Disaster Recovery in Post-Earthquake Rural Haiti: Research Findings and Recommendations for

Disaster Recovery in Post-Earthquake Rural Haiti:
Research Findings and Recommendations for
Participatory, Sustainable Recovery
May 2015
Loretta Pyles, PhD, State University of New York at Albany
Juliana Svistova, PhD, State University of New York at Albany
Josué André, Heart-to-Heart International
School of Social Welfare
State University of New York at Albany
Richardson Hall, 201
Albany, NY 12222
[email protected]
The authors would like to thank Tom Birkland for his assistance with the statistical
data and for reviewing an early draft of this report. Thank you to Heather Horton for her
assistance with the SPSS database. Many thanks to Father Joseph Phillipe for
initiating and nurturing this partnership. We are grateful to the UAlbany School of
Social Welfare and Dean Katharine Briar-Lawson for seed money that supported initial
phases of this research. Special thanks to Christophe Rodrigue for his leadership and
good humor. We extend our appreciation to Scott Freeman, who offered extensive and
extremely helpful comments on a later draft of this report. We appreciate the work of
Cathie Gifford who worked on the formatting for this report. All photo credits go to
Loretta Pyles. We are indebted to the community leaders in rural Haiti who conducted
the surveys and for their insights on the meaning and implications of the findings; their
names can be found in Appendix D at the back of this report. We are also, of course,
most grateful to all research respondents for taking the time to share their
This research was supported by the National Science Foundation’s
Disaster Resilience in Rural Communities Program Grant # 1133264
Executive Summary ................................................................................................................ 4
The Purpose of this Report .............................................................................................. 6
Introduction ............................................................................................................................. 7
Background and Context .................................................................................................. 8
A Capabilities Approach to Disaster Recovery ................................................................ 10
Study Methodology ............................................................................................................... 11
Data Analysis ................................................................................................................. 12
Findings ................................................................................................................................ 13
1. Material Destruction and Immediate Needs .............................................................. 13
2. Vulnerability, Capacity Building, and Long-Term Solutions ....................................... 17
3. Contested Visions of Recovery: An Opportunity for Disaster Capitalism? ................. 19
4. The Social Construction of Key Actors, Power, and Unnoticed Heroes .................... 22
5. Actions and Inaction of the Haitian Government ....................................................... 24
6. International Aid Organizations: Part of the Solution, Part of the Problem ................ 25
7. Psychosocial Recovery ............................................................................................ 28
8. Solidarity, Collectivity, and a Community-Oriented Approach ................................... 30
9. Disaster Preparedness, Risk Reduction, and Environmental Protection ................... 31
10. Local Participation: Visibility and Invisibility .............................................................. 33
Discussion ............................................................................................................................ 36
Recommendation 1: Engage in Holistic Recovery .......................................................... 39
Recommendation 2: Listen to and Partner with Rural Actors .......................................... 40
Recommendation 3: Build on the Collectivist Practices of Rural Haiti ............................. 42
Recommendation 4: Develop Capacities for Transformative Solutions to Risk Reduction .. 43
Recommendation 5: Study the Situation, Study Yourself ................................................ 45
Limitations ...................................................................................................................... 47
Conclusion ............................................................................................................................ 48
References ........................................................................................................................... 49
Appendix A: Data Sources for Post-Earthquake Rural Haiti .................................................. 54
Appendix B: Research Instruments Part I: Quantitative Survey Instrument ........................... 55
Appendix C: Research Instruments Part II: Key Informant Interview Guide ........................... 61
Appendix D: Haiti Research Team Members ........................................................................ 65
was the interplay between discourses and
practices of local participation in rural areas
This report presents research findings
in relation to outside actors.
and recommendations that have emerged
from a three-year study of disaster recovery
The sources of data include New York Times
articles (2010-12), Haitian state policy documents
(2010), international non-governmental
organization (INGO) documents (2010-12), field
surveys conducted in three rural communities
(2012), and a focus group conducted in one of
those rural communities (2014).
in rural Haiti, funded by the National Science
Foundation’s Disaster Resilience in Rural
Communities Program. The study was
conducted after the devastating 2010
earthquake in Haiti and focuses on disaster
impact and recovery, as well as discourses
of recovery, media, policies, and
A university professor and graduate
interventions. A key concern of the research
assistant based in the U.S., along with a
Haitian community development specialist
recovery in terms of enhancing human
based in Haiti, produced this report.
capabilities of disaster-affected individuals
and preparing communities for future
The report presents ten major findings
that the researchers identified in the
disasters. The Haitian government, together
combined analysis of the data sources,
with the international community, envisions
including similarities and discrepancies
recovery in terms of macro-level economic
across sources of data and identified
development, positioning Haiti to compete on
recovery actors. These themes are: 1)
the global market. Finally, rural Haitian
Material Destruction and Immediate Needs;
people tend to want to return to the
2) Vulnerability, Capacity Building, and Long-
semblance of normal living and enhance
Term Solutions; 3) Contested Visions of
their wellbeing.
Grounded in the findings, the report
Recovery: An Opportunity for Disaster
Capitalism?; 4) The Social Construction of
concludes with key recommendations for
Key Actors, Power, and Unnoticed Heroes;
practitioners and policymakers. These
5) Actions and Inaction of the Haitian
recommendations draw from a normative
Government; 6) International Aid
framework for social development, the
Organizations: Part of the Solution, Part of
capabilities approach, which is merged with
the Problem; 7) Psychosocial Recovery; 8)
principles of sustainable disaster recovery
Solidarity, Collectivity, and a Community-
(Gardoni & Murphy, 2008; Nussbaum, 2011;
Oriented Approach; 9) Disaster
Sen, 1999). The capabilities approach to
Preparedness, Risk Reduction, and
recovery emphasizes a holistic, systemic,
Environmental Protection; and 10) Local
and transformative approach, and is based
Participation: Visibility and Invisibility.
on five key principles. They are: (1) Restore,
The analysis revealed that much of the
maintain and enhance quality of life; (2)
discourse (especially New York Times, state
Promote social equity (intra-generational
policy documents, and INGO documents)
justice); (3) Promote inter-generational
failed to fully acknowledge the needs of rural
justice; (4) Address environmental concerns;
communities, instead focusing most of their
and (5) Facilitate public participation. Guided
attention and efforts on urban Port-au-
by this framework, which affirms the
Prince. Furthermore, we find that media,
importance of all people having the
policymakers, international actors, local rural
opportunity “to do” and “to be,” our
citizens, and local actors construct
recommendations emphasize to practitioners
participation and disaster recovery
and policymakers the importance of safety,
differently. INGOs tend to view disaster
The Purpose of This Report
equitable access to resources, and local
At the time of the writing of this report, it
Such an approach to recovery requires
outside actors to prioritize awareness of
has been five years since the earthquake
one’s own discourses of disaster recovery,
actually occurred. Many phases and
listening, engaging and partnering with local
developments in the relief and recovery
rural actors, and building on the collectivist
process have transpired and the situation will
practices of rural Haiti. Moreover, we make
continue to evolve as communities rebuild
suggestions for disaster preparedness and
and new policies and programs emerge. Our
risk reduction in a way that enhances local
concern here, though, is the time period
community connections and resources, while
immediately after the disaster, which is when
also calling for transformation of economic
public interest and attention is highest. This
arrangements where environmental
period can be especially instructive,
protection is centered. Finally, we appeal to
particularly as it relates to media and public
all actors to know the context and
discourses about recovery, foreign actors,
themselves as they engage in the dynamic
and local actor participation.
practice of participatory disaster recovery.
Many key actors who are on the frontlines, as well
as other important decision makers around
disaster relief and recovery in places like rural
Haiti and other parts of the Global South, often do
not have the opportunity and time to consider the
values, language, and beliefs that actually inform
what is funded and what transpires on the ground.
Overall, the results of this inquiry into
discourses and social production of disaster
recovery, asks everyone working on
recovery issues in Haiti, from policymakers
to development workers to local community
organizers, to pose key questions about their
projects – Whose vision of recovery is it?
Who participates? and Who benefits?
Governmental leaders in Haiti, as well as
throughout the Americas and Europe, will
find useful information about the disaster, the
role of the New York Times in representing
the disaster, and the perspectives of people
most impacted by the disaster. Leaders and
practitioners working in international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs) can
draw from the findings here to inform their
future and current partnership building
endeavors in their humanitarian relief and
recovery projects. Disaster scholars can gain
The devastating 7.0 magnitude
insight into the production of disasters,
earthquake that hit Haiti in January 2010
specifics of community disaster resilience
killed an estimated 200,000 people and left
and recovery, and conduct similar studies for
1.5 million of Haiti’s 10 million people
comparison and theory building purposes.
homeless. In rural parts of Haiti, an
We believe that local Haitian community
estimated 100,000 households (or 500,000
leaders in rural communities can learn more
individuals) were affected (OxfamAmerica,
about the local, national and international
2010). To recover from this epic disaster, a
discourses of the Haiti disaster and use the
wide array of actors, including local
findings to reflect on the implications for their
community members and leaders,
community and Haiti’s future in general. With
government officials, and international actors
this knowledge, they are in a better position
from across the globe, have engaged in
to initiate and engage in needs-driven
ongoing recovery efforts. Given the complex
projects and partnerships for post-disaster
history of post-colonialist development and
recovery as well as disaster preparedness.
humanitarian aid projects in Haiti, we were
We are also hopeful that local actors will feel
concerned with the extent and quality of
empowered to use the report to move the
substantive local participation in the recovery
conversation forward and advocate for their
process and thus sought to learn more
needs with local officials, the national
(Farmer, 2011; Schuller, 2007, 2010; Smith,
government, and global actors that are trying
to work in their communities. Toward these
As a result of the devastating earthquake,
ends, we have translated an abridged
many rural communal sectors experienced
version of this report into Haitian Creole, and
extensive losses of lives, homes, schools,
the findings are being disseminated through
hospitals, businesses, and agricultural
various venues and networks, such as
infrastructure, with damage estimates at
existing community development networks,
about $2.3 billion (OxfamAmerica, 2010).
educational programs, and rural radio. We
Less discussed has been the reverse
encourage you to share this report with all
migration that brought family members from
interested parties.
Port-au-Prince (which took the major brunt of
the disaster) back home to their communities
of origin, putting additional pressure on
household resources (Pyles, Rodrigue &
Andre, 2011). So in addition to cleaning up,
Through our research and analysis, we
focused our efforts on the social construction of
disaster recovery and the meaning and practice of
participation by essential constituents of the
recovery process, including government, the
international community, and local actors.
rebuilding and addressing personal and
community losses, local rural citizens took in
displaced loved ones and provided them with
food, clothing, and shelter (OxfamAmerica,
2010). While it is true that outside actors,
such as foreign states and international
NGOs, tend to play very important roles in
The research team sought to learn more
disaster relief and recovery efforts, it is an
about these issues through analysis of
important point to remember that citizens
newspaper articles; policy and NGO
themselves conduct the most significant
documents; and empirical field research
amount of relief and recovery efforts after a
(surveys and focus group) with local citizens
disaster (Solnit, 2010).
in three rural communities. Thus, this report
Background and Context
represents the culmination of more than
three years of investigation on the subject of
Since the Haiti earthquake, the neo-
participation in recovery efforts in rural Haiti.
colonial dynamics between local and foreign
In it, we share our analysis of the key
actors have been playing out in rural sectors
combined findings in relation to the existing
(Inter-Agency Standing Committee, 2010;
literature and research on the subject.
OxfamAmerica, 2010). This is transpiring
Guided by the tenets of a capabilities
within a complex fabric of actors that
approach to sustainable disaster recovery
includes the Haitian government, local
(Gardoni & Murphy, 2008; Nussbaum, 2011;
Haitian citizen groups, foreign governments,
Sen, 1999), which affirm the importance of
multi-lateral organizations, and international
all people having the opportunity “to do” and
NGOs in a country that has a human
“to be,” our recommendations emphasize the
development index ranking of 161 out of 187
importance of safety, equitable access to
countries ranked (United Nations
resources, and local participation.
Development Programme, 2013). In rural
In what follows, we present background
Haiti, the capabilities deprivations and
on the disaster and the Haitian context,
poverty levels are even worse than that of
including the disaster’s impact, relief and
the urban Port-au-Prince. The World Bank
recovery in rural areas, as well as further
(2014) recently reported that while extreme
explanation of the situation related to
poverty in Haiti declined significantly from
government roles, civil society, and outside
2000 to 2012, the rates have remained the
actors in development and recovery. We
same in rural areas. As well, access to basic
also discuss the capabilities framework that
infrastructure is compromised in rural Haiti,
informs this research. After a brief discussion
as only 11% of people in the Haitian
of our research methodology, we then
countryside are able to access energy
present ten key findings that we have
compared with 63% in Haitian cities. About
identified through extensive analysis. Finally,
16% in rural areas have access to improved
we conclude the report with a presentation of
sanitation, while 48% in cities do (World
five major recommendations that will be
Bank, 2014).
relevant to all stakeholders, but especially to
outside actors working in Haiti and similar
This scenario’s roots can be traced back to
multiple events in Haiti’s history including
colonization by France, a successful slave
revolution, occupation by the U.S. Marines,
dictatorships, and a rise of popular movements.
post-disaster contexts.
Referred to before the earthquake as the “land of
10,000 NGOs,” Haiti’s civil society includes a mix
of local groups and international development
factors informed our interest in studying the
Since the late 1980s, Haiti’s civil society has
A Capabilities Approach to
included community-based organizations
Sustainable Disaster
social construction of and the role that local
participation has played in rural earthquake
recovery in Haiti.
