Haiti struggling to recover months after earthquake

Children play on the roof top of a home in Port-au-Prince, Monday June 28, 2010. (AP Photo/Alexandre Meneghini)
July 12, 2010 6:00:12 PM PDT
Six months ago, an earthquake shattered the country of Haiti, killing more than 230,000 people.Currently, at least 23 organizations are busy in the beleaguered country helping to deploy the $1.1 billion in aid that was pledged in the quake's aftermath.

By no means is anything approaching normal on the horizon in Haiti, but various people are seeing signs of hope as they butt up against roadblocks to Haiti's recovery.

Between patients, Dr. Yves-Mario Piverger reviews designs of easily constructed medical facilities that he hopes to help build in Haiti through the organization Architecture for Humanity. The Haitian-born Chicago doctor has been down to Haiti three times since January and says frustration is setting in at the lack of progress.

"The time of the tents has come and gone. We should be looking into the times of sustainable structures," Piverger said.

Piverger was active in his birthplace before the earthquake. Now, he says, with all the money people have donated -- $465 million alone through the Red Cross-- it is time for Haitian officials to make it easier for outside help to be deployed.

"No one is going to invest in a tent, but someone will invest in a structure that is permanent. Someone will understand the need for infrastructure, if they can foresee months to years instead of seconds to hours," Piverger said.

The doctor says people are still in survival mode, and that makes it difficult to resolve the calamity through long-term projects. But, he says, that's the perspective needed to make progress.

It is a conundrum the Red Cross feels, too. Outside its offices in Chicago, there is frustration on the minds of those who have worked to direct American generosity to alleviating Haiti's pain. The agency says rebuilding the shattered country is a 3-to-5-year proposition, and as much as $12 billion will be needed. The biggest challenge is dealing with 1 million cubic meters of rubble.

"There is so much debate over who owns the land that you can't build something that is semi-permanent until those matters are resolved," said Jackie Mitchell of the American Red Cross.

After six months, the Red Cross says it has built a massive temporary hospital, constructed over 40,000 elementary structures, and is using text messages to get cash into survivors hands.

"It has to be a personal will and a political will in Haiti to address the needs of Haitians. The idea that help has to come from the outside is a false idea," Piverger said.

For more information, log on to ArchitectureForHumanity.org.

Former President Bill Clinton arrived in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince Monday, his third trip since the January 12 disaster.

The visit comes days after he partnered with former President George W. Bush to establish the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund to help revive the economy.

Roughly 1 in 9 Haitians is still homeless, and the streets are littered with rubble.

Haitian native and musician Wyclef Jean spoke out Monday about the painfully slow relief efforts.

"What's positive is the spirit of the Haitian people. You know? But as far as the reconstruction, we're six months in. Minus the death, which we [had] seen the day after when we came in, we feel that there is no reconstruction," he said.

Some experts predict it could take up to 20 years to remove all of the rubble.


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