Disastrous relief for Haiti | Ian Birrell

From Aid | The Guardian Sun Dec 30 2012, 18:00:01

Three years on from the quake, it's evident reconstruction has been fatally undermined by greedy and incompetent outsiders

Almost three years ago, Haiti was hit by an earthquake that killed an estimated 220,000 people in 35 seconds of unimaginable terror. It was the worst national disaster in the history of the western hemisphere. The world rushed to help, with huge sums donated amid declarations to "build back better" one of the most blighted nations on earth.

But, as the anniversary approaches, it is evident that many good intentions imploded at the expense of the people they were meant to help. Haiti stands as the latest sad example of how self-aggrandising assumptions of the global aid industry can backfire so badly. The humanitarian business should reflect hard on the failures.

Even before the quake, this was a poor country. More charities were thought to operate per capita there than anywhere else, earning Haiti the nickname Republic of NGOs. In the 50 years before 2010 it was given four times as much per head as Europeans received under the postwar Marshall plan, yet incomes collapsed by more than a third - unlike in the Dominican Republic, on the other half of the island.

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