aid in haiti, 4 years later
Owning your crisis: aid partnerships in Haiti
See the version of this article published on the IRIN site on February 21, 2014
PORT-AU-PRINCE – Following the 2010 Haiti earthquake, aid agencies were criticized for not doing enough to include or empower local authorities in emergency responses and recovery efforts. Four years later, IRIN has spoken to Haitians, government officials and aid agencies, to see whether this had changed.
In 2011, French think-tank URD synthesized lessons learned from several Haiti evaluations, in which they stressed aid agencies must do more to reinforce urban administrations at all levels nationally and in neighborhoods, when supporting rebuilding. They should do the same with urban planning agencies, development actors and the private sector, they stressed. And in short transfer of responsibility for coordination to technical ministries should speed up.
“Despite suffering terrible losses themselves, the State and local authorities had to coordinate relief operations,” noted URD.
In the early days of the emergency response, the already-weak Haitian government was crippled by the loss of personnel and infrastructure in the earthquake, so much of the effort was led by foreign aid workers with knowledge of disasters, but not necessarily of Haiti. Government officials were not always invited to meetings. And to make matters worse, cluster meetings were often held in English, effectively barring the participation of Creole and French-speaking Haitians.
Since then, eight of the original 12 sectors organized by the United Nations into ‘clusters’ to coordinate response have dissolved, their duties handed over to the government. The four clusters that remain active — camp management, sanitation, protection and health — reveal which sectors are still in the emergency relief phase.
Today, the Haitian government has assumed an increasing amount of responsibility in these four sectors, but will likely require the continued support, and in some cases leadership, of aid agencies for some time to come.
“The capacity of the Haitian authorities has evolved, but it remains weak,” said Fools-Gen Sanon, the Communal Coordinator of Port-au-Prince’s Pétion-Ville commune, which works closely with international actors to resolve persistent problems within its jurisdiction.
“We know how to deal with the [Haitian] people, but we don’t have the means to meet their needs. Our capacity has evolved, but that doesn’t mean we no longer need help and funding from NGOs,” he told IRIN.
If money is any indication, the biggest priority among Haiti’s persistent problems is the relocation of 147,000 internally-displaced persons (IDPs) still living in some 270 camps, by the latest count by the International Organization for Migration, the lead agency in the Camp Coordination and Camp Management cluster. The entire CCCM cluster will need a minimum budget of US$78 million (optimum budget: US$129 million) this year, according to the UN’s 2014 Humanitarian Action Plan.
Critics say that those numbers are too high four years after the earthquake, but IOM says their efforts and funds are producing results and the number of IDPs has dropped by over 90 percent from the original 1.5 million in 2010.
“After the earthquake, considering the levels of funding that were available, we would’ve hoped that it wouldn’t have taken this long,” said Bradley Mellicker, a disaster risk reduction specialist with the IOM and the coordinator of the Camp Coordination and Camp Management (CCCM) cluster. “But there were challenges that we hadn’t seen in other places, especially on that scale.”
These challenges included subsequent natural disasters, fake land titles, violent evictions, political instability, a cholera epidemic, extra duties inherited from dissolved clusters, and a decrease of funding, he said.
“[Humanitarian] funding cycles are short and tend to gear toward quantitative rather than qualitative results,” said Mellicker during a Skype interview from the Philippines, where he was temporarily posted to help with relief efforts there.
He says disaster-relief funding is easier to procure than development aid, evidenced by the decrease of international actors in Haiti from 515 in 2010 to 117 in 2013. With fewer dollars and partners, the effort to clear IDP camps may take even longer as it transitions from the cluster approach to it’s government partner, the Unit for the Construction of Housing and Public Buildings (using the French acronym UCLBP).
But things are moving forward. After navigating the narrow, hillside paths of the Acra 2 camp for nearly four years, relying heavily on his cane and one good leg, Charles Ivalien and his family moved into their new home on January 5 — not far from the camp in Pétion-Ville.
“The transition was very smooth,” the 52-year old retired teacher told IRIN. “IOM approved the house and we moved in shortly thereafter.”
A resident of Acra 2 has her photo taken (left) as Iréne Bellegarde (center) completes the registration process with IOM staff. Bellegarde lived in Acra 2 for nearly four years after the earthquake before she was relocated to new housing in January. During that time, she said that, apart from a few NGOs occasionally distributing non-food items, IDPs were on their own in the camp.