Haiti, Two Years Later

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News Americas, PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Fri. Jan. 13, 2012: Two years after the horrific earthquake in Haiti, some 500,000 people still live under terrible conditions in makeshift camps.

That’s the word from Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), which was working in Haiti before the disaster and lost 12 staff members in the earthquake.

The piles of rubble and gaping holes in the streets of Port-au-Prince remain. MSF’s medical coordinator, Wendy Lai says “access to drinking water and sanitation is (still) very limited throughout the entire country, particularly in rural and remote areas.”

“This situation promotes the spread of infectious disease,” she added. “While the number of new cases of cholera has fallen considerably, we still see several hundred each week and the risk of seasonal resurgence remains very high. We must remain extremely vigilant.”

With more than 50,000 inhabitants, Jean Marie Vincent is the biggest IDP camp in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, occupying several hectares of property near the city centre and close to Cité Soleil, one of the poorest and less secure areas of the city.

Raymond Lamarre, the UNPOL police spokesperson in Haiti, bluntly describes the difficulties faced by law enforcement: “The gangsters of Cité Soleil commit crimes and then hide in the IDP camp where it is more difficult for us and for the Haitian National Police (HNP) Force to track them down.”

Women remain vulnerable to attacks. Celia Romulus, a project manager for UN Women, the agency fighting violence against women, says: “We are confronted with dramatic situations in which young women are raped in broad daylight in their tents or even young children are being raped, We have found out that the latrines are particularly dangerous for women at night. That’s why we have decided to install lighting near these places where sexual predators happened to be lurking.”

Yesterday, on the second anniversary, President Michel Martelly was among those marking the day with a holiday. Many Haitians gathered in makeshift churches to remember the dead and hope for a new beginning.

The disaster killed 316,000 people and displaced 1.5 million. Services on the national holiday ranged from roadside affairs to a government-organized observance near a mass grave north of the capital led by President Martelly and attended by former dictator, Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier.

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