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Tired of waiting, Haitians rebuild on their own

Louis Saint-Jane, top, gets help from a friend Friday as he rebuilds his family’s home, which fell in the Jan. 12 earthquake in the Canape Vert neighborhood of Port-au-Prince. In the absence of official plans for rebuilding, families have starting reinforcing severely damaged homes or constructing new ones on top of those destroyed in the quake.

Associated Press

Louis Saint-Jane, top, gets help from a friend Friday as he rebuilds his family’s home, which fell in the Jan. 12 earthquake in the Canape Vert neighborhood of Port-au-Prince. In the absence of official plans for rebuilding, families have starting reinforcing severely damaged homes or constructing new ones on top of those destroyed in the quake.

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — 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 say 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.

"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.

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.

Other developments

• Sporadic looting and violence continued to plague the capital. Associated Press journalists witnessed a clash between looters and security guards Friday in downtown Port-au-Prince in which a man was killed.

• 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, said Marie-Laurence Jocelyn Lassegue, the culture and communications minister.

• The United Nations asked for a $700 million agricultural investment fund for Haiti to boost food production and create jobs.

Help for babies

A heartwarming, though little publicized, act of humanity occurred recently on the USNS Comfort hospital ship, where a badly injured Haitian mother gave birth to a premature baby but was unable to nurse her. As luck had it, Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Jennifer Boviard, the mother of a 7-month-old daughter, was aboard, the Navy reports. She was still breast-feeding her own child when she got her orders to deploy to the Comfort, and brought her breast pump to relieve the pressure. The Navy says Boviard didn't hesitate to offer milk for the premature infant and another baby whose mother also could not breast-feed.

Scripps Howard News Service

Tired of waiting, Haitians rebuild on their own 01/29/10 [Last modified: Friday, January 29, 2010 11:01pm]

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