Two years ago the worst urban disaster since Hiroshima hit the poorest country in the Americas. A horrified world sent money to help Haiti in unprecedented amounts. So why, two years later, has rebuilding "barely started"? Why are up to 80% of the million-plus made homeless still without a permanent roof?
The world to the rescue
On 12 January 2010, an earthquake struck central Haiti, killing between 222,000 and 316,000 people (the number is still hotly debated). The centre of Port-au-Prince, the capital, became a pile of rubble: the remains of more than 300,000 homes, once lived in by as many as 1.8 million people. If you'd put the debris in dump trucks, says Oxfam, they'd have stretched half-way round the world.
But help was at hand. A historic international aid effort threw up vast tent camps around the city and dozens of nations promised to back President Obama's pledge to "rebuild Haiti".
Today, those tent cities are still there home to over 600,000 people.They are horrible places: violence, rape, and life-threatening fires are frequent. Over 7,000 people have died in a cholera outbreak that spread through the camps last autumn. It is still not under control.
Show us the money
As the second anniversary of the earthquake approaches, everyone in the broken city of Port-au-Prince is asking: what happened to the $5.3bn? That's the sum that 150 countries pledged for rebuilding and reconstruction at a huge international donors' conference in March 2010. The figure, intended to support reconstruction until the end of 2011, was acclaimed at the time as "unprecedentedly generous". It was more even than the Haitian government said was needed. And that was just the first tranche of a total $9.9bn.
But that wonderful promise was too good to be true. By the end of 2010, only half those generous nations had even budgeted their promised donations. According to the most recent figures from the UN Special Envoy, they have handed over just 53% of the money. And 7% of it turns out not to have been a gift at all but loans, repayable with interest.
The EU announced that its members would give $1.25bn, but so far they have given just over $500m. Strangely, it's the poorer nations that have paid up. Weary aid professionals are not surprised – these shortfalls are common in international relief efforts. Headline-grabbing promises are easy for politicians: putting up the cash is not. But those Haitians still living in the canvas cities won't be consoled by that cold reality.
There's no shortage of reasons – apart from the failure of the funding – offered for the snail-like progress. A recent Reuters report lists problems over land rights, customs clearance for equipment, incompetent bureaucracy, lack of experienced professionals, and poor coordination between the "myriads" of aid agencies. Rebuilding in cities is always difficult, even in the richest countries. It took seven years after the earthquake in Kobe, Japan to get everyone back in permanent housing.
Meanwhile the costs of rebuilding Haiti, according to the UN Development Programe, have risen to $11.5bn. Another generation of Haitian children is growing up in poverty, with a lack of education or healthcare compounding the problems that existed before this disaster.
The motto of the reconstruction was "Build back better". Can it really be that Haiti won't be built back at all?
Take action Let's hold our lying governments to account. Telephone (+32-2) 2999156) or tweet Baroness Catherine Ashton, the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs, and ask why she and the countries she represents welshed on their promise to Haiti, and what she's going to do to make them fulfill their pledges.
Further readingFull reports on donors and grants for Haiti from the office of the UN's special representative.