Promised U.S. Aid Still Hasn’t Reached Haiti

Nine months after a devastating earthquake hit Haiti, more than a billion dollars in reconstruction aid still hasn't reached the country.

Nine months after a devastating earthquake, none of the money that the U.S. Government pledged for rebuilding aid has actually reached Haiti:

Nearly nine months after the earthquake, more than a million Haitians still live on the streets between 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. has already spent more than $1.1 billion on post-quake relief, but without long-term funds, the reconstruction of the wrecked capital cannot begin.

With just a week to go before fiscal 2010 ends, the money is still tied up in Washington. At fault: bureaucracy, disorganization and a lack of urgency, The 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.


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 (600,000 cubic meters) 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.”

I suppose the only fortunate thing from a Haitian perspective is that none of the Hurricanes that have made their way through the Caribbean this year have struck the island. Considering that many residents in and around Port-au-Prince still live in makeshit, or no, shelters a storm would have been absolutely devastating.

So, how did this happen ? Well, it’s really just Washington as usual:

t took until May for the Senate to pass a supplemental request for the Haiti funds and until July for the House to do the same. The votes made $917 million available but did not dictate how or when to spend it. Without that final step, the money remains in the U.S. Treasury.

Then came summer recess, emergencies in Pakistan and elsewhere, and the distractions of election politics.

Now the authorization bill that would direct how the aid is delivered remains sidelined by a senator who anonymously pulled it for further study. Through calls to dozens of senators’ offices, the AP learned it was Sen. Tom Coburn, a Republican from Oklahoma.

“He is holding the bill because it includes an unnecessary senior Haiti coordinator when we already have one” in U.S. Ambassador Kenneth Merten, Coburn spokeswoman Becky Bernhardt said.

The bill proposes a new coordinator in Washington who would not oversee U.S. aid but would work with the USAID administrator in Washington to develop a rebuilding strategy. The position would cost $1 million a year for five years, including salaries and expenses for a staff of up to seven people.

So, for the sake of $ 5 million over five years and one additional government position, Senator Coburn is holding up more than a billion dollars in reconstruction aid. I’ve already expressed my opinion about the hold practice in the Senate, but it strikes me that the people of Haiti would be just fine with a few million dollars going to an aid coordinator if it meant that the rest of the money was released.

Of course, I’m just guessing.

FILED UNDER: Latin America, US Politics, World Politics, , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. The funding hold up is not the only, nor the primary, reason for the lack of rubble removal. The UN in many reports clearly states over and over that lack of permission from landowners and lack of a site to dump rubble are the major constraints.

    The belief that Haiti is a functioning nation is a pipe dream of the international community. The government of Haiti exists solely to line its own pockets, aided by the UN and the United States. The poverty and destruction in the country is so dire that a Somalia-like anarchy is just a hurricane away.

  2. Maggie Mama says:

    If you the gov’t can’t get permission from landowners, then they should do what OUR government now does … just take over the land. Tear it all down and build ghettos which will suffer the same fate as those in our country. A blight on the land.

  3. An Interested Party says:

    “Tear it all down and build ghettos which will suffer the same fate as those in our country. A blight on the land.”

    Hmm…this looks a lot like what this fella has to say at about the 1.35 mark…

  4. Sandra says:

    Is that GOVERNMENT AID, or private agencies’ raised funds? We have supported several groups of volunteers that have been rotating down to Haiti, like they did for Katrina Clean-up.

    They ARE seeing slow progress, but yes, the Haitian Government (or what there is of it) always has their hands out for “contributions in cash.”

    As one woman told one of the group; “It’s like G-d, wanted to wipe the corruption off the land and to allow us to rebuild, and the Devils crawled back in.”

  5. Maggie Mama says:

    Interested Party, you just don’t get it. You can build them new housing which will only deteriorate and once again become a slum.

    Haiti, like many American city slums, needs more than just a roof over their heads …. they need an overhaul of their economic community … THEY NEED JOBS.

    The problems of corruption in Haiti and severe poverty will evetually turn this new housing into a “blight on the land” once again.

    They are being given “fish” and not being taught “how to fish”. Get it?

    p.s. stop seeing racism in every comment — that’s stupid.