MIAMI — Efforts to help almost a half-million Haitians living in sprawling tent cities more than two years after a devastating earthquake and the country's ability to prepare for future disasters are being hampered by dwindling aid dollars, Haiti's humanitarian community said.
United Nations humanitarian agencies and the Haitian government launched an urgent appeal Tuesday for roughly $60 million in funding to provide services from April to June to camp dwellers, and to help Haiti cope with an ongoing cholera epidemic that is expected to surge with the onset of the rainy season. The appeal comes as a lack of funding continues to force aid organizations to pack up and leave, and as at least one group — the International Red Cross — considers building a hotel and conference center with its remaining funds as part of its exit strategy.
"Haitians are still living in deteriorating shelters and tents literally falling apart while donors sit on cash intended to help them," said Elise Young, senior policy analyst at ActionAid USA, an antipoverty agency working in several camps for victims of the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake. "A very tangible indication of the lack of donation disbursements is the decline in cholera prevention and response."
Philippe Verstraeten, head of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Haiti, said the lack of financial resources at the disposal of the humanitarian community is curtailing its ability to help Haiti's most vulnerable population affected by a series of shocks, including the earthquake, food insecurity and the cholera epidemic.
The waterborne disease has already claimed more than 7,000 lives and infected 500,000 Haitians, and is expected to spike as the rains intensify.