Two years after a devastating earthquake hit Haiti, a Bristol aid worker who formed part of the relief efforts has revealed how the impoverished island is still recovering.
Hugh Earp, from Coombe Dingle, travelled to Haiti after the earthquake struck on January 12, 2010. He worked as a shelter project manager with CARE International, managing the distribution of kits to improve self-built shelters and make them more hurricane-resistant.
“When I first got there, it was a country in shock and mourning, but underlying that was a strength, and a determination to recover, but that took a while to surface everywhere,” he said.
“Some people started repairing and building very quickly, but at least a third of the population of Port-au-Prince just seemed lost at what to do. Little by little, it has improved and life is returning to normal.”
Ceremonies took place yesterday at grave sites across Haiti to mark the second anniversary of the disaster, which the Haitian government says claimed more than 300,000 lives.
Many women wore white dresses, while men dressed in black to attend church services.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on international donors to continue their support for Haiti.
“Nearly two years on, the capital Port-au-Prince looks a lot different,” said Hugh. “While I was there, I often barely noticed any change. But even in August 2010, having been out of the country for a month, returning made the progress apparent.
“Since then, recovery has accelerated. A large number of camps have been disbanded, and their inhabitants have returned home, or found other places to stay. It is true, however, that many of the bigger camps still remain. There is still rubble littering the streets, there is still a shortage of housing, and the situation remains dire.“
Hugh lived in Pétionville and worked alongside the largely Haitian staff who co-ordinated with local communities to reach families with food, clean water, temporary shelter and other services.
As the response progressed, Hugh’s team moved quickly into the construction of transitional shelters directly in earthquake affected communities. As a result, many families in hard-hit places such as Léogâne and Carrefour were able to move out of temporary camps and begin rebuilding their communities and their lives.
President Michel Martelly yesterday said his government has stepped up reconstruction efforts since he took office last May.
Officials point to new roads and schools around the capital, and thousands of Haitians moved from public parks to permanent housing.
But 500,000 Haitians remain homeless, and only half the aid pledged following the earthquake has been spent.
Ban Ki-moon alled on international donors to keep up their support for the reconstruction.
“Despite considerable achievements, including in the areas of rubble removal and the resettlement of displaced persons, many Haitians remain in need of international assistance,” he said.