In 2010, a massive earthquake struck Haiti causing massive destruction in the City of Port au Prince and the smaller towns along the northern peninsula of the island. Several towns or small cities were utterly flattened. The death toll is estimated to have been as high as 300,000. The world responded and billions of dollars were pledged to assist the failed nation state to recover and rebuild. The NGO’s, foreign powers, and charitable organizations all rushed in to help…
Six years later, if you visit Haiti – not a hell of a lot has changed.
A fresh disaster, Hurricane Matthew has visited the island, and once again we are treated to dire reports –
Haiti started burying some of its dead in mass graves in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, a government official said on Sunday, as cholera spread in the devastated southwest and the death toll from the storm rose to 1,000 people.
The powerful hurricane, the fiercest Caribbean storm in nearly a decade, slammed into Haiti on Tuesday with 145 mile-per-hour (233 kph) winds and torrential rains that left 1.4 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said.
A Reuters tally of numbers from local officials showed that 1,000 people were killed by the storm in Haiti, which has a population of about 10 million and is the poorest country in the Americas.
The official death toll from the central civil protection agency is 336, a slower count because officials must visit each village to confirm the numbers.
Authorities had to start burying the dead in mass graves in Jeremie because the bodies were starting to decompose, said Kedner Frenel, the most senior central government official in the Grand’Anse region on Haiti’s western peninsula.
Frenel said 522 people were killed in Grand’Anse alone. A tally of deaths reported by mayors from 15 of 18 municipalities in Sud Department on the south side of the peninsula showed 386 people there. In the rest of the country, 92 people were killed, the same tally showed.
Frenel said there was great concern about cholera spreading, and that authorities were focused on getting water, food and medication to the thousands of people living in shelters.
Cholera causes severe diarrhea and can kill within hours if untreated. It is spread through contaminated water and has a short incubation period, which leads to rapid outbreaks.
Government teams fanned out across the hard-hit southwestern tip of the country over the weekend to repair treatment centers and reach the epicenter of one outbreak.
Once again the NGOs and charitable organizations are calling for money to help Haiti.
The response this time has been decidedly muted.
Of the $12 billion promised to Haiti after the earthquake for major infrastructure rebuilding, only about $600 million, mostly spent in humanitarian aid was ever actually spent. The monies promised for the major infrastructure projects, a new Airport, a sewage treatment plans, new power plants, drinking water processing, storm drainage…was never spent.
Why? Largely because of the Haitian Government, and the Haitians themselves.
Bill Clinton, through the Clinton-Bush Foundation formed the International Haitian Reconstruction Commission. It was funded by promised donations to over $3 billion. The Foundation only spent about $300 million of that. The IHRC Commission was made up of 22 voting members, with final approval for all projects by the Committee Chair Haitian Prime Minister Jean Max Bellerive. Chairman Bellerive tabled all of the major development projects, including the Airport, Septic plant, water processing, and storm drainage. So none of those projects got done.
Bill Clinton’s failure was in believing the Haitian Ministers would forgo the usual corruption and act in the best interest of the country…They didn’t.
A lot of the problems the country experienced with Matthew could have been mitigated or averted.
Here is an example. The reason the earthquake was so particularly devastating in Haiti was because of the low grade form of concrete utilized in most Haitian buildings. Concrete can be made with a variety of sand, but the type of sand used vastly affects the strength of the concrete. Haiti, unlike many of the islands in the Caribbean was formed by geological uplift from the bottom of the ocean. You dig anywhere in Haiti 12 inches below ground and you hit granite. Faced with the prospect of importing silica based sand, which makes the strongest concrete, Haitians used the cheaper locally acquired granite sand, resulting in a concrete at least 300% weaker. In engineering terms a concrete crumbling at 1000 psi, vs 3300 psi used to commonly build structures in the US, and even 7000 psi used to built airport runways and special structures. What you get from Granite sand is a concrete which vaporizes when shaken by an earthquake. When I arrived in Haiti after the earthquake, the entire city of Port au Prince was covered in an inch thick layer of concrete dust. In the frenetic rebuilding after the earthquake, the Haitian Government had the choice to set standards as to the types of materials used. They refused. So construction continued with the sub-par concrete. The new buildings fell…Again, during Matthew. And it wasn’t an issue of cost per say. My company investigated having barges bring in sand from Louisiana, and over 1,000 cubic yards a clip. The cost was not prohibitive (less than $10-20 million for 1 million cubic yards), and could have easily been covered by one of the grants to give the necessary sand to the public.
You can’t help somebody whose interest aren’t in helping themselves. It’s sad, and I cry for the innocent civilians… But there is little anyone can do about it.
Perhaps that is why there isn’t quite the outpouring of sympathy anymore.