Eight months after a 7.0 earthquake devastated Haiti, most of the rubble in Port-au-Prince has still not been removed:
By some estimates, the quake left about 33 million cubic yards of debris in Port-au-Prince — more than seven times the amount of concrete used to build the Hoover Dam. So far, only about 2 percent has been cleared, which means the city looks pretty much as it did a month after the Jan. 12 quake.
Government officials and outside aid groups say rubble removal is the priority before Haiti can rebuild. But the reasons why so little has been cleared are complex. And frustrating.
Heavy equipment has to be shipped in by sea. Dump trucks have difficulty navigating narrow and mountainous dirt roads. An abysmal records system makes it hard for the government to determine who owns a dilapidated property. And there are few sites on which to dump the rubble, which often contains human remains.
Also, no single person in the Haitian government has been declared in charge of the rubble, prompting foreign nongovernmental organizations to take on the task themselves. The groups are often forced to fight for a small pool of available money and contracts — which in turn means the work is done piecemeal, with little coordination.
This is a reminder that while large disasters such as this often prompt quick and widespread relief efforts, these efforts may be needed for long periods of time. After the initial needs are taken care of (water, food, medical care, etc.), there is often even more work to do in order to rebuild.
The opening of the NFL season last week provided another reminder of this in New Orleans. While that city has made some progress, there is still a long way to go and the necessity of these efforts often receive little attention from broader society.