Five months after the earthquake on January 12th, which killed more than 300,000 people and left 1.5 million homeless, essential life-preserving services are in place for the Haitians. However, the huge task of reconstruction has yet to begin in earnest and more than 1 million Haitians are still living in makeshift tent cities, which are extremely congested. With the rainy season now starting, some international observers are concerned that the overcrowded conditions and overstretched toilet facilities could lead to outbreaks of cholera.
With 10 billion dollars pledged for the rebuilding of Haiti over the next 10 years, progress towards reconstruction has been slowed by the imposition of border controls from the Haitian government, which are causing severe delays in the entry of goods, equipment and materials. At a recent UN-led meeting, one international organisation reported that its 45 vehicles had been waiting at the border with the Dominican Republic for several weeks.
The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, has called for credible elections to be held in Haiti and welcomed the Haitian president’s recent move to organise presidential and legislative elections in November. However the Haitian president is resisting pressure from the United States for international assistance in restructuring the Provisional Electoral Council, the eight-member group which is currently in charge. But diplomatic pressure on the President and his Council is bound to intensify, unless an aggressive programme of rebuilding is allowed to begin unhindered.
Political problems and wrangling aside, international aid charities continue to do all they can to improve the lives of ordinary Haitians. One charity, Save the Children, has recently had one of its filming units on location in Leogane, a town where 80-90 of the buildings were destroyed and the population now lives in tents. The unit allowed the local children to use their camera equipment and direct a project about life in the community. After choosing to talk about happy themes like ice-cream and going to the beach, the children raised the subject of the earthquake and then began to shoot footage of their parents talking about the disaster. This work not only produces moving testimonies for the outside world, but more importantly, provides an outlet for the children to articulate their own experiences of the traumatic events which changed their lives. Allowing for the spontaneous expression of feelings is a vital component in helping children deal with trauma and begin the long healing process.