Haiti: two years after quake, tangible signs of progress

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Milome Brilliere Elementary now has walls and a roof after the old school totally collapsed in the 2010 quake

Twelve months ago, Milome Brilliere Elementary in Port-au-Prince was still operating out of a temporary structure made of canvas and old wood.  When we visited a few weeks ago -as part of a mission to record the progress of reconstruction in Haiti- new concrete walls had been constructed and a permanent roof was finally in place.

Clémont Renold, an unemployed father of three, stood out front. "It's a great relief," he said of the new school and the international efforts to boost Haiti's education system.

That and other vital sectors are still recovering from Haiti's 2010 earthquake that killed 220,000 and destroyed or crippled most of Port-au-Prince. The challenges remain enormous: even though almost 1 million displaced Haitians have left the camps, an estimated 520,000 people still live in tents and under tarpaulin across some 800 settlements, according to the International Organization of Migration. Over half of its population of 10 million lives on less than US$1 per day, and 78 percent live on less than US$2 per day.

But there are tangible signs of progress- slow but sure- such as the World Bank-funded Education for All project, which pays for Clémont Renold's children to go to school and gives them lunch.  Since the earthquake, this program has benefitted 405,000 children who have been able to attend classes without having to pay tuition.

"Many Haitian parents don't have work and can't send their kids to school, so it is a great relief because the greatest gift is to be able to put a child in school," Clémont told us.

Almost half of the rubble cameraman Romel Simon and I saw last year has since disappeared- not an insignificant achievement: after the 2004 Aceh tsunami, Indonesia took more than five years to clean up a fraction of the amount of rubble that originally littered Haiti's capital.

The rubble is now being treated and recycled at a government-run debris management site where we filmed former garbage collectors at work.

"We are doing it for the state to make roads and other works in the country," Nanouche Rochambert told us. She said that sorting the debris for future infrastructure projects gives her the salary she needs to care for her 3-year-old son.

At Pétion-Ville Camp --one of Port-au-Prince's biggest for displaced Haitians--families are finally departing for repaired or rebuilt safe homes in their old neighborhoods. Hundreds of thousands of homes have been inspected for safety and many are being rebuilt or repaired under stricter building codes with World Bank financing and expertise.

Prenstant Madestra and his parents are moving into one of those homes after living in separated tents at Pétion-Ville Camp.

"We had to separate after the earthquake.  Now we will be together again as a family," Prenstant told us as he watched masons reconstruct the Madestra family home.

That home is bound to have less power cuts thanks to E-Power, the new electricity plant we visited in the capital.

The privately-owned company is providing up to 35 percent more electricity to Port-au-Prince and surroundings, something business owner Morhanges Elizée told us he finds encouraging for the community --and the cement factory he's just opened in the area.

"We knew that we would have more electricity and more security in the area so it kind of encouraged me to start investing in the area," said Morhanges.

But more power in Haiti's capital will not be enough to entice 29-year-old Jhonny Orné to return there.  He told us that after the earthquake destroyed his welding shop in Port-au-Prince two years ago, he moved to Haiti's North East.  We found him there in training to become a mechanic at Codevi, a garment manufacturing company.

"I spoke to an engineer, and he said no problem you work hard, and you know how to do it, and I will give you the possibility to be mechanic."

Two years after the earthquake, he said, his life had finally improved. And although Johnny is aware that Haiti faces an uphill battle to fully recover from the killer 2010 earthquake, the future is for the first time in many years slowly looking up for thousands of his fellow countrymen.


James Martone

Consultant, Broadcast and Multimedia Unit

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