Haiti Two Years On: Recovery amongst the rubble

Disasters, Governance, Humanitarian, Livelihoods

Lucy Davies visited Haiti just before devastating the earthquake of 2010. She returned last November and here reports on the reconstruction progress being made there.

I was in Haiti at the end of 2009, working with a team on a mid-term evaluation of a country-wide dairy program that Oxfam had funded for several years. 

Women and men were provided with a cow by a local organization, and each day’s milk was supplied to a local dairy which paid a fair price for a steady supply. This programme, with input from Oxfam and other INGOS, was one of very few grassroots endeavours intended to strengthen and build Haiti’s indigenous small scale farming industry. 

Returning again in November 2011, nearly two years after the earthquake, I was keen to find out what Oxfam had achieved with the $106 million donated by the public, institutions and governments. 

My brief was to deliver a progress report to provide the public and donors with an overview of how Oxfam’s earthquake response programme was faring, illustrating this with case studies from some of the people and organizations that we have worked with in the camps and neighborhoods of Port au Prince. 

The resulting report is available to download from this website. It details how Oxfam is transitioning from direct work in the camps to working with poor communities to establish longer-term solutions to a life free from poverty. 

I wasn’t in Haiti in 2010, when Port au Prince was still in a catastrophic state with just five percent of the rubble cleared in that first year, so my main point of comparison was the same journey from the airport two years later – a few weeks before the second anniversary. 

Tented camps were very much in evidence and open space areas – parks and squares – were still covered by tarpaulin shelters. But there were also visible signs of life returning to normal: roads being built, water trucks delivering clean supplies, kids in their uniforms going to school, small stores set up on sidewalks and close to camps where vendors hoped to trade. 

Oxfam has reached over 500,000 people in Haiti in 2011/12 with water, sanitation and public hygiene programmes, and with a great livelihoods approach that is intended to inject capital into small and medium sized businesses to kick start local economies and generate employment. 

The seven short stories in the progress report give a good insight into the commitment and passion that exists for rebuilding a better life, and a better Haiti.  

If Haiti is to rebuild and shake off its status as the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, it is essential that President Martelly’s new government invests international funds wisely to invest, not only in the infrastructure of the capital city, but also to galvanize Haiti’s fragile agricultural economy. This will give small-scale farmers a fighting chance of earning a living, help them to supply the country’s towns and cities with fresh produce and ultimately reduce Haiti’s dependency on
imported goods.

Oxfam is starting some great projects with farmers in rural areas. Watch this space and we’ll keep you in touch with progress.

Author: Lucy Davies
Archive blog. Originally posted on Oxfam Policy & Practice.