On a regular day in Port-au-Prince, Haiti's capital, the streets would be clogged and noisy with traffic. But on Wednesday, the city fell quiet as people came together to mark the anniversary of a devastating earthquake that rocked the Caribbean nation.
On January 12, 2010, a magnitude 7.0 quake ripped through the Haitian capital, leaving the city in ruins. The powerful tremor killed more than 230,000 people and left more than 1.5 million people homeless. It was the biggest earthquake to shake the region in 240 years, and the worst natural disaster in the country's history.
Picking Up the Pieces
Haiti is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. Even before the massive quake hit, about 80% of the country's people were living in poverty. Today, at least a million residents are still in tent cities that sprung up after the disaster. Fewer than half of the 45,000 temporary housing shelters that the United Nations and other housing organizations had expected to put up by now have been built.
On top of that, residents are also dealing with a deadly cholera (kol-er-uh) outbreak that has claimed thousands of lives since the quake. The disease can spread quickly when there is a lack of clean water and sanitation. Health experts are still working to control the epidemic.
The Long Road Recovery
The public is growing impatient with the slow-moving rebuilding efforts. Aid groups in Haiti say that only 5% of the rubble from the earthquake has been cleared away. Piles of concrete and heavy debris still line many of the streets. It's enough wreckage to fill dump trucks that would circle half the Earth. Not much can be done until the rubble is removed.
Still, people remain hopeful that things will turn around. The international community has pledged a total of $10 billion dollars to aid reconstruction. The United States alone pledged $1.5 billion last March for recovery efforts. Already, the U.S. has spent $100 million hauling debris. But the reality is that it will take years for Haiti to completely rebuild.
Honoring the Victims
On the anniversary of the quake, many dressed in white, a color that represents mourning in Haiti, for the prayer services that took place around the capital. People sang hymns as they walked through the rubble of buildings destroyed by the quake.
Evens Lormil, a 35-year-old taxi driver, joined a group of people at the Catholic cathedral. The services were held in a tent next to the ruined church. "I'm here to mourn all the victims," he said. "Even though life was bad before the earthquake, it got worse. I am hoping the country can move together and come forward."