Photos: Haiti struggles to recover

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  1. Children train at L'Athletique d'Haiti sports center in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on July 3. The center is run by former Haitian athlete Robert Duval, who aims to give children and young people a structured environment that steers them away from crime. After the Jan. 12 earthquake, the center had hundreds of people camping on its training fields. The quake killed as many as 300,000 people and destroyed about 105,000 homes, 1,300 schools and 50 hospitals. About 1.5 million Haitians remain homeless. (Andres Martinez Casares / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A man walks amid rubble and damaged buildings in downtown Port-au-Prince on June 30. Haiti has made little progress in rebuilding in the five months since its earthquake, because of an absence of leadership, disagreements among donors and general disorganization, a recent U.S. Senate report says. (Alexandre Meneghini / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. People scavenge for items of value in the garbage as a truck empties its contents in the Truitier garbage dump in Port-au-Prince on June 23. The poor look for metal and plastic objects to sell to recyclers for a few cents a pound. (Alexandre Meneghini / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. A woman tries to repair her tent at a refugee camp in Cite Soleil on June 23, a day after a storm hit. Cite Soleil is one of the poorest neighborhoods in Port-Au-Prince. (Andres Martinez Casares / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Two men are detained during a security operation at a refugee camp next to La Saline neighborhood in Port au Prince on June 18. Police joined U.N. officers to detain more than 20 people and seize several weapons. (Andres Martinez Casares / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. A boy covers his head with a T-shirt as a storm hits the refugee camp of Tapis Verts in Cite Soleil, Port au Prince, June 8. (Andres Martinez Casares / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. People pray in front of the destroyed national palace during a Corpus Christi procession in Port-au-Prince on June 3. (Alexandre Meneghini / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. People run from tear gas thrown by riot police during a protest May 25 against Haiti's President Rene Preval and the United Nations Stabilization Mission in front of the National Palace in Port-au-Prince. (Esteban Felix / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Students take part in a Haitian Flag Day celebration in Arcahaie on May 18. Haitians celebrated the 207th anniversary of the creation of their flag. (Esteban Felix / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. A woman jumps along a wall to reach an outdoor slaughterhouse, top right, at La Saline market in Port-au-Prince on May 15. (Esteban Felix / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Goats hang for sale at La Saline market on May 15. (Esteban Felix / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. People are sprinkled with holy water during a catholic ritual honoring the Virgin of Fatima outside a church in Port-au-Prince on May 12. (Esteban Felix / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Doctors look at an X-ray using sunlight coming through a door's window in an emergency room at the General Hospital of Port-au-Prince on May 7. Medical workers are treating patients in damaged hospitals and tent-camp clinics. Despite international pledges of some $5.3 billion over two years at the United Nations donors' conference for Haiti in March, by mid-June only a fraction had actually been delivered — just $40 million from Brazil. (Esteban Felix / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Three-day-old premature baby Jessica Thelusma rests in a bed made out of a cardboard box in the emergency room of General Hospital in Port-au-Prince on May 8. (Esteban Felix / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. A Spanish army soldier jokes with a Haitian child before departing on the Spanish ship Castilla in Petit Goave beach, Haiti on May 3. Some 150 Spanish soldiers are leaving Haiti after finishing their humanitarian mission. (Esteban Felix / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. A group of 250 Haitians, affected by the earthquake, arrive on 'humanitarian visas' to the port of Veracruz, Mexico, on April 25, aboard the Usumacinta ship. After a five day travel, the Haitians are hoping to meet their relatives who live in Mexico. (Saul Ramirez / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Children eat at an orphanage in Port-au-Prince on April 23. (Ramon Espinosa / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Sun breaks through the clouds over the destroyed National Palace at left and a tent camp for earthquake victims at right in Port-Au-Prince on April 17, four months after the quake. (Orlando Barria / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. The bodies of dead Haitian children are wrapped in the morgue of St. Damien Pediatric Hospital on April 14 in Port-au-Prince. The U.S. Congress approved a debt relief measure for Haiti in order to help the country recover from the January earthquake that took an estimated 230,000 lives. (Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. First Lady Michelle Obama dances with children during her visit to Port-au-Prince on April 13. Obama made an unannounced visit to disaster-stricken Haiti on Tuesday and said she was struck by the devastation inflicted by the Jan. 12 earthquake. (Eduardo Munoz / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Earthquake survivors unload food donated by World Food Program from helicopters in Leogane on April 12. (Felix Evens  / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. An aerial view of camps set up by earthquake survivors in Port-au-Prince on April 12. Haiti's government and foreign aid agencies started an operation on Saturday to move thousands of earthquake survivors to a safer refuge to avoid the risk of mudslides and flooding during the rainy season. (Felix Evens  / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. A woman argues with a Brazilian UN peacekeeper during food distribution at a camp in Port-au-Prince on April 12. The 7.0-magnitude earthquake that hit Haiti on Jan. 12 left more than a million people homeless. (Ramon Espinosa / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. A Haitian woman, who lost her leg in the devastating earthquake, practices walking at Albert Schweizer hospital in Deschapelles, Haiti on April 10. (Andres Martinez Casares / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. People left homeless by the earthquake are processed to be evacuated from the Petionville golf club in a suburb of Port-au-Prince where they had set up a makeshift camp. The UN began moving 8,000 Haitians out of the camp to a new site. (Thony Belizaire / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. A man relocated from the Petionville Club camp, washes outside a tent near the Port-Au-Prince area of Corail Cesseisse on April 10. Residents of the Petionville Club camp are being relocated to a new camp at Corail Cesselesse due to risks of flooding and landslides. (Lee Celano / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Honor guards stand at attention on April 9 as the Haitian flag is hoisted at Presidential Palace that was destroyed in the earthaquake. (Thony Belizaire / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. A man lies down after being arrested while a police officer points a weapon during a gang operation in Port-au-Prince, on April 8. Haitian authorities are trying to take control of Port-au-Prince's slums from heavily armed gangs. (Ramon Espinosa / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. Students stand in line during gym class in the courtyard of Ecole Frere Andre in the Champs des Mars area of Port-au-Prince on April 6. Some schools reopened in the wrecked Haitian capital, nearly three months after the earthquake. (Sophia Paris / United Nations via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. Workers set up the Sacred Heart of Turgeau school in Unicef tents in Port-au-Prince on April 6. (Ramon Espinosa / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. School girls pray before class at the Sacred Heart of Turgeau school set up in Unicef tents in Port-au-Prince on April 6. (Ramon Espinosa / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. Workers rebuild the destroyed College St. Jean l'Evangeliste in Port-au-Prince on April 5. (Thony Belizaire / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. A student and a teacher speak during a class at the Ecole Mixte Jericho School, in the Cite Soleil slum of Port-au-Prince on April 5. (Jorge Saenz / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. People cross the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic at the border in Mal Pass, Haiti on April 1. (Jorge Saenz / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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updated 1/29/2010 8:53:36 PM ET 2010-01-30T01:53:36

