A Look at Haiti Before & After the Quake

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PORT-AU-PRINCE -- Corruption and poverty have made Haiti the poorest country in the Western hemisphere for more than a century - and that was before the earthquake on Jan. 12 killed more than 100,000 Haitians and displaced almost a million.

More than a week after the quake, city streets were clogged with debris and the smell of death lingered where corpses were being dug from the rubble.

Before the quake, Haiti's national Catholic cathedral was one of the few well-kept buildings in Port-au-Prince. A service was in progress then, with several hundred people in attendance. A similar service was going on when the earthquake hit - and today, those parishioners lay entombed in the rubble of the church.

Nearby, the whitewashed presidential palace stood as an icon for the country. Now, its crumbling ruins give testament to the fact that this tragedy was no respecter of position or wealth.

Indeed, it may be that the poor fared somewhat better than the rich in this country where the divide between the two has always been vast. The luxurious four-star Hotel Montana was completely destroyed in the quake - and nearly 200 westerners perished inside.

The people of Port-au-Prince are slowly rebuilding their lives. For the Hotel Montana, they might rebuild it, but it will never be the same.

A well-known park in the neighborhood of Petionville near the Montana became an open-air campground after the quake, but now it is packed with people too afraid to sleep indoors. Many of them have lost everything.

"As you can see the situation is very bad because we are in need of care," said Daniel, a Haitian citizen. "We need water, we need food, we need everything."

"How long will you stay here? When will you go back to your homes?" CBN News asked Daniel.

"I don't know, only God knows," Daniel replied.

A feeding center set up at a police station overlooking a park nearly became a riot when the food ran out before everyone got fed. Incidents of aid being stolen are becoming more frequent as the Haitian people become more desperate and frustrated.

Nobody there knows how long it will be before the country can begin rebuilding. But they cannot wait forever - the rainy season is expected to begin in mid-February.

*Originally broadcast February 1, 2010. 

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Chuck Holton

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