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This Sunday is the fourth anniversary of Haiti’s devastating 2010 earthquake. It immediately killed more than 150,000 people and the economy was shattered. I’ve been reflecting on the progress Haiti has made and the long road ahead.
Over at Foreign Policy, I have a column this week about Michael Clemens' work on migration as a tool for disaster recovery. On the second anniversary of the Haiti quake, there has been some progress towards reconstruction and recovery, but it is slow. And one big reason for that is the snail's pace rate of disbursement of international donor funding for reconstruction.
Two years ago this Thursday, at least 150,000 people died one evening in Haiti. As a fraction of the national population, the U.S. equivalent would be the instant death of the entire state of South Carolina. Those Haitians died mostly because they lived in a poor country.
A year and a half ago, an earthquake wrecked Haiti. So many Haitians were killed that if the same fraction of the U.S. population were cut down, the deaths would outnumber the entire population of Tennessee. Commendable relief efforts are ongoing, supported in large part by U.S. assistance, but economic and political disarray have led to widespread perception that those efforts are inadequate.
Unfortunately, as it proceeds with the hard work of disaster relief for Haiti, the U.S. government has chosen not to use its most powerful tool: migration policy. Migration out of Haiti has caused more poverty reduction for Haitians than all attempts at poverty reduction within Haiti combined. Remittances to Haiti have amounted to at least double foreign aid, for years. Remittances also—unlike foreign aid—go directly into the pockets of needy people, and they rise more quickly after disasters than aid does. While the U.S. government has recently and sensibly suspended the deportations of some Haitians who arrived in the U.S. after the earthquake, it has not systematically used migration policy to help even a small number of Haitians starting out in Haiti arrive in the U.S. as a humanitarian gesture. It could easily do so.
Twelve months after the devastating earthquake, some of the fresh ideas CGD policy experts proposed to help Haiti through non-aid channels have gained traction, while others remain relevant, but have yet to be tried. The anniversary is a time to revisit progress and shine a light on untapped opportunities to assist Haitians in their reconstruction efforts through U.S. policies on trade, debt, migration, and more:
This commentary also appeared on The Huffington Post and Global Post
Last week at a United Nations conference, donors pledged more than $10 billion to finance reconstruction and development investments in Haiti. The United States promised a hefty $1.15 billion.
But pledging money is the easy part. The United States, the lead donor and friend with the greatest interest in Haiti's future development, can do much more, in two ways: its own aid programs can be more effective; and it can take steps beyond aid that are far more critical to long-run prosperity for Haiti's people.
Senegal, the ancestral home of many Haitians, has offered to accept for resettlement as many Haitians as want to come.
“The repeated calamities that befall Haiti prompt me to propose a radical solution – to take measures to create somewhere in Africa . . . the conditions for Haitians to return,” Senegalese president Abdoulaye Wade announced.