(CBOs), faith-based organizations,
grassroots social movements, and INGOs
engaged in ongoing development projects,
Central to this study was the assumption
filling in the gaps left by a fragile national
that strong local social capital, coupled with
government infrastructure (Schuller, 2007).
philosophies and practices by
Scholars have consistently questioned to
international/external actors that embrace
what extent INGOs in Haiti have genuinely
local customs and value authentic
included Haitians in their development
participation, have the potential to enhance
projects over the years (Smith, 2001). In
sustainable recovery of disaster-affected
addition, post-disaster projects throughout
individuals and communities (Berke, Kartez
the globe, and especially in the developing
& Wenger, 1993). This understanding has
world, have been criticized for failing to
been influenced by a capabilities framework,
include local voices and skills in the planning
which is an approach to development that
and implementation of projects (Cooke &
looks beyond material outcomes and
Kothari, 2001; Sliwinski, 2009; Smith &
focuses on the role and import of human
Wenger, 2006). This situation occurs within a
freedom, mental and physical health, control
larger development framework that seeks to
over one’s environment, and social
remedy past poor development practices by
connection (Nussbaum, 2011). The
mandating “participation,” toward the twofold
approach affirms the importance of the social
ends of greater efficiency of efforts and
opportunities provided by governments and
increased empowerment of participants
civil society and their impacts on both
(Cooke & Kothari, 2001). These calls for
material and non-material functioning (Sen,
participation often conceal power structures,
as participatory projects diverge away from
Interested in the social production of
analyzing social problems and options,
disaster recovery, with particular interest in
becoming narrow and flowing into restricted
how different actors articulate and engage in
projects (Cooke & Kothari, 2001). These
“participation,” we sought to find out the
meaning and role of Nussbaum’s (2011)
Foundation’s (NSF) Disaster Resilience in
core capability – control over one’s
Rural Communities Program. The data from
environment – in disaster recovery
the NSF study was supplemented by data
processes and outcomes. This capability
sources analyzed by Svistova in her
previously has been operationalized as
dissertation research, specifically the policy
political participation, group affiliation, and
documents and the INGO documents.
community decision-making (Nussbaum,
Overall, we draw from seven different data
2011; Robeyns, 2006). We believe that full
sources: 1) The New York Times, a U.S.-
participation in disaster recovery projects
based newspaper that offered substantial
with outside partners would help people to
coverage of the post-disaster situation in
achieve this capability.
Haiti; 2-3) Two documents produced by the
Government of the Republic of Haiti (GRH)
Gardoni and Murphy (2008) have argued
that a capabilities approach to recovery can
that assessed the needs and detailed the
promote five principles of sustainable
actions to be taken for disaster recovery
recovery, namely (1) Restore, maintain and
(referred to as policy documents); 4-5) Two
enhance quality of life; (2) Promote social
INGO documents published by the
equity (intra-generational justice); (3)
International Federation of Red Cross and
Promote inter-generational justice; (4)
Red Crescent Societies (IFRCRCS)
Address environmental concerns; and (5)
[hereafter, Red Cross] and Oxfam
Facilitate public participation. Furthermore,
International [hereafter, Oxfam]; 6) Field
socio-economic status, gender, ability, and
surveys that we conducted in the Summer of
race/ethnicity are particularly important
2012 on disaster impact, recovery and local
dimensions of participation that we consider
participation in three rural communities; and
in this study of rural disaster recovery in
7) A focus group we held in 2014 with key
Haiti, as marginalized individuals tend to
informants from one of the rural
experience social exclusion in extreme ways.
communities. We detail each of the data
Such social exclusion must be remedied in
sources and sampling methods below and
order to achieve full human functioning and
offer a summary of the data in Appendix A.
We chose to gain insight into media
long-term sustainable recovery.
discourse by analyzing the New York Times,
which is a mainstream American publication,
In preparing this report we compiled the
with a substantial global reach and impact.
analyzed findings from our mixed-methods
Though it is by no means representative of
study funded by the National Science
all media perspectives, we believe that this
newspaper offers a middle of the road
driven by outside actors. The Oxfam
approach to global news events, and is
documents were a collection of reports
appropriate for gaining some under-standing
published between 2010-2012, which
of media discourse and the potential impact
consisted of progress reports, briefing notes,
it can have on policy and practice. To obtain
and briefing papers. The Red Cross
the newspaper articles from the New York
documents, also published between 2010-
Times, we conducted a search using the
2012, consisted of progress reports and
words “Haiti earthquake” between January
updates. The documents were downloaded
12, 2010 and January 12, 2012 in the Lexis
from the organizations’ respective websites.
Nexis database. Initially, this search yielded
It is important to keep in mind that the policy
375 articles. We reviewed these articles for
and INGO documents represent discourse of
eligibility and excluded articles that had only
disaster recovery and do not necessarily
passing references to the earthquake and
reflect what these groups have actually done
included articles that offered substantial
on the ground.
To inquire into the disaster impact and
coverage of the topic. This selection process
locally-driven recovery efforts, we created
yielded 235 articles for analysis.
and translated into Haitian Creole a
We analyzed two policy documents
produced by the Government of the Republic
quantitative survey using Likert-scale
of Haiti (GRH): the Post-Disaster Needs
measurements (see Appendix B). We chose
Assessment (PDNA) (2010a) and the Action
three rural communities to survey based on
Plan for National Recovery and
their having high, medium, and low levels of
Development of Haiti (Action Plan) (2010b).
disaster impact, as well as convenience.
We sought to analyze them to gain a policy
Community F, located in the West
perspective on the production of disaster
Department, had high levels of devastation.
recovery and the role of participation. Both
Community P, located in the South-East
documents are available in English and were
Department, experienced medium levels of
downloaded from the official website of the
devastation. Community L, located in the
U.N. Secretary General’s Special Adviser
Artibonite Department, experienced low
levels of devastation. Topics covered on the
survey included: Disaster Impact and
Additionally, we analyzed documents
produced by two international agencies,
Recovery; Disaster Recovery Participation;
Oxfam and the Red Cross, to gain some
Civic Engagement and Social Capital;
perspective on (the discourse of) on-the-
Quality of Life; and Social Trust. We trained
ground disaster relief and recovery practices
local community leaders as research
Data Analysis
assistants who conducted random, door-todoor surveys in three rural communities that
We uploaded all textual documents (New
had low (L), medium (P), or high (F) levels of
York Times, policy documents, INGO
disaster impact. The final sample consisted
documents and the focus group transcript)
of 126 (Community L), 125 (Community P)
into NVivo 9 qualitative data analysis
and 123 (Community F) respondents for a
software and analyzed for themes. For
total of 374 respondents. Though this
coding purposes, a paragraph constituted a
sample is not generalizable to all such
unit of meaning. We began data analysis
communities in rural Haiti, we believe the
with a pre-determined set of codes based on
findings offer useful information about the
the research goals. During the first stage of
perspectives of rural citizens who were
analysis, through initial coding and memoing,
recovering from the earthquake.
new codes emerged. Once all the data was
We also conducted a focus group in 2014
organized by assigning codes, we further
with one of the three communities
applied the techniques of critical discourse
(Community P, which had medium
analysis (Wodak & Meyer, 2009) and
earthquake impact) that we surveyed in
identified more specific themes, guided by
2012. We recruited seven key informants,
our capabilities framework. To analyze the
who were rural Haitian community
quantitative data, we entered the survey data
development leaders, and who have worked
into SPSS statistical analysis software and
with foreign organizations. The focus group
ran basic frequencies. In the end, we
questions sought to explore some of the
combined all the sources of data and
findings from the surveys in greater detail.
generated the ten themes that are spelled
For example, we wanted to find out what
out below. It is also important to keep in
was it like to participate in a disaster
mind that the researchers brought their own
recovery project initiated by the community
experiences with research in post-
versus a project initiated by outside actors.
earthquake rural Haiti to the data analysis
The focus group interview guide is available
too, as our research team had engaged in
in Appendix C. The focus group was
participatory action research with rural
conducted in Haitian Creole with an
communities in 2010 where we conducted
interpreter who interpreted everything into
over 75 organizational interviews in 11 rural
English. The English interpretation of the
communities (see Pyles, Rodrigue, & Andre,
focus group was audio recorded and
transcribed verbatim.
documents), such as through
sensationalized language or victim-blaming
The findings below paint a picture of relief
discourse. We strive to make clear our
and recovery efforts from the time of the
interpretation of this nuance in the media
Haiti earthquake in January 2010 through
and other sources throughout the report.
February 2014. The results articulated here
are the dominant ones that emerged from
1. Material Destruction and
the data sources. This picture is a
Immediate Needs
construction of the perspectives of several
After the earthquake, there was large-
different social actors that were the targets of
scale destruction of both the human and the
our research, namely rural Haitian citizens,
built environment and, as such, the needs to
rural Haitian community leaders, the U.S.
be addressed were significant. However, the
news media, international NGO actors, and
newspaper was inclined to sensationalize
the Haitian government. Our analysis reveals
this destruction, and emphasize more
that different discourse communities view
immediate needs, rather than long-term
disaster recovery differently. Organizations
sustainable recovery and development.
see disaster recovery in terms of building
Additionally, all documents failed to
stronger human capabilities and disaster
adequately acknowledge the needs of rural
preparedness. The Haitian government,
together with the international community,
The earthquake brought unprecedented
envisions recovery in terms of macro-
devastation and chaos, and people’s lives
economic development. Haitian people
were “turned upside down” (Oxfam
(those interviewed in the New York Times
International, 2010, p.5; IFRCRCS, 2010,
and by us) want to return to the semblance
p.8). Our survey research found that the
of normal living and enhance their well-
homes of 37.6% (n=374) of respondents in
the three rural communities where we
It is important to note that the findings
surveyed became uninhabitable as a result
from the New York Times are unique in that
of the earthquake, and 45.5% of
they reveal meaningful factual data about the
respondents lost other types of personal
event, as well as the perspectives of various
actors (such as victims and responders)
To narrate the story in the aftermath of
through reporting and interviews. And yet,
the earthquake, the New York Times
we find that this media source does portray
newspaper uses dramatic language, as post-
its own social construction (as do all
earthquake Haiti is described as “pregnant
with anxiety and sporadic political violence,”
the devastated port and airport, slow
(Archibald, November 26, 2010, p. A6) with
capacity of processing imported supplies and
victims who are “jaw-droppingly poor,”
equipment, and piles of debris all
(Lacey, January 24, 2010, p. A1) “homeless
significantly slowed down relief efforts.
The fate and needs of internally displaced
and maimed,” (Editorial Desk, February 21
2010, p. A18) “languishing” (Romero, March
people (IDP) and the grave situation in the
7, 2010, p. A6) and “scrambling” (Hoyt,
IDP camps (primarily in and around Port-au-
January 24, 2010, p. WK10) for resources,
Prince) is at the center of the Post-Disaster
while living in ”unfathomable chaos” (Sontag,
Needs Assessment (PDNA) (GRH, 2010a)
January 27, 2010, p. A1). Some of the New
put forth by the Haitian government. The
York Times newspaper articles portray the
Red Cross, Oxfam and the New York Times
disaster as a “war” scene (Mackey, January
identified the following immediate needs:
20, 2010; Romero & MacFarquhar, January
temporary housing and shelter, water,
21, 2010, p. A12) defined by a humanitarian
sanitation and hygiene provision, sexual
crisis and unruly chaos. The unbearable
assaults and safety, lawlessness and
stench of dead corpses and bodies being
disorderly distribution of emergency supplies
thrown into the mass graves complete the
and lack of preparedness for the hurricane
snapshot of the disaster scene. Such
season. These two aid organizations under
sensationalized images of disasters are not
study revealed concern about people staying
uncommon for media to employ after a
in the camps longer than needed and sought
disaster, and it tends to especially be the
ways to ensure a better balance between
case when reporting on the developing world
providing “essential assistance” and “not
(Frank, 2006).
encouraging people to stay in camps”
(IFRCRCS, 2010, p.10). They see the lack of
An overwhelming humanitarian response
poured in from the international community
land registers as the greatest impediment to
following the disaster. For the New York
the implementation of relocation programs
Times and aid organizations, the 2010
for IDPs. Other research, however, has
earthquake was predominantly a crisis
shown that most people living in camps were
situation in which survivors needed to be
not receiving “essential assistance,” were
kept alive and provided with “bare
largely self-organized, and the only incentive
essentials” (IFRCRCS, 2010, p.7):
to stay there was that they had nowhere else
emergency supplies, food, water, hygiene
to go (Schuller, 2010). One could certainly
kits, tents and tarpaulins. The New York
argue that a lack of public and private
Times and aid organizations reported that
resources put towards IDPs represents an
even greater impediment to safe relocation
qualified teachers and schools to
(Schuller, 2010).
accommodate the needs of children arriving
from Port-au-Prince who had higher
The exodus of people fleeing from Portau-Prince created a burden on rural areas
educational levels. Finally, they stated that
and thus created more immediate needs in
their communities needed resources such as
the aftermath of the earthquake
land to grow food and agricultural tools to
(OxfamAmerica, 2010); however, there is
improve production capacity to feed their
almost complete silence about this across
relocated family members in the short-term,
our documents. Yet, our focus group
and to continue to stay resilient and improve
participants, who consisted of community
their lives in the long-term.
leaders from one rural community,
Our survey data revealed that 85% of all
respondents in all three communities believed that
the disaster caused them to lose their ability to
expressed their need for money to send to
their disaster-struck loved ones right after
the earthquake. They also needed better-
earn money. About two years after the
earthquake, only 5% reported that they had
regained a source of income.
Every source of data in varying degrees
(except the surveys as we did not inquire
into pre-disaster vulnerability) acknowledged
numerous pre-disaster vulnerabilities that
These dire scenarios echo what the disaster
plagued Haiti before January 12, 2010.
literature says about livelihood recovery as
Acute poverty, deforestation and
one of the most important elements to attend
environmental crisis, the densely populated
to after a disaster, especially in the
capital of Port-au-Prince, poor building codes
developing world (United Nations
and lack of land registry, and poor health
Development Programme, 2001).
and sanitation practices are all examples of
pre-disaster vulnerabilities. Moreover, the
2. Vulnerability, Capacity
Haitian government’s Post-Disaster Needs
Building, and Long-Term
Assessment (PDNA), for example, explicitly
stated that these pre-quake vulnerabilities
Virtually all data sources acknowledged
have, in fact, contributed to the extensive
the pre-disaster risks and vulnerabilities and
scope of the disaster. This is an important
most surmise that they contributed to the
finding because it frames the general
extensive scope of the earthquake. These
approach to post-earthquake recovery in
sources articulate a universal belief in the
Haiti: it cannot be just returning back to pre-
need to engage in capacity building
disaster “normal” conditions.
activities, especially at the individual,
The documents present the view that this is an
opportunity to “re-shape” Haiti and put it on the
road to sustainable development by addressing
the vulnerabilities that existed prior to the
community, organizational, and
governmental levels. However, our survey
research reveals only scant evidence of
participatory engagement by local actors in
such activities in rural communities. Focus
group participants tended to place more
Further, the data is replete with discourse
emphasis on community capacity building
on capacity-building activities as a
rather than individual, organizational or
cornerstone of sustainable recovery. It is
governmental. Finally, newspaper articles
threaded through all the documents as the
notwithstanding, commensurate with the
need to strengthen individual capabilities, as
theme of sustainable recovery, there is
well as organizational and governmental
significant concern with long-term solutions
capacities. For example, the discourse of the
to recovery and development.
