Letters: Aid agencies cannot be blamed for abject poverty in Haiti

From Aid | The Guardian Tue Jan 1 2013, 21:00:02

Ian Birrell's article on humanitarian aid in the wake of the Haiti earthquake (Disastrous relief, Guardian, 31 December) is breathtakingly ill-informed.

Nearly three years ago Haiti suffered, in relative terms, the worst disaster in modern times. A capital city had effectively been destroyed, many thousands were dead and many more rendered homeless. An international aid effort had to be quickly mobilised. Impromptu camps sprang up around the city, all needing the very basics of water, sanitation and health care.

Thanks to very generous public appeals and responses from governments, a huge aid effort was mobilised and many lives were saved - and many more put back together.

In all this chaos, many things went wrong. Coordination of the aid effort was a huge challenge. Not enough money went to local Haitian organisations. Nearly a year later, outside the earthquake zone, a cholera outbreak began. Nevertheless, it was a remarkable response in that there was not a major breakdown of public order nor a major health crisis in the earthquake zone.

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