Recovery in Haiti Slow but Steady
UN reports on country's conditions a year after quake
When a devastating earthquake struck Haiti a year ago Wednesday, the world came together to offer help.
"We recall how Americans, civilian and military, joined with people from around the world in one of the largest humanitarian efforts ever attempted," said President Barack Obama in a statement released Tuesday about the January 12 anniversary.
Roughly 230,000 people died and around 300,000 were injured. One million people were left homeless. Many children lost their homes, as well as their parents. One year later, 800,000 people are still living in makeshift camps. Half of those are under the age of 18.
The United Nations (UN) is lead coordinator of the hundreds of organizations that have come to help rebuild the Western Hemisphere's poorest country. In a nationwide teleconference the day before the anniversary, UN officials Nigel Fisher and Daniel Epstein talked to reporters about current conditions in Haiti and what the future holds.
"There has been a lot of criticism about the lack of progress," Fisher said. "It has been incremental, but there has been progress." Fisher is the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Haiti in the Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). He has been on the ground in Haiti since last February.
Epstein, the Public Information Officer for the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), reported from his office in Washington, D.C., on the cholera outbreak in Haiti. Cholera is a disease that comes from drinking unsanitary water. The number of people in Haiti who have cholera is now more than 170,000, many in rural areas where they have no access to health care.
"The only good part is that we've gotten a handle on treatment," Epstein said of the fight against the cholera pandemic. "The number of people who've died has dropped from 9 percent of those infected to 2.2 percent. That's significant."
Fisher was asked by the Scholastic Kids Press Corps about the condition of the children still living in the camps. He said that the children live with what's left of their family and their belongings in tents. Football (soccer) fields, schools, and playgrounds have been organized.
"You have to remember that many of the children came from slums with no toilets in their houses, no drinking water," Epstein said. "They had to go to dirty streams to get water. They are getting better nutrition now than before."
When asked about their education, Fisher explained that some 1,500 schools have been set up in large tents provided by UNICEF. Ninety-five percent of children who were in class before the quake are now back in school, although only 40 percent of the child population was in school before the earthquake.
"We have to remember that the earthquake took the lives of 200,000 Haitians, and many children are now orphans," said Epstein. "These structures of the camps and the UN arrangement and activities have really helped a lot of children."
"Life is not easy," Epstein continued, "but it was not easy before earthquake."
The UN is helping build transitional homes and assessing damaged homes for possible repair. The goal of 30,000 transitional homes for 2010 was met. The new goal is 100,000 homes.
"We're going to see a much stronger burst in recovery for the coming year," Fisher said.
CRISIS IN HAITI: ONE YEAR LATER
More than a million people remain homeless and schools are just now being rebuilt in Haiti a year after the country's capital city was devastated by a major earthquake on January 12, 2010. Scholastic Kid Reporters continue their reporting on the earthquake with stories about how people are continuing to help the embattled country in the Crisis in Haiti: One Year Later Special Report.
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