Red Cross is heavily focused on
strengthening human capital and people’s
INGOs fail to follow up on the outcomes of
knowledge and skills. Some of the human
their projects.
Haitian government documents (i.e. the
capital building activities discussed by the
Red Cross were: hygiene promotion, cholera
PDNA and Action Plan) are specifically
prevention, and on-the-job training and skill-
concerned with strengthening capacities of
building activities that can enhance people’s
governmental institutions. This is to be
livelihood prospects (e.g. vocational skills
achieved through training staff, modernizing
such as carpentry, sewing, masonry and
equipment and technology, and
business training).
decentralizing public administration. There
was little discourse from focus group
While the capacity building rhetoric is
strong, when we asked rural citizens in three
participants about the role of the government
case study communities in the South-East,
and the need to strengthen government
West and Artibonite Departments through
capacities as, we surmise, there is a general
surveys about what kind of recovery projects
lack of faith in government capabilities due to
they had participated in with outside actors,
the history in Haiti (Trouillot, 2000). In the
less than 1% had participated in any kind of
community where the focus group was
organizational capacity building activity, less
conducted, the survey results revealed that
than 1% had participated in livelihood
the levels of trust in government were very
development activities, and 8.9% had
Lastly, apart from New York Times
participated in an agricultural project. Focus
group participants suggested that it was
discourse, which has crisis solutions at the
important to train local people as disaster
center of its narrative, the rest of the data
responders and health promoters, thus
center the need to transition from keeping
emphasizing more of a community building
people alive and providing substitute
approach over a human capital building
services to long-term sustainable solutions.
approach favored by the INGOs. That being
In this regard, Oxfam distinguishes between
said, the Red Cross and Oxfam do put forth
program (long-term organization and
some ideas about community members as
development) and project (palliative with no
health advocates and disaster responders,
lasting solutions) approaches to tackle the
however, they do not focus on the hard-to-
problems facing agriculture (Oxfam
reach and differently affected rural
International, 2011, p.2). One of the Oxfam
communities. In addition, focus group
reports on revitalizing agriculture (Oxfam
participants find it problematic that some
International, 2011) suggests that project or
palliative approaches tend to be in favor and
dominate recovery, while more lasting
The focus group participants, i.e. community
solutions are critical but absent.
leaders, emphasize community building,
The Red Cross also raises long-term
while the survey participants also believe in
sustainability concerns in their report in
the importance of community engagement,
2011. They suggest that there is a need to
but report that they are not hopeful for a new
move from the Red Cross, external
governments and other NGOs providing
It is important to keep in mind that the
sanitation services to the Haitian government
policy documents published by the Haitian
and Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)
government were heavily influenced by
cluster of the UN overseeing service
influential international actors. For example,
provision. For this to happen, they write,
the Action Plan (GRH, 2010b) was
equipment and sanitation facilities need to
predominantly prepared by the World Bank
be established and local people and
and merely endorsed by Haitian elites
authorities need to be trained in order to take
(Oxfam International, 2011). Thus, the
control and manage the delivery of sanitation
Haitian governmental policy documents
envision Haiti becoming an emerging country
in the global marketplace. In the Action Plan
3. Contested Visions of
(GRH, 2010b), recovery is about “a society
Recovery: An Opportunity for
with a modern, diversified, strong, dynamic,
Disaster Capitalism?
competitive, open and inclusive economy”;
“a society in which people’s basic needs are
Virtually all data sources reveal a hope for
change and improvement in Haiti over its
met quantitatively and qualitatively,” “a
pre-disaster conditions. However, there are
knowledge-based society with universal
widely different perspectives on this view
access to basic education
concerning what the recovery vision is and
capacity for scientific and technical
who should guide and implement it.
innovation” (GRH, 2010b, p.8). The de-
Generally, the media and the authors of the
centralization of public administration and
Haitian government’s recovery documents
de-concentration of economic activity away
promote opening up Haiti to large-scale
from Port-au-Prince into the rural areas, as
macro-economic development, which
well as macro-economic development, drive
creates tremendous financial opportunities
the vision of “new Haiti” in the policy
for outside investors. The aid organizations
documents. Community level recovery, as
under investigation tend to promote human
well as human capital building, are largely
capital and organizational capacity building.
neglected and overshadowed by the macro-
and the
economic renewal focus. While the
For Oxfam, however, the grand renewal is
document states that the voices of
about building a “more equitable Haiti.” In
vulnerable Haitians were included, its
their understanding it implies eliminating
content seems to belie this as it does not
gender violence, fostering the inclusion of
align well with the Voices of the Voiceless
women, and a pro-poor reconstruction
(VOV) project, compiled by HELP,
process as opposed to one where the
KOZEPEP, ATD Quart Monde, Partners in
“haves” will benefit more and quicker than
Health, The Office of the Special Envoy, and
the “have-nots.” The Red Cross and Oxfam
MINUSTAH (2010). While the findings of this
view post-earthquake recovery as a “new
study of grassroots people’s vision of
start” (IFRCRCS, 2010; Oxfam International,
recovery align with the ideas of de-
2011) and an opportunity for livelihood
centralization, the VOV project strongly
renewal and further development in terms of
affirms the need for investment in people,
micro-economic activity and the
through such activities as building schools
establishment of sustainable water sanitation
and giving micro-loans.
and hygiene.
Oxfam and the Red Cross use cash-for-
The New York Times also embraces the
discourse of “building back better,” affirming
work programs to engage local citizens into
the need for “complete reconstruction.” The
the relief and recovery efforts and view them
New York Times summarizes the vision of
as a way to improve and strengthen
the planners and architects (e.g. the Interim
livelihoods. However, many people have
Haiti Recovery Commission, President
criticized the effectiveness of cash-for-work
Clinton and President Martelly) seeking
programs, and they are most certainly not
international financial support:
something that promote sustainable
Their dreams were grand. They envisioned Haiti
2030 as a self-reliant, democratically stable,
decentralized and reforested land with decent
housing and education for all, a national highway
network, a hearty fruit and tuber industry, animal
husbandry, industrial zones and tourism (Sontag,
2010, p. A1).
livelihood development in the long-term (Ayiti
The newspaper also identifies many
creation, the policy documents take a
Kale Je, 2013). Particularly promising though
is that the aid organizations see great value
in assisting small businesses as potential
future sites of job creation. On the other
hand, while similarly concerned with job
actors profiting from the disaster at the
different approach, emphasizing industrial
expense of benefits to victims.
parks, and textile and garment factories as
The organizational documents are also
modes of macro-economic recovery.
concerned with this “new society” narrative.
post-disaster Haiti, largely catering to
The fact that disasters may be used as
opportunities to implement policies and
foreigners who are coming into the country
interventions that benefit business, corporate
seeking business opportunities or
and other elite interests is not at all
implementing the projects of international
unprecedented. In fact, scholars and
NGOs (Collier & Warnholz, January 29,
journalists have referred to this phenomenon
2010, p. A27). Former President Bill Clinton
as “disaster capitalism” and have even put
played a major role in inviting these investors
forward the idea that non-profits also benefit
to Haiti. While local labor forces are often
extensively from disasters through what has
hired, it is because they can be paid less
been called “non-profiteering” (Klein, 2007;
than their U.S. counterparts, as was
Gunewardena & Schuller, 2008; Pyles,
revealed in an article referring to a U.S.
based garbage/debris removal company
(Sontag, 2010, p. A1).
The New York Times uncovers this theme through
their stories about U.S. companies profiting from
the situation in Haiti, e.g. using the disaster as an
opportunity to revive the U.S. construction
industry that was mired in a recession (Collier &
Warnholz, January 29, 2010, p. A27).
In response to the externally conceived
rebuilding and development plans and
efforts, former Haitian President JeanBertrand Aristide is cited in the New York
Times summing up the theme of “who
An exogenous plan of reconstruction – one that is
profit-driven, exclusionary, conceived of and
implemented by non-Haitians – cannot reconstruct
Haiti. It is the solemn obligation of all Haitians to
join in the reconstruction and to have a voice in the
direction of the nation (Cave, 2011, February 9,
p. A6).
From a policy perspective, in the Action Plan
(GRH, 2010b), branding and turning Haiti
into a country “open for business” seems to
garner the most benefit to international
benefactors and investors, though to be sure
these would be jobs that do not exist
Given the role that elitism played throughout
currently and are badly needed. The
the recovery, and indeed in pre-earthquake
question is whether the jobs would pay
Haiti, it is not surprising that when we
people a living wage, which is a necessary
queried rural survey participants about what
(though not sufficient) condition for equitable
they believed their community would be like
in five years, 56.7% believed that their
An additional dimension of the discourse
communities would be worse than it currently
of disaster capitalism also emerges from the
is (i.e., only 43.3% believed it would be
New York Times articles, which discuss the
building of new international hotel chains
4. The Social Construction of
We also notice that throughout all
documents, the words “rebuilding” and
Key Actors, Power, and the
“reconstruction” prevail in the discourse of
Unnoticed Heroes
recovery. These words are indicators of a
Data sources portray different social
larger preoccupation with the physical
actors dichotomously – protagonist and
environment, and by extension, less focus
antagonist, hero and victim, beneficiary and
on the issues of psychosocial recovery and
benefactor, powerful and powerless, “haves”
other aspects of human functioning,
and “have-nots,” deserving and undeserving.
including rights and freedoms. These
This phenomenon speaks to the power
concerns are articulated by our focus group
structures at play, and the potential for
participants as well as individuals
inclusive or exclusive policies and practices
interviewed in New York Times articles, who
and their impacts on sustainable recovery
envision recovery as certainly related to the
physical environment, but extending far
There are three key social actors that
beyond that.
populate and tie together the narrative we
Our findings from the focus group reveal
analyze of the post-earthquake recovery: the
that recovery means getting back on one’s
Haitian government, the international
feet and living lives defined by dignity and
community, and victims of the earthquake.
individual and social well-being. Provided
The narratives of these actors, however, are
that the resources and skills are in place, the
not fixed and are often contested within and
participants see themselves as self-sufficient
across our data sources. For example, the
and self-reliant responders and recovery
policy documents (and to some extent the
actors. They revealed stories of building a
INGO documents) construct the Haitian
road that revealed their “strength, synergy,
government as an agent of change (e.g., a
enthusiasm, and relationship.” They affirm
leader of recovery efforts). On the other
the importance of utilizing local knowledge
hand, the policy documents, aid
and resources, helping each other, and
organizations and news articles construct the
engaging in partnerships with outsiders that
government as a target of change (e.g., in
are egalitarian and collaborative.
need of building its capacity and
decentralizing its efforts). Similarly, the
organizational documents and news
accounts present local people as both the
objects of external interventions (e.g. poor
in a rural region just outside the capital. In a slum
area, a volunteer first-aider dressed the wounds of
a girl who had been trapped in rubble. These
largely unsung heroes know they can't replace the
big foreign aid agencies, but they're doing what
they can to fill the gaps (Mackey, 2010).
and homeless, patients, trainees, lawless
mob, and counterfeiters) and active recovery
subjects (e.g. camp leaders, volunteers,
protesters, and entrepreneurs). The view of
the international community as resourceful
(e.g., possessing emergency supplies,
The New York Times and organizational
funding) and hardworking (e.g., medical
documents offer further insight into Haitian
professionals, rescue teams) is also
society, as they illuminate the inequality
contested with a critique of its actions (e.g.,
within it. More specifically, they highlight the
hampering the local economy by importing
reality that “the haves” (landowners, elite,
emergency supplies, and creating long-term
men) will benefit from the recovery efforts
more significantly than “the have-nots,”
The narratives and portrayals vary from
especially among the most vulnerable
data source to data source. For instance,
populations, such as children, women, and
while in the policy documents victims of the
disabled people. Such understanding is
earthquake are generally portrayed as in
critical to a capabilities approach to
need of some type of rehabilitation,
sustainable disaster recovery, which
organizational documents center them as
acknowledges heterogeneities and the
those “who must steer the future of their
importance of changing social conditions and
country” (IFRCRCS, 2012, p.3). Similarly,
public policies that ensure equitable
when elites (referred to as “big” people, or
opportunities for recovery. In this regard,
gwo nèg, by our focus group participants)
Oxfam advocates that poor communities be
prioritized in recovery planning and programming
efforts, explaining that “in a socially divided
society such as Haiti, there is a real danger that
the better off and politically influential will secure
their needs first” (Oxfam International, 2010, p. 1)
talk about local citizens, they see them as
victims. But when local citizens talk of
themselves, they actually see themselves as
“big” people, or “giants” as one of our focus
group participants stated.
