Thony Belizaire/AFP/Getty Images
Haitians walk along a flooded road in Leogane, south of Port-au-Prince, last week. Haitians still displaced from the earthquake in January are now dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Tomas and a deadly cholera outbreak.
Haitians walk along a flooded road in Leogane, south of Port-au-Prince, last week. Haitians still displaced from the earthquake in January are now dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Tomas and a deadly cholera outbreak. Thony Belizaire/AFP/Getty Images
As more cholera cases are confirmed in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, frustration is growing with the slow pace of the recovery from January's earthquake.
More than a million people remain in makeshift camps around the capital. The majority of the rubble in Port-au-Prince still hasn't been cleared. And many people who lost their livelihoods in the quake are struggling to survive.
Currently in Haiti, hundreds of thousands of people are trapped in limbo without homes, without work and without a clear sense of how or when their lives might change for the better.
More than a million Haitians around Port-au-Prince remain in makeshift camps such as this one. Not only is housing scarce, so, too, are jobs.
More than a million Haitians around Port-au-Prince remain in makeshift camps such as this one. Not only is housing scarce, so, too, are jobs. Esteban Felix/AP
In the squalid camps, they're exposed to storms, thieves and disease such as the current cholera outbreak.
No Option But The Camps
At the Camp Place de la Paix, Micheline Marslin and her four children live in a hut constructed out of lashed-together sticks and a patchwork of tarps.
Her shelter is built directly on top of the cement stones of what used to be a public plaza. When it rains, she says the floor floods and they all have to stand up holding their bedding until the water subsides.
In September, dozens of shacks in this encampment were knocked down when a strong storm blew through.
"The tents were ripped apart," Marslin says. "Everyone was running. We ran into the street. We all spent the night in the open."
As Hurricane Tomas approached Haiti last week, the government called on people in camps like this to go stay with friends or family.
"If I had the option to leave, I would leave," Marslin says. "I don't have any option to leave. I am really uncomfortable in this situation, but that's the only place I have to stay."
Patrick Camille, with a Haitian human rights group called GARR, says people like Marslin are trapped in these camps.
Because the government doesn't communicate a plan for reconstruction, Camille says, he expects hundreds of thousands of earthquake victims to still be living in camps for at least another two or three years.
Camille says a profound "lack of leadership" is putting people's lives at risk.
The leadership vacuum is compounded right now by the fact that Haiti is holding presidential elections later this month.
Criticism Of Foreign Aid
Since the quake, Haiti has lurched from one crisis to another — looting, an orphan-stealing scandal, storms, floods and now a growing cholera outbreak that's killed more than 580 people and hospitalized more than 10,000.
Billions of dollars in promised international aid has been slow in coming. Yet some Haitians are increasingly critical of foreign assistance.
Dr. Ronald LaRoche, the president of the Association of Private Hospitals in Haiti, says it was completely understandable that international medical groups came in to help immediately after the quake.
But, he says, "these people kept going and kept giving free health care to the Haitian population, which led to the collapse of the whole Haitian health care systems. No doctors, Haitians, have jobs. No nurses could work. No labs, no X-ray, because everything was given free to the Haitian people," LaRoche says.
Some Haitian health care professionals got jobs with the international aid groups, but LaRoche says these groups could pack up and leave tomorrow.
There is a "health cluster" under which medical aid groups regularly meet with Health Ministry officials.
But LaRoche says the Haitian government needs to channel this aid in a way that will create a sustainable national health care system for Haiti.
"If we don't have that right now, I believe all the money of the reconstruction of Haiti will be thrown to the sea," he says. "Haiti won't go nowhere."