Fried: $5 billion later and 500,000 Haitians still live in tents. Why?

By: /
January 23, 2012

Money is essential for a massive humanitarian response, but it is no guarantee that everything will be hunky-dory two years later. The number of homeless is down from 1.5 million to 520,000; and believe me, housing nearly a million people is no small feat. Much of the funding of course went not to housing, but to emergency water, sanitation, food, and medical attention, which saved lives even if it did not resolve Haitians’ long-term needs.

The reason more progress was not achieved is the same one why Haiti was so poor to start with: weak government institutions. Aid organizations, no matter how skilled and sensitive, are no replacement for a state capable of providing essential services and guiding the economy. Strengthening the state is a long-term undertaking that can’t be postponed. Sadly, aid donors and the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, have done little to date to build public institutional capacity. For more on this, read Oxfam’s Haiti: the slow road to reconstruction.