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Two Years After Quake, Most Haitians Still Living in Disaster Zone

January 16, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT

RAY SUAREZ: Next tonight, two years beyond devastation.

This was Haiti Jan. 12, 2010, after a magnitude-7 earthquake shattered Port-au-Prince, flattening homes and school buildings, and transforming the entire city to piles of ruined stone and metal. The National Cathedral was destroyed. The presidential palace toppled in on itself.

Thousands of people were left to grieve for loved ones lost beneath the rubble, and makeshift hospitals appeared to tend the injured. In all, 316,000 people were killed. An additional 1.5 million were left homeless, with more than 300,000 buildings destroyed or badly damaged.

Haitian President Michel Martelly honored the dead at one of the many memorials Thursday.

MICHEL MARTELLY, Haitian president (through translator): Thirty-five seconds, everything collapsed. A million human lives were destroyed. A city turned to rubble. Two years after the giant tragedy, we continue to cry.

RAY SUAREZ: Indeed, two years later, most Haitians are still living in a disaster zone. The main memorial service was held at the still-shattered cathedral. And minutes away, the presidential palace remains cracked and askew. Haiti remains the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. And damage from the disaster totaled $8 billion, 120 percent of the country’s yearly gross domestic product.

Governments around the world pledged $4.6 billion in aid. But U.N. figures show that only about half of that amount has actually been delivered. Former President Clinton, the U.N. special envoy to Haiti, offered a new pledge of support at a service last week.

BILL CLINTON, former president of the United States: We’re here not simply to remember those who were lost and the tragedy, but to renew our commitment to Haiti’s future, because we owe that to them.

RAY SUAREZ: As it is, more than 500,000 Haitians are still living in what were supposed to be temporary settlement camps. The settlements are more than just inconvenient. Few have enough security, and rape and sexual abuse have become serious problems.

Je nan Je, a Haitian group whose name means Eye to Eye, led a protest through Port-au-Prince last week. Demonstrators demanded to know where the aid money had gone.

MAJORIE BERTRAND, Haiti (through translator): Je nan Je said, we are pointing our finger at the government. We don’t see transparency in the reconstruction process.

RAY SUAREZ: Haiti also confronted an outbreak of cholera in October 2010 that killed more than 6,000 people. Weeks later came flooding caused by a late season hurricane. And against that backdrop, the election of the country’s new president, the same year, was marred by claims of irregularities and ballot stuffing.

That, in turn, led to violent protests, burning streets, and clashes with police and with some of the more than 12,000 U.N. peacekeepers deployed in Haiti. Still, by April 2011, the country’s newly elected president was talking hopefully.

MICHEL MARTELLY (through translator): You wanted change. You voted for change, change in our political activities, change in our economic choices, change in our social organization.

RAY SUAREZ: For now, the people of Haiti are still awaiting much of that change, as the long, torturous rebuilding process goes on.

For an assessment of the progress, the delays and the remaining challenges in Haiti’s recovery two years after the quake, here’s Jeffrey Brown.