Former GG Jean blasts Haiti aid delays

Michaëlle Jean, Canada's former governor general and now a special UN envoy to Haiti, voiced her anger at the slow rate of aid delivery, blasting the international community for abadoning its commitments.

Canada's former GG expresses frustration over slow pace of progress

Michaëlle Jean, Canada's former governor general and now a special UN envoy to Haiti, voiced her anger Tuesday at the slow rate of aid delivery, blasting the international community for abandoning its commitments.

In a public letter co-authored with Irina Bokova, the head of UNESCO, Jean expressed frustration at the slow pace of progress in rebuilding the country of her birth.

"As time passes, what began as a natural disaster is becoming a disgraceful reflection on the international community," said Jean.

Jean and Bokova write that more than a million people are still living amid rubble, in emergency camps and "in abject poverty" and that cholera has claimed thousands of lives.

"Official commitments have not been honoured. Only a minuscule portion of what was promised has been paid out. The Haitian people feel abandoned and disheartened by the slowness in which the rebuilding is taking place."

A year after she helped raise tens of thousands of dollars for Haiti earthquake relief, Martine St-Victor told CBC News she doesn't know where that money has gone.

"I was a bit frustrated at one point because I didn't know where the money was going," St-Victor, who lives in Montreal but has family in Haiti, told CBC's Laurie Graham on Tuesday. "I was afraid I was feeding bureaucracy instead of contributing to rebuilding the country."

Wednesday is the one-year anniversary of the devastating earthquake that left an already impoverished Haiti in ruins.

Since the quake, the Canadian government has committed $550 million to Haiti. Canadians have raised another $220 million for a total of $770 million to help offer relief in the wake of a disaster that killed 200,000 people and left a million more homeless.

On Tuesday, the federal government announced where a portion of that money will be spent.

Canada's Minister of International Co-operation Beverley Oda announced several initiatives in Montreal on Tuesday aimed at helping Haitian recovery efforts on the eve of the first anniversary of the earthquake.

The announcement, totalling $93 million, includes a project to provide free, basic health services to three million people, the rebuilding of Haiti's midwifery school, new maternity beds and a pediatric ward.

"They're meaningful initiatives that will have a real impact on the lives of Haitians," said Oda.

But despite millions spent and allocated, aid workers in Haiti are still running into barriers on the ground delivering aid to those who need it. Speaking live from Haiti Tuesday on Power & Politics with Evan Solomon, Paul Hunter of CBC News said piles of rubble remain everywhere and almost a million people continue to live in tent cities

"I’m not going to say that I’ve not seen progress, that it looks exactly as it did a year ago. Progress is happening, but it's slow," Hunter reported. "Is there a lot of work still to be done? Absolutely."

The Red Cross alone has spent more than $100 million donated by individuals and organizations on emergency response efforts, getting people food, shelter and medical supplies. However, one year after the earthquake, the Red Cross said it is still dealing with basic crisis care.

"The thing that's complicated is that we are still in that emergency phase one year later," said Pam Aung Thin, the Red Cross's national director of public affairs and government relations. "In other situations, we have found that the emergency phase should be much shorter, and then you get on with the business of rebuilding."

According to Robert Fox, executive director of aid group OXFAM, extensive rebuilding should have started by now. But he said government and international agencies are moving too slowly and getting bogged down in bureaucracy.

Aid bogged down in bureaucracy

"The fact is, the money that is stalled and that isn't moving forward is not the hundreds of millions donated by individuals," said Fox. Instead, he said it's the money provided by governments that is getting held up. 

"The governments of the United States, France, of Europe, of Canada need to get together with the Haitian government and the United Nations and move ahead with the reconstruction plan," he said.

Hunter pointed out that much of the aid delivered is being slowed by red tape and corruption after supplies arrive in Haiti. He reported that supplies such as generators, water purifiers and medical supplies have been held in customs for months by red tape and rising duties.

"The Haitian government doesn't do itself any favours," said Hunter.