The Canadian government will put more than $93-million into new initiatives to improve children’s health, education, and agriculture in Haiti, even as the slow pace of reconstruction is highlighted one year after a devastating earthquake.
International Cooperation Minister Bev Oda announced Canadian support for the eight new initiatives, which will be funded out of the $400-million reconstruction fund that Ottawa committed last year.
The new programs include Canadian backing for a Pan-American Health Organization project to provide free health care for three million women and young children, backing for the building of 10 maternity clinics, a hospital maternity ward in Gonaives, and funds for a project to build 35 schools. It also backed programs to aid farmers and provide food for rural families.
But while Ms. Oda said Canada was fulfilling its promises to Haiti by improving life in important ways, the federal government and other Western donor nations are fielding criticisms that they have not done enough in the 12 months since the quake.
The earthquake that struck Haiti on Jan 12, 2010, devastated Port-au-Prince and many other towns, killing 300,000 and leaving an estimated 1.4 million homeless. But a year later, one million people still live in camps.
In Canada, the earthquake sparked an outpouring of sympathy and donations from citizens. Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government pledged a long-term commitment to Haiti’s reconstruction.
On Wednesday, former governor-general Michaëlle Jean, an iconic figure of Canada’s response to the disaster one year ago, will return to Haiti to mark the anniversary of the tragedy in her new role as UNESCO’s special envoy to the country.
But Ms. Jean, a Haitian-born Canadian with a high profile in both nations, has prodded the West to do more. She co-signed an op-ed in The Globe and Mail which criticized donor nations for paying out only a “minuscule” portion of the aid they pledged, saying Haitians feel abandoned because of the slow pace of recovery. “As time passes, what began as a natural disaster is becoming a disgraceful reflection on the international community,” she wrote.
Canadian officials, however, argue that the pace of recovery has been slowed by the weakness of the Haitian government, which was devastated by the quake and is now paralyzed by political crisis over tainted vote-counting in presidential elections.
Ms. Oda announced the new initiatives at a ceremony in Montreal to formalize another, previously-announced initiative that will see Canadian cities help Haitian municipalities build their capacity to deliver services.
She offered a hopeful note in a year that has seen disaster turn to dashed hope in Haiti, saying the new initiatives “will re-ignite the courageous determination and hope for a better future that Haitians have demonstrated in the wake of the challenges of the last year.”