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Long Recovery Predicted for Earthquake-Devastated Haiti

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Lisa Schlein

Six months after Haiti was devastated by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake, leading U.N. aid agencies report progress is being made in caring for the basic needs of survivors.  But, the agencies say long-term recovery and reconstruction will take seven to 10 years.  

The Haitian government estimates more than 220,000 people were killed and 300,000 injured by the quake.  More than two million people were displaced from their homes.  

The United Nations reports six months after the disaster struck, about 1.5 million remain homeless and continue to live in overcrowded squalid camps.  More than half of the inhabitants are children.

The U.N. Children's Fund says it has immunized more than 275,000 children against preventable killer diseases, is providing special nutritional food to more than one-half million children under five and lactating women and some 2,000 children with severe acute malnutrition are receiving life-saving therapeutic feeding and care.  

UNICEF spokesman, Jeremy Hartley, says children continue to face extreme threats, but the massive humanitarian operation in Haiti has averted even greater catastrophe.

"Children continue to face threats to their safety and survival, but there has not been the malnutrition crisis that we had expected and there was no massive population movement into the Dominican Republic," said Jeremy Hartley.

The World Health Organization reports health services are available to 90 percent of the internally displaced people in and around the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince.

It says this constitutes a major shift from before the earthquake struck when only 56 percent of the Haitian population had access to health care.  The WHO says it has succeeded in staving off major outbreaks of communicable diseases.

Despite these and other successes, huge problems exist.  U.N. Environment Program Haiti manager Andrew Morton says the situation in the country was problematic before the earthquake struck and now it is worse.

"We have large-scale garbage problems in the streets, sewage is going to the rivers, the reconstruction and temporary shelters are causing a great deal of accelerated deforestation and the large number of rural displaced, people displaced into the countryside, are also placing pressure on the farms and the resources there," said Andrew Morton. "The charcoal economy is, for example, rebounding."

Now that the emergency phase of the operation is over, aid agencies are focusing on long-term reconstruction and recovery.  But, before those efforts get into full swing, the agencies say they are preparing to help Haitians who might suffer damage and losses during the hurricane season.

For example, the World Food Program reports it is placing food in strategic locations around the country.

The United Nations has received 60 percent of the $1.6 billion appeal it launched earlier this year.  In addition, governments have pledged $5 billion in bi-lateral aid.  But, aid agencies say most of those pledges have not yet been met.

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