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Foreign Aid Has A Spotty Record In Haiti. Many Wonder If This Time Will Be Different


The U.S. pledged tens of millions more dollars to help Haiti recover from the August 14 earthquake that killed more than 2,000 people and left more than 12,000 injured. USAID Administrator Samantha Power was in Haiti today.


SAMANTHA POWER: Our partnership with the Haitian people is so fundamental. We need to listen to the communities themselves about how they prioritize.

CORNISH: The U.S. will coordinate delivery of supplies with the Haitian government. Haiti's interim prime minister thanked the U.S. for its help to date and rejected criticism that it failed to adequately deliver aid to the quake zone so far. NPR's Carrie Kahn joins us now live from the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince. And, Carrie, we're going to start with the specifics of this aid. How much more can you tell us about what the U.S. has pledged to give?

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Sure. Samantha Power said the new commitment was $32 million. And nearly two weeks out from the quake, she said attention will shift to providing temporary shelters. Well over 100,000 homes, Audie, were destroyed or significantly damaged in the 7.2 magnitude quake. She also said the U.S. is not going to do anything without Haitian cooperation and coordination, and things will be done more effectively and better than after the devastating 2010 earthquake here.


POWER: Perhaps the most important lesson is that no development agency and no army or diplomatic corps can just import a perfect humanitarian response from afar.

CORNISH: What do you think the lessons were that were learned from what happened to the aid that flowed after the 2010 quake?

KAHN: Well, they - we asked specifics about that. She did say you need local expertise and local leadership to reach communities in need, so we heard that. But from the Haitian perspective, the interim prime minister, Ariel Henry, reappeared with power today. He just took over running the country after the president here was assassinated in July. And Henry is very much aware of the criticism, but he pretty much brushed it off. He said the government has problems and facing challenges. But he says it's very much present and working to bring aid and security to the quake zone together with the U.S. Here he is.


PRIME MINISTER ARIEL HENRY: (Through interpreter) And that together, we build back a better Haiti.

HENRY: Thank you.


KAHN: Audie, I just wanted to play you that part of his comments because saying build it back better - that was the slogan everyone repeated and heard here in Haiti constantly after the 2010 quake. And pretty much everyone can agree Haiti was not built back better. So it was good to hear about - to hear his comments today.

CORNISH: You've reported on Haiti for more than a decade. Do you see better coordination now?

KAHN: Well, I can just tell you that I went out with an U.S. Army aid drop off in a remote mountains towns in Haiti yesterday. And I just want to play you a bit of 33-year-old Wider Gregory Karlonge, who I spoke with in a small village. He's with Haiti Civil Protection Agency.

WIDER GREGORY KARLONGE: (Speaking non-English language).

KAHN: He was complaining that aid groups were bringing supplies into town and bypassing the mayor's office altogether and just delivering it where they wanted, so so much for the pledges for coordination. But that is just one town in the country. Coordination is always, always a tough issue here. Haiti is very poor, and the need here is very great, Audie.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Carrie Kahn in Port-au-Prince. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Carrie Kahn is NPR's International Correspondent based in Mexico City, Mexico. She covers Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Kahn's reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning news programs including All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and on NPR.org.