One of the accounts by the New York
Times summarizes the unnoticed work of the
All of these dichotomous constructions –
local heroes amidst the hyper-visibility of
protagonist and antagonist, hero and victim,
international efforts:
beneficiary and benefactor, powerful and
A company which sells drinking water is distributing
it free to people living in a school compound. A
Haitian Jesuit priest has mobilized local relief
workers and international doctors to work together
powerless, “haves” and “have-nots,”
deserving and undeserving – speak to the
power structures at play, and reveal the
potential for inclusion into or exclusion from
quake, including significant losses of
disaster recovery-related decision-making
personnel and facilities. The pre-disaster
and action and their impacts on subsequent
history of the Haitian government is complex
recovery outcomes. The construction of, and
and intimately tied up with post-colonialist
the roles assigned to, the Haitian
politics and economics, though this issue is
government and international organizations
largely invisible in our data sources. Some
merit separate sections.
scholars have argued that international
NGOs have exacerbated the government’s
5. Action and Inaction of the
low capacities by luring capable employees
Haitian Government
into their organizations, thereby facilitating a
“brain drain,” pulling civil servants out of
Reflecting a common perception of the
Haitian government, much of the data
government positions (Schuller, 2007). Thus,
reveals a portrayal of the Haitian government
especially in the immediate disaster
as inactive, especially the media and
response phase, the New York Times
organizational actors; this is accompanied by
portray the government as inactive or as an
recommendations for extensive government
actual culprit of the problems at hand.
The newspaper articles use terms such
capacity building. INGO actors moderate this
discourse by acknowledging some of the
as “overwhelmed,” (e.g. Sontag, 2010, p. A1)
government’s successful post-earthquake
“ineffective,” (Sontag, 2010, p. A1)
actions. The government itself views itself as
“unstable,” (Lacey & Urbina, February 16,
a powerful recovery actor while the
2010, p. A4) “corrupt,” (Genzlinger, January
perceptions of local people are mixed. There
11, 2011, p. C2) and “dragging its feet over
is little mention of the historical, political and
decision-making” (Cave, 2010, February 8,
economic factors that has contributed to the
p. A6) to describe the Haitian government.
fragile state of the Haitian government.
The phrases “notoriously ineffective and corrupt
government” (Editorial Desk, April 3, 2010, p.
A16) and “infamously corrupt and hapless
government” (Editorial Desk, March 27, 2010, p.
WK9) reinforce the idea that the government’s
ineptitude and corruption are given and common
knowledge. However, such constructions
perpetuate a problematic discourse by failing to
acknowledge the roots of the difficulties that the
Haitian government faces, perhaps rationalizing
The New York Times criticizes the Haitian
government extensively in their coverage of
the earthquake, deeming them absent,
paralyzed, and slowing down relief and
recovery efforts (e.g. Editorial Staff, April 3,
2010, p. A16). This is not surprising, of
course, given the low capacities of the
government pre-quake and the devastation
that the government experienced after the
the inevitability of, and legitimizing, outside
government, for example, for not taking
action against forced evictions.
On the other hand, the government of
Indeed, there is good evidence that the
Haiti (i.e. Action Plan) generally positions
outside interventions from both foreign
itself as a legitimate, intact, and responsible
governments and INGOs have exacerbated
leader of recovery efforts as if seeking to
the ineffectiveness of the Haitian
reclaim its lost legitimacy during the relief
government both pre- and post-earthquake
phase (and pre-earthquake). However, some
(Schuller, 2012; Schuller & Morales, 2012).
of the empirical data from the surveyed and
However, both the Red Cross and Oxfam
interviewed rural communities in Haiti
strike a balance between their critique and
contest this image. In community L
acknowledgement of the Haitian
(Artibonite Department), 80% of the
government’s effective actions, perhaps an
surveyed do not trust the government and no
indicator of their conscious efforts not to
respondents have participated in
perpetuate the ubiquitous government
governmental projects. In community P
incapability narrative, which is often taken
(South-East Department), 85% of the
out of the historical Haitian context in relation
respondents trust the government
to their colonialist past. Indeed, the Haitian
moderately and none have participated in
state has been controlled by foreign powers
governmental projects. Interestingly and in
literally for centuries with the presence of
sharp contrast, in community F (West
international organizations contributing to
Department), over 80% of the respondents
this weak state (Farmer, 2011; Schuller,
have trust in the government and about 8%
2007; Schuller, 2012). Both organizations
have participated in a recovery project led by
emphasize the proactive and effective
the government. We surmise that community
response of the DINEPA (National Water
F had the highest levels of trust and
and Sanitation Directorate) and the Housing
participation of our three case study
and Public Building Unit’s 16/6 project
communities because it is closest to the
relocation program for displaced persons.
capital, Port-au-Prince, and thus has more
Additionally, both organizations in their
opportunities for interactions. In addition,
reports seek to center the need for
Community F has a charismatic local
partnering with local authorities and
community leader with strong national and
advocate for Haitian authorities to receive
international ties.
the funding and support that they need. On
the other hand, Oxfam critiques the
6. International Aid
important to remember that these actors also
Organizations: Part of the
have their own agendas. For example, the
Solution, Part of the Problem
mission statement of United States Agency
for International Development (USAID),
In the analysis of New York Times
which funds many INGOs, explicitly states its
articles, international aid and humanitarian
allegiance to US security and prosperity.
organizations are hyper-visible with a strong
The discourse of the reports produced by
emphasis on the heroic acts of foreign
Oxfam and the Red Cross also articulate the
actors. Organizational actors echo this belief
hard work of the international organizations.
about themselves, but point to the need for
What is different in their stories, however, is
strong partnerships with local actors. Survey
that they accentuate the need for partnership
participants and focus group participants
and collaboration with local citizens and
emphasize the importance of authentic
government authorities rather than the pre-
collaborations with earthquake survivors and
occupation with the protagonist, i.e. themselves.
community leaders. Findings also reveal the
unintended consequences of foreign
Our focus group participants also advocate such an
approach, one that works with and centers local
communities. More specifically, they report that the
projects of the international organizations that they
deemed successful in their community were ones
that involved consultation and active engagement
of community members from start to finish.
assistance as data reveals ways that it has
negatively impacted the local economy.
In the analysis of New York Times articles,
international aid and humanitarian organizations
are hyper-visible and are portrayed as very
hardworking, operating under extreme conditions
with limited resources, supplying medicine, relief
workers and medical professionals, equipment
and technology, food, water and relief products.
There are certainly unintended economic
consequences of foreign assistance, as
revealed by the New York Times and
organizational documents. For example, one
The spotlight in these stories is
New York Times article reports on the relief
predominantly placed on the heroic acts of
workers staying in hotels and partying in a
the foreign actors in the relief phase of the
casino in an upscale adjoining district near
disaster. While one could certainly take
Port-au-Prince, Pétionville, thus widening the
these stories at face value and assume that
inequality gap between locals and outsiders
international actors came to Haiti with good
(Romero, March 7, 2010, p. A6). Overall,
intentions and genuine concern about the
there are two commonly mentioned critiques
well-being of Haiti and its citizens, it is
regarding INGOs as contributing to
economic problems. First is related to failing
Oxfam’s work (or at least their discourse
to employ local professionals (e.g. medical
about it) serves as an example by not simply
staff) and providing services free of charge,
distributing imported food but purchasing it
thus putting local people (e.g. health
from local farmers and businesses for “food-
providers) into unemployment. Second is
kit” distribution. Such interventions, however,
related to international organizations
also have been critiqued because they are
importing relief supplies and failing to
costly in coordination and also have a
purchase local goods and produce. Such an
potential to disrupt local markets (Doocey et
approach to relief efforts is found to be
al., 2006; Harvey, 2007).
Acknowledging the importance of the
problematic because it increases inflation,
further hampers the already feeble local
international organizations but also implying
economy, and fails to foster what experts
their tendency to bypass local authorities,
believe to be central to disaster recovery,
the Action Plan (GRH, 2010b) suggests that
namely local participation. In this regard,
better coordination and attunement with
national programs needs to be in place.
surveys) illuminate the psychosocial
Also, the New York Times, organizational
dimensions of disaster recovery in Haiti. In
documents, and participants of the focus
the newspaper articles, we find stories of
group all raise concerns about sustainability.
people experiencing symptoms of disturbed
The New York Times focuses on the critique
mental health, mourning the death of loved
of international operations that were largely
ones, survivor’s guilt, overcoming trauma
concerned about “keeping people alive,” but
and loss, secondary trauma, and adjusting to
not improving people’s lives and getting to
a new life as a displaced person such as in a
the root of problems. Having had negative
camp or in another country. One common
experiences with the short-term cash-for-
theme of these stories is that the unknown
work projects when some beneficiaries were
status of family members or lack of proper
left worse off, our focus group participants
burial of the deceased intensifies grief and
also advocate for long-lasting solutions (e.g.
prolongs emotional closure. The primary
being trained in health care provision and
focus of the newspaper articles is on the
disaster response) once the INGOs are
camp residents, traumatized and orphaned
gone. Oxfam sums up this concern by
children, sexual assault survivors, Haitian
stating that Haiti needs to move beyond the
diaspora members, and relief and medical
cliché of the “republic of NGOs.”
workers in the U.S. who experienced
secondary trauma.
7. Psychosocial Recovery
Cénat and Derivois (2014), in their
The earthquake had significant negative
assessment of a sample of adult survivors
consequences for the physical, mental, and
30 months after the earthquake, found that
social well-being of Haitian survivors. While
the prevalence rates of PTSD and
international mental health professionals
depressive symptoms were 36.75% (498
played some roles in psychosocial recovery
cases) and 25.98% (352 cases) respectively.
efforts, our research shows that survivors’
According to their study, the risk factors for
participation in recovery efforts and helping
PTSD and depressive symptoms were
others, along with engaging in spiritual and
young and old age, female gender,
religious coping, played important roles. We
unemployed status and low level of
find, however, that this theme was largely
omitted from the recovery visions put forward
Our own survey data, also conducted about 30
months after the earthquake, reveals that about
76% of the respondents in community L, 72% in
by the policy documents and INGOs.
Several of our data sources (newspaper
articles, organizational documents, and
community P and 86% in community F believed
they had not recovered emotionally.
narratives of victimhood and pathology, the
newspaper articles and organizational
documents (Oxfam International, 2011;
When asked if their physical health was fair,
IFRCRCS, 2010, 2012) also portray Haitian
poor, good, very good or excellent, 55% of
people as resilient and resistant in their
all respondents stated that their health was
coping with the hardships bestowed by the
fair to poor, though it is unclear of the
earthquake. The following passage from the
correlation between health and the disaster
New York Times exemplifies some of the
in this case.
discourse around resilience: “
In the face of such significant real
Children can
be seen in every devastated corner
hardship, we also see the coping and
resiliently kicking soccer balls, flying
resistance of Haitian disaster victims.
Defying the pre-occupation with images and
handmade kites, singing pop songs and
ferreting out textbooks from the rubble of
recovering from disasters (Alawiyah, Bell,
their schools” (Sontag, 2010, p. A1).
Pyles, & Runnels, 2011; DeMoor, 2009).
The stories from the newspaper articles
New York Times newspaper articles
report on the psychosocial assistance
and anecdotes provided in the Red Cross
provided by foreign psychiatrists and local
reports (e.g. IFRCRCS, 2011) suggest that
volunteer psychologists (e.g., Sontag, 2010,
social ties and finding meaning in helping
p. A1). In these stories, mental health
others facilitate community involvement and
professionals explain that there was “no
subsequent recovery for Haitian disaster
tradition of therapy in Haitian culture,”
survivors. These survivors, according to Red
(Winerip, January 16, 2011, p. A17) but they
Cross reports, got trained as health
sense a cultural shift with attitudes changing
promoters, provided psychosocial support to
regarding mental health and seeking and
fellow survivors, joined safety and security
receiving help. This claim is a bit suspect as
teams in the camps, became camp leaders,
mental health institutions have existed in
volunteered to clean toilets or perform the
Haiti since the early 20 century, even
duties of bacayou (emptying toilet holes
though the government has not prioritized
manually) or came to be “water guardians” to
mental health policies and services. While
name a few. Similarly, our focus group
not necessarily embracing a western mental
participants identified helping others, working
health paradigm and therapy-oriented
together (or tet ansam putting heads
psychosocial recovery processes, religion
together in Haitian Creole), and rebuilding
and spirituality, including vodou, have played
the community as significant factors that
significant roles in dealing with trauma
drove local participation and facilitated their
before and after the earthquake (Kirmayer,
own recovery.
2010). Further, according to the news
articles, spirituality and religion have been
8. Solidarity, Collectivity, and a
vital coping mechanisms in the psychosocial
Community-Oriented approach
recovery process. Stories wherein people
There is significant evidence from our
gather to attend church, hold vigils, pray,
data pointing to community level initiatives
dance and sing are numerous. Though no
that are guided by solidarity, or mutual
data from the surveys and focus group
support and unity; in these cases, shared
confirm or disconfirm this, research on other
responsibilities appear to be the backbone of
disasters has shown spirituality and religion
relief and recovery. Survey data reflects the
to be valuable resources for those
traditionally collectivist orientation of rural
Haiti, as more than 90% of those surveyed
reported that they trust people in their own
example, the newspaper articles offer
narratives from the disaster scenes wherein
neighbors are digging neighbors from under
Given the collectivist orientation of Haitian
life, at the levels of family, community,
the rubble; a group of women in the camp
culture, and economics (Smith, 2001), it is
are sharing responsibilities for childcare and
not surprising that the issues of solidarity
food preparation; family members are taking
and community building are salient. These
care of each other; and people are standing
themes are addressed by the participants of
guard to protect each other from sexual
the focus group, the Red Cross and Oxfam,
assault in the camps. Our focus group
and occasionally by the New York Times.
participants also explain that working
However, in the PDNA (GRH, 2010a) and
collectively, putting their heads together, or
the Action Plan (GRH, 2010b), community is
tet ansanm, and sharing resources and
largely omitted as a dimension of or target of
responsibilities is what helped them endure
recovery. The Action Plan (GRH, 2010b)
the hardships of the floods in 2004 and the
mentions “community” only three times, i.e.
earthquake in 2010.
community-based infrastructure, equipping
The results of the survey also show that 100% of
the respondents in the focus group community
trust their neighbors. Similarly, in the other two
communities, over 90% of the residents trust
people in their community.
community personnel for crisis management,
and community level initiatives for food
security and nutrition. In the PDNA, the word
“community” appears more frequently in the
context of community infrastructure, agents
at the community level, needs assessed at
We surmise that this collectivist orientation
the community level, community-based
and extensive social infrastructure drove
health strategies, and the need to strengthen
local engagement in recovery efforts in rural
community organizations. However, the
Haiti regardless of the availability of external
social capital and solidarity building
assistance, or rural infrastructure. Some
dimensions of community, as recovery
research has even shown that people-driven
resources central to capabilities-based
responses can be more effective than
sustainable recovery, are neglected.
