Many of Haiti's roads are terrible - some major routes have been improved but overall it is far behind its Latin American and Caribbean neighbors. Roads are important for the economy, getting goods to and from regional markets, for public health, getting people to health care facilities when they need care, and for disaster preparedness/response, being able to get national and international responders/commodities to where they are most needed. Due to the rough conditions, travel is more difficult and expensive than it should be. To get a better sense of what it is like to be a passenger or driver in Haiti, check out the documentary "Deadliest Roads: Haiti".
Below is a recent report by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) on the state of the Haitian justice system. Prior to the earthquake, Haiti was making slow but much needed progress on improving access to justice. The Haitian government is not starting from scratch but now has the added challenge of rebuilding courts, prisons, and police stations while continuing reform efforts. Promoting a society that understands and values human rights and government that can monitor and enforce them is essential for Haiti's long term development.
Haiti is forever changed. At least 150,000 people, equivalent to the population of Tallahassee, have died. At least 600,000, more than the population of Seattle, are without homes. Over 130,000, approximately the population of Syracuse, have left Port au Prince for the countryside. After a disaster of this magnitude, life does not go back to normal. Still, even in the face of great uncertainty, life goes on. Telecommunications are mostly up and running, some banks are opening, more gas stations are functional, markets and factories are re-openening. Neighborhood committees are meeting and people are attending church services. All agree it will take many years to rebuild. The question is how Haiti can recover and be built back better than it was before?
The suffering caused by the earthquake is difficult to fully comprehend. Haitian authorities report that at least 72,000 bodies have been recovered. Some predict the final death toll will be as high as 150,000 in Port au Prince alone. Up to 1.5 million people may be homeless. ICRC reports approximately 55,000 people in 40 informal temporary camps throughout the city. As you read this, many people are going back to the countryside. While most of the damage took place in the southern portion of Haiti, the whole country will be affected. The Government has declared a period of national mourning until February 17. We all grieve for what Haiti has lost.
Kathie Klarreich, who has been covering Haiti since 1986, recently wrote a Miami Herald article on the many small yet promising signs that Port au Prince is becoming calmer, better governed, and more stable. Challenges abound, including improving the delivery of health services and reforming the justice system, but these visible signs of progress contribute to a growing sense of optimism and a belief that things can and will continue to improve.