Monday, July 5, 2010


(Globe and Mail) - By Gloria Galloway

Six months ago, a massive earthquake rumbled through Haiti killing an estimated 230,000 people and leaving more than a million homeless. There is some positive news emerging from the recovery effort.

The Canadian International Development Agency said Monday it has handed over $150.15 million in humanitarian assistance. Some of that comes from a pledge to match donations made by individual Canadians in the days and weeks after the disaster first struck.

And hundreds of millions more dollars have been promised by Canada to help relief and development efforts over the next two years.

Oxfam, one of the world’s major aid agencies, says the outpouring of money has helped curb violence and major outbreaks of disease. Meanwhile, Oxfam’s water and sanitation experts say metropolitan Port-au-Prince now has more drinking water and toilets than it did before the earthquake.

Which does not mean the situation is good. Less than one quarter of the residents of the Haitian capital had access to sufficient sanitation before the quake hit. There are still 1.5 million people living in sweltering camps. And hurricane season is just beginning.

But the international response to the disaster has made a difference.

Mark Fried, Oxfam Canada’s policy coordinator, said it would be a stretch to call the improvement in sanitation a silver lining.

“Yes, the international response has certainly been overwhelmingly positive,” Mr. Fried said in a telephone interview. “The world has responded to the plight of Haitians in a way that people didn’t before the earthquake. And some good has come of that.”

Canada, he said, was quick off the mark to respond with substantial support.

But the drinking water in Port-au-Prince is still being delivered by truck, Mr. Fried said, even if it costs less now because the aid agencies are paying for it.

“I hope the reconstruction will include piped water to neighborhoods so that people won’t have to buy it off the truck,” he said. “But we are still awaiting full plans from the Haitian government.”

In the meantime, people are getting their lives back together because they have to. Children are going to school, and people are going back to work, “but reconstruction has been incredibly slow.”

The rebuilding phase will take three to five years, Mr. Fried said. “It depends on how the hurricane season treats us.”

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