One Year Later, Little Progress In Haiti’s Rebuilding

As Haiti observes a day of mourning to commemorate the anniversary of the earthquake, almost a million people still live in makeshift tent camps. And only five percent of the rubble from collapsed buildings has been cleared. Host Michel Martin gets an update on the latest developments in Haiti and reviews the progress of reconstruction with Associated Press correspondent Jonathan Katz.

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MICHEL MARTIN, host:

Now we go to Jonathan Katz, correspondent with the Associated Press. In the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, he broke the story about the Organization of American States report. And he's with us now.

Thank you so much for joining us, once again.

Mr. JONATHAN KATZ (Correspondent, Associated Press): Thanks, Michel.

MARTIN: So, Jonathan, as I mentioned, you broke the story that the OAS would recommend that the preferred government candidate, Mr. Celestin, not stand for the run-off and that the second candidate in the run-off would be Mr. Martelly. What impact do you think this report will have? I assume that those findings have already leaked out in some way in Haiti.

Mr. KATZ: Yeah. I mean, that information is pretty much all over the place. Although, obviously, people's minds today are on the earthquake anniversary. The impact, you know, the final decision is going to be up to the Haitian Provisional Electoral Council - essentially, the Haitian government - about what to do. The OAS can't really make the decision in and of itself. But report's got to carry a whole lot of weight because it's, you know, it's - the international community, and it's got the full weight of the international community behind it, essentially, the international observation team.

Once President Preval looks at the report and officials have a chance to review the report, they're going to come forward with what their recommendation is. It may or may not be the same thing. Right now, we're still in a waiting game because President Preval hasn't officially accepted to even view the report. We're expecting that to possibly happen after the anniversary, though.

MARTIN: Well, I do want to ask you what the mood is there. And I don't want to glide past that. But I did want to ask you one more question about the OAS report. Would you translate from diplomatic speak what Ambassador Ramdin was saying when I asked him that question: What leverage does the OAS really have? And you heard his answer. So, what's he really saying?

Mr. KATZ: I'm sorry, can you...

MARTIN: I'm saying, so, Ambassador Ramdin, when you heard me ask him: You know, what leverage does the Organization of American States really have here? This is not like the United Nations. They don't have, you know, blue helmets. They don't have - you know, what is the leverage? And he said - in, I thought, rather strong terms - that, well, the international community will be looking at this. Translate that for us. What do you think he's really saying? What leverage does the OAS really have here?

Mr. KATZ: You know, it's hard to say. The OAS was leading the monitoring mission of the election itself. It's a very influential organization here in the Western Hemisphere. And basically everybody else in the international community is taking a backseat to the OAS to make these recommendations, right? So, regardless of what comparable leverage as an organization it might have compared to the United Nations on a day to day basis or the embassy of a powerful country like the United States or one of the others, in this case, everybody has backed off and the OAS is in the lead.

So I think that you look at this report as being the voice of the international community. Unless somebody prominent in the international community were to stand up and say, actually, we don't support these conclusions, but with the leak going around, so far nobody's made a comment like that.

So I think that you can look at this as being essentially the suggestion that the international community is making to the Haitian government. But this is a sovereign country. The Haitian government, it's up to them to make the call on what they want to do. And it's going to be interesting to see what their response is.

MARTIN: We need to take a short break in just a moment, Jonathan. I am going to ask you to stay with us for a few more minutes. But you'd mentioned earlier that the governance issues, really, are taking a backseat today. Tell us the mood there today.

Mr. KATZ: The capital of Port-au-Prince, you know, this is a normally very loud and very chaotic place and today it is very solemn and the streets are empty of traffic. What you see out there are processions of people dressed in white, which is the traditional color of mourning and going to prayer. They're praying, they're singing hymns, they're carrying wreaths. There were a lot of people around the national cathedral, which, of course, was destroyed in the earthquake. There's a mass being held there.

