Around a well-appointed table in a brightly lit room at UN Headquarters in New York City Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sipped orange juice and munched fresh fruit ahead of an International Donors' Conference on Haiti redevelopment. The pair had a hefty task-help secure $3.8 billion in pledges from some 100 countries and international development organizations for a 10-year recovery program. By noon, countries and groups had pledged $2.75 billion.
Nearly 1,500 miles south, in the sprawling tent cities of Port-au-Prince, fresh fruit and orange juice are in short supply, along with basic necessities for survival. Indeed, as government officials and donors discussed long-term redevelopment in New York, the on-the-ground reality in Haiti remained bleak: Aid experts estimate that more than 237,000 quake victims living in camps are in danger of mudslides and flooding when the rainy season starts in May. Sanitation in camps remains abysmal, and violent crimes are on the rise.
The immediate misery begs questions from the UN conference: Can languishing Haitians grappling with short-term survival and governmental quagmires wait for a complicated start of a long-term plan? Will Ban's sweeping call for a "wholesale national renewal" help quake victims with dire needs now?
The immediate indicators are not good: Despite aid groups raising hundreds of millions of dollars in the aftermath of the Jan. 12 earthquake, the UN estimated in mid-March that only 60 percent of homeless Haitians have tarps or tents for shelter. Hundreds of thousands are still exposed to heat and rain.
The Haitian government had promised to create and relocate thousands of Haitians to at least five large, safe and secure sites. More than two months later, only 200 people have moved to one site. UN officials have wrung their hands, waiting to relocate more, but Haitian officials said they have been unable to reach agreements with owners of large tracts of desolate land.
Issues of land ownership will make national renewal even more difficult. The UN said engineers would assess homes that are still standing, allowing now-fearful residents to return to safe structures, a plan long ago suggested by smaller engineering groups like Engineering Ministries International (see "Stress management," Feb. 27, 2010). But plans also call for homeless Haitians to return to collapsed homes, where aid workers will help them remove rubble. The snag: Collapsed homes and crushed government buildings may make proving home ownership nearly impossible for many, and encourage fraud among many more. That means that red tape that made simply securing desolate land nearly impossible for the government may end up stretching around the entire city.
For now, red tape is the least of most Haitians' worries. By the time many figure out how to get by today, the energy for thinking about tomorrow is gone.
'Still in shock' | Haiti is hit by a massive earthquake followed by aftershocks, with an epicenter near the capital, Port-au-Prince | Mindy Belz and Jamie Dean | Jan. 12, 2010
Helping Haiti | WORLD provides a list of relief organizations accepting donations to assist earthquake victims in Haiti | The Editors | Jan. 13, 2010
Search and rescue | U.S. disaster experts, the U.S. military, and private relief groups head to earthquake-devastated Haiti | Mindy Belz | Jan. 13, 2010
In the dark | Haitian-Americans hope to contact loved ones and quickly send aid back home to family and friends | Alisa Harris | Jan. 13, 2010
Weeping and waiting | Haitian earthquake victims await help, but obstacles slow relief efforts | Jamie Dean | Jan. 14, 2010
Desperation | Too many Haitians are in a holding pattern awaiting aid, as relief organizations try to make progress | Jamie Dean | Jan. 15, 2010
Long night | With tens of thousands of casualties, Haitians weep and wait for morning | Jamie Dean | Jan. 15, 2010
Deliverance | A group of orphans arrive safely in Pittsburgh while relief organizations report progress in Haiti | Mindy Belz | Jan. 19, 2010
Crying for help | Hard-pressed Haitians seek assistance as aid groups face logistical challenges | Jamie Dean | Jan. 21, 2010
Leaving Port | Beyond the capital city are rural communities equally devastated by the quake and in need of help | Jamie Dean | Jan. 22, 2010
The new normal | As life and death continue their morbid mingling, relief groups forge ahead to help | Jamie Dean | Jan. 22, 2010
Finding home | Now that search-and-rescue efforts have been called off, attention turns to providing shelter for survivors | Jamie Dean | Jan. 23, 2010
Chaotic aid | Relief groups attempt to help Haitians despite murky rules, government interference, and the lack of a cohesive plan | Jamie Dean | Jan. 28, 2010
Aftershock | Caregivers predict a second wave of death, as Haitians find moments of deliverance amid days of devastation from one of the modern world's worst natural disasters | Jamie Dean | Jan. 29, 2010
Homecoming | For Haitians orphaned before the quake, it means leaving home and starting over | Alisa Harris | Jan. 29, 2010
Crisis giving | Instant need calls for long-term strategy | Rusty Leonard | Jan. 29, 2010
An indecent grief | First lamentations, then comfort that strengthens more than soothes | Mindy Belz | Jan. 29, 2010
Hope for Haiti? (audio file) | Hear WORLD news editor Jamie Dean discuss her visit to the earthquake-ravaged country | Nick Eicher | Feb. 1, 2010
Despair and salvation | While the UN grapples with unruly crowds, The Salvation Army peacefully distributes food | Jamie Dean | Feb. 2, 2010
Crossing lines | Failing to heed sound advice, 10 Americans now find themselves facing kidnapping charges in Haiti | Jamie Dean | Feb. 4, 2010
Haiti's plight (audio file) | A discussion of the country's days of devastation and moments of deliverance | Jamie Dean | Feb. 5, 2010
Stress management | Helping Haitians recover takes zeal-with wisdom | Jamie Dean | Feb. 12, 2010
Taking charge | In quake aftermath, build new cities, says Haitian ambassador (and Bible translator) Raymond Joseph | Mindy Belz | Feb. 12, 2010
Houses of God | Grand-Goave, Haiti | The Editors| Feb. 12, 2010
Living water | Water Missions International offers long-term solutions for clean, drinkable water | Angela Lu | Feb. 13, 2010
Building blocks | While Christian Aid Ministries provides for the immediate needs of quake victims, it looks ahead to helping the country rebuild | Angela Lu | Feb. 16, 2010
Close quarters | ActionAid helps homeless Haitians deal with sanitation and security issues at camps set up in Port-au-Prince | Angela Lu | Feb. 23, 2010
Hardest hit | With nearly half a million orphaned children before the quake, Haiti's challenge to parent them just got bigger | Jamie Dean | Feb. 26, 2010
The search for miracles | Port-au-Prince is a city desperately seeking turnaround-and that's before the earthquake | Jamie Dean | March 12, 2010
Hope in the darkness | World Hope International offers Haitians practical assistance and spiritual guidance | Angela Lu | March 24, 2010
Night crawlers | A new disaster threatens defenseless women and children in Haitian tent cities: rape | Jamie Dean | March 25, 2010
Homecoming | Missionary Patrick Lataillade, who nearly died in the quake, returned to help Haitians this week | Angela Lu | March 27, 2010