Two years after quake, Haiti struggles with cholera
By Silvia Ayuso Jan 11, 2012, 21:11 GMT
Washington - Two years after the quake that devastated Haiti on January 12, 2010, a lot remains to be done to rebuild the poorest country in the Americas.
The quake, which measured 7.0 on the Richter scale, affected 2.8 million people in Port-au-Prince alone. It killed more than 222,000 people and left over 1.5 million homeless, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
A lingering and expanding cholera epidemic has further handicapped the already overwhelming recovery efforts after breaking out in October 2010 and feeding off the desperate living situations of the hundreds of thousands of Haitians made homeless from the quake.
The Caribbean nation is suffering the 'worst cholera epidemic in the world in many decades,' which threatens to jeopardize Haiti's development efforts, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said Wednesday.
PAHO experts noted that, without sufficient investment in infrastructures to improve water supply, sanitation and hygiene and gradually eradicate the cholera, reconstruction efforts to get over the quake may well prove futile.
'Investment in water and sanitation and elimination of the cholera is almost a pre-requisite to think about sustainable development and good investment in economic growth,' said PAHO director Mirta Roses.
'Cholera has killed more than 7,000 in one of the worst epidemics ever,' she stressed.
Roses noted that Haitians 'have suffered decades of neglect,' and she called upon those who promised the impoverished nation funds in the wake of the earthquake to come forward with the money.
'We call today on partners old and new to join us and honour their funding pledges and make new ones,' she said.
In the two years since the quake, Haiti has elected a new president. The election process was drawn-out and difficult in a ravaged country, but President Michel Martelly, a former singer, eventually took over from Rene Preval in May.
The inauguration ceremony was held in a wooden building erected in front of the presidential palace, because the palace was destroyed in the quake.
In further evidence of change in Haiti since the quake, former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier and former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide had returned from exile and were among Martelly's guests.
Duvalier, who ruled the country with an iron fist 1971-86 amid allegations of corruption and human rights violations, returned from his self-imposed exile in France in January 2011.
Aristide, who was president twice in the 1990s and again 2001-4, returned to Haiti from South Africa in March, after a seven-year exile.
A lot remains to be done in Haiti, and Martelly has said he is open to all sectors. But the country needs funds, as it seeks to recover from the quake and from earlier troubles.
'Less than half of the 11 billion dollars pledged as funds for reconstruction after the quake have been spent or been devoted to activities within Haiti,' PAHO said.
Around 1 million people have been relocated two years after the quake, but half-a-million remain in emergency shelters. A lot of the rubble that was left by the quake is yet to be removed, and job creation remains an urgent need for the country.
'We have received many pledges of aid for reconstruction, but we must now move to action,' Martelly said.
Former US president Bill Clinton planned to be in Haiti on Thursday for the second anniversary of the quake.