Mark Schuller, who has written extensively on the role of NGO's in Haiti, and who has been providing invaluable information on the ground since the earthquake, writes today about missed opportunities and the immense challenges that remain. Despite goodwill and a sense of unity after the earthquake, more recently the old divisions in Haiti have resurfaced. On a topic we have written about previously, Schuller writes:
Yesterday the CEP, the Provisional Elections Commission, reiterated a decision made in 2009 to exclude Fanmi Lavalas, the party of exiled president Aristide, from this year's legislative elections that were originally scheduled earlier this year but postponed. Although not to the extent of giving out medals, the UN proclaimed last year's elections that also excluded Fanmi Lavalas and where almost no one voted, a success.
Meanwhile, the gaps between rich and poor have only become starker. While hundreds of thousands are fighting for cash-for-work jobs:
Haiti's educated middle class, Diaspora, and foreign consultant zoom by in new air-conditioned cars, some making as much as $1000 per day. Some foreign aid workers even stayed at the "Love Boat" - a U.N. ship costing $112,500 per day, or the price of 100 "T-shelters."
Another important lost opportunity was decentralization. After the earthquake, some 600,000 people left the capital. According to a study undertaken with the help of Digicel, 41 percent of them had returned to the capital by March 11. As Schuller points out:
With no jobs, no aid, no prospects of rural development, nothing to keep people in the provinces, the bulk of this reverse migration was undone, and Port-au-Prince is once again a magnet for those seeking jobs.
And despite the billions in aid, the reality on the ground remains seriously grave. Rain continues to fall, ruining tents and tarps, and leaving hundreds of thousands of families fighting to protect their belongings and their health (best exemplified by the flooding of the planned relocation camp at Corail last week). In addition, despite a brief moratorium on evictions, many are forced to fight simply "for the right guaranteed by the United Nations and Haitian constitution to sleep on concrete blocks, in wet, muddy, ripping tents." Schuller writes:
Some owners have even taken to send armed gangs to terrorize people so they will go away. Less extreme tactics such as freezing people out of services so they will leave on their own are far more common. Three of eight camps that my research assistants visited so far this week are facing forced removal. International Action Ties has also released a report detailing a disturbing pattern of private land owners forcing people off the camps.