government-driven ones (Kweit & Kweit,
There is significant evidence from our
data pointing to community level initiatives
that are guided by solidarity; in these cases,
shared responsibilities appear to be the
backbone of relief and recovery. For
9. Disaster Preparedness, Risk
The organizational documents put
Reduction, and Environmental
forward a few steps to ensure community
level preparedness: securing food stock,
relief items and emergency shelter; sending
The government of Haiti articulates a
out text messages about how to prepare for
discourse focused on adaptability to
floods, storms and landslides and other
disasters. In addition, organizational actors
outreach activities to increase awareness
and focus group participants emphasize
about steps to reduce risks. Establishing a
community capacity building approaches to
community-based early warning system is
disaster response. The Haitian government
another example of disaster preparedness
and aid organizations advocate for reducing
promoted by the Red Cross. Providing
risky living conditions and environmental
emergency first-aid and health promotion
trainings and training “local disaster
Throughout our data, especially the
response committees” in vulnerability and
PDNA (GRH, 2010a), organizational
capacity assessment or community-based
documents and focus group, addressing
disaster management are additional means
disaster preparedness and risk reduction
to ensure disaster preparedness. The
appear as integral components of the
participants of our focus group also propose
recovery process. They are visible in the
that they need skills and tools, e.g. being
context of community disaster preparedness,
trained in disaster response and cholera
plans for reducing precarious living
prevention. The Red Cross also presents
conditions, environmental protection and,
their example of collaboration with local
what in the PDNA is referred to as, creating
people to teach children how to better
a “culture of risk within the nation,” (p. 58) or
prepare for a disaster using songs, skits,
adaptability to disasters. The latter is meant
readings, and workbooks as teaching
to signify building “risk and disaster
management measures into the
In terms of reducing precarious living
(re)construction process for all sectors (i.e.
conditions, the Red Cross advises people
building codes, insurance, consolidation and
not to settle by the ravines and to engage in
maintenance budget, contingency and
mitigation activities such as digging drainage
operational continuity plans)” (p. 9), creating
ditches, laying sandbags and creating
the National Disaster Risk Management
evacuation routes. Of course, settling in
System (NDRMS).
ravines is never something people want to
do, but is largely because of a dearth of
other options. The PDNA (GRH, 2010a)
note here that people use charcoal, not
acknowledges that prior to the earthquake
because of cultural customs, but because
“few measures had been taken to reduce
there are no other alternatives for energy).
exposure to seismic risks” and that “neither
Many of these concerns, such as reducing future
risk and preparing for disaster, echo concerns of
the capabilities approach to disaster recovery,
which affirm the importance of inter-generational
justice and addressing environmental concerns.
construction techniques nor the location of
dwellings made due allowance for the
various risks like floods, landslides, or
earthquakes” (p. 15). Therefore, to reduce
dangerous living conditions, the policy
documents prescribe better building codes,
However, without a fundamental change in
an effective land tenure registry system, and
an economic paradigm that centers
decentralization of economic activity and
environmental protection these will be
public administration. Also, the PDNA (GRH,
difficult to achieve.
2010a) advocates for a better hazard
monitoring system and access to scientific
10. Local Participation: Visibility
information regarding natural hazards (e.g.
and Invisibility
hydro-meteorological and seismic conditions,
Many of the data sources highlight the
and hazard maps).
wide range of activities associated with local
Lastly, especially visible in the PDNA
people’s participation in their own recovery,
(GRH, 2010a), the discourse of
such as rescue efforts, entrepreneurial
environmental protection is prevalent and is
activity, political resistance, and collective
a means to reduce risk of disasters by state
efforts to rebuild. Policy and INGO
and international organizations.
documents promote the discourse of local
Reforestation and forest management
engagement and discursively position
projects, as well as building watersheds to
Haitians at the forefront of recovery. While
prevent erosion and flooding occupy a great
survey data reveals high levels and types of
deal of environmental protection measures
community participation, we found that only
proposed in the PDNA (GRH, 2010a). Oxfam
10% of respondents reported holding active
also recommends “a good community-based
forestry management model
roles in a project with an external partner.
to discourage
Overall, aid organizations and focus group
people from using charcoal,” noting that this
participants urge more authentic community
is a “delicate issue, since managing forests
participation and centering Haitians in
is linked to local cultural customs” (Oxfam
decision-making processes.
International, 2010, p. 17). (It is important to
unaffiliated citizens and non-professionals all
The theme of local participation is equally
significant through its visibility and invisibility
but impotent (Jackson, 2005). That said, the
across data. From the perspectives of our
PDNA (GRH, 2010a) does specify the need
focus group contributors, New York Times
for engaging youth and student
coverage, and organizational documents,
organizations and especially accentuates the
participation and inclusion of local non-elite
inclusion of women into politics, the job
disaster survivors is framed as a moral and
market, and the post-disaster reconstruction
ethical obligation. Moreover, the survey
process. Despite this discourse, the visual
respondents place a relatively high value on
images provided in the INGO reports
community participation with 41% in
primarily portray women as engaged in
community L, 48% in community P and 82%
domestic labor, while men contribute directly
in community F viewing citizen participation
to relief and recovery efforts.
While some of this exclusion and
in relief and recovery as important. Also, the
small acts of participation (e.g. translating,
silencing might be a consequence of
volunteering as a nurse, or distributing
negative constructions of disaster survivors
water), contribution to recovery efforts, and
prevalent in its immediate aftermath and
helping others appear to have important
common in many post-disaster scenarios
meaning for local survivors, according to our
(Hines, 2007; Stivers, 2007), there is
focus group members and victims
abundant evidence in our data that people
interviewed by the New York Times.
are indeed active agents in the recovery
process. The newspaper reports depict local
Policy documents tend to frame the
broader Haitian public into the category of
rescue efforts (as opposed to foreign,
“civil society.” We surmise that this is
professional first responders); camp leaders
obscuring discursive space for participation
self-organizing IDP camps and lobbying aid
and inclusion of all citizens, particularly the
groups; informal entrepreneurs emerging in
most vulnerable, who may not be involved in
the camps (e.g. a beauty salon, or phone
formal organizations and are not members of
charging stations); a former teacher opening
an institutionally affiliated “civil society.”
a school; a local entrepreneur feeding the
Indeed, some scholars of development and
homeless; community groups mobilizing and
globalization have argued that it is the
lobbying against gender violence; volunteer
professional development workers (both
nurses, translators and psychologists
expatriate and local) who tend to play the
assisting relief efforts; protesters resisting an
most significant roles in development and
undemocratic election process and
disaster recovery projects, rendering
there are many things that we will be able to
achieve ourselves in our community.
requesting discharge of the U.N.’s mission in
Haiti, known as MINUSTAH.
Levels of participation amongst survey
The organizational documents report on IDPs
organizing against forced evictions from the
camps, resisting money envelopes for
“relocation,” and organizing to defend their right to
housing. The Red Cross depicts local participation
examples in camp committees; “volunteer camp
security systems;” and nurses or translators
contributing to the relief and recovery efforts.
participants varied, as 5% of the
respondents in community L, 18% in
community P, and 58% in community F
participated in a relief or recovery project.
One of the major reasons for this
discrepancy is that community F received
significantly more direct damage from the
earthquake. In all communities combined,
17% had participated in a project with
The participants of our focus group
recounted many examples of local
external actors, funded from outside the
participation both before and after the
community. Across the communities their
earthquake and after other disasters. They
roles in the projects with external actors can
shared with us how members of their
be described as moderate in participation
community collaborated to gather resources
(e.g. relaying information, carrying out tasks
and materials to build a road, shared food
at the staff’s instructions, and partial
and responsibilities while building a health
participation in decision-making and
clinic, and mobilized their community to bring
implementation). Less than 10% of all
water from the cascade down to other
respondents expressed holding active roles
communities. They explain that a shared
(e.g. full partner) in a project with an external
vision guided their collective efforts. Once
partner. Across the communities,
again echoing solidarity and a collectivist
participants of the projects attended
orientation, one of the male participants of
meetings with a medium frequency (often or
the focus group summarizes the importance
sometimes). Overall, 55% of the
and determination of working together:
respondents in community L, 95% in the
community P and 89% in community F affirm
What was attractive for us as development agents
was really to experience and see the importance of
working together. The work that two or three
people can't do, ten people put themselves
together and really experience how we became
stronger when we had to work together. And it was
also a door for us to understand that if we keep
doing like that, if we keep on working together,
“active” participation in their communities (in
times of non-disaster). In addition, 60% of
the respondents in community L, 89% in
community P, and 8% in community F stated
that they had engaged in political action (e.g.
attended a political meeting, demonstration
2010, p.17). They advocate for putting
or march).
Haitians in charge of their own development
and put forward that the Haitian population
In sum, these data point to moderate and
high levels of various types of community
must be architects of their own recovery.
and political participation, though with low
They suggest that meaningful engagement
levels of participation and few opportunities
with beneficiaries helps to empower them
to participate fully in projects with
and involve them in their own recovery. This
international actors. Relatedly, a nationally
discourse of participation, while laudable,
representative study of citizens’ political
should not be taken as actual evidence for
views and behaviors before and after the
meaningful participation. The fact that less
earthquake, conducted by the Latin
than 10% of all our respondents who
American Public Opinion Project (LAPOP),
participated in a project with an outside
finds Haitian participation to be the highest in
partner, expressed holding active roles (i.e.,
the Americas (Smith, Gélineau, & Seligson,
full partner), should certainly give us pause
2012). And, they note that participation in
when considering post-disaster partnerships
community-based associations had risen
in rural Haiti.
Focus group members pleaded for
dramatically since the earthquake.
greater local inclusion and citizen-led
For the Red Cross and Oxfam, including
and centering local actors in the recovery
recovery efforts in partnership with
process is an ethical obligation. Oxfam
international NGOs. They stressed the
progress reports advocate for “Haitian led
importance of these outside actors sitting
recovery” (Oxfam International, 2010, p.6)
down with, and listening to, local people as
and inclusion of local people. They model
they are the ones who had already
this standpoint through their discourse about
conducted assessments and knew what was
their own work: consulting, training,
needed. They provided an example of a soil
“encouraging communities to participate in
conservation project that faced resistance
discussions and decisions” (Oxfam
and was sabotaged by the locals due to the
International, 2010, p.6), and encouraging
mere fact that local residents were not
“active and responsible citizenship and the
asked, consulted and otherwise included in
participation of civil society in the process of
the decision-making process by an INGO.
reconstruction” (Oxfam International, 2010,
These findings echo those of local rural
p. 24). Likewise, the Red Cross strives to
Haitian community leaders that we
incorporate local knowledge and practices
interviewed in a participatory action research
and to “improve on what exists” (IFRCRCS,
study about post-disaster community and
over their environment through political and social
processes that invite and demand their
engagement and participation (Natural Hazards
Center, 2006). In our estimation of this data, the
most vulnerable people (rural, poor, non-elites)
have not achieved this capability.
organizational needs in 2010 (Pyles,
Rodrigue & Andre, 2011).
“Recovery” from a devastating natural
disaster in a setting like Haiti is a complex, if
not elusive, undertaking. For many people
The New York Times discourse reveals
who were already living in fragile, if not
that there are many actors profiting from the
disastrous, situations before the earthquake,
disaster at the expense of benefits to victims.
what does it really mean to “recover” from
Both corporations and international NGOs
this disaster? We know from research on
alike have received large, if not bloated,
other disasters that marginalized people
contracts that often fail to genuinely engage
living in underdeveloped locations who are
local people in ways that affirm their
victims of disasters are likely to suffer a
experiences, voices, and skills (DARA,
“downward spiral” after the event and may
2011). Indeed, research shows that while
come to experience even worse conditions
there was some improvement in coordination
(Ozerdem, 2003). Indeed, when we asked
of the efforts of international actors
our survey participants what they thought
compared to previous disasters through the
their communities might be like in five years,
United Nations cluster system, it was done at
57% believed that things would be worse.
the expense of leaving local actors out of the
From the perspective of a capabilities
loop (DARA, 2011). This is also confirmed by
approach to sustainable recovery, policies
the low rates of participation in outside
and practices should restore, maintain, and
projects by our survey respondents, the
enhance quality of life (Gardoni & Murphy,
critiques of the focus group participants of
2008). This means that rural Haitians should
their interactions with INGOs, and the
be able to live in dignity and to achieve full
rallying cries of Oxfam and the Red Cross for
human functioning, implying a requirement
greater and more substantial levels of
for significant improvement over pre-disaster
participatory engagement.
conditions and functioning.
Relatedly, we find that much of the discourse we
analyzed (New York Times, policy, and INGO)
failed to fully acknowledge the needs of rural
communities, instead focusing most of their efforts
and attention on urban Port-au-Prince.
Moreover, in order for there to be a “new Haiti,” all
constituents must have a reasonable say in what
this revitalized country will look like. Or, in
capabilities language, they should have control
While the New York Times tends to
The grand renewal narrative needs to be
emphasize technology and individual
continually monitored and tracked, or else
expertise as the solutions to these complex
local people, especially the most vulnerable
issues, the government emphasizes
ones (rural people, poor people, women,
positioning Haiti to compete globally and
children, older adults, and people with
create jobs. Aid groups emphasize
disabilities) are at risk of being re-victimized
community and government capacity
by disaster capitalism. As noted, disaster
building, while focus group participants
capitalism is a family of policies and
embrace collective effort and mutual problem
practices that privilege corporate interests,
solving in an effort to return to the
supply driven, and no-bid contract
semblance of normal life. The fact of these
approaches to humanitarian aid, while also
distinct perspectives is a key finding of our
advancing governmental efforts at social
study as there are unique constructions of
control. This phenomenon is not uncommon
recovery across discourse communities.
after disasters and indeed the economist
Organizations see disaster recovery in terms
Milton Friedman, argued that capitalism
of human capabilities and disaster
thrives on disasters (Gunewardena &
preparedness. The Haitian government,
Schuller, 2008; Klein, 2007).
together with the international community,
While everyone involved seems to see
envisions recovery in terms of economic
the importance of a renewed country –
development. Haitian people themselves
economically, politically and environmentally
want to return to the semblance of normal
– we find that during the time period we
living and enhance their well-being. While all
studied, there is much more attention given
of these perspectives are relevant and
to addressing immediate needs than
represent important dimensions of recovery,
implementing long-term sustainable recovery
we must be cautious because of the
solutions. In fact, some of the programs
tendency for elites to benefit in disasters.
whose goals were to address short-term
problems such as medical care (e.g.,
Everyone working on recovery issues in Haiti,
from policymakers to development workers to
local community organizers, must be willing to ask
key questions about their projects – Whose vision
of recovery does it represent? Who participates?
and Who benefits?
importing doctors) or jumpstarting the local
economy (e.g., cash-for-work) may actually
hamper local economies. This seems to
point to the importance of hiring local
workers, whether it is medical personnel,
construction workers, or childcare workers.
