Latin America


In Haiti, the outbreak of cholera is one more devastating blow to the impoverished country battered by January's earthquake. In the capital, Port-au-Prince, more than a million people remain in makeshift camps. Most of the rubble has not been cleared. And many people who lost their livelihoods in the earthquake are struggling to survive.

NPR's Jason Beaubien has found growing frustration with the slow pace of recovery.

(Soundbite of crowd)

JASON BEAUBIEN: 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. In the squalid camps, they're exposed to storms, thieves and disease such as the current cholera outbreak.

At the Camp Place de la Paix, or Peace Plaza, Micheline Marslin lives in a hut constructed out of lashed-together sticks and a patchwork of tarps.

(Soundbite of crowd)

BEAUBIEN: This is her house here?

Unidentified Man: That's her house.

BEAUBIEN: Yeah? Can we go in?

Unidentified Man: (Speaking foreign language)

Ms. MICHELINE MARSLIN: (Speaking foreign language)

BEAUBIEN: How many people live here?

Unidentified Man: (Speaking foreign language)

Ms. MARSLIN: (Speaking foreign language)

BEAUBIEN: Marslin describes where each of her four children sleep. 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.

Ms. MARSLIN: (Speaking foreign language)

BEAUBIEN: The tents were ripped apart, Marslin says. Everyone was running. We ran into the street. We all spent the night in the open.

Before Hurricane Tomas hit Haiti, the government called on people in camps like this one to go stay with friends or family.

Ms. MARSLIN: (Through translator) If I had the option to leave, I would leave. I don't have any option to leave. So, I really am uncomfortable in this situation, but that's the only place I have to stay.

BEAUBIEN: Patrick Camille, with a Haitian human rights group called GARR, says people like Marslin are trapped in these camps.

Mr. PATRICK CAMILLE (GARR): (Speaking foreign language)

BEAUBIEN: 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.

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...

Dr. RONALD LAROCHE (President, Association of Private Hospitals in Haiti): 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.

BEAUBIEN: Some Haitian health care professionals got jobs with the international aid groups, but LaRoche says these groups could pack up and leave tomorrow. There also was 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.

Dr. LAROCHE: If we don't have that right now, I believe that all the money of the reconstruction of Haiti will be thrown to the sea. Haiti won't go nowhere.

Jason Beaubien, NPR News.

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