Modest progress has been made in rebuilding the presidential palace in Port-au-Prince, as shown in the two photographs above. Drag the slider up to see the palace as it appeared the day after the earthquake struck in January. Pull the slider down to see the palace as photographed on July 4, 2010. (Associated Press)

The Canadian government insists the international reconstruction effort in Haiti is making progress six months after a devastating earthquake, amid criticism that work on the ground is painfully slow.

Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon on Monday urged Canadians to be patient, saying the reconstruction project is a "monumental task requiring a sustained effort and long-term commitment."


Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon and International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda leave a news conference in Ottawa on Monday after discussing reconstruction efforts in Haiti. ((Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press))

Cannon told reporters during a news conference in Ottawa on the six-month mark of the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that it is not enough to restore Haiti's infrastructure. He said institutions and systems must be entirely rebuilt so they can be taken over by Haitians themselves with the support of the international community.

International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda said Canada has committed more than $1 billion to date for Haiti, and has already disbursed $150 million for humanitarian and early recovery work. 

Oda acknowledged the frustrations over "slower-than-expected progress" being visible on the ground "may be understandable," but the international community must work to ensure the funds are being spent properly.

"Certainly, a great deal has been done," the minister said. "I would say that you would see the basic humanitarian needs were met and they continue to be met."

The quake killed more than 300,000 people, by some estimates. The Red Cross says it has treated 135,000 people for injuries.

Fears over rainy season

More than one million people are living in hundreds of tent cities that have sprouted up across the country since the quake. Many Haitians are worried they'll be stuck in tent cities for the rest of their lives.

"Their situation is going to become precarious as the rains start, and therefore we need to switch the strategy which we are now doing from purely enabling people to survive in camps to helping them go home or go to alternative shelters," said Nigel Fisher, a Canadian with the UN stabilization mission in Haiti.

Aid agencies say they're struggling to feed the huge number of people who have been left with nothing.

"We are now feeding 1.2 million people and we would like to reach two million people through those different programs, and the other major challenge is to try to reinforce the governmental structure," said Benoit Thiry, deputy director of the World Food Program in Haiti.

Rubble will take years to clear

Meanwhile, whole sections of the capital, Port-au-Prince, are still clogged with rubble.

"What we see when we drive around Port-au-Prince is that the situation is pretty much as it was after the earthquake," Hans van Dillen, a head of mission with Médecins Sans Frontières, known as Doctors Without Borders, said at a media briefing last Thursday from Haiti.

Some estimates say it could take 20 years to clear all the streets.

"Removing the rubble left behind by this disaster, reaching remote areas with building materials, and obtaining permissions to build from landowners remain our main challenges to providing sturdy shelter for families," said Conrad Sauvé, secretary general of the Canadian Red Cross.

"Despite several obstacles, we have begun to build hurricane and earthquake resistant shelters," he said.