Despite Billions in Aid, Haiti Remains Desolate After Quake

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Journalist

Six months after the earthquake that devastated Haiti on January 12 of this year, the apostolic nuncio says the country still looks just as it did the day after the quake.

In an interview with Archbishop Bernard Auza, Apostolic Nuncio to Haiti,  Fides Agenzia is reporting that the situation in Haiti remains dire.

“I can testify that the situation is still terrible as far as the practicability of the roads; it seems that the earthquake just happened yesterday!” the Archbishop said. “There is no one to carry away the debris and we can still not use certain streets in the capital. There are still no offices for some local government institutions. Many people who are living in tents still have nothing and then there are still many poor people who do not even have tents and do not see a way out.”

Delays in establishing a reconstruction commission, which the international community requested to oversee the rebuilding of the devastated capital of Port au Prince and the surrounding area, has slowed the process of reconstruction.  Members of the commission, which is comprised of 10 foreign and 10 Haitian representatives, was only finalized recently.

These delays are also affecting the work of the Church in the reconstruction of their own lost property.

“As the Church, we are waiting for a sign from the government in order to be able to act with all our strength,” the Archbishop said. “For example, some religious institutions cannot begin to rebuild the buildings or houses, because they lack a safety certificate issued by the government for that area.”

The Church’s main priority right now is the construction of two national seminaries for the country.

“We already have things organized, but we still need a technical committee that can put this project on paper,” the Archbishop said. “We had also heard about the possible purchase of land in a beautiful place, but we abandoned the idea because the price was beyond our possibilities. Now we have another piece of land in sight, but we are still negotiating.”

He went on to say that Bishop’s Conferences in other nations, particularly the U.S. and France, have contributed substantially to this important work.

“This has helped to raise the spirits of all of us working to rebuild the Church in Haiti; it is like seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Our hope is to lay the first stone or offer some concrete possibility on the first anniversary of the earthquake on January 12, 2011.

Six months after the quake, an estimated 1.5 million people are still living in tents and U.N. aid organizations say they’re feeding 1.2 million a day. Officials believe it could take years to clear the rubble from the massive 7.0 quake that nearly leveled the city, meaning many roads could remain impassable for an indefinite period of time. 

“Removing the rubble left behind by this disaster, reaching remote areas with building materials, and obtaining permissions to build from landowners remain our main challenges to providing sturdy shelter for families,” said Conrad Sauvé, secretary general of the Canadian Red Cross, to

There has also been considerable international criticism for the special commission led by U.S. President Bill Clinton and Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive, with many accusing the commission of being more concerned with the wishes of donor countries than with the needs of Haitians.

“The Haitian people must be included in the reconstructions plans,” said Jean-Claude Fignole, country director of ActionAid. “At the moment the plan is more reflective of donor country interests and that is wrong. It is imperative that Haitian people be directly involved in their own recovery and lead the reconstruction process.”

With the hurricane season underway, there is more need than ever to get the reconstruction underway.

Archbishop Auza is appealing to the international community to realize that there is much work left to do in the Caribbean’s poorest country.

“We still need help,” he said. “We thank the Bishops of Haiti, the Holy See, and the international community for supporting us in the reconstruction. The Catholic Church has this priority: the reconstruction of the churches and seminaries.”

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