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Haiti disaster two years on


Haiti will hold memorial services at mass grave sites today (11 January), exactly two years on from the devastating earthquake that left around 300,000 dead and millions without homes.

The 7.0 magnitude quake on 12 January, 2010 lasted less than 20 seconds but flattened large parts of the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince and beyond, wrecking havoc on lives and livelihoods in the process.

As remembrance ceremonies get underway on the quake-hit island nation, the spotlight is once again focused on how Haiti is coping in its recovery efforts.

Nearly a million people still remain in squalid tent camps in the capital and many claim they see no obvious results from reconstruction projects - despite millions of dollars pledged in donations and international aid. A cholera outbreak in October 2011 added strain to an already perilous situation.

London-based campaign group the Haiti Support Group said life in the camps is "unremittingly grim".

Spokesman Phillip Wearne told the BBC: "Over half a million people are living in tents or shelters, and that's no joke in the middle of the rainy season or the middle of a cholera epidemic."

Speaking just before the anniversary, Haitian President Michele Martelly promised to redouble attempts to re-build people's lives and houses.

"This year is a year when we will really start rebuilding physically but also rebuilding the hope and the future of the Haitian people," he said, as former US president Bill Clinton, a U.N. Special Envoy to Haiti, arrived in the country to mark the anniversary.

DEC (Disasters Emergency Committee) was instrumental in heading up the relief efforts in the immediate aftermath of the quake and beyond.

Its chief executive Brendan Gormley said that in the two years since the disaster, its funds had provided "transitional shelter" for nearly 500,000 people. However, he added that half a million "remain stuck in what should have been temporary camps" and "many survivors have seen the provision of basic services, such as water, discontinued in the camps where they still live."

"Over the last two years, the extraordinary £107m given by UK donors has made a huge difference in the lives of many survivors of the Haiti earthquake," he said in a statement.

"In the first instance, it helped provide life-saving or life-sustaining services. Because of the public’s generosity, the money has also been sufficient to fund a great deal of work to help people rebuild a life for themselves and their families. Overcoming the challenges that remain will increasingly be a question of how to push forward social and economic development in a chronically poor country with a troubled past."

You can donate funds to the Haiti relief effort by visiting DEC's member charities here or donating online via Oxfam.



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