Haiti still in limbo 10 weeks after quake

The situation in Haiti remains critical more than 10 weeks after an earthquake devastated the Caribbean country and two days before international donors meet to discuss long-term recovery.
Children gather in a makeshift school in Place Boyer, a so-called tent city in Pétion-Ville, southeast of the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince. ((Kas Roussy/CBC))
The situation in Haiti remains critical more than 10 weeks after an earthquake devastated the Caribbean country and just two days before international donors meet to discuss long-term recovery.

More than a million homeless Haitians take shelter under tarps, blankets and lean-tos in massive temporary camps called "tent cities."

A young girl in Place Boyer peers into a tent typical of the makeshift structures Haitians have had to use for refuge since the devastating earthquake 10 weeks ago. ((Kas Roussy/CBC))

The conditions of the camps have improved since they were established after the 7.0-magnitude quake struck an area just west of the capital city of Port-au-Prince on Jan. 12.

There are rows of portable toilets and showers, as well as drinking water and electricity.

But the camps are also strewn with 10 weeks worth of garbage, urine and feces, according to CBC reporter Paul Hunter, who visited Place Boyer, a tent city housing 20,000 in Pétion-Ville, southeast of Port-au-Prince, on Sunday.

"I thought I had seen it all," said Hunter, who covered the earthquake and its aftermath, and returned to the country on Friday.

"In the few days we've been here on this trip, I've seen squalor like you can't imagine," Hunter said.

Conditions are expected to deteriorate with the arrival of the rainy season, which begins in April.

Rain has already started to fall at night in some areas, leaving those huddled under bed sheets and tarps waiting desperately for longer lasting shelter.

"We can't keep staying here," Sid Joseph, who lives in a tent city in Port-au-Prince, told CBC News. "We want to know what the government plans to do: relocate us or help us move back to our homes."

Joseph and others believe it will be up to foreign governments to rebuild their country, accusing Haitian officials of ignoring their plight.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told CBC News that the agency's plan is to move the people to a safer place outside of Port-au-Prince by the end of April.

Conference unites foreign donors

The United Nations has already delivered tents and tarpaulins to one million people, and has pledged to distribute 300,000 more in the next few weeks.

A boy carries water from a food distribution centre in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Sunday. ((Jorge Saenz/Associated Press))

Progress has occurred, Hunter stressed, albeit slightly.

"It's like we've come a centimetre, but there is a kilometre left to go on this," Hunter said, quoting an aid worker from Vancouver.

Officials from more than 100 countries are expected to attend the International Donors' Conference in New York City on Wednesday and pledge new financial assistance for Haiti's recovery and development.

Haiti will need an estimated $11.5 billion US over the next decade to rebuild, the secretary general wrote in an op-ed in the Washington Post on Monday.

Nearly $4 billion will be channelled into specific projects and programs during the next year and a half, Ban wrote.

It will also enable the country to begin replacing more than 1,300 educational institutions and more than 50 hospitals and health care centres, courthouses and other buildings that were either destroyed or are unstable, according to Helen Clark, head of the UN Development Program.

"That is our challenge in New York — not to rebuild but to 'build back better,' to create a new Haiti," Ban wrote.

Ban told the CBC's Catherine Mercier that he's confident the UN will be able to raise that amount of money, adding that he's already received some commitments.

"We will know more officially about it on Wednesday," Mercier told CBC's Power & Politics.

Canada has pledged to allocate $555 million to reconstruction efforts in Haiti from 2006-2011, according to the Canadian International Development Agency.

Ban also said a commission co-chaired by officials from the UN, the international community and Haiti will be established to make sure that the donations will be properly used.

"We will monitor very closely how this money will be spent, and the way this money will be spent and executed will be on web pages in a transparent manner, so that everybody can see how their money will be used," he said.

With files from The Associated Press