Homeless in Haiti, and losing hope
Misery is gripping the survivors of Haiti's catastrophic Jan. 12 earthquake, more than six months after the disaster and despite an international outpouring of humanitarian aid and goodwill. L.A. Times correspondent Ken Ellingwood was recently back in Haiti, where thousands sit in squalid temporary encampments waiting for relief, and new homes.
"At first we thought that the way the international community was coming together that in six months we'd be off the street. But we're still here," Stella Nicholas told Ellingwood from a shelter near downtown Port-au-Prince. "Our government is incapable of getting us out of this situation. I hope the international community can keep our hope alive, because it's fading."
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The Times also checks back in with quake survivor Sounlove Zamor, above, a 19-year-old amputee who has been waiting for several months for a trip to an Israeli hospital to be fitted with prosthetic limbs. Communication and passport issues have kept Zamor waiting and waiting. As a commenter on the story notes, Zamor is but one of many amputees hoping for prosthetic surgery.
An L.A. Times editorial recently called for the United States government to expedite visas for thousands of Haitians with sponsors in the U.S. Meanwhile, hip-hop entertainer Wyclef Jean is reportedly considering a run for Haiti's presidency in elections later this year. The deadline to declare a candidacy is Aug. 7.
So what's taking so long to get improvements to the people of Haiti?
Authorities in charge of the relief effort say that progress is actually impressive, given the scale of the disaster. Major outbreaks of illness or violence have so far been averted, although rape is increasingly a threat in some camps. The quake exacerbated existing problems in Haiti, such as deficiencies in infrastructure and the ambivalent nature of land rights in the country. Reaching recovery goals will take more time, officials say.
At a conference in New York in March, the international community pledged $9 billion in aid for reconstruction efforts in Haiti. To learn more about those efforts, visit the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission and the United Nations' Office of the Special Envoy for Haiti, headed by former President Clinton.
Yet as reports frequently point out, skepticism remains high among ordinary Haitians who are still struggling to survive since the disaster struck. Richard Morse, a Twitter user in Haiti who rose to prominence in the days after the quake, recently tweeted: "First 2 questions to ask Haiti's Presidential Candidates 1) Are you planning any audits? 2) Are you planning any arrests?"
-- Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City
Photo: Sounlove Zamor, 19, right, with her sister Baranatha, 20, at the general hospital in Gonaives, Haiti. Credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times