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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Guismet Dorvilier spent six years building a home for his family in Corail, an isolated community on the coast of Haiti’s southwestern peninsula. Then, last August, a powerful earthquake struck, crushing its hard concrete walls — “his life’s work” — into rubble.

Now, a year later, Dorvilier, a public school principal, still lives with eight members of his family under a plastic sheet. Its closest neighbors are too. Her school – one of seven in Corail that was shattered by the earthquake – has not been rebuilt, and the new school year is just weeks away.

“The state has abandoned us,” Dorvilier said.

His conflict is emblematic of the quagmire in much of southwestern Haiti a year after the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that struck Aug. 14 killed more than 2,200 people, injured 12,000 and flattened dozens of people. thousands of homes and buildings in an area that was still in shock. of the devastation caused by Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

Residents have been frustrated with a recovery and reconstruction effort that has progressed at a pace glacial pace, hampered by spiraling gang violence in the capital, political instability, a global economic downturn, donor fatigue and the emergence of other crises around the world to attract more attention – and dollars.

After the earthquake, the United Nations appealed for $187 million. Donors contributed $77 million, less than half.

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“In the meetings, the NGOs say that there are too many problems in the world at the moment, such as the war in Europe and the coronavirus,” said Silvera Guillaume, a civil protection officer stationed in Les Cayes, a coastal town that was badly hit by the earthquake. “And that’s why there’s less investment in the south.”

The result is that Haitians feel forgotten, forced to adopt measures that are supposed to be temporary but which they fear will be permanent. Thousands of displaced families live in camps or under tarpaulins. The roads are inaccessible. Destroyed buildings, including schools and hospitals, await repair or demolition.

Sandra Lamarque, Haiti operations coordinator for Doctors Without Borders, said access to health care in the southwest was already limited before the quake and there has been no sustained reconstruction effort. for damaged or destroyed installations. She visited Les Cayes in June.

“Nothing has changed a year later, or very little has changed,” she said.

Of the 1,250 schools damaged or destroyed, 38 have been rebuilt. Teachers have tried to teach under trees or flimsy tents that offer little or no protection from the rain. This left more than 250,000 children without “adequate” access to education, according to UNICEF.

In Corail, says Dorvilier, a man offered his house as a temporary school. But in April, he expelled all 290 students and their teachers. The house had been damaged in the earthquake and he wanted to start fixing it.

“Our only hope of reopening this year is an NGO that has promised to rebuild a better temporary school,” Dorvilier said. “The parents of our students cannot contribute. … They cannot buy books for their children and many come to school without shoes.

Last year’s quake was stronger than the quake that killed more than 220,000 people here in 2010, but caused less damage because its epicenter was farther from Port-au-Prince , the densely populated capital. Yet it has hit many remote and hard-to-reach towns and the breadbasket of the Caribbean nation.

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The answer was complicated by skyrocketing hunger, endemic poverty, intermittent fuel shortages, rising gang violence and political instability which has worsened with the still unresolved issues assassination in July 2021 of President Jovenel Moïse.

A year later, on almost all indicators, the trends are going in the wrong direction.

Inflation soared to 26%. The number of people facing acute food insecurity has increased. Those affected by the earthquake were already among the most food insecure people in Haiti.

Violent gangs have tightened their grip on swaths of Port-au-Prince and the main thoroughfare to the south, terrorizing Haitians at all stations with rampant kidnappings. A truce, negotiated immediately after the earthquake to allow the passage of aid, has long since expired.

This left aid groups with few options other than to fly or travel by boat to reach the quake-stricken areas. The gangs also control certain ports; private contractors who transport fuel, medicine or other materials to the south have increased their prices to compensate for security risks.

“It’s a headache to work in such a situation,” said Bruno Maes, director of UNICEF in Haiti. “We have to admit it.”

Haiti’s interim government, led by Prime Minister Ariel Henry, has pledged to crack down on gang violence, but there has been no change. The Haitian justice system’s investigation into Moïse’s assassination, meanwhile, has effectively stalled.

“It’s not like during the response, you had these issues and saw them improve over the past year,” said Cara Buck, Mercy Corps Haiti director. “Not only have they not improved, but they are getting worse.”

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The effects of the security crisis in Port-au-Prince have had repercussions in the region affected by the earthquake.

In Corail, 32 farmers attempted to travel by boat to Port-au-Prince last month to sell fish and crops, but when their boat reached the coastal commune of Léogâne, it was hijacked by bandits armed men who tied the passengers with a rope, seized their goods and took away the boat’s two engines, leaving the boat to drift in the water.

“These people are constantly asking me for help because they lost their equipment in the earthquake,” said Alex Maxcia, the senior mayor of Corail. “The insecurity is spiraling out of control, and now it’s even harder for them to sell their hard work amid rising inflation.”

Many here were keen to avoid the mistakes of the 2010 earthquake response. International agencies set aside more than $13 billion to respond to the disaster, but much of it was mishandled and aid groups have come under heavy criticism for not coordinating with local officials and letting them lead the response.

More than a decade later, some analysts say, the ghosts of 2010 may have made potential donors wary.

“After the [2021] earthquake, we did not have – like in 2010 – a huge amount of resources arriving in Haiti,” said Christian Cricboom, Director of Haiti for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. “It’s also because of the question of how the funds were used in 2010 and donor fatigue with Haiti.”

This created a cruel irony.

“The situation in Haiti is deteriorating,” Cricboom said. “The needs increase but not necessarily the contributions.”


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