A lot has been said about the money that has been poured into Haiti from international community over the years with no lasting success. Now, at this crisis, the world is stepping up again. However, without fixing the education system, Haiti has no chance at prolonged sustainable development.
Half of the Haiti’s population of 9 million is younger than 18 years. Only 2% of children were finishing the secondary education before the quake. Without education being on the priority list, the nation will not be able to feed itself.
Without expertise of the world and equipment Haiti can not avoid hunger in the coming months and years. With only 2% of forests, the country is exposed to extreme weather, seasonal hurricanes and soil erosion. In 2008 alone, four storms caused $200 million in damages.
More than 3 million of people are now being affected by the earthquake, 300,000 are homeless. Approximately 80% were living before the quake on less than $2 a day, 50% were undernourished. Not only the capital but also other cities were struck. Infrastructure is just about destroyed.
Approximately 80% of Haitians are involved in agriculture with six million living in rural areas. The agricultural production will be crucial. With three planting seasons, it can not be forgotten in the havoc of the day. In March the new season begins. The food production must go on.
Only a week ago, Haiti was a country at the crossroads. The upcoming 2010 legislative elections were a glimmer of hope. Also, the last year’s new United States trade HOPE act that has secured Haiti duty- and quota-free entry to the United States markets for nine years was offering new opportunities for real growth and sustainable development.
Even though Haiti was the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, it has had some success in the last four years. In 2009, its agricultural production increased, its gross domestic product (GDP) grew 2.5% and was expected to grow to 3.5% to 4.0% in 2010. The garment industry had a chance at growth as well.
UN peacekeeping mission that has been in Haiti since 2004 to secure the country and bring stability after the then President Jean Bertrand Aristide went into exile amid fierce unrest has been preparing for 2010 Haitian legislative elections. The mission was supposed to provide logistical support distributing all electoral material to 11,500 polling stations. At the time of the quake, Haiti had 11,000 peacekeepers, 9,000 of them military and police personnel and 2,000 civilian staff.
Already before the earthquake the challenges that come with elections were unthinkable without the major support of the United Nations. However, can despair, anger and challenges of reconstruction bring about the smooth run of elections now?
Children are the most vulnerable. They were living in dire circumstances before the quake. Now, they are at risk for diarrheal diseases and measles. If the situation is not quickly brought under control, the crisis will cause many more deaths among them and mothers. Water supply and sanitation are the major urgency.
UNICEF, the World Health Organization, the World Food Programme, the UN Population Fund and other UN agencies, international non-governmental organizations and relief agencies are all on the ground. No matter how quickly the world is acting, it is not quickly enough. With roads blocked, the logistical challenges for distribution of food, water and medical supplies are enormous. However, the people of Haiti can not afford any more delays.
Meanwhile, United Nations and its agencies and other international organizations have themselves suffered casualties. The Special Representative of UN Secretary General to Haiti, Hedi Annabi, his Deputy, the Acting Police Commissioner and 36 other military and civilian personnel have died in the earthquake. Over 300 UN personnel in Haiti are still missing or unaccounted for.
Source: UN, UNICEF, FAO