months after the Haiti earthquake daily life is resuming with the help of a drip feed of international aid. On Wednesday international donors meet in New York for a conference to evaluate Haiti’s reconstruction needs. Humanitarian aid will continue, but the future stability and growth of the country needs to be guaranteed, too. And there is a determination not to just rebuild what was already a very shaky society.
The 12th of January disaster killed over 220,000 people, and made 1.5 million homeless. The economic damage and loss of revenue is estimated at between 8 and 14 billion dollars, (up to 10.5B euros), or 120% of impoverished Haiti’s gross domestic product.
Port au Prince, where 65% of Haiti’s economic activity was located, is ruined. 100,000 houses are destroyed, 200,000 are damaged, 1300 schools and 50 hospitals and medical centres have collapsed.
All official buildings , from the presidential palace to ministries, courthouses, parliament and police stations are out of action. The state has been weakened just at the time it is needed most. The population has lost confidence in its leaders, who are bitterly criticised. The aid effort has to take all this into account.
Haiti needs an estimated 11.5 billion dollars, (8.5B euros), over the next 10 or 20 years, and Wednesday should see the first slice of 3.8 billion, (2.8B euros), signed over, to cover the needs of the next 18 months. The government has asked for an emergency 350 million, (260 million euros), to maintain public services and pay civil servant’s salaries.
The immediate objective is to stop street violence. Many survivors are furious about the slow arrival of aid, and blame the president and government. Many claim the aid is lining the pockets of the elite.
The donors want to establish a reconstruction strategy, including the creation of a committee jointly managed by the Haitian government and the United Nations. All the partners insist on the need to decentralise economic activity and create development and employment hotspots around the country, not just in the capital.
The ultimate goal is to transform one of the world’s poorest countries into a self-sufficient economy. Investment must be diversified, especially in agriculture. The vital reconstruction offers the paradoxical chance for Haiti to escape from its vicious circle of poverty and political instability.