Six months after a devastating earthquake killed more than 200,000 people and left 1.3 million homeless, Haiti’s lack of infrastructure and leadership continues to impede efforts to rebuild.
Basic living conditions — access to shelter, water, sanitation, and health care — have yet to be restored for many Haitians, and much of the rubble remains unmoved.
ABC World News quotes Hans van Dillen, a Doctors Without Borders coordinator in Haiti, as saying, “Access to health care has improved, even if you compare it to the situation before the earthquake.” But he goes on to say, “People are still out there and they are still at risk. I think for at least the next 10 years, Haiti needs all the help it can get to get back on its feet again.” Doctors Without Borders has been in Haiti since the quake.
Tent camps that were supposed to be temporary are feeling eerily permanent. There are more than 1,300 of them, most without proper sanitation or drinking water. Some have sprouted up on private property, creating tensions between landowners and the homeless.
Despite all that remains to be done, there is some promising news.
- The United Nations reports that four million people have received food assistance, shelter materials have been distributed to 1.5 million people, safe water has been made available to 1.2 million people, and one million people have benefited from cash-for-work programs. More than 142,000 farming families have been assisted with spring planting and nutritional programs are working to reduce malnutrition among quake victims.
- About 100,000 people have been able to return to homes that were not damaged. Transitional shelters are being established to house those still in tent camps, with 120,000 expected to be ready by next year.
- UNICEF continues to work to improve the lives of children, and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) is assisting with reproductive health needs, providing maternal health supplies and hygiene kits, tents, mattresses, and solar-powered lamps to the female population.
- The UN World Food Program (WFP), in anticipation of the rain and hurricane season, is pre-positioning food supplies in the most vulnerable areas of the country.
- Oxfam distributes more than 8 million liters of water a day, monitoring the chlorination process and testing water to avoid contamination.
- Partners In Health, which raised $85 million for Haiti earthquake relief, is building a new teaching hospital in Haiti to serve Haitians who cannot afford private hospitals.
Cheryl Mills, a senior adviser to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, said there have been no major disease outbreaks. That’s great news, but it doesn’t mean we’re in the clear. Much work remains. Reporting from Haiti on the six-month anniversary of the earthquake, CNN reporter Ivan Watson said, “It still looks like a bomb just dropped on this city.”
As long as tent cities and earthquake rubble remain, the potential for large-scale illness and communicable disease looms large.
Former President Bill Clinton, in an interview with CNN, said he is still waiting on the people who promised to be donors.
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