About Our People Legal Stuff Careers
Little Boy.png
Little Boy.png

The US promised to rebuild Haiti after the earthquake. Here's what actually happened


The US promised to rebuild Haiti after the earthquake. Here's what actually happened

WATCH:  When a massive 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti, killing more than 200,000 people and leaving 1.5 million homeless, the global community opened up its wallet, pledging some $13 billion

Girl - Haiti.png

Six years later, Haiti still isn't back on its feet. It's not even close. It remains the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with an estimated 60,000 people living in tents or camps. 

How to blow $300 million in Haiti 

To get a sense of how the international community failed Haiti's earthquake victims, drive 90 miles north of the capital city of Port-au-Prince to the city of Caracol. 

Promoted by Bill and Hillary Clinton through the work of the Clinton Foundation and during her tenure as secretary of state, the 600-acre, $300 million Caracol Industrial Park was meant to be the U.S. government's flagship reconstruction project in the Caribbean nation.

At its star-studded opening in 2012, then-Secretary Clinton called it "a model not just for Haiti, but for the world."

Farmer Grass.png

To make way for the new industrial park, hundreds of farmers were removed from their land and given meager compensation in return. Many are now unemployed.

The US promised to rebuild Haiti after the earthquake. Here's what actually happened

WATCH:  Haitian farmers describe being kicked off their land.

'We can't even complain'

The State Department and its partners said the park would create 65,000 jobs when fully operational.

Nearly four years later, there are just over 9,000 employees. Workers that Circa spoke with make the equivalent of $3.81 per day. 

Screen Shot 2016-08-05 at 11.41.30 AM.png

"We can't even complain. If we do, we'll get fired," one worker lamented. 

Understanding the humanitarian aid industry 

Foreign governments and NGOs footed the $13 billion bill to help rebuild the nation. However, it was private contractors carrying out relief and reconstruction work, not locals and Haitian businesses, that benefited the most.

Consider the case of Chemonics. The D.C.-based for-profit contractor was the single largest recipient of USAID funding in Haiti, getting some $216 million in contracts between 2010 and 2015.

One Chemonics project was urban beautification near the Caracol Industrial Park. Workers planted seedlings in the town center. The plants died.  The U.S. government's own assessment found that, "Residents did not understand how the activity led to the beautification of the area, nor did they associate it with the industrial park."


Private contractors like Chemonics don't have to make their spending records public. They are protected as a trade secrets. 

Caracol House 2.png

"We really have no way of knowing how this money is being used and if these organizations can actually be held accountable," Jake Johnston of the Center for Economic and Policy Research said. 

U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Rajiv Shah speaks at an event to celebrate the 5th Birthday and Beyond coalition, Wednesday, June 25, 2014, on Capitol Hill in Washington. The coalition, comprised of more than 150 businesses, NGOs, faith-based, civic and philanthropic organizations, met to celebrate AmericaÂ?s global leadership for improving the health of children. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

In 2011, then-USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah said the agency wasn't "satisfied with writing big checks to big contractors." He pledged to funnel 30 percent of the agency's aid by 2015.

Little Girl - Tent.png

It didn't. Despite some progress over the years, USAID only directed 18.6 percent of its funds in fiscal year 2015 toward local resources and partners.  

Congress demanded more transparency and accountability 

President Obama signed the Assessing Progress in Haiti Act in 2014, which requires USAID report on "amounts committed, obligated, and expended on programs." The bill's sponsor, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) talked to Circa about her frustrations with USAID.

"If you're letting contracts to companies that may or may not be doing the work, you know, take the money and run then what do you leave? You leave much of nothing for the Haitian people."

Read Comments
Facebook Twitter Instagram Pinterest Linked In List Menu Enlarge Gallery Info Menu Close Angle Down Angle Up Angle Left Angle Right Grid Grid Play Align Left Search Youtube Mail Mail Angle Down Bookmark