As noted, psychosocial recovery was often
Given the low capability threshold
experienced by many Haitians, the wide
silenced in the narratives of disaster
range of stakeholders involved, a fragile
recovery across the data, in favor of focusing
government, and a scene dominated by
on recovery of the built environment, and the
INGOs and other outsiders, all of whom have
fixation on the creation of macro-economic
diverse needs and agendas,
how can anyone be effective
in recovery efforts? With a
grounding in principles of
capabilities-based sustainably
recovery, including an
emphasis on quality of life,
social equity, and public
participation, we believe that
the findings in this report can
point people in a direction
toward sustainable recovery.
Thus, below we offer five
recommendations for
partnership building and
participatory, sustainable
recovery projects that emerge
opportunities. In addition, Oxfam and the
from the findings. We also consider the
Red Cross tended to prefer an individual
current literature on disasters and
human capital building approach, which
development in Haiti and other similar
seeks to build the capabilities of individuals,
over a community building approach, which
focuses on organizing local people together
Recommendation 1:
in order to develop community capacities.
Engage in Holistic Recovery
We argue that both are important. These
The fragmentation of recovery efforts and
findings imply the need for disaster recovery
the failure to see Haitian people as psycho-
actors to design programs that work to
social-spiritual persons in the context of their
ensure the full capabilities of every individual
cultural, political, and economic environment
in the context of their environments, so that
are the twin tragedies of the recovery period.
individual capabilities are strengthened at
Perhaps the key to effective and
the same time that communities are built and
the public sector is strengthened (Natural
sustainable disaster recovery lies in the
Hazards Center, 2006). When social capital
ability of the international humanitarian
and community solidarity are strong, we
community, government, and local actors to
know that there is also greater resilience to
understand these various social
future disasters (Smith & Wenger, 2006).
constructions of disaster recovery, embrace
Overall, programs should attend to the whole
complexity, and model rural Haiti’s principle
person, what we call in the field of social
of tet ansam (i.e., working together). And yet,
work, the bio-psycho-social-spiritual person.
it is also important to note that such
adjustments and modifications of technique
To achieve these goals, we recommend a
more systematic coordination of efforts in the
in programs fail to account for and transform
rural communities and this may mean that
the larger global political economy and
outside organizations, which may consider
Haiti’s position in it.
To be sure, actors working in Haiti should
themselves in competition with each other
for resources or turf, acknowledge their
prioritize economic transformation, by
differences and work together. This
demonstrating an understanding of the
collaboration should be done while
salient macro-economic issues, including
partnering with local groups and taking the
disaster capitalism, and by facilitating
lead from local leaders, or what the Zapatista
interactions amongst local actors,
movement has called, “leading by obeying.”
government, and economic actors. INGOs
Certainly, community bonds and social
can also organize with local actors to
capital should be stronger as a result of
advocate for and demand that formal
disaster recovery programs. This means that
employment opportunities for local rural
organizations that work on sanitation, health,
people pay a living wage.
youth issues, or agricultural development
Governments and INGOs can also support local
people in enhancing their disaster resilience by
emphasizing micro economic approaches, helping
them to develop livelihood and agricultural
projects in their communities, both pre- and postdisaster. Indeed, research has shown that
disaster survivors believe that livelihood
restoration, i.e. restoring a person’s capacity to
make a living, should be prioritized over
humanitarian aid, as was found after the 2001
can unify their efforts toward sustainable,
holistic recovery in a particular locale. We
acknowledge that this is a difficult endeavor,
especially in a context where emergency
response is a priority, infrastructure is weak,
multiple actors are negotiating their agendas
and resources, and interventions and
dialogue are conducted in translation.
Gujarat earthquake and other disasters (United
Nations Development Programme, 2001).
citizens in all ten departments, as a way to
offer a grassroots perspective for the March
31, 2010 Donor’s Conference (Farmer,
In addition, to whatever extent possible,
programs should build the capacities of the
Failing to make local actors the center of
government and/or develop public
recovery is a recipe for failure in terms of
resources. An example of such an endeavor
sustainability of efforts and results. When
is the new public teaching hospital in
locals are not sharing leadership or being
Mirebalais, which was jointly built by Haiti’s
hired by outside organizations and
Ministry of Health, and the U.S. based INGO,
companies, projects cannot be sustained.
Partners in Health.
Thus, this implies that outside actors should
make the extra effort to buy local products,
Recommendation 2:
hire local people, and perhaps most
Listen to and Partner with
importantly, develop and nurture
Rural Actors
relationships with rural community actors,
such as agricultural groups, women’s small
Given the low levels of participation with
business collectives, and youth groups.
external partners that were reported by
survey respondents (both in terms of
Organizations should have a strategy for reaching
out to and including the most marginalized and
isolated in communities, especially those who live
in rural areas, as well as people with disabilities,
older adults, youth, and women.
quantity and quality), it is critical to consider
ways that rural actors can be engaged in
recovery in more pro-active and authentic
ways. While many donors and INGOs
maintain discourse about participation, the
extent to which this is operationalized has
While there is a strong ethic of care in rural
been questioned, as revealed by this data
Haiti, there are also typical forms of social
and by many development scholars (e.g.,
exclusion within communities due to
Cooke & Kothari, 2001). One antidote to this
colonialist legacies, cultural norms, and
problem requires listening to victims and
geographic isolation (Smith, 2001). It is
finding out what their needs and dreams are.
important that outside actors not create
The Voices of the Voiceless project is an
and/or perpetuate community divides.
example of a post-earthquake undertaking
Moreover, key actors can emphasize the
that sought to gain the input of Haitian
discourse of local participation and a
citizens on the recovery efforts. These series
strengths perspective in organizational
of focus groups secured input from 1,750
documents, letters to the editor, and other
It is important to acknowledge that
informal discourse. This includes highlighting
the ways that local (rural) people are leading
processes purported to be participatory can
the way and are engaged in relief and
both conceal and obscure oppressions and
recovery efforts, both with and without
injustices in their various manifestations, as
outside assistance. But, discourse is not
participatory processes can tend to diverge
enough and it just perpetuates inequities if
away from analyzing social problems, narrow
people are not walking the talk. Thus, INGOs
options, and flow into a restricted project
and other outside entities working in Haiti,
(Cooke & Kothari, 2001). An example of this
including the U.S. government, need to be
would be the case of Haitian survivors
held accountable for the extent in which their
cleaning bio toilets, as depicted in the Red
projects actualize the value of participation.
Cross reports. Cooke & Kothari (2001) have
In fact, the participation processes
noted that “the language of empowerment
themselves differ across organizations and
masks a real concern for managerialist
may tend to actually coerce local
effectiveness” (p. 14).
To address this issue, Schuller (2007)
engagement, creating confusion, tensions
and work being done at cross-purposes.
has proposed a metric for assessing
Beyond fostering participation, INGOs need
participation of local actors in INGO projects
to collaborate with each other to jointly build
that is relevant to the recovery efforts
the capacity of people and communities.
discussed here, identifying eight dimensions
Learning from the synchronized work in the
that INGOs should consider throughout the
community we interviewed, such
life course of a program or project. First,
collaborative effort may be one of the key
organizations should engage in discussions
ingredients for success in sustainable
with locals to mutually identify the problems
recovery. We recommend building holistic
in the area. Second, actors should work
transnational relief and recovery coalitions
together to prioritize what is most important
and capacity for partnership to maximize
in the community. Third, all parties should
resources and efforts, with local actors and
conceptualize together what solutions exist.
local NGOs playing key roles. While the
Fourth, planning and identifying resources
United Nations’ cluster approach to
should be a collaborative effort. Fifth,
coordinating aid and recovery represents an
everyone can work to determine how the
important step, it is based on a model of
plan will be executed, identifying who does
segregating needs into clusters, such as
what and when. Sixth, everyone should work
health, shelter, sanitation, etc., as well as
together to execute the plan. Seventh, the
tending to exclude local participation.
work should be supervised and ensure that
all participants are following through. Eighth,
collectivity when funding and developing
a collective assessment should be
community programs and projects. But, that
conducted determining what worked well and
does not mean just getting people to carry
what needs improvement.
rocks, as has been noted by Haitians
participating in many rural development
Recommendation 3:
projects (Smith, 2001). When outsiders do
Build on the Collectivist
not build on these strengths, they are failing
Practices of Rural Haiti
to engage in culturally competent practice
and are, arguably, perpetuating a kind of
The finding that there are high levels of
violence against Haitian people, as they fail
social trust amongst neighbors (90-100%) in
to see their culture for what it is and render
the three survey communities is extremely
them subservient aid recipients, rather than
rare when compared to other settings
agents of change. In such patronizing
(Putnam, 2000). Also unique to rural Haiti, a
practices, capabilities fail to be fostered.
significant portion of the local people that we
Our focus group participants told the story
surveyed and interviewed perceive
of collaborating with each other to fix a road
themselves as active members of their
that leads to their isolated village. This
communities in times of non-disaster (about
project required not only that individuals
80%). Furthermore, this research reveals the
worked together, but that local organizations
essential and creative ways that local actors
worked with each other. These kinds of
were engaging in recovery efforts in their
collaborative efforts are central to rural
communities with a strong emphasis on
Haitian life, as community members often
teamwork, collective problem solving, and
participate in collective efforts to plant and
harvest each other’s crops in exchange for
food and/or help with their own crops in the
Despite this capacity and readiness for
community-based work, local groups were largely
overlooked by outside actors. In fact, research on
humanitarian funding in Haiti points to the fact that
external funders failed to fund local Haitian NGOs
or to even allow them to be sub-grantees of INGO
projects (DARA, 2011).
future (Smith, 2001). This kind of intricate
system of exchange is a powerful survival
skill and belies stereotypes of the actions of
poor people as fatalistic, or as perpetuating a
culture of poverty (Stack, 1974). Potential
external partners can learn about these
practices, identify them as strengths and co-
Clearly, outside actors need to build on
create programs that utilize these kinds of
and leverage Haitian norms and practices of
systems of exchange.
Recommendation 4:
for their villages. During the process, local
Develop Capacities for
participants ascertained vulnerable areas
Transformative Solutions to
and vulnerable people of the community.
Risk Reduction
They also identified readiness activities such
as the safe keeping of valuables and family
Haiti is a high-risk nation when it comes
survival kits (e.g. dry food for 7-10 days) in
to experiencing natural disasters, especially
the event of a flood. They sought out key
hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes. They
local resources for protecting water sources,
are also at risk of public health crises, as
and located supplies for building rafts and
evidenced by the cholera outbreak that
temporary shelters. All in all, the planning
occurred after the earthquake. The Haitian
process was deemed effective and life-
government and the INGOs placed
saving as the number of lives and livelihoods
significant emphasis on the importance of
lost in the next flood was significantly lower.
disaster preparedness and risk reduction.
Rural communities in Haiti, in a collaborative
Moreover, the participants in our focus group
partnership between the government,
stated that they wanted to be trained as
INGOs, and local groups, could be trained in
disaster responders and health promoters.
such a preparedness process so that risks
Thus, in addition to reducing the risks faced
are reduced and communities are prepared
by vulnerable rural communities (e.g.,
when disaster strikes again.
isolation, lack of resources, poor
While the discourse and practice of
infrastructure, lack of government supports),
disaster preparedness and mitigation are
partnerships can focus on helping local
critical and certainly necessary,
actors be prepared when disaster does
transformative solutions that reduce
vulnerability and risk at the root are critical
Drawing on the collectivist orientation of
for sustainable recovery.
rural Haiti, local actors can be trained in
community-coordinated efforts at disaster
All in all, discussion of the environmental
problems in the data was very minimal, and this is
concerning given Haiti’s environmental crisis, as
well as the larger global environmental and
climate change crisis that we are facing.
preparedness. An example of such an effort
is the community-based disaster
preparedness (CBDP) planning that was
used in India after the floods of 2000 in West
Bengal. A wide range of stakeholders,
including the government and both
It is especially important to consider as
international and local NGOs, came together
abundant studies have shown that
to help local communities create action plans
environmental degradation is causally linked
Recommendation 5:
to natural disasters (e.g. Abramovitz, 2001;
Dolcemascolo, 2004) and, in the case of
Study the Situation,
Haiti, one study has shown that soil erosion,
Study Yourself
from hurricanes and possibly deforestation,
Many of the recovery actors who found
triggered the fault slippage that caused the
their way to Haiti after the disaster came
earthquake (Wdowinski, 2011).
there for the first time. To what extent these
The practices that lead to deforestation in
seemingly well-intentioned people had a
rural areas are now necessary for survival.
competent understanding of Haiti’s history,
At the same time, deforestation is connected
economy, and culture is unclear, but
to greater disaster risk, as well as water
anecdotal evidence reveals that their
shortages and soil infertility, also contributing
knowledge of Haiti was limited. One thing
to environmental vulnerabilities and disaster
that is clear from the findings of this research
risks. All these environmentally-related
is that there are a range of discourses about
deprivations of human capabilities are harder
the disaster, and a significant portion of them
to change than others, but are essential from
are not necessarily empowering to
the perspective of ecological resilience and
vulnerable disaster survivors. Relatedly,
sustainability. While there are multiple efforts
there is a relationship between one’s social
throughout Haiti aimed toward reforestation
location and social constructions and
and soil conservation, both before and after
discourse about Haiti and other places in the
the earthquake, there are many challenges
developing world, including the visions of
in terms of failed remedies and
disaster recovery one has. We know that
unsustainable funding (Ayiti Kale Je, 2013).
these varying visions can lead to policies
In some cases, such as in one of our case
and practices that can be re-victimizing and
study communities, university students
devastating to vulnerable people, such as
studying agronomy have undertaken these
disaster capitalism and social exclusion from
kinds of projects. In the end, addressing
recovery processes. By failing to learn about
environmental issues at their root causes
(and care about) the history of colonization,
requires inquiry and intervention into
the dynamics of the humanitarian and
economic discourse, policies, and practices.
foreign aid industries, the politics of disaster
Though daunting, it would help achieve inter-
development, and the local people and
generational justice and address
culture, external actors are severely
environmental concerns so that Haitian
hampered in their abilities to initiate and
survivors have the opportunity to achieve full
sustain partnerships of trust and open
human functioning.
communication. And, they are more than
Pyles & Svistova, 2015). Thousands of
likely doing more harm than good.
people have made their way from all parts of
the world to help, from professional
Anyone who is already working in or
thinking about working in rural Haiti, or
organizations with experience working in
similar contexts, must do his or her
disasters around the globe, to church
homework. This means studying the
congregations who just felt moved to come,
country’s history, politics, economic system,
to grassroots teams of medical personnel. At
environmental situation, and culture, as well
the same time, we must be aware and
as the dynamics of the specific village or
transparent about the fact that we go there
neighborhood they will be working in. It is
with our own stories and projections about
particularly important to understand, as our
what sort of place Haiti is (fueled by
focus group participants discuss, that there
discourses of media outlets such as the New
is an extensive history of INGOs, faith
York Times, policymakers, aid organizations,
groups, and others coming into communities,
and more) and about what is needed to help
conducting assessments and then leaving
the situation, which are mutually reinforcing.
