It’s been a year since a violent earthquake shook the poor nation of Haiti, killing hundreds of thousands of people and causing billions in damage. In the days that followed the quake, nonprofits, corporations and individuals from around the world donated money and time in an overwhelming show of support. As the media marks this tragic anniversary, we should all be aware that, although time has passed, there still is much to be done to not only rebuild Haiti but to also make it prosperous.
It’s been no secret that organizations working on the ground in Haiti have struggled to determine priorities and allocate resources. Billions of dollars were raised following the earthquake; Americans alone gave $2 billion to various charities. Unfortunately, less than 40 percent of this money has actually been spent. To be fair, it would have been irresponsible for the charities to have gone through the donated funds too quickly. There should be, however, a plan—one that is made available to the public—for directing the funds to the areas they are most needed.
One of those areas badly in need of funding is housing. Nearly 1 million Haitians still call temporary camps set up after the earthquake home. One of the first steps in creating a sense of normalcy for the people of Haiti and showing progress in the country is to ensure that safe housing is available. Building the homes, however, is difficult if there is no clear space to build. To date, only five percent of the ruins the earthquake left behind have been cleared away. Not only is this a hindrance to the rebuilding process, it is also a safety hazard. Charities working in this area must allocate their resources appropriately and make sure they have the funds on hand to better address the housing needs of the Haitian people.
In the days following the earthquake, those working on the ground were focused on finding survivors, treating the injured and providing emergency services. Today, they are working to curb a cholera outbreak that has hit the tiny nation, while continuing to provide shelter, food and medical care to countless people.
The work in Haiti is difficult, there is no doubt. And everyone working in the trenches should be commended. However, a more concentrated and collective effort to both address the current needs of the Haitian people and to plan for their future is needed.
(Judge Greg Mathis is vice president of Rainbow PUSH and a national board member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.)