U.S. Postal Service Resumes Delivery To Haiti

Since a massive earthquake tore through Haiti in January, the U.S. Postal Service has been holding mail for delivery to Haiti. One ton of international letters and packages are on their way, with delivery expected by the weekend. That's one bit of good news in the almost four months since the quake claimed more than 200,000 lives, and left more than 2 million people homeless.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. The mail is going through in Haiti today. The U.S. Postal Service resumed international delivery on Tuesday. The Post Office had been accepting mail for Haiti and then holding it since the massive earthquake in January. One ton of international letters and packages are on their way, with delivery expected by the weekend.

That is one bit of good news, at least, for almost four months now since the quake claimed a couple hundred thousand lives and left more than two million people homeless. NPR reporter Jason Beaubien is back in Haiti. It's his third visit since the earthquake. He's on the line.

Jason, good morning.

JASON BEAUBIEN: Good morning.

INSKEEP: You seeing progress compared to your previous visits?

BEAUBIEN: Yes and no. There's a lot less rubble out in the streets. You can clearly see that things are getting cleaned up in terms of that. In some of the camps there are fewer people. Schools are open and you're also getting sort of this school-in-a-box that's popping up in places where just a month ago was a vacant lot. Now you're seeing a school structure - these sort of wooden structures that are - they're basically a tin roof on a wooden frame and they're holding classes in them. And it's quite impressive. The hotels are also full.

But at the same time, you've still got hundreds of thousands of people living in camps, hundreds of thousands of people living in really still very desperate conditions. And a lot of the places you look, it looks like absolutely nothing has happened. So sort of yes and no on the progress.

INSKEEP: And there was a lot of concern about how people living out in the open were going to fair during the rainy season, which was supposed to begin last month. How are people doing?

BEAUBIEN: Well, fortunately the hard rains have not yet hit. There has been some rain. There's been rain that has come through and flooded some camps. But people are saying the real rain season has not yet hit. And this has allowed the aid agencies to get out and get tarps and tents out to more than a million people. You know, logistically that was a huge operation.

And so now even in the most chaotic camps you're almost seeing no shelters that don't at least have a roof - not a roof, but at least a tarp over the top of them. In the past, you were seeing these structures with sticks wrapped around with some sheets. So you're not seeing so much of that. And those things are really going to get torn to shreds when the rains come.

You know, unfortunately the water is still coming underneath them. Sustained rains, you know, they're going to make people's lives very miserable when they arrive, even in these places that have tarps on them. So the longer the tarps hold off - the longer the rains hold off, the better. And unfortunately we've got the hurricane season coming after that.

So the Haitians and humanitarian community really are not out of the woods yet by a long shot. And this remains a humanitarian catastrophe on a really large scale.

INSKEEP: We're talking with NPR's Jason Beaubien. He's in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where many people have followed your reporting in previous months, Jason. I'm glad to hear you mention those schools in a box, suggesting that kids, at least some of them, can go to school. What about adults? Are there jobs for people to go to during the day?

BEAUBIEN: I have to say this is one of the biggest frustrations that I hear from people, people saying they just don't have work. Work that they had was destroyed during the quake, that the economy is taking a long time to get back up and running. You know, the level of the destruction was just so huge that it really shut things down.

There's incredible frustration by the people who are getting moved into these new camps, that they're on the outskirts of the city and that they just don't have anything to do. Being in the heart of Port-au-Prince, you've got people just digging through the piles of rubble, still pulling out rebar, which they're going to sell for scrap.

Downtown, on what is sort of the main commercial district on Main Street near the Iron Market, all the shops are closed. But people have just moved out into the streets and are selling their wares out on the street, oftentimes sort of right on top of the rubble or right in front of the rubble, sometimes with rubble hanging above them as they're selling things.

We were in this area yesterday, and there was this building that had pancaked down to the ground, and so the roof was flat. And it was probably a three or four story building. And a group of kids had sort of cleared off the top of the roof, this flat stretch of concrete, and they turned it into a soccer pitch and they were out there kicking a ball around.

So people aren't working amidst the rubble. But you know, they are sleeping oftentimes still amidst it. They're working amidst it. And at times they're even playing right there, you know, in the heart of this shattered city.

INSKEEP: Okay. Thanks very much. That's NPR's Jason Beaubien. He's reporting this morning from Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

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