BOGOTA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Four years after a massive 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit Haiti and killed more than 200,000 people, rebuilding efforts in the Caribbean nation have been held back by a series of natural disasters - from drought to hurricanes - along with a cholera epidemic.
Slow reconstruction is compounded by donor fatigue, growing political instability and anti-government protests over high food prices and corruption.
With Haiti’s legislative and local elections two years overdue, tensions are mounting between Haiti’s President Michel Martelly and his opponents, hampering overall development.
Here are some facts about Haiti’s biggest challenges four years after the earthquake.
CHRONIC HOUSING SHORTAGE
- Nearly 172,000 people are still living in 306 makeshift tent camps following the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake, mostly sprawled in and around the capital Port-au-Prince. “Identifying solutions for the remaining displaced population is becoming more complex,” says the U.N.’s humanitarian agency (OCHA) in its latest report on Haiti.
- Nearly 60 percent of camp residents are unemployed. They face deteriorating living conditions, with dwindling access to toilets and drinking water, aid agencies say.
- Around 16,500 displaced families living in tent camps are at high risk of being forcibly evicted, while 79,000 are living in 67 camps where there is a high risk of flooding, OCHA says.
- Efforts to build new affordable homes needed have been hampered by Haiti’s weak institutions and leadership, poor coordination, lack of funds for private sector building firms, land tenure problems, and little land being under state control.
- In October 2013, the Haitian government launched a national housing policy in a bid to address the shortage of 500,000 new homes it is estimated Haiti needs by 2020.
STAVING OFF HUNGER
- While the total number of Haitians at risk of hunger has decreased in the past year, 600,000 Haitians still struggle to put enough food on the table each day, OCHA says.
- The prevalence of global acute malnutrition (GAM) amongst Haitian children under 5 has risen to 6.5 percent in 2013, from 5.1 percent in 2012.
- Hard-hit fishing and farming communities are still reeling from the cumulative impacts of drought, and Tropical Storm Isaac and Hurricane Sandy, both of which battered Haiti in 2012.
- OCHA estimates 817,000 Haitians need humanitarian aid this year, including food aid to combat malnutrition and hunger, shelter, and anti-cholera initiatives.
- Haiti’s food shortages stem from years of neglect of agriculture and disaster prevention, coupled with the government’s failure to protect the environment and tackle deforestation.
- Haiti remains one of the countries in the world that is most vulnerable to climate change and natural disasters, including hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, landslides and droughts. This is exacerbated by large-scale urbanisation and widespread poverty, with 55 percent of Haiti’s population of 10 million living on less than $1.25 a day.
- Aid agencies say much more needs to be done to build resilience to future natural disasters, such as stemming widespread deforestation, creating flood walls and dredging rivers, implementing up-to-date contingency plans and building up stocks of food and medicine.
- Haiti is home to half of the world’s suspected cholera cases. Since the start of the cholera outbreak in October 2010, the water-borne disease has killed nearly 8,500 Haitians and sickened 689,448 people.
- Despite a significant drop in the overall number of cholera-related deaths since the outbreak, cholera in Haiti remains an epidemic and a humanitarian crisis. If current trends continue, 45,000 people could be affected by cholera this year, OCHA estimates.
- In a bid to stamp out the cholera epidemic, international aid donors have pledged $2.2 billion over the next 10 years to improve sanitation, medical infrastructure and access to drinking water.
Sources: U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and International Organisation for Migration.