Where Haiti Stands 10 Years After A Crippling Earthquake

Jan 10, 2020
Originally published on January 11, 2020 11:51 am
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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Ten years ago this Sunday, for 35 terrifying seconds, the ground shook violently under Haiti. When it was over, at least 100,000 people were dead, hundreds of thousands more injured, and much of the country's capital buried under rubble. Volunteers and aid poured in from around the world. But as NPR's Carrie Kahn reports, hopes that this tragedy would finally bring Haiti a brighter future weren't realized.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Forty-year-old Berthenid Dasny holds the keys to the official memorial built to remember the 2010 earthquake victims.

(SOUNDBITE OF FOOTSTEPS)

KAHN: As we walk through the overgrown grass and dry brush, Dasny says the tens of thousands buried here in a mass grave on the site have been forgotten.

BERTHENID DASNY: (Non-English language spoken).

KAHN: They are all forgotten. Look at this place, she says, it should be nicer. You need to remember that the people buried here are humans. We should honor them. She does her best to water some plants and brush the walkways, but she's never been paid. Like so many survivors of the quake, Dasny says she feels left behind, too.

(SOUNDBITE OF GOAT WHIMPERING)

KAHN: Her goats graze in the dusty ravine that separates the mass gravesite from the hillside, where she and her five kids live in a tiny shack. The wind whips over the barren hills, constantly rattling her corrugated tin roof.

(SOUNDBITE OF TIN ROOF RATTLING)

KAHN: Dasny moved here in 2011 after spending a year in one of the thousands of squalid tent camps that filled the capital after the quake. She's trying to save up to buy enough material for a new, sturdier home.

Outside, she has piles of sand and large stones, which she spends hours breaking into small pieces.

DASNY: (Non-English language spoken).

KAHN: One day, God willing, I'll build a better home, she says. The struggle hundreds of thousands of Haitians still endure to find decent housing is a stark reminder of the promises unmet and billions of international aid wasted.

KESNAR PHAREL: There were so many opportunities after the earthquake.

KAHN: Haitian economist Kesnar Pharel calls the last 10 years...

PHAREL: The lost decade.

KAHN: ...A lost decade. The world pledged nearly $11 billion to build back a better Haiti. Private charities raised another $3 billion. But Pharel says the Haitian government squandered that goodwill.

PHAREL: This is bad governance, bad governance.

KAHN: And that bad governance continues as political scandals, soaring inflation and gang violence rock the country. But it's not just the Haitians taking the blame. Auditors of USAID found poor planning and huge cost overruns, too. An NPR report called out the American Red Cross, which took in $1/2 billion from U.S. donors but built only six permanent homes instead of the thousands it claimed. The last 10 years haven't brought much improvement to the life of 50-year-old Elizabon Casasis.

ELIZABON CASASIS: (Non-English language spoken).

KAHN: The aid money was good for the people that got it, but not so much for me, she says. She lives in a flimsy shack with 15 extended family members in Canaan, a sprawling slum north of Port-au-Prince that sprouted up after the quake. Her roof is just a thick, grey tarp with the USA logos on it.

CASASIS: (Non-English language spoken).

KAHN: My husband, a car mechanic, goes out to find work, she says. But many days, he comes back with nothing. She, too, has large piles of rocks and sand outside her shack in hopes of one day building a better home.

Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Port-Au-Prince.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.