by Devin R. Heroux
A year after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake rocked the already depleted country of Haiti, money continues to pour in from around the world.
Recently, Canadian International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda announced more than $90 million worth of projects focusing on health, education, and culture will be sent to Haiti relief efforts. Back in Saskatchewan, locals are still opening up their wallets but not nearly as freely as seen in the early months following the disaster.
“In the first six months following the earthquake, Saskatchewan residents were phenomenal,” said Amanda Ulrich, provincial lead of public affairs and marketing for the Red Cross. “Over $1.5 million has been raised thus far in recovery efforts by Saskatchewan alone.”
But donors have had questions.
“Writing a cheque wasn’t going to cut it for me, so myself, along with eight other people, headed to Haiti last March to volunteer,” said Roland LaFrance, chair of Western Canada Relief for Haiti. He didn’t like what he saw. “It’s unbelievable that a year later we still haven’t moved past water and food relief to a bigger recovery plan,” he said.
A report released by Oxfam last week revealed glaring inadequacies in the recovery efforts in Haiti. Indecision within a questionable government has left Haitian residents in rubble; little has changed from the early days after the earthquake. LaFrance isn’t the only local resident starting to ask questions about where exactly their dollars are going.
“When people don’t see immediate results they grow cynical, but this recent report has motivated people at all levels to follow through and start moving towards long term goals for Haiti,” said Anna Clara Jensen, program assistant for Oxfam Saskatchewan. “People need to remember that this is going to be a long road back for this country.”
Ulrich says it could be over 10 years before there are actual infrastructure plans in place.
“Typically one year into recovery we’ve moved from the emergency phase, water, shelter, and necessities to live, into bigger plans for a region,” said Ulrich. “We’re still very far from this.”
LaFrance feels a golden opportunity to completely rebuild a country that needed an overhaul before the earthquake was missed. Now, there are a lot of unanswered questions that linger for a country still digging out of collapsed infrastructure.
“There really is no government there. Most towns outside of Port-Au-Prince won’t see a dollar from fundraising efforts,” said LaFrance. “Obviously there is a lot of corruption and the people in charge are using the money how they want.”
While Haiti continues to be mired in a state of indecision, reconstruction, and recovery, Saskatchewan residents are being urged by local non-governmental organizations to continue to send funds to Haiti.
“Ask these organizations where your money is going when you make a donation to Haiti. And if you really want to make a difference, go there and see what the living conditions are really like,” said LaFrance.