Defying pleas to wait for Haiti's reconstruction, families lugged heavy bundles of wood and tin up steep hillsides Friday to do the unthinkable: build new homes on top of old ones devastated in the earthquake.

The defiance reflects growing anger and frustration among Haitians who complain that their leaders — and any rebuilding plans — are absent more than two weeks after the Jan. 12 earthquake damaged or destroyed thousands of homes in the capital.

Few tents have been supplied, rubble remains strewn in many streets, and signs begging for help in English — not Haitian Creole — dot nearly every street corner in Port-au-Prince.

It could take another month to get the 200,000 tents needed for Haiti's homeless, said Marie-Laurence Jocelyn Lassegue, the culture and communications minister. Haiti now has fewer than 5,000 donated tents.

In the concrete slum of Canape Vert, an area devastated by the quake, dozens of people were pooling their labor and getting on with rebuilding.

"I have 44 years' worth of memories in this house," said Noel Marie Jose, 44, whose family was reinforcing crumbling walls with tin and wood.

"I got married here. I met my husband here. My mother braided my hair there where these walls used to stand," Jose said. "Even if it's unsafe, I can't imagine leaving. Even if the government helps, it will come too late. This is how it is in Haiti."

Surrounding her, concrete homes were either crushed or had toppled down a hill. Jose and other families said they were worried both about the coming rainy season and fears they may lose their plots after demolitions because they either lack clear title or the government does not want them to rebuild on land it considers unsafe.

Government paralyzed
Reconstruction, resettlement and land titles are all priorities of the government of President Rene Preval — but so far in name only. The government has been nearly paralyzed by the quake — its own infrastructure, including the National Palace, was destroyed — and so far it has been limited to appeals for foreign aid and meetings with foreign donors that have yet to produce detailed plans for the emergencies it confronts.

Its first priority is moving people from areas prone to more earthquakes and landslides into tent cities that have sanitation and security but have yet to be built. Preval has engaged in dozens of meetings with potential outside contractors to discuss debris removal, sanitation and other long-term needs. Albert Ramdin, assistant secretary of the Organization of American States, has offered help in creating a new Haitian land registry — a process that could take months if not years because countless government records were destroyed in the quake.

Video: Bureaucracy slows exit of Haitian orphans Haitians ardently defend their property rights. If a family has occupied land for more than 10 years, they gain ownership rights even without a deed. For some families, small homes have been passed on through the generations. Few Haitians have insurance, and the loss of what few assets they have has crippled countless families.

Many have tired of living in tents improvised from tarps, sheets and bedspreads, opting to rebuild their homes rather than find new plots.

Lassegue said such rebuilding wouldn't be tolerated — and that the government wants to develop and implement a comprehensive reconstruction plan that might feature building codes, an anomaly in this impoverished nation.

Taking matters into own hands
"We've been sleeping outside but the rains will come soon," said Merilus Lovis, 27, taking wooden planks and erecting them for walls inside the foundation of his former home, where his wife and daughter died. "I'm scared of the floods on this hillside but I don't think that God would let such bad things happen twice."

Paul Louis, a 45-year-old porter, has started a business buying wood from scavengers and selling it on the street. He purchased a cracked and worn 1-by-8-foot board for about $2 and was selling it Friday for $3.

"People are afraid to build with concrete now," Louis said.

In another neighborhood, people dug through destroyed homes to salvage materials. Women did the wash amid the ruins.

"I have stayed, but I lost my home," said Thomas Brutus, who lives perched precariously on a debris-strewn hillside in a shack made from the remains of destroyed homes. "So I made this little house, even though I know it's dangerous. We have been here for 14 days and have received no help."

Many residents say they're staying because they grow vegetables on their small plots. Thousands of others have swarmed to improvised tent camps, where Elisabeth Byrs, an official of the U.N.'s humanitarian coordination office, said there is a "major concern" about sanitation.

About 200,000 people are in need of post-surgery follow-up treatment and an unknown number have untreated injuries, she said.

Food still scarce
In other developments:

— Teams of looters overwhelmed private security guards in the downtown commercial district, carting off refrigerators and washing machines as well as wood and steel from damaged businesses. Hundreds of bystanders protested the failure of Haitian police to stop them, and cheered "Viva U.S. military!" as a patrol from the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division came in to restore order. Police belatedly arrested the men.

— Haiti hopes schools outside the capital not affected by the earthquake can open in coming weeks and that those not destroyed in Port-au-Prince could start operating in March, Lassegue said. An estimated 200 schools in Port-au-Prince were destroyed or partially damaged, many of them collapsing on students. Getting children into schools would help protect them from predators taking advantage of the quake that orphaned unknown thousands and separated thousands more from their parents. Haiti has always had a problem with traffickers looking for child and sex slaves.

— The United Nations asked for a $700 million agricultural investment fund for Haiti to boost food production and create jobs. The 18-month plan is part of the government's strategy to rebuild the country, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said. Top needs are seeds, tools and fertilizers so farmers can plan for spring planting season.

"The food situation in Haiti was already very fragile before the earthquake and Haiti was highly dependent on food imports," Alexander Jones, FAO's emergency response manager in Haiti, said in a statement.

— The United States has distributed some 43,000 radios to people in Port-au-Prince so they can hear public service announcements.

— The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration said it had suspended operations in Haiti so its agents can focus on the disaster. Traffickers have long favored Haiti as a transit point for South American drugs.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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