Haiti Still Shaken Months After Earthquake

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It's been more than eight months since a devastating earthquake destroyed the capital of Haiti. Host Liane Hansen talks with NPR's Jason Beaubien, who's returned to Haiti to assess recovery and rebuilding efforts months after the capital, Port au Prince, was flattened by a 7.0 earthquake.

LIANE HANSEN, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.

Its been more than eight months since a devastating earthquake destroyed the capital of Haiti.

NPRs Jason Beaubien has been in Port-au-Prince all this week and he joins us now. Jason, I understand this is your fourth trip back since the quake. Are you seeing any progress at all in the recovery?

JASON BEAUBIEN: Obviously we're seeing some progress. But part of what is very remarkable is how little progress there is. Rubble removal remains one of the huge obstacles to redevelopment, people moving back into their properties. And it's striking that I was thinking this just today that I have not seen - like I've seen in trips earlier - crews where youve got a bulldozer, youve got a backhoe, youve got trucks just knocking buildings down one after another.

I haven't seen a single organized, mechanized unit doing that and we still have rubble all over the place here.

HANSEN: And the people that you talked to, they must be frustrated.

BEAUBIEN: Absolutely. People are very frustrated with they see as the very slow pace of the recovery. Also, people here are well aware of how much money has been donated by the international community. You know, they hear about these billions of dollars and they - many people have been saying to me they're not seeing this. They got a tarp.

And so, yes, people can be working on programs to, you know, stimulate micro enterprise to work on other sort of big picture things for Haiti. And thats not to say that, you know, people aren't out there providing medical care, providing water. But for ordinary Haitians who lost everything, eight months feels like a very long time and it feels like there's no end in sight.

It's unclear when this city is going to get back to normal, to a state where it doesnt look like there is rubble everywhere.

HANSEN: Yeah. And that rubble, given the amount of it that youve talked about, is there any expectation at all as to when people might be able to go back into their houses?

BEAUBIEN: It's very clear now that it's going to be years before everyone has moved back into their houses. And it's going to be years before the majority of people have moved back into their houses.

The expectation from the international community was that that they were going to build about 130,000 transitional shelters by the anniversary of the quake in January. Well, at the moment theyve built about 13,000 units of that, so about 10 percent. It's not clear at all that they're going to hit that target -thats just for transitional. Thats for moving people from underneath a tarp and four sticks into something a little bit solider.

Some people have been able to move back into their homes. But the number is still in the high hundreds of thousands of people who are not back to a normal type of house.

HANSEN: Theres a presidential election coming up in November. Is there a sense that the current government is sort of in a lame duck phase and that might be part of whats slowing things down in terms of the recovery?

BEAUBIEN: Yes, there's sort of a sense here at the moment that everything is on hold until this new president comes in. And then, hopefully, he or she will have this great direction to move the country forward.

Right at the moment, Im actually at a place where they're issuing I.D.s to people who have lost their I.D.s, all of their paperwork in the rubble, people who have lost absolutely everything. They need to get registered by the end of this month in order to be able to vote in the November election. And so people have been lined up here.

But there is a great sense of frustration amongst people in these lines, that it's not clear that there's any candidate who really is offering a clear message of how they're going to transform the country in the dramatic way that it needs to be transformed to really change things.

The election officially cannot start campaigning until September 28th. There's the expectation that after that people will get a clearer view of what these candidates represent.

HANSEN: NPR's Jason Beaubien in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Jason, thank you.

BEAUBIEN: You're welcome.

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