Haiti as a test of aid
That hardy perennial, Is aid effective?, is under discussion again.
There have been a few NGO comments on the slowness of post-2010 earthquake reconstruction in Haiti, and just before Christmas Oxfam reported that more than 86 per cent of people living in camps in the Delmas area of Port-au-Prince say that they were unable to leave these tent cities because they cannot afford to pay rent. This was followed by a warning from the International Organization for Migration that at least 84 per cent of the population living in Haitian camps in 2012 were already there in 2010.
On 30 December, an opinion piece by Ian Burrell in The Guardian in London headlined ‘Disastrous relief for Haiti’, said: “Three years on from the quake, it's evident reconstruction has been fatally undermined by greedy and incompetent outsiders.
“Haiti stands as the latest sad example of how self-aggrandising assumptions of the global aid industry can backfire so badly. The humanitarian business should reflect hard on the failures.”
This produced a retort from from Oxfam’s humanitarian director, Jane Cocking, in a letter to the newspaper, describing the article as “breathtakingly ill-informed.”
She admitted that many things went wrong in the chaos, but added, “Nevertheless, it was a remarkable response in that there was not a major breakdown of public order nor a major health crisis in the earthquake zone.”
Mark Lister, chief executive of Progressio, weighed in, too, saying he was pleased with some of Birrell’s points “but disappointed he doesn't go beyond a polemic aimed at the ‘humanitarian business’ to suggest how we move forward. Now, dedicated work is taking place in Haiti – much of it led by Haitian organisations.”
By chance, BBC radio4 is running a two-parter on whether aid is effective: the second part will be broadcast on Sunday 12 January.
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