Haiti Struggles To Recover From 2010 Earthquake

Two years after a massive earthquake leveled Haiti's capital and killed roughly 300,000 people, the nation's recovery is slowing picking up speed. The number of displaced living in tented camps has dropped but Cholera continues to be a problem.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And now, let's mark a milestone in the Caribbean nation of Haiti. Two years ago today, a powerful earthquake struck, destroying the capital city, Port-au-Prince, and killing as many as 300,000 people.

NPR's Jason Beaubien covered the aftermath and has returned now to Haiti. He's on the line from Port-au-Prince. Hi, Jason.

JASON BEAUBIEN, BYLINE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: So how are people marking the anniversary there?

BEAUBIEN: There's going to be celebrations, commemorations at churches all across Port-au-Prince today. And then later in the day, there's going to be a ceremony out at the mass grave, out on the outskirts of the city where, in the days after this quake, they were basically taking dump-truck loads of bodies and dumping them out there. And that's going to be the place where the main ceremony is going to be held later today.

INSKEEP: Two years have passed. Have you seen much improvement in Port-au-Prince? There was so much to do.

BEAUBIEN: There definitely is improvement here. Some of the camps where so many of the people have been living have been getting cleared out. Certainly, there are cracked buildings. There are damaged buildings. There are totally destroyed buildings that you see sort of all over the city as you drive around. But they're no longer leaning into the streets like they were before.

Government officials say it's about half of the rubble has actually been removed. But definitely, there have been improvements, and this place is not dealing with the immediate disaster the way that it was through much of the first year of cleaning up from this.

INSKEEP: There must also be people who are just living in the rubble, or who have moved back into their damaged homes at this point.

BEAUBIEN: Absolutely. As people are getting moved out of the camps, people are going back to some of the buildings that were damaged. Many people are going back to where they were before the earthquake.

INSKEEP: And how do Haiti's leaders see the challenges they face?

BEAUBIEN: You know, it's interesting. I had an interview with President Michel Martelly, and he's talking about jobs. He's talking about economic development. He's talking about education. He's talking about a lot of the - exactly the same things that Haiti has needed for a very long time, and I guess to some degree, that's a good thing.

I mean, he's back on track to try to deal with all of the problems that the poorest nation in this hemisphere has had to deal with. So that's how he's approaching it. He's still also trying to channel all of the billions of dollars that have been pledged to Haiti, and he says trying to coordinate that better.

He is pitching very much that he's a success story as a pop star, and now as a president, he's going to do that again. So he's sort of like the cheerleader for Haiti, and I think people appreciate that. They appreciate having a leader who's very out there, very outspoken, and saying that Haiti's going to succeed at this.

INSKEEP: Well, now, wait a minute. When you say that he's talking about jobs, this is a situation where there is so much to do, so much infrastructure to rebuild. Are there signs that large numbers of Haitians are, in fact, finding work solving the problems that need to be solved?

BEAUBIEN: Many are, but the unemployment rate remains incredibly high. And there's a lot of frustration among Haitians that all of these billions of dollars have been pledged, and yet they still can't find a job. They still are just selling things by the side of the road to try to make a living. And that is something that people here are very frustrated with.

INSKEEP: Jason, a lot of people are going to remember your reporting immediately after this earthquake a couple of years ago, and this is a country to which you have returned again and again. What sights strike you, what feelings come over you as you return to Port-au-Prince?

BEAUBIEN: I'm very much just struck by how life is going on, you know. There's people in the streets. There's often music playing. The kids are getting back to school. This was an absolutely horrific disaster, but people are getting back on with their lives, trying to push forward, and trying to make things better here in this country.

INSKEEP: Jason, thanks very much.

BEAUBIEN: You're welcome.

INSKEEP: NPR's Jason Beaubien is in Port-au-Prince Haiti.

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