U.S. aid chief seeks more effective help for Haiti amid 'chaos'

·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: Samanta Power, administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, delivers a speech in San Salvador, El Salvador

By Patricia Zengerle and Doyinsola Oladipo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The head of the U.S. Agency for International Development said on Wednesday she was looking at aid to Haiti in the hope of better results than billions of dollars in previous assistance that did little to ease the country's deep problems.

"We see the chaos, we see what isn't working," USAID Administrator Samantha Power told a congressional hearing on the agency's budget request, a week after Haitian President Jovenel Moise was gunned down in his home, worsening insecurity in the country.

"I've looked into this, in part because of the recent events, to see how we would pivot now," she said.

International donors pledged billions of dollars in aid after the Caribbean nation was devastated by an earthquake in 2010 and private agencies and religious organizations have poured money into the country since.

Most estimates are that Haiti has received more than $10 billion in international aid in recent years, but the use of the money has come under intense scrutiny from experts. Only a fraction ended up with the Haitian government and much of the aid has not been accounted for.

Concern over insecurity and access to basic goods has risen in the past week. Moise's killing came amid a surge in gang violence that has displaced thousands and hampered economic activity in what was already a poor and unstable country.

Haiti's government is also in disarray, with multiple officials claiming the right to lead the government and only a handful of elected officials in place.

Power was questioned about Haiti during hours of testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations and House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committees. Some lawmakers asked for assurance that future funding would make a difference.

"After years of assistance it's not brought democracy or stability to Haiti, and we just can't continue down the same path expecting a different result," Democratic Senator Ed Markey said.

Power said the situation must be addressed with diplomacy as well as development and humanitarian assistance.

"There has to be a roadmap to legislative and presidential elections and USAID will support, of course, the effort to get to elections as soon as practical and as soon as possible," Power said.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle and Doyinsola Oladipo; editing by Richard Pullin)

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