It doesn’t even seem like it’s been that long, does it?
Sadly, Haitians have grown used to seeing earthquake rubble and the makeshift camps that sprang up after that fateful day in January 2010.
The United Nations, Haitian officials and private aid agencies have said that Haiti has made strides in the two years since the quake. But few deny that recovery has been painfully slow.
All you have to do is look at Leocal. And she might be considered one of the lucky ones. She has a “home,” however modest.
The United Nations estimated the 7.0-magnitude earthquake affected nearly 3 million people and killed about 220,000. More than 1.5 million people were left homeless in a country that was already the poorest in the Western hemisphere and wracked by crisis.
Consider that 70% of Haitians did not have stable jobs before the quake and there were only 5.9 doctors per 10,000 residents.
Two years later, almost as many Haitians are still unemployed. Debris still clutters the capital and other places. About half the rubble, the equivalent of five football stadiums full, has been removed, according to the United Nations.
About half a million people are still homeless. Many still live in tents in the shadows of the collapsed presidential palace, perhaps the most visible symbol of Haiti’s misery.
“You can’t stay on the streets,” Leocal said. “If that’s what you have, you have to rebuild.”
She is not alone in her frustration.
Thousands of Haitians marched Wednesday through Port-au-Prince to the Parliament building to demand a reform of land laws so they can be freed to build homes, said Marjorie Bertrand Dumornay, coordinator of the grass-roots campaign funded by ActionAid Haiti.
“The rebuilding process is mostly led by the foreigners,” she said. “There is no national plan. The Haitian state does not have the will.”
Michel Martelly, the former pop star who was elected president last year partly because he presented a fresh face in Haitian politics, campaigned on a pledge to fix Haiti.
But it took him months to even form a government and he recently said that motivating people to move in the nation’s “culture of immobilism” has been a challenge.
Standing recently on a site where he said more than 600 families had been living in tents until just days ago, Martelly said the government was able to relocate them in housing.
The project, he said, cost $9 million because damaged homes had to be either repaired or reconstructed.
He acknowledged that many thousands are still waiting.
“But it’s about sending the signal,” he told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.
“It’s not about having the magic stick and making the problem disappear in one day. If you plant a tree today, in order to enjoy the shadow, you have to wait five years. So changing Haiti is going to take time and healing the wounds is going to take time.”
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