While we recommend that people working
without any follow-up. A whole body of
research echoes the reality of this dynamic
in organizations that want to initiate
in Haiti and similar contexts (e.g. Schuller,
partnerships develop their understanding of
2007; Haslam, Schafer, Beaudet, 2012;
a country’s history and strengthen their
Smith, 2001). Rural community members are
cultural competence, it is also equally as
ever hopeful that partnerships with INGOs
important that actors engage in personal
can become fruitful (our surveys indicate that
inquiry about why they really want to work in
65% completely trusted outsiders coming to
Haiti. If one is to look deeply and honestly
help) and this is a promising finding that can
one may find that his or her hopes and goals
inspire future change. However, the history
are more about personal fulfillment, noblesse
of aid and development has created some
oblige, and the perpetuation of colonialist
distrust of outsiders, as evidenced by our
legacies, rather than working in solidarity
focus groups, and the fact that 35% of
with what a community wants for
participants do not trust or have only
themselves. One also must be clear about
moderate trust of outsiders.
the temporality or longevity of their intentions
for involvement. Far too many concerned
Individuals and organizations must be
willing to check their intentions for working in
actors tend to act in emergency, leave, and
Haiti and develop awareness of their own
forget, while hardships remain band-aided
power and privilege (Pyles, Forthcoming;
and may re-surface with even stronger
intensity. This ongoing inquiry must
Furthermore, our analysis brought a
necessarily entail work on structural,
normative lens, i.e. the capabilities approach
interpersonal, and personal levels. As we are
to sustainable recovery, which affirms the
all victims of the devastating legacies of
values of holistic well-being, social equity,
colonialism and internalized oppression that
and the centrality of freedom and choice in
it causes, we must have compassion for
achieving full human functioning.
There are also some more specific
ourselves and each other as we engage in
limitations of this study to keep in mind. First,
this work.
the three case study communities were
By doing this kind of reflective work, we can
move towards a time when disaster recovery
purposeful and not necessarily
could indeed be sustainable by promoting
representative of rural Haiti generally.
public participation and true social equity, so
Second, while many voices of earthquake
that disaster victims can achieve full
survivors were garnered through New York
functioning now and for generations to come.
Times stories, the stories we heard in the
focus group represent only a small portion of
As Haitian anthropologist Michel-Rolph Trouillot
(1995) wrote, “History is the fruit of power, but
power itself is never so transparent that its
analysis becomes superfluous. The ultimate mark
of power may be its invisibility; the ultimate
challenge, the exposition of its roots” (p. xix).
the diverse views that survivors have about
participation in disaster recovery. Third,
recall that the policy and INGO documents
represent discourses of disaster recovery
and do not necessarily reflect what these
groups have actually done on the ground.
Finally, we do not know the actual impacts of
discourse and interventions, as we do not
claim any kind of causality between these
Any study is always only capturing a
small portion of truth, and even then its
and the perspectives of community members
methods are always potentially fallible. In
garnered through surveys and a focus group.
this research, we analyzed a range of data
sources, including both qualitative and
quantitative data. As such, integrating these
diverse sources into meaningful findings is a
challenging task and is only as good as the
analyzers’ capacities. Indeed, it is important
to remember that this data was analyzed
through our own human lenses.
over the interests of outsiders who are
benefitting from the disaster. And yet,
In this report, we have articulated key
Haitians, like other disaster victims in the
findings on the subject of community
developing world, cannot do it alone. They
participation and partnership building in the
need the support of the international
aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake. We
community, based in partnerships that are
have discussed the findings and offered
built on mutual respect, equality, dialogue,
recommendations for disaster recovery
and transparency. These partnerships must
based on a capabilities framework that
be relentless in their efforts to engage
affirms five key principles: (1) Restore,
disaster victims, including the most marginal
maintain and enhance quality of life; (2)
ones, throughout all phases of programs
Promote social equity (intra-generational
and projects. A new Haiti, or any country
justice); (3) Promote inter-generational
wishing to “build back better,” is only
justice; (4) Address environmental concerns;
possible when everyone “puts their heads
and (5) Facilitate public participation.
together,” so that everyone can live in
We have made the case for a recovery
dignity and achieve the full human
effort that centers the needs, visions,
functioning they rightly deserve.
strengths, and skills of Haitian communities
Abramovitz, J. (2001). Unnatural disasters. Worldwatch Paper 158.
Alawiyah, T., Bell, H., Pyles, L. and Runnels, R. (2011). Spirituality and faith-based
interventions: Pathways to disaster resilience for African American Hurricane Katrina
survivors. Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Social Work, 30, 294-319.
Archibald, R.C. (2010, November 26). Death and dance coexist on Haiti’s tense streets. New
York Times, p. A6.
Ayiti Kale Je (2013). The Challenges of Reforestation. Haiti Grassroots Watch.
Berke, P. R., Kartez, J., & Wenger, D. (1993). Recovery after disaster: Achieving sustainable
development, mitigation and equity. Disasters, 17(2), 93–109.
Cave, D. (2011, February 9). Haiti issues new passport for Aristide. New York Times, p. A6.
Cave, D. (2010, February 8). On Haiti’s once-vibrant grande rue, theft, idleness, boredom and
ruins. New York Times, p. A6.
Cénat, J., & Derivois, D. (2014). Assessment of prevalence and determinants of post-traumatic
stress disorder and depression symptoms in adults survivors of earthquake in Haiti after 30
months. Journal of Affective Disorders, 159, 111–117.
Collier, P. & Warnholz, L. (2010, January 29). Building Haiti’s economy one mango at a time.
New York Times, p. A27.
Cooke, B. & Kothari, U. (2001). Participation? The New Tyranny? London, UK: Zed Books.
DARA (2011). The humanitarian response index focus on Haiti: Building back better? Retrieved
from http://daraint.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/HRI2011-FocusOnHaiti.pdf.
DeMoor, E. (2009). Finding a Way Back Home: A Spirituality of Exile after Hurricane Katrina.
Journal of Religion & Health, 48(1), 97–112. http://doi.org/10.1007/s10943-008-9226-6.
Dolcemascolo, G. (2004). Environmental degradation and disaster risk. Asian Disaster
Preparedness Center. http://www.gdrc.org.
Doocey, S., Gabriel, M., Collins, S., Robinson, C., and Stevenson, P. (2006). Implementing
cash for work programmes in post-tsunami Aceh: experiences and lessons learned.
Editorial Desk (2010, February 1). Thinking about a new Haiti. New York Times, p. A18.
Editorial Desk (2010, April 3). Promises for and from Haiti. New York Times, p. A16.
Editorial Desk (2010, March 27). Making Haiti whole. New York Times, p. WK9.
Farmer, P. (2011). Haiti after the earthquake. New York, New York: Public Affairs.
Franks, S. (2006). The CARMA report: Western media coverage of humanitarian disasters. The
Political Quarterly 77(2), 281-284.
Genzlinger, N. (2011, January 11). Lawlessness and need survive in shaken Haiti. New York
Times, p. C2.
Gardoni, P., & Murphy, C. (2008). Recovery from natural and man-mad disasters as capabilities
restoration and enhancement. International Journal of Sustainable Development and
Planning, 3(4), 317–333.
Government of the Republic of Haiti (2010a). Haiti earthquake PDNA: Assessment of damage,
losses, general and sectoral needs. Retrieved from: http://www.lessonsfromhaiti.org/reportcenter/.
Government of the Republic of Haiti (2010b). Action plan for national recovery and development
of Haiti: Immediate key initiatives for the future. Retrieved from:
Gunewardena, N., & Schuller, M. (2008). Capitalizing on catastrophe: neoliberal strategies in
disaster reconstruction. Rowman Altamira.
Harvey, P. (2007). Cash-based responses in emergencies. Humanitarian Policy Group Report
24. London, UK: Overseas Development Institute.
Haslam, P.A., Schafer, J. and Beaudet, P. (2012). Introduction to International Development:
Approaches, Actors and Issues, 2nd ed. Don Mills, ON: Oxford University Press.
HELP, KOZEPEP, ATD Quart Monde, Partners in Health, The Office of the Special Envoy, and
MINUSTAH (2010). A voice for the voiceless: An initiative to include the Haitian people's
views for the 31 March 2010 Donor's Conference. Retrieved from
Hines, R. (2007). Natural disasters and gender inequalities: The 2004 tsunami and the case of
India. Race, Gender, & Class: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 14(1-2), 60–68.
Hoyt, C. (2010, January 24). Face to face with tragedy. New York Times, p. WK10.
Inter-Agency Standing Committee (2010). Response to the humanitarian crisis in Haiti (6 month
report) (pp. 1–33). Retrieved from: http://reliefweb.int/report/haiti/response-humanitariancrisis-haiti-following-12-january-2010-earthquake-achievements.
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRCRCS) (2011). The
Looming threat: Advocacy report on cholera – June 2012. Retrieved from:
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRCRCS) (2011). Haiti
earthquake 2010: One-year progress report. Retrieved from: http://www.ifrc.org/en/googlecustom-search/?q=haiti%202010%20one%20year%20progress%20report
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRCRCS) (2010). Haiti
from tragedy to opportunity: Special report one month on. Retrieved from:
Jackson, J.T. (2005). The Globalizers: Development Workers in Action. Baltimore: The Johns
Hopkins University Press.
Kirmayer, L.J. (2010). Culture and Mental Health in Haiti: A Literature Review. Montreal,
Canada: World Health Organization.
Klein, N. (2007). The shock doctrine: The rise of disaster capitalism. New York: Metropolitan
Kweit, M. G., & Kweit, R. W. (2004). Citizen participation and citizen evaluation in disaster
recovery. American Review of Public Administration, 34(4), 354–373.
Lacey, M. (2010, January 24). Cultural riches turn to rubble in Haiti quake. New York Times, p.
Lacey, M. & Urbina, I. (2010, February 16). Motives draw scrutiny as religious groups flow into
Haiti. New York Times, p. A4.
Mackey, R. (2010, January 20). Jan. 20: Updates on the crisis in Haiti. New York Times.
Natural Hazards Center (2006). Holistic Disaster Recovery: Ideas for Building Local
Sustainability after a Disaster. Boulder, CO.
Nussbaum, M. (2011). Creating Capabilities. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Oxfam America, M. (2010). Planting now Agricultural challenges and opportunities for Haiti’s
reconstruction (pp. 1–28). Crowley, Oxford, UK: Oxfam GB. Retrieved from
Oxfam International (2011). Haiti Progress Report 2011. Retrieved from:
Oxfam International (2010). Haiti Progress Report 2010. Retrieved from:
Ozerdem, A. (2003). Disaster as manifestation of unresolved development challenges. In M.
Pelling (Ed.), Natural disasters and development in a globalizing world (pp. 199–213).
London: Routledge.
Putnam, R. (2000). Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. New
York: Simon & Schuster.
Pyles, L. (Forthcoming). Critical Reflections on Participation in Participatory Action Research in
Post-Earthquake Rural Haiti. International Social Work.
Pyles, L. (2011). Neoliberalism, INGO practices and sustainable disaster recovery: A postKatrina case study. Community Development Journal, 46(2), 168-180.
Pyles, L., Rodrigue, C., and Andre, J. (2011, November). Resisting Supply-Driven Approaches
to Disaster Recovery and Development through Participatory Action Research in Rural Haiti.
Haitian Studies Association, Kingston, Jamaica.
Pyles, L. and Svistova, J. (2015). “The Critical-Emancipatory Traditions of Participatory Action
Research in Post-Disaster Recovery Settings in the Global South,” in Lawson, H. et al.
(Eds). Participatory Action Research: Social Work Series on Research, pp. 119-148.
New York: Oxford University Press.
Robeyns, I. (2006). The Capability Approach in Practice. Journal of Political Philosophy, 14(3),
351–376. http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9760.2006.00263.x.
Romero, S. (2010, March 7). Schools in ruins, children in limbo. New York Times, p. A6.
Romero, S. & MacFarquhar, N. (2010, January 21). Haiti’s poverty thwarts a counting of the
dead. New York Times, p. A12.
Schuller, M. (2012). Killing with kindness: Haiti, international aid, and NGOs. New Brunswick:
Rutgers University Press.
