Haiti, Revisited.


Soon after the quake in Haiti a contribution of $50 was made from my direction to help those poor souls. That minuscule donation went to the Red Cross and in total the organization received about a half a billion dollars from concerned people and organizations. They have spent over $150 million of it. That’s a good thing.

Doctors Without Borders has spent about $70 million dollars of the $112 million it received in donations. That is a good thing as well.

Let me give you some stats. There were 220,000 Haitians killed, 300,000 injured and at least a million left homeless. Today, there are 1.5 million in displacement camps living in mostly squalid conditions. Thievery, violence and rape are rampant events within those camps (which are full of vulnerable people like women and kids). Toilets? try getting in line behind 19 others, because there is one toilet to every 20 people in these camps–which estimates put at around 1300 spread out across the rubble-laden landscape.

It has turned into a Wild West of sorts, but I guess it was expected in a way. It’s generally a monumental task to rebuilt a small town devastated by a natural disaster–let alone an isolated country surrounded by water.

Guess how much money of the pledged $5.3 billion made by prominent countries (including the United States) has arrived to help rebuild Haiti? 2%. The four countries which have contributed as of July are Brazil, Norway, Estonia and Australia. The United States and Venezuela, pledging $1.15 billion and $1.32 billion respectively, have yet to send a penny. It’s been 7 months now since the January 12th quake.

I am not sure how to take it all, or if I should be surprised at the slow response of our U.S. government because most of the money is tied up inside the notoriously sluggish congressional appropriations process. Not only that, the money was committed for the 2010-2011 fiscal year, so nothing immediate. Come on, congress… get a move on it.

The topic of Haiti was brought up on this site soon after the quake because a lot of people had a bright idea of using shipping containers as sturdy housing. Ideas flew across the net from many sources and websites that shipping container homes could be the answer, not the end-all-solve-all, but a possible solution. None of it came to fruition of course, but at least our thoughts and ideas were valiant. The viability of just setting down containers and cutting out some openings and having people live in them is ludicrous, especially in the Caribbean. It would be adding insult to injury. Converted containers would just plain be unreasonable because of cost of transport and for the converted, ready-to-use units themselves. Where would the money come from? The U.S. government? Nah… sending shipping containers was, in retrospect, just a fantasy.

Still, we offered ideas soon after the tragedy because we gave a damn then–and still do (hopefully). If you could see the misery on the Haitian faces today, you would re-ignite your compassion for these poor people. Get off your asses, congress. Obama? Wyclef? Someone???

Want to see a starkly real existence (if you can call it that)? Take a look at some images here (VERY GRAPHIC): http://www.haitian-truth.org/photo-gallery-of-aftermath-in-haiti/ (opens new window).

  • Great to see you passion and support for this most difficult situation.

    Not intending to pick points but because you mentioned it using a few different numbers all supporting each other I am curious

    You said there is one toilet for every 20 people in the camps, that doesn’t seem to bad a ratio to me, or more correctly given the nature of the tragedy I would have thought it would be far worse.

    I think I have worked in offices where I am sure the ratio was less than 20:1 – was that a typo ? maybe 1 in 200 ?

  • Terry

    You are correct, its all relative I suppose. I have a profound vision of clutter and claustrophobia in the camps. I am the very, very distant observer with no idea how bad it could really be in that setting for the last six months. 20 per toilet seems like the better end of things. As for where I got that number, it was from an expose on public television two nights ago and it was first-hand commentary.

    To me, still not so pretty. Wishing these people the best.

  • We have been documenting the way people are using storage containers and it is so clear that Haiti could stand to benefit from an influx of shipping container homes and shelters. We are profiling such applications on our site at http://www.storagecontainer.com and I know Hait could use solar power generating containers like the Air Force is building now. I hope these people can get what they need.

  • Vanyali

    Why are people talking about buying deluxe converted shipping container homes for disaster areas? Of course that kind of first-world product is too expensive a solution to third-world problems. But there are people in Grenada, for example, who pick up the pieces of their blown-apart houses and rebuild out of debris every year after hurricane season. There are people living in dug-out dirt pits underneath the floorboards of their destroyed shacks. Do you think those people require drywall, wiring and Ikea kitchens in a donated shipping container home? No, they need a box to sit in that can withstand a storm. They can pretty it up themselves as time goes by with no help from us — after all, they’re already used to rebuilding their homes from scratch every year. Even naked, rust-damaged, retired “garbage” shipping containers can be a real benefit to a lot of people.

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