By Dana Milbank, Washington Post, July 13, 2010 We’re two weeks into Defense Secretary Robert Gates’s new campaign for more “coordination and discipline” in the military’s public statements—and everything seems to be going according to plan.
On Monday, six months after the earthquake in Haiti…
“We slowly see some more children that are malnourished. They get diarrhea because of the bad living conditions here…We are also slowly starting to see and to deal with situations of sexual violence. And domestic violence because so many people are living close together…There is more uncertainty and more aggression now.”—
Marleen Steerker, a doctor at MSF’s mobile clinic in Haiti, in the Haiti - Six Months After the Earthquake podcast.
It’s been six months and there are no noticeable differences in anything in Haiti, at least to casual observers. Rebuilding is non-existent. Cardboard villages have been replaced only by tent cities. Roads are blocked by debris that some Haitian officials estimate could take 20 years to remove. Medical supplies and doctors are still in demand but that need remains unfilled. Disease and sickness are still prevalent, and lack of food and clean water remains an issue as does toxic run-off from the debris that leaks into the soil every time it rains.
Six months after the earthquake that wrecked devastation on Haiti, killing more than 230,000 and leaving 1 in 9 Haitians homeless, the nation remains one mired in misery and suffering.
The scale and scope of the disaster is overwhelming as are the enormous challenges of rebuilding an entire country – a country that for years has been steeped in corruption, scandal, and violence. It is a government that has its roots in chaos, filled for years with grifters, cheats, liars, thieves, and criminals. A government where thugs cared more about lining their pockets than in feeding its people. Even years after elections swept out the criminals, the government of President Rene Preval is still a hindrance to international aid organizations. According to the Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission, only 10% of the $5.3 billion that governments have pledged in aid has actually been disbursed.
But the blame is not entirely on the Haitian government. Of the $2 billion pledged by the United States, less than $30 million has reached Haiti because Congress has failed to pass the aid bill. According to Sen. John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “The window of opportunity is rapidly narrowing for an effective, coordinated international and Haitian effort that can make a real difference.”
After dominating the news and briefly consuming our consciousness, stories about Haiti have been pushed off the front page. Instead we have been subjected to tales about inept red-headed Russian spies hiding in plain sight, or incoherent political posturing by a former Alaskan governor. Or worse, un-ending reports about where LeBron will takes his talents in search of a basketball championship and a bigger paycheck for himself and his cronies. Six months later, Haiti and the relief efforts to rebuild the nation have become old news – afterthoughts in our collective quest for front page news that is newer and more exciting.
Six months can be an eternity to people and an impoverished nation who have nothing and need everything.