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Haiti Mourns 10 Years Of Earthquake Aftermath

Jan 12, 2020
Originally published on January 12, 2020 7:43 pm
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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We're going to head to Haiti now, where people are mourning as they commemorate 10 years since the catastrophic earthquake that rocked the nation, killing more than 100,000 people and injuring hundreds of thousands more. Well, billions of dollars were pledged and spent reconstructing Haiti. Many in the country say not enough was done with the money and too much was wasted or, even worse, stolen. NPR's Carrie Kahn is in the capital of Port-au-Prince, and she is with us now. Carrie, thanks so much for joining us.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: How did Haitians mark this milestone anniversary today?

KAHN: Well, it is Sunday, and many were in church. They were in their homes. And there were two official public ceremonies. I did go to early morning mass. It was held at the main cathedral. The services are now in a newly reconstructed annex, and they're in the shadow of the crumbled, destroyed cathedral. It's very striking. I just want to play you a little bit, Michel, of some of the singing. It was just really beautiful, and there was a lot of that today.

UNIDENTIFIED PARISHIONERS: (Singing in non-English language).

KAHN: And, you know, you just could see and you could feel a lot of sadness in the church, you know? Hugs were a little longer, hands held just a little firmer, tighter. It did feel different. And the archbishop gave a long sermon about reconstruction not just of buildings, of course, he said - and he talked about its desire to rebuild the cathedral - but rebuilding the soul.

MARTIN: Well, what about officialdom? I understand that you spoke with the president of Haiti yesterday. I mean, how did he mark the occasion? And what did he have to say to you?

KAHN: In the morning, he visited the memorial to the victims of the quake. And that's about 10 kilometers outside of the capital. It's the mass graves where - filled with - thousands of the dead are buried there. Then he went to the National Palace. Well, it's really just the grounds of where the palace used to be. He also told the crowd at the palace today that the country needs to reunite.

HAITI JOVENEL MOISE: (Speaking non-English language).

KAHN: And what he's saying is, in essence, that this long period of turmoil, political instability and what - in Creole, you say pei lok, what the people call what has been happening here during three months last fall when the country was essentially locked down with violent protests. He said all of that has caused more damage to the economy and the country than the earthquake did. And he said Haitians need to come together and move forward.

MARTIN: Well, tell us a little bit more about the political situation, if you would. I mean, what are the protests about? Why have they been going on for so long? And, you know, what is the political situation now?

KAHN: Haiti always has these cycles of political instability. It's been a difficult transition from the dictatorship. But this time around, the president has been in power for two years and 11 months, almost three years. And they want him to go. They say he hasn't - he's not doing right. And they accuse him of corruption. He says he's done nothing wrong, and he's not leaving. And so there's just this stalemate, and the opposition has taken to the streets. And the president won't step down. It just doesn't seem to have a way out.

MARTIN: And, finally, how would you describe the progress toward reconstruction there?

KAHN: It's wrong to say that nothing has been done. There's been a lot done in the recovery and the aftermath, immediately, and lifesaving. But the long-term plans, like the promises that were made of building back a better Haiti - for example, the state-of-the-art general hospital. They built it through donations from several countries, but it lays empty.

And then there's the housing. A lot of the earthquake victims were displaced and moved to this area about 10 kilometers outside of town. And it's turned into a slum of a quarter of a million people. There's no running water. There's no sewers. And it's just sad to talk to those people and hear about them. They've lost their homes, their relatives and their livelihoods. And they're still living like that 10 years out.

MARTIN: That is NPR's Carrie Kahn in Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti. Carrie, thank you so much for your reporting.

KAHN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.