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After the earthquake—how world rulers have failed Haiti

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In 2010 an earthquake killed and injured hundreds of thousands of people in Haiti and left many more homeless. But more horrific was world rulers’ response, argues Gabby Thorpe
Issue 2687
The earthquake devastating Haiti (Pic: Leah Gordon)

Ten years after a devastating earthquake in Haiti, hundreds of thousands are still homeless or stuck in informal settlements.

The earthquake, which hit on 12 January 2010, killed some 230,000 people and injured at least 300,000.

But most staggering of all is how governments failed millions of ordinary people and are still failing them today. The earthquake saw over a million people forced to live in shelters and often just under bits of tarpaulin or tin.

Today Cami Etienne lives in a tent in the city of Delmas. “Nothing has changed,” he said. “On the ­contrary, it’s gotten worse. We can’t even afford water.”

The United Nations said some 32,788 people currently live across 22 camps. But the figures don’t include Cami’s camp.

The biggest post-earthquake ­settlement, in Canaan, isn’t included either. More than 300,000 people live there.

In the aftermath of the earthquake, dead bodies were piled into mass graves. Joseph Marc-Antoine told Socialist Worker at the time that the “international community has done nothing”.

“We need drugs, we need drinking water,” he said. “We can still hear dead people shouting from the rubble.”


At least 30,000 people received no food aid in the weeks after the event. People around the world were asked for donations. But Haiti’s national debt meant very little went to ­ordinary Haitians.

Haiti owed £205 million to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2010 thanks to a series of ­structural adjustment programmes.

Two days after the earthquake the IMF gave “aid” to Haiti—in the form of a £62 million loan, not a donation.

US president Barack Obama sent 17,000 troops into Haiti, calling the occupation “aid”.

Haitian police and United Nations troops focused on “restoring order”. Some carried out horrifying abuse. In October 2010 cholera broke out. By January 2011 there were an estimated 12,000

non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Haiti.

At the same time 120,000 people had been infected by cholera, and at least 3,300 had died.

NGOs did very little to bring ­medical aid to cholera sufferers and mass graves were common.

Haiti’s president Jovenel Moise came to office in the aftermath of the earthquake promising healthcare and education reforms.

He has continued the exploitation that Haitans have suffered ­throughout history.

But the proud history of rebellion in Haiti has continued too.

Protest broke out last summer when it was discovered that Moise was pocketing Venezuelan aid money.

Those driven to action should keep up the fight for real change.

Charities sent in to help abused and exploited the vulnerable

At the beginning of 2018 it was revealed that staff of the charity Oxfam were stealing money donated to Haiti after the earthquake.

While administering aid in 2010, a group of Oxfam staff used donations to throw parties and hire women who work as prostitutes.

The parties took place at a guest house rented for staff by the charity.

The report came from a whistle blower who said that the men “used to talk about holding ‘young meat barbecues’.” Separate allegations claimed that Oxfam’s director in Haiti, Roland van Hauwermeiran, had sex with women who worked as prostitutes in his own charity-rented villa.

He wasn’t fired, but instead received a “dignified exit”.

A report from the International Development Select Committee of MPs, published later in 2018, found “systematic sexual exploitation” in the aid sector.

Those involved in the initial scandal in Haiti either resigned or have been sacked. But Oxfam is still running operations in Haiti.

Instead of insisting that perpetrators face justice, Tories such as Jacob Rees-Mogg used the scandal to push for cuts to foreign aid. Aid is tied to imperialism and is used as a political weapon by the ruling class.

When granted, it often comes with strings that benefit the powerful.

As socialists we want more aid, and aid without strings. But ultimately aid under capitalism isn’t a solution.

  • A report published last month shows the scale of abuse carried out by UN troops in Haiti between 2007 and 2014.

It documented 250 cases of sexual abuse, with some survivors as young as 11.

The troops were deployed in a peacekeeping mission known as the United Nations Stabilisation Mission in Haiti.

But instead of “keeping the peace” UN troops forced women and children to trade sexual favours for food and money.

Protesters say Moise must go

Protests broke out in Haiti on 7 July last year against rising fuel prices.

Today demonstrators are still on the streets, demanding an end to corruption and the resignation of president Jovenel Moise.

State repression has led to the deaths of at least 187 protesters.

And battles with cops have meant the deaths of 44 officers.

Moise has refused to step down, saying he will not leave Haiti “in the hands of armed gangs and drug traffickers”.

Moise is the true criminal.

He pocketed Venezuelan aid money while Haiti still struggles to recover from 2010’s earthquake.

Unfortunately protests have scaled back with demonstrators hoping that smaller disruptions will avoid further deaths.

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