And, you know, it's really mixed. I think that everybody who was here on the 12th of January of 2010, first of all, everybody lost somebody, probably somebody close to them, maybe a lot of people close to them. And so there's a lot of sadness. It's been a very difficult year since, so there's a lot of frustration. But everybody who is still here today has survived all of this and survived the earthquake, survived the cholera epidemic, survived, you know, the various moments of unrest and rioting since.

And I think the sentiment is sort of a mix of mourning and celebration. Mourning for those who were lost and celebration that those who are still here are indeed still here.

MARTIN: Jonathan Katz is the Associated Press correspondent reporting in Port-au-Prince. Jonathan, as I mentioned, we're going to ask you to stay with us for a few more minutes. I'd be interested in your, you know, observations on what you've seen over the course of the year, and of course remembering that very difficult day a year ago.

We're going to stay with Haiti on this first anniversary of that devastating earthquake. We're going to go back to some of the people we've spoken with throughout the year to find out what they are thinking about today as they consider Haiti's future.

Unidentified Man: They said that in order for the country to change, you guys, like, in the U.S. or in France or in Canada, all the Haitians who are educated, you guys have to come back. That's the only way that the country is going to get better.

MARTIN: We'll hear from the next generation of Haitian leaders next on TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin.

(Soundbite of music)

MARTIN: I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE, from NPR News.

It's exactly one year after that devastating earthquake in Haiti that cost so many lives and disrupted so many more. Haiti by the numbers: Almost a million people are still considered homeless living in makeshift camps; only about five percent of the rubble from collapsed buildings has been cleared; only about 15 percent of needed temporary shelters have been built, few with permanent water and sanitation facilities.

We heard a report earlier this week that safety is a major concern, particularly for women and children living in tents that they cannot secure. And rape is reported to be on the rise. Now we hear that of the more than $5 billion in aid that was pledged to Haiti, less than $1 billion has reportedly been delivered, that according to the office of former U.S. President Bill Clinton.

We're going to remain now with Jonathan Katz, correspondent with the Associated Press. He's in the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince. He's reporting on this day of remembrance.

Jonathan, thanks for staying with us. If you would go back to this question that we've asked you so many times, the pace of reconstruction seems very slow to some. But now there's kind of counter-narrative emerging that says, you know, the expectations were too high to begin with given the scale of the destruction and so forth. What is the sense there, if I can ask you that?

Mr. KATZ: Among the people, among people who are spending every day in Haiti? Reconstruction...

MARTIN: Both. Yeah, among the people there.

Mr. KATZ: Everybody. Yeah, everybody says that. I mean, there's really very little counter-narrative among the people themselves. I mean, there was an expectation after the earthquake that things were going to get rebuilt, and I don't think that was an expectation that was foisted upon anybody. I think it's a good expectation after, you know, most of the capital city, that is the largest and most important city in the country, destroyed. And you have all these, you know, international groups who were coming in and talking about the projects they're going to do.

You know, I don't think you have to then, you know, on top of that, give people a new top line and say, you should expect that within such and such amount of time, things were going to start up again. I mean, it just seems apparent from all of those things happening that reconstruction is going to start. And it is obvious from being on the ground right now that reconstruction has not started in any real way.

There are a couple of, you know, there are some projects. There are some prominent things going on. A lot of it is - has been timed specifically to this anniversary because it was known for a long time that media attention was going to come back up again. For instance, the famous Iron Market, which is a structure in central Port-au-Prince that was used as a commercial center for a long time and is a very beautiful structure that was very badly damaged in the earthquake, that has been fixed up. That's a very prominent example that's gotten a lot of press.

But for people, for most people, like, in their lives, they don't have a new home. Their home hasn't been fixed. The places they used to work haven't been rebuilt. The road hasn't been fixed. It's just very clear from being on the ground that reconstruction hasn't started yet. There isn't really any confusion about that.

MARTIN: Jonathan Katz is a correspondent for the Associated Press. He's reporting from Port-au-Prince, Haiti. He's been talking to us throughout the year about the efforts to reconstruct the country there and political developments there, and he's joined us once again. And we thank you so much, Jonathan, for joining us.

Mr. KATZ: Thank you. Thank you.

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