Haiti, two years after devastating earthquake

 Haiti2012

REPORTING FROM MEXICO CITY -- Two years have passed since a ferocious earthquake leveled much of Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince, and killed about a quarter-million people. It was, as The Times put it, "one of modern times' worst natural disasters," striking "one of modern times' poorest nations."

Today there is progress, including the election and seating of a new government, the clearing of much rubble, the rebuilding of some housing and other infrastructure, the expansion of access to healthcare.

Yet, more than half a million Haitians who lost their homes still live in often-squalid camps, where women and children are especially vulnerable to sexual attack and other violence. Jobs remain scarce; the vast majority of Haitians barely scrape by. Much of the billions of dollars in promised aid has yet to penetrate. And a post-quake cholera epidemic continues to kill.

"We need to help [Haitians] build back better their communities, give them more support, bring them water, infrastructure, electricity, drainage and police," President Michel Martelly said this week, presenting his first formal government report since taking office in May. He noted that 80% of Haitians still live on less than $2 a day.

Martelly, a singer and political novice until he ran for the presidency, admitted mistakes, and his government clearly is still gaining its footing. Delays in holding the elections that brought him to power cost Haiti precious recovery time because many Western governments and relief agencies were reluctant to give money to Martelly's corrupt predecessors. There is hope now that will change.

"The challenge for Haiti is to build on this momentum and turn the aid-underpinned rebound into sustainable growth and more formal sector jobs," said the Inter-American Development Bank, which held a major investors' conference two months ago. The bank sees a bright prospect in the opening of a 600-acre industrial park which will include a South Korean garment factory prepared to hire up to 20,000 workers.

Progress in Haiti is difficult to measure.

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-- Tracy Wilkinson

Photos, from top: The Desallines neighborhood in Port-au-Prince is shown is present day, and on Jan. 16, 2010, four days after the earthquake. Credit:  Orlando Barria / EPA

 
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