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Haiti Struggles to Rebuild From Earthquake, But Progress Is Slow

November 10, 2010 at 12:00 AM EST
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JIM LEHRER: Next tonight: a return to Haiti.

ITN correspondent Jon Snow covered the aftermath of the calamitous January earthquake. He returned this week to report on what’s happened since. And here is what he found.

JON SNOW: In January, on a basketball court floor, we found the wounded, a woman with a desperately infected eye, and the pastor traumatically injured by his own church falling and in urgent need of medical help.

Likinson (ph) was simply an untrained volunteer at the time.

No doctor?

MAN: No doctor.

JON SNOW: At all? No doctor at all?

MAN: No. No.

JON SNOW: No nurse? No first aid? Nothing?

MAN: No.

JON SNOW: Then was the woman begging us from below to get three dead bodies out of her house.

Ten months on, the basketball court floor has been covered, and Likinson is still here, still struggling to manage the 70 families, 300 souls surviving here. A sort of order prevails, a sort of normality, too.

You remember the woman with the one eye, like this huge, very big…

MAN: Marizet (ph), she is there.

JON SNOW: Marizet had indeed survived, but her eye a casualty of the quake.

Madam, we were here in January.

The old lady with the three dead in her house is still here, too. They were not family, but strangers thrown into her home, she told us, by the force of the quake. How is she now?

WOMAN (through translator): The aftershock for me is that, at my age, things still seem confused. But, with Christ, everything is beginning to get back into place.

JON SNOW: So, she is alive?

MAN: She is alive.

JON SNOW: The pastor?

MAN: No, the pastor is dead.

JON SNOW: He’s dead?

MAN: Yes.

JON SNOW: He died very soon?

MAN: We got bodies to the north.

JON SNOW: Yes.

MAN: We got bodies to the right.

JON SNOW: Yes.

MAN: We got bodies.

JON SNOW: We met Jean Rodriguez, a U.N. translator, in a middle-class neighborhood five days after the quake.

JEAN RODRIGUEZ, United Nations Translator: My wife is nine months pregnant. And she pulled herself out of the debris.

Now, this baby here you guys are looking at is a miracle baby.

JON SNOW: And now would you say you have recovered?

JEAN RODRIGUEZ: I would say I’m midway through my recovery. You know, it’s mostly psychological. And, also, it has a lot to do also with the recovery of others, because if you do recover, if any — after you do recover yourself, and you see millions of people around still, you know, like, living in harsh conditions and actually inhuman conditions, it does something to you.

JON SNOW: Rodriguez has money and relatives abroad. He’s done better than anyone else we met.

But, for the vast majority, there is aid, not development — their emergency tented encampments more permanent by the day. The community is intensifying. Little stores on the narrow camp high street share joy at the gaming table, too, pedicures even.

At the far end of the camp, Oxfam is shipping in the elements for still more toilets. Workmen toil to keep pace with the urgent cholera-driven need for sanitation.

Just over a mile away, despite the state of the presidential palace, there is now a functioning government of sorts in Haiti. The U.N. and others depend upon the prime minister for delivery.

I sat down with him this morning.

There seems to be a blockage. Who is the problem?

JEAN-MAX BELLERIVE, Haitian Prime Minister: No, it’s the scale of the problem, the blockage. For example, we started with 1.5 million people in the camps. When now you have 1.2 million, 1.1 million, that means that you get out — you get from the camp 200,000 people.

JON SNOW: But when you’re in the camps, people don’t know how long they’re going to be there. There’s insecurity and a lack of trust.

JEAN-MAX BELLERIVE: Lack of trust, I don’t know if you can go there. You have to understand that you — you don’t see any hunger in — until today. That’s a big achievement.

JON SNOW: Out along the dusty market street beyond the presidential palace, there is one phoenix that defies the apparent lack of progress since the quake. It can be seen rising rapidly from the ashes of the totemic Iron Market.

Sheer brute capitalist drive has overwhelmed political obstacles. It will reopen for business by Christmas, the brainchild of Denis O’Brien, an Irish telecoms billionaire who owns the biggest phone company in Haiti.

DENIS O’BRIEN, business executive: So, we wanted to demonstrate to the people of Port-au-Prince that, one, we can rebuild something of this scale and beauty back to where it was. But, also, hopefully, it will encourage other people to do the same and move quickly to rebuild other parts of the city.

JON SNOW: Time and again here, people have told me in the streets that’s exactly what they think the governing elite is not doing.

GWEN IFILL: But more immediate problems await, as floods increase the risk of spreading cholera from the countryside to the capital, Port-au-Prince. The Associated Press reports, 600 people have already died from the infectious disease and 10,000 have been hospitalized.