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On Jan. 12, 2010, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake reduced the impoverished island country of Haiti to rubble, leaving 220,000 dead, another 300,000 injured, and more than a million homeless. Many of those who survived also lost limbs to falling walls and debris from buildings that weren’t constructed to withstand seismic waves.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the tectonic plates hadn’t produced a large-scale earthquake of comparable strength in the Caribbean area for 150 years.
The tragedy triggered an international response that raised $13.5 billion in donations from governments and individuals, with the U.S. leading the relief operation. President Barack Obama spoke directly to Haitians — “You will not be forsaken. You will not be forgotten” — but every year since, critics have asked the same question: Where did the money go?
Five years later, the “build back better” reconstruction promise remains limp, critics argue, while tens of thousands of people are still in temporary housing. While the number of Haitians living in these tent camps have decreased since the earthquake, 123 camps housing more than 85,000 people remain open, Amnesty International said.
“On paper, with that much money in a territory the size of Haiti, we should have witnessed miracles; there should have been results,” Haiti-based photographer Gael Turine told Time magazine.
An overshot of Jalousie, a shantytown that was the target of a government project that relocated people that took shelter in the tent camps provided after Haiti’s 2010 earthquake. As part of the $1.4 million effort to beautify the slum, the Haitian government painted the facades of these dwellings. AJWS, among other critics, said the move was a cosmetic change that provided Petitionville, Port-au-Prince’s wealthiest neighborhood, a colorful view that belied the poor conditions the slum’s inhabitants faced. Photo by Ed Kashi/American Jewish World Service
A woman hangs her laundry to dry in front of her makeshift home made out of tin and tarps. Five years after the devastating Haiti earthquake, many of the tent camps and shantytowns that once sheltered some 1.5 million people now hold about 80,000 as the government tries to move them into permanent homes. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Then, for the first time in a century, Haiti suffered a cholera outbreak that emerged 10 months after the earthquake. As of August 2014, the disease had claimed 8,592 lives and sickened more than 700,000, the United Nations Children’s Fund said.
A four-person panel appointed by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon released a report in May 2011 that investigated if U.N. peacekeepers had inadvertently caused the outbreak when an overflowing septic tank in one of their camps spewed into the Artibonite River, a main water source for many Haitians. The report did no find the U.N. at fault. Haitian plaintiffs, in response, filed a class-action lawsuit in the hopes of holding the U.N. accountable for the outbreak.
Frustration in Haiti has boiled over into public outcry against government corruption. Two days before the fifth anniversary of the country’s earthquake, anti-government demonstrators gathered in Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, to protest the long-delayed elections and called for the departure of President Michel Martelly.
A woman walks past the fence that covers the view of what was the Presidential Palace before it was destroyed when magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck just before 5 p.m. on Jan. 12, 2010 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Children sit on the wall next to the National Cathedral that was destroyed five years ago by a magnitude 7.0 earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010. Five years later a church has been built next to the ruins and the city of Port-au-Prince struggles to recover even as the government is locked in a stalemate over parliamentary elections that have been delayed for several years. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Although reconstruction efforts have removed much of the rubble — the National Palace, once the symbol of slow recovery, was demolished in 2012 — the most visible reminder of the earthquake has been the country’s displacement camps, where poor conditions are compounded by chronic poverty and political upheaval. With an unemployment rate of nearly 40 percent, the majority of Haitians live under the national poverty line, the Associated Press reported.
Photographer Ed Kashi, working for American Jewish World Service, captured earthquake survivors still living in Haiti’s tent camps. Kashi photographed Camp Immaculée, which will soon close, leaving its residents with an uncertain future.
Tens of thousands of earthquake survivors remain in tent camps like Camp Immaculée, located in Port-au-Prince. AJWS said the camp’s residents face imminent eviction, and most have nowhere to go next. Centered is Jackson Doliscar, who, at the time, represented FRAKKA (Force for Reflection and Action on Housing), an organization that acted as advocates on behalf of earthquake survivors, providing legal aid and calling for a more sustainable plan to resettle displaced persons. Doliscar is flanked by camp committee members who, at every one of these camps, help promote the rights of the people living in these camps, AJWS said. Photo by Ed Kashi/American Jewish World Service
Children play a game of dominoes as they hang out together near their makeshift homes. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Friends stand together near homes made out of tin and tarps that they built over the land where their homes once stood. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Women face an increased risk of sexual violence in tent camps, AJWS said, among other human rights violations. Photo by Ed Kashi/American Jewish World Service
A family looks out from behind the tarp that serves as the front door to their home. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Jackson Doliscar of FRAKKA, left, speaks with camp residents. Photo by Ed Kashi/American Jewish World Service
Most of these children were born at Camp Immaculée, and live adrift in this temporary tent camp — and its poor conditions — for the past five years. Photo by Ed Kashi/American Jewish World Service
A young lady looks out from behind a cloth that serves as the front door to the home made out of tin and tarps. Her family built the shelter over the land where their home once stood before the 2010 earthquake. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Joshua Barajas is a senior editor for the PBS NewsHour's Communities Initiative. He also the senior editor and manager of newsletters.
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