Why did you decide to take on the challenge and come to Haiti?
During the first months of 2010, my responsibilities were as a desk officer for the projects in Haiti financed by supporters of SOS Children in Luxembourg, which is why I had followed the tragedy of the earthquake since the very first days. This may explain my readiness and spontaneity to accept the mission. For me it was all about helping the Haitian population and showing international solidarity.
In which aspects has Haiti changed since, and in which have things not changed?
Looking at the country and the living conditions of the Haitians in general, I cannot say that I have seen considerable changes. There are still very high unemployment rates which are one reason for Haiti’s massive brain drain. Also, the education system is essentially dysfunctional and in need for radical reforms. Not only are there half a million or so children not going to school but a high percentage of children finishing school remain basically illiterate. Finally and above all, extreme poverty is still omnipresent.
And yet, I would like to highlight two positive trends: first, compared to the political crisis that kept erupting after elections in November 2010, stability has returned and the new president seems to do a good job in spite of all the challenges. And second, according to the UN, 50% of the rubble has been cleared so far, a trend that could stimulate reconstruction.
Two years after the earthquake, some 550,000 people are still living in camps. Why do you think the process of reconstruction so slow?
There are many reasons. Rubble needs to be cleared from the earthquake-affected zone and the government must be able to decide on and invest in large urban development programmes. Land propriety is not regulated or defined, in neither the urban nor in rural areas of the country and some funds promised for Haiti have not materialised.
What steps can be taken to ensure a positive future for Haiti?
Haitian politics must become more trustworthy by fighting corruption. Government agencies need to be strengthened in terms of quality (policies and their implementation) and quantity (number of civil servants). This again would allow better coordination of NGOs and international aid in general. Finally, a stronger government could implement urgent reforms in all sectors for the sake of the population.
Looking back at the first two years after the earthquake: What were the main challenges for SOS Children?
I think that the biggest challenges for SOS Children are always at programme level: How can we ensure that the children in the SOS families receive the most appropriate care and how can we really strengthen the families in the communities and incite them to better care for their children. Our high quality programmes are the result of two factors: coherent and on-going training for our personnel combined with a coherent and attractive human resource policy.