After the Storm: Hurricane Matthew Hits Haiti

Hurricane Matthew struck Haiti recently and caused widespread devastation. Nearly 1,000 Haitians died in a country all too familiar with natural disasters.

Haiti is still recovering from the disastrous 2010 earthquake in Port-au-Prince that affected more than three million people.

Haiti is most often in the news for natural disasters owing partly to governmental corruption and ineffectual international aid.

While aid is desperately needed in the country, some argue that the humanitarian aid system perpetuates Haiti’s designation as “the poorest country in the Western hemisphere.”

Journalist Jonathan M. Katz, speaking with the Canadian Broadcast Corporation, remarked:

“The humanitarian industry — and make no mistake, it’s an industry — it comes in, it sets up shop, it will work in different ways until its money runs out. It doesn’t really ever have to make any effort to … create institutions that will be there to outlast it, so that when it leaves it won’t need to come back,” he said. “And second of all, [the industry doesn’t need to] be accountable to the people it works for.”

Such concerns speak to larger issues of accountability and coordination of relief efforts. Many feel abandoned by relief agencies in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew.

The UN currently faces blowback for its relief efforts. While the recent troubles rise from limited resources and lack of access to the most rural, and vulnerable, populations in Haiti, much of the animosity stems from the role the UN played in the cholera epidemic just a few years ago.

Some fear another cholera outbreak if the aid community does not act quickly enough.

Haitian women recovering after Hurricane Matthew. (Photo by International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Flickr Creative Commons.)

Haitian women recovering after Hurricane Matthew. (Photo by International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Flickr Creative Commons.)

The American Red Cross ranks as one of the chief international aid agencies that displease those in need. Much of the resentment is focused on how the Red Cross uses its funds. A ProPublica and NPR investigation revealed that only about 60 percent of funds marked for international aid actually reached the country of origin. The remaining 40 percent went to overhead.

This should not detract one from heeding UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s call for increased relief effort for Haiti as it seeks to recover from this latest natural disaster.

Recognizing the dislike many have for the American Red Cross, The Huffington Post compiled a list of alternative non-governmental organizations, many of them local, specializing in relief efforts in Haiti.

Other agencies, such as Fankoze, a micro-finance institution, are also suggested as reputable NGOs operating within Haiti.

Despite the testy nature of international aid in Haiti, one thing remains clear. It will take a monumental effort to rebuild and redevelop Haiti.

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