by Rhodri C. Williams
After blogging quite a lot on Haiti up till the New York donors’ conference back in March, my attention wandered a bit to other issues and regions. However, its been impossible to avoid noticing a steady drumbeat of reports over the last weeks indicating that a number of key pillars of the shelter and durable solutions strategies endorsed in New York seem to be faltering just as the new rainy season closes in on the beleaguered country.
Rebuilding after a disaster of the magnitude of Haiti’s quake will inevitably be a fraught process, subject to setbacks and delays. Even in relatively better off and better prepared Chile, IFRC reports that shelter and health issues remain a serious concern for those affected by the February quake there. But what is painful about the current impasse in Haiti is how quickly the cautious optimism generated in the run-up to the donor conference seems to be bogging down in a slurry of indecisiveness. Reading about it, I keep recalling a rather sad little Haitian proverb a colleague kept quoting in my grad school days of yore – back in the 90s when pre-quake Haiti was already seen as a basket case. “Dye mon, gen mon” went the title of her thesis: beyond the mountains, more mountains.
I began refocusing on Haiti after coming across an IHT editorial in mid-May that noted that the 1.5 million Haitians displaced by the quake remain, by and large, displaced. According to the editorial, only 7,500 people had been moved out of dangerous and overcrowded tent cities in the capital to planned transitional shelter areas due to the failure of the government to acquire appropriate sites, as well as the destruction of property records and growing neighborhood resistance to letting indigent newcomers put down roots. Meanwhile, the failure of humanitarian agencies to shift their operations beyond the capital was undermining the great decentralization plan, as urban IDPs began trickling back from the rural areas where they had found shelter in order to access aid.