Schuller, M. (2010). Unstable foundations: impact of NGOs on human rights for Port-au-Prince
internally displaced people. Jamaica, NY: York College, CUNY.
Schuller, M. (2007). Gluing Globalization: NGOs as Intermediaries in Haiti. Retrieved from:
Schuller, M. & Morales, P. (Eds.) (2012). Tectonic shifts: Haiti since the earthquake. Sterling, VI:
Kumarian Press.
Sen, A. (1999). Development as Freedom. New York: Knopf.
Sliwinski, A. (2009). The politics of participation involving communities in post-disaster
reconstruction. In G. Lizarralde, C. Johnson, & C. H. Davidson (Eds.), Rebuilding after
disasters: from emergency to sustainability (pp. 177–192). London: Taylor and Francis.
Smith, J. M. (2001). When the hands are many: community organization and social change in
rural Haiti. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Smith, A. E., Gélineau, F. & Seligson, M. A. (Eds.) (2012). The political culture of democracy in
Haiti and in the Americas, 2012: Towards equality of opportunity. Retrieved from
Smith, G., & Wenger, D. (2006). Sustainable Disaster Recovery: Operationalizing an Existing
Agenda. In Handbook of Disaster Research (pp. 234–257). New York: Springer.
Solnit, R. (2010). A paradise built in hell: The extraordinary communities that arise in disaster.
New York, NY: Penguin Books.
Sontag, D. (2010, January 27). Haiti’s quake set children adrift in a world of unfathomable
chaos. New York Times, p. A1.
Stack, C. (1974). All our kin: Strategies for survival in a black community. New York: Harper and
Stivers, C. (2007). “So poor and so black”: Hurricane Katrina, public administration, and the
issue of race. Public Administration Review, 67(1), 48–56.
Trouillot, M.R. (2000). Haiti: State Against Nation. New York: Monthly Review Press.
Trouillot, M.R. (1995). Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History. Boston, MA:
Beacon Press.
United Nations Development Programme (2013). Haiti: Human Development Report: 2013.
United Nations Development Programme (2001). From Relief to Recovery: The Gujarat
Wdowinski (2011). Triggering of the 2010 earthquake by hurricanes and possibly deforestation.
American Geophysical Union Annual Meeting.
Winerip. M. (2011, January 16). New influx of Haitians, but not who was expected. New York
Times, p. A17.
Wodak, R. & Meyer, M. (2009). Methods of Critical Discourse Analysis, 2nd ed. London: Sage.
World Bank (2014). Living Conditions in Haiti’s Capital Improve, but Rural Communities remain
very poor. http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2014/07/11/while-living-conditions-inport-au-prince-are-improving-haiti-countryside-remains-very-poor
Data Sources for Post-Earthquake Rural Haiti
Data Source
Sample (#)
New York Times
235 newspaper articles
01.12.201001.12. 2012
Post Disaster Needs
Assessment (GRH)
1 government document
(115 pages)
Action Plan for
Recovery (GRH)
1 government document
(57 pages)
7 documents (progress
reports, briefing notes
and briefing papers)
Red Cross
5 documents (progress
reports and updates)
190 –f; 184 –m
3 rural communities
(F, P & L)/ 374 surveys
May-August 2012
F – 59% - 18-33; 23% - 34-51; 18% - 52-89;
P – 19% - 18-33; 50% - 34-51; 31% - 52-89;
L – 40% - 18-33; 50% - 34-51; 10% - 52-89.
42% - less than high school diploma;
35% - high school diploma or equivalent;
22% - some college or higher
2 females, 5 males
Focus Group
7 participants/community
February, 2014
Age: average age 40 y.o.
Race: Black
Worked for 4 different organizations, ranging from 3
months to 3 years.
Research Instruments Part I:
Quantitative Survey Instrument
Disaster Resilience in Rural Communities
Disaster Recovery Survey
Informed Consent__
Were you living in the community at the time of the earthquake?
1 = Yes
2 = No
Are you of 18 years of age or older?
1 = Yes
2 = No
Would you be willing to participate in this survey?
1 = Yes
2 = No
If they answered NO to any of these questions, then sincerely thank them for their time, but they do not qualify or
are not eligible to participate in this survey.
Part 1: Disaster Impact and Recovery
I am going to ask you some questions about the January 2010 earthquake. Please indicate the number corresponding to
your level of agreement (lowest to highest number) with each of the following statements.
For Qs. 1-2 and 5-10: If they answer STRONGLY DISAGREE for any of the part “a” disaster questions, then skip the
corresponding part “b” recovery questions. For Qs. 3-4: If they answer STRONGLY AGREE for any of the part “a”
disaster questions, then skip the corresponding part “b” recovery questions.
1a. I was injured in the disaster.
b. I have recovered from the injuries.
2a. The place I was living in was destroyed to the point where
I could not live in it.
b. I now have permanent housing.
3a. Immediately after the disaster, I had adequate access to
b. I now have adequate access to food.
4a. Immediately after the disaster, I had adequate access to
clean drinking water.
b. I now have adequate access to clean drinking water.
5a. The disaster caused me to lose my ability to earn money.
b. I now have a job or a source of income.
6a. The disaster prevented me from moving about my
community freely, such as visiting family, friends and
b. I am now able to move about my community freely, such
as visiting family, friends and neighbors.
7a. The disaster destroyed some of my personal property
such as home, auto, livestock, personal effects.
b. I have now recovered this property or its equivalent.
8a. The disaster caused me emotional distress (e.g. made
me feel more anxious/afraid, or depressed/sad).
b. I have recovered emotionally.
9a. The disaster increased my experiences with violence
including physical, emotional or sexual abuse from a
loved one or stranger.
b. I am now free from such violence.
10a. Immediately after the disaster, I was not able to
participate in disaster relief, recovery or future
community planning with neighbors, local leaders and/or
local officials.
b. I am now able to participate in disaster relief, recovery
or future community planning with neighbors, local
leaders and/or local officials.
Part 2: Disaster Participation
I am going to ask you some questions about community participation in disaster recovery. Please provide the written
information requested or circle the number corresponding to the appropriate response for each question.
1. How much do you agree with the following statement: “Citizen participation is important for successful disaster recovery.”
1 = Strongly disagree
4 = Agree
2 = Disagree
5 = Strongly agree
3 = Neutral
2. Since the disaster, have you participated in any disaster recovery projects or programs in your community? (If NO, skip
to Part 3.)
1 = Yes
2 = No
3. What kinds of projects did you engage in? (Circle all that apply.)
1 = Clean-up/debris removal
4 = Livelihood support
2 = Reconstruction
5 = Organizational capacity-building
3 = Agricultural projects
6 = Other
4. Did you participate in any projects that were funded by or coordinated by anyone from outside your community? (If no,
skip to Part 3.)
1 = Yes
2 = No
5. Who was the lead organization on the project? (Please circle all that apply.)
1 = Government
2 = Regional or national non-profit/non-governmental organization
3 = Business or other private sector actor
4 = Church or religious group
5 = International organization
6 = Foreign country
7 = Don’t Know
6. How do you or did you perceive your role in the project? (Choose the one that best describes their role.)
1 = I take no part at all
2 = I play a passive role
3 = I participate in relaying information
4 = I carry out various tasks at the staff’s instructions
5 = I participate partially in planning, decision-making and implementation
6 = I am a full partner in planning, decision-making and implementation
7. How often did you attend meetings or activities?
1 = Never
2 = Rarely
3 = Sometimes
4 = Often
5 = Always
8. How often did you actively participate in discussions at meetings or activities?
1 = Never
4 = Often
2 = Rarely
5 = Always
3 = Sometimes
9. If you had concerns about the project, did you feel that you were heard and/or that action was taken?
1 = Never
4 = Often
2 = Rarely
5 = Always
3 = Sometimes
10. All things considered, how effective do you think the project was overall?
1 = Extremely ineffective
4 = Somewhat effective
2 = Somewhat ineffective
5 = Extremely effective
3 = Neither ineffective or effective
Part 3: Civic Engagement and Social Capital
I am going to ask you some questions about community your current civic engagement and social capital activities. Please
provide the written information requested or circle the number corresponding to the appropriate response for each question.
1. Did you vote in the last election?
1 = Yes
2 = No
2. How active would you say you are in your community, such as in local government or volunteer organizations?
1 = Very inactive
4 = Somewhat active
2 = Somewhat inactive
5 = Very active
3 = Neither active nor inactive
3. Which of the following activities have you been involved with in the past 6 months? (Circle all that apply.)
1 = Attended a political meeting, demonstration, march, or other political/community action
2 = Reached out to a political or community leader to discuss issues of relevance to your community
3 = Participated in religious or spiritual activities (besides services) such as a Bible study or church committee
4 = Participated in or attended a cultural event such as a musical performance or Carnival
5 = Participated in a parent association or other school support/advocacy group
6 = A neighborhood association or agricultural cooperative
7 = Any other organizations not mentioned above related to disaster recovery or rebuilding
4. Following a disaster, who should assume the majority of the responsibility for taking care of victims and their families:
(Please circle all that apply.)
1 = The victims themselves
2 = Privately funded organizations such as the Red Cross, Oxfam, Salvation Army, Churches, etc.
3 = Government agencies
4 = International organizations such as the United Nations
5 = Other (please specify) ___________________
Part 4: Quality of Life
I am going to ask you some questions about your quality of life. Please provide the written information requested or circle
the number corresponding to the appropriate response for each question.
1. All things considered, how satisfied are you with your life as a whole nowadays?
1 = Extremely dissatisfied
4 = Somewhat satisfied
2 = Somewhat dissatisfied
5 = Extremely satisfied
3 = Neither dissatisfied or satisfied
2. In five years, do you think your community will be:
1 = A much worse place to live
2 = A somewhat worse place to live
3 = About the same
4 = A somewhat better place to live
5 = A much better place to live
Part 5: Social Trust
I am going to ask you some questions about your social trust of other people and/or groups. Please circle the number
corresponding to your level of trust for not at all (lowest number) to a lot (highest number) with each of the following
Only a
Not at All
A Lot
1. People in your neighborhood?
2. The police in your local community?
3. People of other races?
4. Outsiders coming into your community to help?
5. The federal or national government?
Part 6: Respondent Demographics
I would like you to answer some questions about yourself and your current situation. Please provide the written information
requested or circle the number corresponding to the appropriate response for each question.
1. In what year were you born? ___________________
2. What is your marital status?
1 = Single
2 = Married
3 = Member of an unmarried couple living together
4 = Separated
5 = Divorced
6 = Widowed
3. What is your race/ethnicity?
1 = White or Caucasian non Hispanic
2 = Black or African American
3 = Hispanic or Latino
4 = Asian
5 = Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander
6 = American Indian or Alaska Native
4. What is the last grade in school you completed?
1 = Less than high school
2 = Some high school
3 = High school diploma or GED
4 = Some college
5 = Associate/junior college degree
6 = College degree
7 = Some graduate studies
8 = Graduate degree
5. Do you currently live in a residence that you own or are renting?
1 = Own
2 = Rent
3 = Neither
6. Tell me about your work. (Choose one that best describes their situation.)
1 = I work full-time for a company or organization
2 = I work part-time for a company or organization
3 = I have my own business or work in the informal economy
4 = I do not work outside the home, I work in the home, i.e. caretaking responsibilities
7. What is your annual household income?
1 = Below $2000
2 = $2000-$9,999
3 = $10,000-$19,999
4 = $20,000-$39,999
5 = $40,000-$79,999
6 = Above $80,000
8. In general, would you say your health is:
1 = Poor
2 = Fair
3 = Good
4 = Very Good
5 = Excellent
9. How much do you agree with the following statement, “I am a spiritual or religious person?”
1 = Strongly disagree
4 = Agree
2 = Disagree
5 = Strongly agree
3 = Neutral
10. What is your gender? (Only ask if you cannot tell.)
1 = Male
2 = Female
If there is any additional information that you would like to add or discuss about your experiences with the
earthquake, please do so here.
Research Instruments Part II:
Key Informant Interview/Focus Group Guide
Background and Demographics (This page to be completed by participants)
1) Were you personally affected by the 2010 earthquake (home, work, family, etc.)?
2) Organization name (during disaster relief and recovery)
3) Job position (during disaster relief and recovery)
4) Number of years in that position (during disaster relief and recovery)
5) Number of years in similar work
6) Education (Degree and Major Field)
7) Gender
8) Race/Ethnicity
9) Year of birth
Questions for local actors:
What was it like to live in your community before the earthquake? And after the
What were some of the key needs in your community for short-term recovery and
long-term sustainable recovery?
Have they been addressed?
Did you engage in any recovery projects that were initiated solely by the community
without any outside assistance? Describe them. Were they successful?
Did you/your organization participate in any recovery projects with outside actors or
outside funding, partnering with non-profits, faith-based groups, government,
business etc.?
o Describe the project. How were local people selected/hired? Who was
involved in the project? Who funded it?
o Describe your experiences and role working on this project.
o How were needs/priorities identified? How were decisions made?
o Were meetings inclusive, participatory?
o If you had concerns, did you communicate them and were they heard?
o Were you involved in the evaluation of the project?
o How did this participation influence you/your life?
o What is your overall assessment the project, including the quality of local
Are there any special needs of rural communities recovering from a disaster that
policymakers and practitioners should know about?
What role does participation of local actors play in recovery? Who needs to be at the
table in determining community recovery plans?
What role does engagement of external actors play in recovery (government,
NGOs)? How can we best help them to understand their role?
What are/were some facilitators of recovery? In your life? Community? Country?
What are/were impediments to recovery? In your life? Community? Country?
What are some lessons that you have learned from the recovery process? If you
were to engage in recovery process again, what would you have done differently?
Anything else that you would like to share?
Haiti Research Team Members
Loretta Pyles, PhD, State University of New York At Albany
Juliana Svistova, MSW, State University of New York At Albany
Josué André, Heart-to-Heart International
Christophe Rodrigue, Heart-to-Heart International
Luberisse Wales
Cenescar Stymphil
Estiverne Antoine
Innocent Francy
Edme Obenson
Geneste Rose Ruth
Jean Vitane
Jean Francois Marc
Regalas Magdala