Five years after the earthquake, poverty and political uncertainty reign in Haiti

Demonstrators shout anti-government slogans in Port-au-Prince [Reuters]

Five years after the catastrophic earthquake which ravaged Haiti in 2010, killing over 200,000 people and leaving 1.5 million homeless, despite a massive international humanitarian and cooperation effort, the country remains the poorest of the Western hemisphere, and is prey to political instability.

On 12 January 2012, an earthquake of the catastrophic magnitude of 7.0, with an epicentre some 25 KM from the capital Port-au-Prince, devastated the impoverished island country, taking the lives of 222,750 people, injuring many thousands and leaving 1.5 million homeless.

In October 2010, a cholera outbreak spread across the country, causing one of the biggest epidemics in the world.

>> Read: Commission details action in cholera-hit Haiti

Since day one, the European Union has responded to the needs of the Haitian population; providing shelter, food and health services, helping to rebuild roads, schools and supporting the Haitian authorities in the reconstruction process.

The EU has provided €883 million for Haiti between 2008 and 2013, of which €545 million came from the European Development Fund (EDF). The funds were used in a number of priority areas: supporting the state’s budget, the rehabilitation of roads, agriculture, education, human rights, food security, electoral assistance and support to trade.

The EU humanitarian response has been complemented by a reconstruction programme, supporting the Haitian government’s efforts to rehabilitate and develop the country’s infrastructure, rebuild schools and hospitals, provide public housing, and strengthen the administration. 

Despite the magnitude of the humanitarian and cooperation effort, visitors to Haiti describe a far from satisfactory state of affairs.

Tamira Gunzburg, director of ONE Brussels, told EURACTIV that five years after the earthquake, people in Haiti are still struggling.

“With 62% of the population living in extreme poverty, policymakers must turn to long-term solutions. With the new set of development goals currently being shaped, 2015 is full of opportunities to do just that, not only for Haiti but for the world at large,” Gunzburg said.

In a message on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the Haiti quake, EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini recognised that despite the efforts of the international community and the government, many Haitians still remain homeless from the disaster.

Political uncertainty

Mogherini criticises Haiti’s internal political infighting, which she obviously sees as an obstacle to the country’s development.

“Haiti is now suffering another political crisis that could reverse the gains of recent years,” Mogherini states, adding that the country needs “steady and effective government and constructive opposition, rising above partisan differences, to steer the nation towards sustainable development”.

In fact, the Parliament in Haiti was dissolved today (14 January) after the failure of last-ditch negotiations over a new electoral law, the BBC reported.

President Michel Martelly had been trying to secure backing for a US-sanctioned plan to postpone elections again. He now effectively rules the country by decree, but his term of office runs out next year.

Haitian opposition groups say they will continue months of street protests to try to force his resignation.

The political deadlock is centred on a dispute over a new electoral law, which opposition lawmakers have refused to approve.

A group of Western ambassadors and the UN representative in Haiti have expressed their support to President Martelly over the political gridlock.

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