Haiti's Long Road to Recovery

Published July 13, 2010

It’s been six months to the day since the most devastating earthquake in its history hit the nation of Haiti. The 7.0 magnitude earthquake killed more than 300,000 people and left nearly 2 million survivors living in tents.

Efforts to rebuild since the January 12 quake have been slow going. Buildings destroyed by the earthquake lie where they collapsed. The presidential palace, which became a worldwide symbol of the devastation, remains a heap of concrete.

But the biggest challenge remains in helping the homeless; and for them the state of emergency remains. In the nearly 1,300 makeshift camps that were formed after the earthquake, the daily grind for food, shelter, adequate healthcare and other basic necessities is a constant chase. Many survivors feel there is no where to turn. On top of that, international aid workers fear that with necessities not getting to the survivors fast enough, hurricane season – which began on June 1 – could cause another humanitarian catastrophe.

 "You look around today and you still see hundreds of thousands of people in tents and their situation is going to become precarious as the rains start," said Nigel Fisher, the humanitarian coordinator for the United Nations.


Frustration among Haitians is high. The government, who is responsible for the cleanup, lost 28 of its 29 buildings in the earthquake, and is operating out of tents and prefabricated structures President Rene Preval works beside the caved-in hulk of the presidential palace. Even for a stable country, orchestrating a cleanup of this magnitude would be difficult; but with a government this overwhelmed, reconstruction is still mostly a concept.
Homes and stores lie in heaps. More than 665,700 plastic tarps and 97,000 tents were handed out, but most are now falling apart. Officials planned to put up 125,000 transitional shelters -- only 3,722 have been built. And shelter officials say nearly four times as many still await assembly. When materials finally get through customs, there's no land to put them on.
Mountains of rubble still block some streets and fill lots needed for construction. Of the estimated 17 million cubic meters of rubble created by the disaster, only 2 percent has been removed.


Former President Bill Clinton, who is the UN Special Envoy for Haiti, feels that some of the hold up to real progress is due to charity organizations not living up to their end of the deal. He called out the organizations in an interview with Associated Press to mark the passing of six months. Clinton’s main problem was that international donors had given only 10 percent of the aid they promised.

He also noted the ''enormous difficulty'' plaguing rubble removal and construction of housing. Only 28,000 Haitians displaced by the earthquake have moved into new homes and the Port-au-Prince area remains a picture of life in the ruins.


Mr. Clinton called the struggle to provide homes for the 1.6 million Haitians still living under tarpaulin and tents ''horribly frustrating''. ''In the next couple of months we will start working through that at a more rapid pace and getting some of these other things going,'' he said.


Mr. Clinton said he planned to contact donors next week to remind them of their promises especially those who pledged to give money directly to Haiti's government. ''We need a schedule at least from the donors of when they are going to give that money,'' he said.


Right after the earthquake, hopes were high to rebuild a new Haiti, one better than before with a better-functioning government, up-to-date infrastructure and technology and strengthened industry to provide better jobs for its people. But for now, just six-months after the storm, it appears that the long-term view of a better Haiti seems to have gotten caught up in red tape. 

 

Written by <P>By Betsy Jones, BET News</P>

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