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Haiti: Incredible achievements, but room for improvement

At 16.53 on 12 January 2010, the life of millions in Haiti changed in an instant. As I write this, sitting in Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, there are numbers buzzing inside my head I can’t shake off.

• At least 230,000 people died
• 3 million were made homeless
• Nearly 1 million are still living in camps
• There were 1,354 spontaneous settlement sites across the earthquake-affected area
• 8 million cubic metres of rubble still need to be cleared
• 7,000 babies have been delivered every month since the earthquake.

But I don’t know if they help me to understand the true extent of the emergency any better.

Much has happened since the quake – not least a cholera outbreak, election-related violence and a hurricane. None of these crises have helped people ‘get back to normal’ – whatever that might be. And all of this is on top of the daily struggles of living in one of the world’s poorest countries. But what is clear, is that progress is being made. The road ahead is full of challenges, but the recovery is moving forward, despite media reports to the contrary.

The 12 January 2011 was a National Day of Mourning. Save the Children staff spent the day with their family, or friends, or on their own – doing whatever they felt they needed to do to mark the day and remember the moment their lives changed forever. Today they are back at work – driving cars, tracing the families of separated children, nursing patients, delivering school supplies, and all the other multitude of tasks that are required to meet the needs their countrymen.

As we mark 12 months since the earthquake, it’s only right that we acknowledge the enormous challenges ahead of us, but also recognise the lives we’ve undoubtedly saved. For instance, Save the Children has provided nearly 350,000 people in camps and communities with clean water, toilets and sanitation – an incredible achievement when we remember that even before the quake more than half of the population had no access to safe drinking water and 70% lacked safe sanitation facilities.

Not nearly enough has been done – there will be years of work ahead. I really hope the world doesn’t forget Haiti when it drops off the media headlines again.

Find out more about our work in Haiti

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