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Rain in Port-au-Prince makes life tougher for Haitians

Rain in Haiti this week is a foretaste of the island's spring rainy season. Aid organizations call for more permanent shelter to replace makeshift tents.

Protesters walk in the rain toward the police post where government ministers have temporary offices in Port-au-Prince. Haitians are demanding shelter after the Jan. 12 earthquake killed thousands and left the city in ruins forcing people to live in the streets and refugee camps.

Andres Leighton/AP

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The estimated 500,000 Haitians living in makeshift camps since a devastating earthquake a month ago got a foretaste of the difficult conditions that could await them when showers hit the capital of Port-au-Prince Wednesday night.

The rains sent rivulets of fouled water through the camps and dampened their sleeping residents, providing a hint of things to come if the camps are not replaced with more substantial shelter before Haiti’s rainy season begins in earnest sometime before May.

The quake that hit the Caribbean island nation a month ago is estimated to have left 1 million homeless Haitians – with at least half of those now living in crowded and unsanitary camps. The camps were cobbled together virtually overnight after the Jan. 12 quake in city squares, along rubble-encumbered thoroughfares, on golf courses and soccer fields.

Some of the demand for temporary shelter was initially met with camping tents provided by some humanitarian aid organizations. But experts at the United Nations and with some NGOs now say tents will not meet Haiti’s massive shelter needs. They’re calling for a substantial campaign to undertake a rapid construction of long-term camps providing more rain-resistant shelter.

Haiti may have only a few weeks to plan and build such camps, experts warn, even as Haitian government officials acknowledge publicly that the country as yet has no plan for meeting the medium-term needs of 1 million homeless Haitians.

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