If one looks close to the ground, in certain
refugee camps and community organizations, one can see
the donations of citizens and non-profits at work,
supplying tents, food, and medical aid. A handful of
progressive foundations are funding community,
peasant, and advocacy organizations, as they work for
an alternative rebuilding process, based on economic
justice and the fulfillment of social needs. Social
assistance and rebuilding projects are working best
when communities are engaged in the planning and
Yet, for the most part, the impact of the dollars
is imperceptible. Where is it going?
Much of the aid pledged has not yet arrived, and
may never. A lot of it has gone straight back to donor
nations, as with the $.40 on every US government aid
dollar that paid for the US military presence in Haiti
for, at least, the first two months after the quake.
Untold dollars more go to US firms, like the
agribusiness corporations whose surplus rice is being
purchased by USAID to deliver as aid. Then there are
fees and expenses paid to a small army of consultants
working for foreign governments and international
agencies. Many UN consultants, for example, slept
until mid-March in a luxury cruise ship (the Love
Boat), which the UN rented. Then, there is graft,
corruption, and poor planning, all of which further
redirects aid dollars away from desperate earthquake
survivors, up to 1.9 million of whom are left
homeless, hungry, and wet in tents during the rainy
What would Haitians like to see happen with the
aid? We asked for opinions; here are a few.
Christine Miradieu is an unemployed mother of nine
who lost her husband, one of her children, and her
home in the earthquake. She now lives with six of her
children in two tents in a field outside of the town
They tell me the international community gave $2
million dollars in aid. Where is it? [We suggest the
figure is actually $9.9 billion.]
What? [Turns to her family behind her.] You hear?
Nine point nine billion in aid. Now, who’s getting
that? We haven’t seen any of it.
Lucien St. Louis is an agronomist by training
who worked for many years with farmers through the
Ministry of Agriculture. Now, he is employed by a
European NGO, helping to direct disaster responses in
several earthquake-impacted towns to those who most
First, we want to say how much we appreciate all
the citizens of the world who have paid attention to
Haiti after January 12 and who have given whatever
they could, whether money or solidarity. They make us
know we’re not alone in this fight to reclaim our
lives and rebuild our country.
This aid could be a marvelous thing, giving us the
assistance we need to get back on our feet. It could
help us build a different country, a country where
everyone is recognized as a human being, a country
where all children go to school, and no one dies for
lack of decent medical care. It could help strengthen
peasant agriculture, so farmers could stay in the
countryside, where they could have work and feed the
nation, instead of having to migrate to
Port-au-Prince. It could help women do marketing and
form cooperatives, so they could have an income for
their family. It could provide decent housing for all,
especially those who lost their homes in the
earthquake, in communities that are close to all the
services people need to live. It could strengthen the
people’s institutions that are trying to build a new
society and economy.
We haven’t seen any of this yet. But, we’re going
to keep on fighting for it.
Ghislene Deloné (a pseudonym used at her
request) is a health promoter at the clinic of the
Center for the Promotion of Women Workers (CPFO).
Prior to this job, she worked for eleven years as a
seamstress in a multinational textile factory.
Now, we have the international community which came
to Haiti, which is helping workers and CPFO get
medicines. They’re distributing medicines; they’re
doing free exams for the women at CPFO. Workers can
now come and get the medical care they need, without
having to pay anything. We are satisfied.
Marlène Jean-Pierre lives in Cité Soleil. She
is a student in civil engineering and an organizer
with women's and youth grassroots groups in Cité
We don’t need more than social support. We need
collaboration with all the foreign citizens who want
to come help us Haitians, who want to give their
support. We don’t need money coming into the country
to create huge projects to bring about change, no.
When that money comes, the population itself doesn’t
receive it. It doesn’t ever get to the community.
They should find people within the community and
divide it among them. But, the foreigners who came
after the earthquake, they don’t know a single person.
They come to this country and want to take action.
They say, “I’ve brought you water! I’ve brought you
food! Look at all I’ve brought for you!” But, they
don’t know who to contact. So, they work through the
government, or else, they choose someone to work with
them, and that person gets to direct the aid whatever
way they want. But, with someone who knows the country
well, that work would be better supervised, they’d be
able to see that the population is really receiving
the aid directly.
We know there are billions of dollars coming to the
NGOs now. It’s from that money the NGOs are paying
their employees, that they’re buying gas for their
cars; it’s with that money that they’re paying for
their own security. The only thing we ask is that,
whatever is left for us, that the work they do with it
is done well. That’s all we ask for.
