Haiti still waiting for aid pledged by U.S., others

Haitians in Port-au-Prince scavenge for metal Sept. 30 in the rubble of what was the tax collection office. Millions of Haitians still live on the streets amid pies of rubble from Jan. 12's magnitude 7 earthquake. Much promised aid has not materialized. (Associated Press)Haitians in Port-au-Prince scavenge for metal Sept. 30 in the rubble of what was the tax collection office. Millions of Haitians still live on the streets amid pies of rubble from Jan. 12’s magnitude 7 earthquake. Much promised aid has not materialized. (Associated Press)
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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti | Nearly nine months after the magnitude 7 earthquake of Jan. 12, more than a million Haitians still live on the streets amid piles of rubble. One reason: Not a cent of the $1.15 billion the U.S. promised for rebuilding has arrived.

The money was pledged by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in March for use this year in rebuilding. The U.S. already has spent more than $1.1 billion on post-quake relief, but without long-term funds, reconstruction of the wrecked capital cannot begin.

With fiscal 2011 just beginning, the money is still tied up in Washington. At fault: bureaucracy, disorganization and a lack of urgency, Associated Press learned in interviews with officials in the State Department, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the White House and the U.N. Office of the Special Envoy. One senator has held up a key authorization bill because of a $5 million provision he says will be wasteful.

Meanwhile, deaths in Port-au-Prince are mounting as quake survivors scramble to live without shelter or food.

“There are truly lives at stake, and the idea that folks are spending more time finger-pointing than getting this solved is almost unbelievable,” said John Simon, a former U.S. ambassador to the African Union who is with the Center for Global Development, a Washington think tank.

Nor is Haiti getting much from other donors. About 50 other nations and organizations pledged a total of $8.75 billion for reconstruction, but just $686 million of that has reached Haiti so far — less than 15 percent of the total promised for 2010-11.

The lack of funds has all but halted reconstruction work by CHF International, the primary U.S.-funded group assigned to remove rubble and build temporary shelters. Just 2 percent of rubble has been cleared and 13,000 temporary shelters have been built — less than 10 percent of the number planned.

The Maryland-based agency is asking the U.S. government for $16.5 million to remove more than 21 million cubic feet of additional rubble and build 4,000 more temporary houses out of wood and metal.

“It’s just a matter of one phone call and the trucks are out again. We have contractors ready to continue removing rubble. — We have local suppliers and international suppliers ready to ship the amount of wood and construction materials we need,” said CHF Country Director Alberto Wilde. “It’s just a matter of money.”

In Washington, there is confusion about the money. At a July hearing, Rajiv Shah, director of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), thanked members of Congress for approving the funds, saying, “The resources are flowing and are being spent in country.”

It wasn’t true then, and it still hasn’t happened.

When the earthquake hit, U.S. agencies sent troops, rescuers, aid workers and supplies to the devastated capital, Port-au-Prince. On March 24, President Obama asked the Democrat-led Congress for $2.8 billion in emergency aid to Haiti — about half to pay back money already spent by USAID, the Defense Department and others. An additional $212 million was to write off debt.

The heart of the request was $1.15 billion in new reconstruction funds.

A week later, Mrs. Clinton touted that figure in front of representatives of 50 nations at the U.N. Secretariat, with the president of Haiti at her side.

“If the effort to rebuild is slow or insufficient, if it is marked by conflict, lack of coordination or lack of transparency, then the challenges that have plagued Haiti for years could erupt with regional and global consequences,” Mrs. Clinton said.

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