Haiti to mark 1 year since quake

Wednesday will mark one year since a devastating earthquake hit Haiti, killing over 220,000 people and leaving more than a million homeless.
Thousands of Haitians attend a crusade sponsored by U.S. evangelist Franklin Graham at the national stadium in Port-au-Prince Sunday. ((Ramon Espinosa/Associated Press))
Wednesday will mark one year since a devastating magnitude-7.0 earthquake hit Haiti, killing over 220,000 people and leaving more than a million homeless.

Aid agencies rushed to the impoverished Caribbean nation — saving lives, doing emergency surgery and handing out food and water to millions. But since then, many groups, including the United Nations, have been criticized for not doing enough to help Haitians rebuild their shattered country.

Doctors Without Borders — one of the key medical aid groups in Haiti — was building a pre-fabrication hospital for obstetric care in Port-au-Prince to move beyond emergency disaster care and rebuild a proper health-care system. But another disaster changed its long-term plans.  

"We transformed the hospital, even though it wasn't completely built, into a cholera treatment centre," Canadian Sylvian Groulx, the chef de mission for Doctors Without Borders, told CBC News in an interview in Port-au-Prince.

At the hospital, chlorinated water was everywhere and the mopping never stopped. Eighty patients were tied to IV poles with big white buckets nearby to contain their vomit and diarrhea.

Numbers stabilizing in Port-au-Prince

Doctors Without Borders has treated the majority of Haiti's cholera patients, while other aid organizations were still figuring out how to react.  

Groulx said the sluggish cholera response is typical of what's gone wrong — too much talk and not enough action to help Haitians rebuild their lives.  

"They've seen all of these aid agencies come in. They've seen all of these promises that have been made. And yet they don't really see anything on the ground on a daily basis," Groulx said.

As for the cholera epidemic that has killed more than 3,000 people, in Port-au-Prince at least, the numbers are starting to stabilize. Groulx said that's a good sign, meaning that her hospital could go back to being a high-risk maternity hospital.  

Since last January's earthquake, Doctors Without Borders said it's been "overwhelmed" with generous donations and almost all of that money's been spent. Haiti is the biggest disaster relief project in the group's history.

But Groulx said what Haitians need most now is hope for the future in terms of economic development that will give them jobs and get them out of the tents and into real homes.

Vote featured 'massive irregularities' 

A review by Washington, D.C.,-based Center for Economic and Policy Research of Haiti's controversial presidential vote last November suggests the results should be scrapped because of "massive irregularities."

CEPR said about 156,000 votes were not counted in earlier tallies, which placed a former president's wife in a runoff position with a candidate backed by Haiti's current president, René Préval.

However, a draft report by an international team of observers with the Organization of American States concluded that the disputed vote should neither be thrown out entirely nor recounted. They concluded that enough fraudulent or improper ballots should be invalidated to drop governing-party candidate Jude Celestin into third place and out of the second-round runoff, The Associated Press reported.

That would favour carnival singer Michel "Sweet Micky" Martelly, a populist candidate who was in third place and out of runoff contention when results were announced last month. Former first lady and law professor Mirlande Manigat would remain in first place. All the top candidates would lose thousands of votes under the team's recommendations.

Violence in the wake of the contentious and contested election led the UN to ban its staff from travelling there. The ban has since been lifted and former governor general Michaëlle Jean will make a 24-hour visit to Port-au-Prince on Wednesday to encourage Haitian reconstruction efforts.

It will mark her first trip to the country of her birth since she was named in November the special envoy to Haiti for UNESCO.

With files from The Associated Press