Haiti's Next Big Hurdle: Water : The Picture Show As if the Jan. 12 earthquake weren't devastating enough, Haiti now faces the rainy season, which usually begins in late spring. After heavy rains, Haitians are further displaced by floodwaters.
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Haiti's Next Big Hurdle: Water

Margarette Brutus, 50, lost her husband and home in the Haiti earthquake in January. Since then, she and her 10-year-old son, Alex, have spent the past month in various displacement camps in Port-au-Prince. And their situation is getting worse. Heavy rains fell on Wednesday and Thursday, swamping their encampment with contaminated waters and suggesting Haiti's next big hurdle: the floodwaters of rainy season. This means even more displacement for Margarette and Alex.

Relief workers say the rainy season, which typically begins in the spring, will jeopardize the diminutive progress they've already made. It will also prompt new (and even more severe) infrastructural and sanitary complications. Of the 600,000 people occupying Haiti's tent cities, many are still without plastic tarps. In the rain, bedsheets currently being used as protection from the sun are soaked with not only rain but also muddy floodwaters polluted with human waste. A Reuters article reports:

Economists from the Inter-American Development Bank have estimated that damages from the quake could reach $14 billion, making it proportionately one of the most destructive natural disasters in modern times.

Haiti's leaders say that, despite the tens of millions of dollars of foreign aid that have poured in since the quake, they have still not received enough tents, tarpaulins and temporary structures to shelter the homeless.

Displaced Haitians like Margarette are at a loss, reports NPR photographer David Gilkey from Port-au-Prince. Just when it seems as though things can't get any worse, they do. And unless some drastic action is taken soon, the future could be even grimmer. The Associated Press reports:

In the meantime, people are planning to stay in some very dangerous places: at the bottom of hillsides they know will collapse in a heavy rain or near riverbeds that are bound to flood. They are crowded into polluted areas where sanitation is limited and disease is already starting to spread. ... People simply do not want to go far from where they always lived and worked.

Charities, relief agencies and government organizations around the world are scrambling to fortify relief efforts. The quake may have been over a month ago, but the need for aid in Haiti is just as urgent as ever.

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