18 Months After Earthquake, Haiti Still Struggles

On Jan. 12, 2010, Haiti was shaken to its roots by an earthquake and a small tsunami. Just over 18 months after an earthquake destroyed Port-au-Prince and many of the surrounding cities, this impoverished nation still struggles to recover.

The national government is dysfunctional. Hundreds of thousands have suffered in a cholera epidemic introduced by United Nations troops sent to assist the nation. Nearly 600,000 Haitians remain in refugee camps with no where else to live.

Haiti held national elections in November 2010. With no candidate for the office of president winning a majority, a runoff election was scheduled for January 2011. That was postponed as protests and some violence occurred over the selection of the two candidates for that runoff. The election was held in May. Michel Martelly received about two-thirds of the votes and became president.

Since then, Martelly has attempted to appoint a prime minister. The Associated Press reports the parliament rejected the first two nominees, and Martelly has now named a former aide to President Clinton as his choice, Garry Conille. The inability to fill a top governmental post is symbolic of the struggles within the various ministries and agencies of the Haitian government.

The cholera outbreak that began in the fall of 2010 was, for many Haitians, adding insult to injury. U.N. troops from Nepal are suspected to have introduced the disease to the country, where it had not been seen in generations. The United Nations was reluctant to accept responsibility, and protests by Haitians were widespread. Almost 6,000 Haitians have died from the outbreak, which has spread to other nations in the Americas.

The latest problem with U.N. troops is the rape of a young man by Uruguayan marines, which was videoed and released on the Internet. According to Reuters, Uruguay has replaced the unit’s commander and the four troopers involved are being questioned. President Martelly has long called for an end to the U.N. peacekeeping mission and the reconstitution of Haitian security forces.

About one-third of the Haitians who fled to refugee camps after the earthquake remain in those camps. The earthquake destroyed already spotty land ownership records. Aid agencies and the Haitian government have had great difficulty in locating and obtaining rights to suitable land to build new homes on.

Haiti remains one of the world’s poorest nations. The recovery from the January 2010 earthquake has been slow. The cholera outbreak and political turmoil have not made the situation any easier.

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