It’s now more than a month since the earthquake that laid waste to Port-au-Prince, killing more than 200,000 people and thrusting millions of people into the most desperate conditions.
But according to the U.S. government, Haitians have a lot to be thankful for.
On February 12, the U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Ken Merten boasted, “In terms of humanitarian aid delivery…frankly, it’s working really well, and I believe that this will be something that people will be able to look back on in the future as a model for how we’ve been able to sort ourselves out as donors on the ground and responding to an earthquake.”
Bill Quigley, the legal director for the Center for Constitutional Rights, had a simple response to Merten’s claim: “What? Haiti is a model of how the international government and donor community should respond to an earthquake? The ambassador must be overworked and need some R&R. Look at the facts.”
What are the facts? The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that “more than 3 million people–one in every three Haitians–were severely affected by the earthquake, of whom 2 million need regular food aid. Over 1.1 million people are homeless, many of them still living under sheets and cardboard in makeshift camps. The government of Haiti estimates that at least 300,000 people were injured during the quake.”
So far, the relief effort has only managed to provide 270,000 people with basic shelters like tents. More than 1 million people still have little access to food and water and have to scrape by to find sustenance. Even worse, because the relief operation is so inefficient, Haitians report that some of the food spends so long at the airport that it is rotten by the time it gets to the hungry.