Haiti’s struggle continues

By Justin Sillner
November 28, 2010

Haiti’s stability in question one year after earthquake

In less than a minute, the lives of the Haitian people were turned upside down due to a tragic earthquake, with nearly a quarter million dead in an instant and 1.6 million homeless.  Eleven months later, the country still finds itself struggling for stability.

Since then, little progress has been made to clean up the rubble.

Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, a retired auxiliary bishop of the Detroit Archdiocese, works to rebuild Haiti in the aftermath of the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake. -- Johanna Berrigan / submitted photo

On Sunday, Nov. 28, Haiti tried to elect new leaders. But according to the latest reports, no clear winner has yet emerged for president. Wide-spread problems in voting occurred, as might be expected, but international observers say the election is still valid.

Recently, the country has experienced a severe outbreak of cholera. The challenge for relief agencies has been enormous and basic relief work continues today.

The outbreak of the disease, an infection of the small intestine that causes life-threatening diarrhea, has affected 15,000 people, about 1,500 of whom have died.

“Our long-term strategy to better the lives of the Haitians is to ensure access to appropriate water and sanitation facilities,” Dennis Warner, Catholic Relief Services senior technical adviser for water and sanitation, said at a conference held at Villanova University on Nov. 8.

Warner’s plans include eliminating the contaminated water supply and educating the people on good sanitation practices.

CRS and other nongovernmental organizations are hard at work improving the sanitation facilities in Port-au-Prince, the capital and site of the earthquake.

In addition to the cholera outbreak, the rest of Haiti hangs in the balance.

Haiti is the poorest nation in the western hemisphere. Eighty percent of people live on less than $2 a day. Poverty, because of the earthquake, has become more severe. The challenges for the relief agencies for immediate effort remain crucial. A recent disaster, burying Haiti even deeper into poverty and instability, was the Nov. 5 hurricane.

Hurricane Tomas struck Haiti, flooding camps and chasing Haitian people from their temporary homes. Families brought their belongings through thigh-high water to get to higher ground. The hurricane hit Leogane, a town west of Port-au-Prince.

click to zoom in

The hurricane took four lives and left two people missing in the town.

The immediate hope citizens had for stabilizing their country was the November elections.

Some of the major candidates in Haiti’s presidential election had requested to call it off before the polls closed. Haitian residents protested the election. More than 9,000 UN peacekeepers helped patrol the streets to ensure security but chaos still broke out.

Residents claimed to not know the location of the polling stations where their names are registered.

Many of the residents came to fulfill their rights as a citizen to vote but were unable to vote because their names did not show up on the electoral list.

There is a lack of a winner among the 18 candidates but an election between the top two candidates is expected in January.

CRS is one of the largest non-profit organizations on the ground in Haiti and has raised a significant amount of money towards developing the unstable country.

However, Ken Hackett, president of CRS, said it is not how quickly you spend the money that matters but how smart you spend it.

“Spending money smart is the best thing to do,” Hackett said at the conference held at Villanova University. “We [CRS] were there with them through the earthquake. We will be there for them for the years and years to come for their development.”

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Justin Sillner

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