Donors slow to help Haiti after devastation by earthquakes in South West

Photo by Sunyu Kim

Aid remains limited two weeks after Haiti was hit by a magnitude 7.2 earthquake which severely damaged several cities, killing 2,200 and injuring thousands more. 

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) estimates that about 800,000 people have been affected and an estimated 650,000 people – 40% of the 1.6mn people living in the affected regions – are in need of emergency humanitarian assistance. 

Despite this, many commentators have said that international aid flow into the country in the aftermath of the quake has been relatively slow and limited. Many donors appear to be waiting for the completion of the Post-Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) which Prime Minister Henry says will be completed in the coming weeks. 

 Once the PDNA is completed the Technical Steering Committee will organise a meeting of donors in order to have funds to finance the reconstruction plan. 

However, some analysts believe that the aid delay is due in part to lingering suspicions by the Government and donors alike, after past failings of aid administration and abuses in the country. 

The United States Geological Survey said that this quake was more powerful than the 2010 quake that hit near the capital and killed 220,000 people. It was followed by dozens of aftershocks ranging from M2.5 to M5.8 which further collapsed buildings. 

The damage is concentrated in southwest Haiti on the Tiburon Peninsula where in the cities of Les Cayes and Jeremie, hundreds are still unaccounted for. According to the UNOCHA, almost 53,000 homes have been destroyed and more than 77,000 have sustained damage. 

To make matter worse, just days after the earthquakes, Haiti was hit by Tropical Storm Grace which hampered rescue efforts and worsened conditions on the ground as heavy rains, flooding and strong winds took hold.

Speaking at a CARICOM Heads of Government Meeting on the political and humanitarian situation in Haiti, Prime Minister Ariel Henry said that his government was dealing with three priorities simultaneously – relief and reconstruction following the earthquake, the need for credible and transparent elections, as well as delivering justice through the complex investigation into the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. 

The compounded effects of an ongoing political crisis, socio-economic challenges, food insecurity and gang violence continue to greatly worsen an already precarious humanitarian situation. Some 4.4mn people, or nearly 46% of the population, face acute food insecurity, including 1.2mn who are in emergency levels and 3.2 million people at crisis levels. An estimated 217,000 children suffer from moderate-to-severe acute malnutrition. 

Haiti would need an estimated US$1.2bn to deal with the initial damage caused by the 14 August earthquake, according to an initial impact assessment report discussed during a Technical Steering Committee meeting chaired by the Prime Minister. 

“It is essential that each actor has in mind the objectives that we have set for ourselves, along with the six-week deadline to complete the entire process and begin to provide, with serenity and speed, lasting responses to this disaster,” Henry said. 

The UN Deputy Resident Coordinator in Haiti, Maureen Bermingham said she saw this exercise as an opportunity not only for the physical reconstruction of the country, but also for social reconstruction. World Bank Resident Representative in Haiti, Msellati Laurent, confirmed the readiness of his institution “to align with the proposals that will be made by the partners of the UN, European Union and the IDB”. 

Meanwhile, in the region, the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF) announced that it will make a pay-out of approximately US$40mn to the Government of Haiti. This pay-out represents the full coverage limit under the country’s parametric insurance policy for earthquakes for the 2021/22 policy year. 

“To begin to support the people of Haiti as quickly as possible, CCRIF will provide a first tranche of US$15mn to the Government within one week of the event and the remaining amount of approximately US$25 million within the 14-day window, to allow for the independent verification of the model results,” CCRIF said in a press release. 

Haiti’s Minister of the Economy and Finance, Michel Patrick Boisvert said that the pay-out “will help finance rapid and tangible government activities geared towards supporting the poor and vulnerable affected by the earthquake in the Grand Sud region”. 

Assistance has also come from other CARICOM countries including St Vincent and the Grenadines – itself recovering from a volcanic eruption – which made an initial donation of US$0.1mn. Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves called on other CARICOM countries and the “Caribbean family” to assist Haiti with immediate humanitarian assistance. 

On 30 August, a UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolution called on the international community provide aid. The resolution expressed solidarity with and support for the government and people of Haiti in the aftermath of the recent devastating earthquake. It calls on the international community to scale up humanitarian assistance and rehabilitation of Haiti, in order to repair and strengthen the country’s prospects for achieving sustainable development. 

The resolution urges “international financial institutions and organisations to continue to contribute generously in their response to deliver immediate relief and to maintain their support for the long-term rehabilitation of Haiti, through prioritising action to reduce the vulnerability of the country by systematically promoting its long-term socio-economic development”. It also requests the “UN Secretary-General, to the extent of his authority, to support the reconstruction efforts that are being made by the Haitian government”. 

This is a lead article from Caribbean Insight, The Caribbean Council’s flagship fortnightly publication. From The Bahamas to French Guiana, each edition consists of country-by-country analysis of the leading news stories of consequence, distilling business and political developments across the Caribbean into a single must-read publication. Please follow the links on the right-hand side of this page to subscribe, or access a free trial.