Haiti earthquake recovery hampered by poverty, high debts and corruption

Washington DC – As a cyclone hits Haiti, rescue workers searched for survivors from Saturday's 7.2 magnitude earthquake. At least 1300 are confirmed dead and thousands of homes destroyed in one of the world's poorest countries. 

“The earthquake devastation in Haiti is quite severe,” said Eric LeCompte a United Nations finance expert and the Executive Director of Jubilee USA Network. “Earthquake recovery is more difficult because nearly 60% of people live in poverty, high debts mean Haiti lacks resources to respond, the island still hasn't recovered from the last major earthquake 10 years ago and the COVID pandemic."

Haiti holds $2.2 billion in debt owed mostly to other countries and international financial institutions. Haiti’s debt to the IMF stands at $185 million.

As part of the IMF's COVID response, $17 million of Haiti's IMF debt payments were canceled through a process called the Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust (CCRT) since April 2020. Unless the relief process is extended, Haiti resumes IMF debt payments in November. Eligibility for debt relief under the CCRT can include natural disasters.

"The international community must ensure that Haiti receives sufficient funds and aid," stated LeCompte. "Debt relief and supporting greater transparency in Haiti's government will be important for recovery."

A government audit in 2019 revealed lost monies, including $2 billion lost in an oil program between Haiti and Venezuela's PetroCaribe. In July, Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated.

Haiti's 2010 earthquake killed 250,000 people and inflicted more than $8 billion in damages. Jubilee USA's 2010 efforts resulted in more than $1 billion in debt relief for Haiti and the creation of the CCRT. The predecessor of the CCRT was specifically established to first support Haiti's 2010 earthquake relief. In 2015, Ebola-hit African countries received debt relief through the CCRT. Last year, the IMF activated the debt relief process to respond to the pandemic in Haiti and 28 of the poorest countries.