Carolle Pierre-Paul Jacob is a coordinator of
Solidarity Among Haitian Women (SOFA). Among other
things, SOFA provides health care and anti-violence
support to women now living in refugee camps.
This is an international parade. The aid has been
given in total chaos. The way it’s been run represents
economic and political domination. It’s being done in
a context where the symbols of state power are gone,
and the government is basically nonexistent.
There are lots of ways we could have taken
advantage of this moment, to create a minimum of
social, economic, and political transformation. But,
we haven’t had that chance, because of the domination
of the foreigners.
Josette Pérard is the director of Fon Lambi,
the Haitian-run branch of the Lambi Fund of Haiti.
Josette has a long history of providing funding and
technical support to women and peasant groups in Haiti
and, prior to that, in the Congo.
The people want another system, so they can be
treated as citizens in a country that belongs to them.
They want their rights as human beings to be
respected. But, with all the aid and programs, they’re
treating people like children. It’s not possible. Who
knows better than the people? They want to make
decisions with themselves; they don’t want anyone to
make those decisions for them.
What plan does the country have five months after
the earthquake? People can’t sit in the mud in the
camps all day; they can’t live like that. Now, they’re
kicking people out of the tents to send them to other
tents, without water or shade. There are no changes.
The government is totally irresponsible.
We’re very happy that people are coming to help us,
but there is no one to sit down with them to
coordinate. This is because the state is inexistent.
It doesn’t take its responsibility. People are saying,
“Here’s what we need in the way of aid; here’s what we
want to happen so we can have results.” But, each
group comes up with its own program for
reconstruction. If no one sits down together and comes
up with one coordinated program, will there be one?
What makes me most angry is to see people sitting
under the hot sun to get a half-sack of rice and a
bottle of oil. Where are they going to cook food? They
don’t have a stove to cook food with, and they can’t
eat rice and oil only. They’re saying that aid
recipients are selling the food, in order to buy a
piece of bread with peanut butter, because they don’t
have any way to cook the rice.
People are very dissatisfied. For weeks, there have
been demonstrations in the streets against Préval.
Presto Deroncil has lived in Cité Soleil since
1977, where he is an informal (unelected) community
Cité Soleil is a place where lots of money is
spent, but nothing ever happens. It’s the place where
everyone comes to make money, to get rich. After
January 12, it got even worse. After January 12,
everyone mobilized, the international community
mobilized. Me, I thought that things were finally
going to change. No way! I see things getting more
difficult. I see there’s a lot of food distribution
happening. At the beginning, it went well, but after a
while things started getting looser, people started
making money off it.
What hurts the most is that people from Cité Soleil
have been working to have political representation, to
have people who will represent them in the government.
But, now, it’s those same people who are making a
business [out of aid]. Imagine, really imagine – when
a person is the leader in a community, there are a lot
of things that person shouldn’t do. But, there are
people who take those cards [aid vouchers] and make a
fortune with them. They buy cars with them; they buy
motorcycles. Something that was meant to help the
people, and now they’re selling them. I think this has
People are sleeping in the mud; they’re sleeping in
garbage. When it rains, they don’t have anywhere to
sleep. I think that the most important thing now is a
public housing project within Cité Soleil.
I think that everyone, the international community
that wants to help Cité Soleil, they must sit with the
community leaders, with the population of this
community. First off, they should listen to people, so
that they know what they should work on. We know what
Jacqueline Cherilus is a fourth-year medical
student at Université Lumière in Port-au-Prince. On
January 12, her school collapsed, killing many of her
professors and classmates. Her home was damaged, and
now she and her family sleep under a tarp, because
they are afraid to be inside.
Americans and everyone who’ve sent tents, we’re
tired of that stuff, those same tents and tarps. We
need construction. You see how strong the rains are
becoming? Tents can’t resist that rain. How long can
we live in tents and tarps? You can’t live for two or
three years under a tarp. We need houses. We’re going
to have hurricanes soon and flooding.
The aid is poorly organized and poorly divided.
There are lots of people who don’t receive anything.
To have real aid, we need social change. Right now,
they’re just giving us tarps, tents, and food.
We need health care. You see, in Briztou [a tent
community in Pétion-ville] they only have one doctor
for 25,000 people? And, there’s no educational reform.
Children are still paying to go to school. Like my
little brother, who still has to pay. How can other
children, the ones who lost their parents in the
earthquake, pay for school?
Beverly Bell has worked with Haitian social
movements for over 30 years. She is also author of the
book Walking on Fire: Haitian Women's Stories of
Survival and Resistance. She coordinates Other Worlds,
www.otherworldsarepossible.org, which promotes social
and economic alternatives. She is also associate
fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies.