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Ezili Danto: The U.S. has largely failed in its efforts to help Haiti

Published: Monday, July 6 2015 2:53 p.m. MDT

In this Wednesday, June 13, 2012 photo, a boy rolls a bicycle tire up a ramp near a camp for people displaced by the 2010 earthquake in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. (Dieu Nalio Chery, Associated Press) In this Wednesday, June 13, 2012 photo, a boy rolls a bicycle tire up a ramp near a camp for people displaced by the 2010 earthquake in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. (Dieu Nalio Chery, Associated Press)

The United States is making a mess of Haiti.

After the devastating 2010 earthquake, foreign governments, international institutions and philanthropists pledged $13 billion and collected more than $9 billion in public and private donations for humanitarian aid or reconstruction.

The money has left little footprint in Haiti, other than the construction of a luxury hotel for foreigners and a Korean sweatshop.

Hundreds of thousands of Haitians are still living in tents. There is no clean water and hunger ravages the country. The aid wasn't even geared toward the people of Haiti.

About "94 percent of humanitarian funding went to donors' own civilian and military entities, U.N. agencies, international NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) and private contractors," the Center for Global Development notes. The Haitian government got less than 1 percent direct aid.

On the development side, most of the aid went for big projects, including a luxury hotel, rather than for irrigation and local agriculture. Almost all of the money went to foreign contractors, not Haitians.

A recent report by the Government Accountability Office shows that the United States Agency for International Development has spent only 31 percent of the $651 million it was allocated for Haiti.

It was supposed to build 15,000 new houses. Now it says it plans on building only 2,649. And it lacks "complete and accurate reporting" on its expenditures, the report says.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., who requested the report, said it was "alarming and showcases the need to further investigate and ensure that U.S. taxpayer dollars are not being wasted or abused in Haiti."

U.S. companies are still feasting off of Haiti. In April, the military contractor DynCorp got a $48.6 million contract to supply private security guards to the discredited U.N. mission there, which introduced a cholera epidemic into Haiti.

And now the United States is pressing Haiti to rewrite its mining laws to make them more accommodating to foreign companies.

This has been U.S. policy toward Haiti for decades. The country used to be self-sufficient in rice production until the 1980s, when Washington, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund insisted that it allow in foreign rice producers. U.S. rice quickly swamped Haiti, sending local rice farmers out of business and making the country dependent on rice imports.

The main goal of U.S. policy toward Haiti remains: open up its market, not help its people. And when the people are devastated by a disaster like the earthquake, then use the visuals of poor Haitians to milk the cash cow that the country has become.

There is an old saying in Haiti: "We must look out for ourselves."

It has never been more true than today.

Ezili Danto is the founder of the Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network. She wrote this for Progressive Media Project, a source of liberal commentary on domestic and international issues; it is affiliated with The Progressive magazine.

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