IGO and NGO Intervention in Haiti Proves Costly

By, Cecilia de Almeida CAS ’20

On January 12 2010, Haiti was struck by a devastating earthquake, killing a total of 15,000 and displacing close to 1.5 million people. In a country with historical struggles on how to provide economic and human rights to its most poverty-stricken population, it is still striving to rebuild itself and leave the cycle of dependency on international aid. However, the damage and destruction caused by Hurricane Matthew seems to have made that goal slightly less attainable.

Infrastructure was severely compromised after Hurricane Matthew’s landfall. Never having fully recovered from the earthquake in 2010,  the few existing hospitals were damaged and “more than 450 patients had arrived over the weekend, mostly people who had been wounded by flying debris, but the hospital had run out of anesthetics and antibiotics to treat them”[1]. To make matters worse, food has now become a major concern following the disaster. The World Food Program estimates that the storm “destroyed 100% of the crops in this agricultural crops”[2], meaning the population is heavily dependent on foreign aid and intervention for food and medicine. The problem is further aggravated in areas such as Petit-Goave, “The collapse of bridges and roads have limited first responders’ access to the remnants of town and villages in desperate need of humanitarian aid in areas such as the coastal village of Petit-Goave”[3].

Haiti has also seen a spike in the cholera cases in the days following the storm. “Cholera killed around 10,000 people in Haiti after the devastating 2010 earthquake, when UN peacekeepers introduced it to the country by emptying toilet waste into the Meille River, a major water source.” [4] After the 2010 earthquake, Haiti saw an influx of foreign capital and relief in a very short period amount of time, yet there is very little improvement to show for the aid. The country is now housing the “greatest number of NGOs per capita”[5], yet at the same time it cannot seem to escape the cycle of poverty and disease. Human rights groups and non governmental organizations are mainly there to increase the quality of life for civilians, making sure that people have better access to medical care and education, but it would be incorrect to say these businesses do not have economic interests in the region.

It is in moments like these that the legitimacy of intergovernmental and international non-governmental institutions must be put to the test. One of the fallacies of humanitarian intervention is the dependency on international institutions that it creates, decreasing the need for local self-sufficiency and autonomy. When the line between humanitarian intervention and economic profit is blurry, these institutions must remember the vision and philosophies in that granted them international recognition and respect. They should now focus their efforts on making their humanitarian action achieve and sustain long term goals instead of offering short term relief. The work done by institutions such as the UN and the Red Cross is highly needed and valued, but that is not to say that there isn’t room for improvement. If changes were to be made, and the acknowledgement of both humanitarian need and economic interest was accepted, these organizations could work in not only offering short-term relief to the disaster victims in Haiti, but also working with the local government and people to create long lasting benefits to the population.

[1] Watson, Ivan, and Tim Hume. “Haiti: WHO to Send 1M Cholera Vaccine Doses.” CNN. Cable News Network, 11 Oct. 2016. Web. 25 Oct. 2016.

[2]  Watson, Ivan, and Tim Hume. “Haiti: WHO to Send 1M Cholera Vaccine Doses.” CNN. Cable News Network, 11 Oct. 2016. Web. 25 Oct. 2016.

[3] Joseph, Peniel. “Will We Fail to Answer Haiti’s Call for Help Again?” CNN. Cable News Network, 8 Oct. 2016. Web. 25 Oct. 2016.

[4] Seales, Rebecca. “Haiti after Hurricane Matthew: Can a Cholera Epidemic Be Avoided?” BBC News. BBC News, 14 Oct. 2016. Web. 25 Oct. 2016.

[5] Joseph, Peniel. “Will We Fail to Answer Haiti’s Call for Help Again?” CNN. Cable News Network, 8 Oct. 2016. Web. 25 Oct. 2016.

 

Photo Credit: Time Magazine