One Year After Haiti's Quake: Cholera Babies, School Without Walls

Rubble still clogs Haiti's capital one year after the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake.

January 11, 2011, 3:10 PM

PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti Jan. 12, 2011— -- In the normally black and white landscape one year after Haiti's catastrophic earthquake, the school pops out. It's name, the Institute Classic de Lalue, is festooned in blues and reds on a banner across the entrance. The latticed school rooms are painted in Caribbean purple and yellow.

The once three-story K-12 school represents both Haiti's promise and it's plight.

"We haven't received a penny from the government," Principal Gellene Charles erupted. "Nothing."

Instead, the schoolchildren's parents chipped in what they could. The school's superintendent Armand Telinor, a man with an urgent manner and an ill-fitting suit, mortgaged his home to scrounge up the rest of the money need for the bank loan.

It was enough to rebuild only part of the school, just a concrete foundation, supporting beams and a roof. The walls in the six classrooms are lattice wood and blankets. There are no windows and on the day ABC News visited the electricity was being installed -- in one room.

The computer lab remains a jumble of rotten screens with cables coiled on top of them.

"We have only started," said Charles. The principal, who wears her hair smoothed back and clips a pen in her blouse, hopes one day air conditioning will be installed so that the computers may be dusted off and turned on.

Like the school, Port au Prince, is busy building. Projects create dust on every street corner. But many, like the school, are privately funded and done piecemeal, often using the same rusted rebar that failed Haitians the first time.

It is estimated about 700 million cubic feet of rubble have yet to be cleared, enough to fill six Superdomes.

Only 10 percent of the rubble has been removed. It is Haiti's biggest challenge, the country's Prime Minister Jean Max Bellerieve told ABC News today.

Bellerieve blamed the international community for its reluctance to fund rubble removal. "It's not sexy. It's very expensive and doesn't hold up like a school or a hospital," he said.

Haiti's Grim Quake Anniversary

The prime minister said the bulk of the rubble cleared, enough to open most of this shattered city's streets, was paid for by the government, although most of the removal ABC News has witnessed in four trips over the past year resulted from private initiatives -- most often Haitians using shovels, picks and buckets.

And there are so many other challenges. Bellerieve told ABC News the government has revised upward its previous estimate of the death toll from 230,000 to 316,000, meaning about 3 percent of Haiti's entire population perished.

The country has yet to elect a new president, and it's voters continue to wait for the results of the disputed Nov. 29 elections. The runoff for the three putative front runners -- the wife of a former president, with scant political experience, a former hip hop star, and a government anointed successor with a checkered past -- has been postponed to March, all under the threat of violence.

Haiti has suffered a year of almost biblical disasters, an earthquake followed by the destructive Hurricane Tomas which rekindled the almost dormant cholera outbreak here that claimed over 3,600 lives.

The only full service maternity hospital in Haiti is run by the emergency relief group Doctors Without Borders. Out back, in a clump of tents the doctors have cordoned off a ward specifically for pregnant women with cholera.

"We are fighting an uphill battle every day, but we have a lot of still borns and babies born that don't survive," said the group's spokeswoman Tara Newell. "But for every one of those we have one or two case like we have today in our pediatrics ward where there are two cholera babies who have cholera and we didn't think were going to make it and are now on their way to good health."

One of them, wrapped in a pink blanket, is a shriveled infant boy. Born last Thursday he is unnamed because his mother died of cholera during childbirth.

"He's lucky to be alive," said Newell, noting that 90 percent of infants born with cholera die. "Certainly we didn't think he would survive and now he will, but he has an uphill battle to fight to get there."

Cholera Babies One Year After Haiti's Quake

The doctors said his family didn't have the means to care for him. So he joined the ranks of Haiti's tens of thousands of orphans.

And even those fortunate to have living parents remain trapped. One-year-old Dave Saint Cyr celebrates his birthday today. He was born just after 5 p.m., on the street, as the earth rattled and the dust of crushed buildings billowed around him. His mother Ivy, whom we met a couple of days after the quake huddled in a neighbor's front stoop, feared he wouldn't survive.

ABC News went back to find Dave and Ivy Saint Cyr and after 10 days of searching, found her.

We learned that after living on the neighbor's stoop for seven months, Ivy moved back to the fetid, and cracked single room basement apartment with her four children where she lived before the quake struck. We found that little Dave has survived, though he remains sickly.

Outside, taking us back to the stoop where we found her a year ago, Ivy Saint Cyr smiled, thanking God for the miracle of little Dave's survival.

"The baby was so sick because the baby spent too much time on the ground... but now the baby is okay," she said. He hung limply in her arms as she spoke, eyes puffy from crying.

Like so many Haitians after the quake, she has no work and these days little hope. Her days are spent scrounging for something to eat.

"There are days when my family doesn't eat," she said.

I asked Principal Charles whether she had any hope. "I am an optimist, always," she replied. "How else could I keep coming here every day." She felt a duty to return to the school and rebuild it, and that sense of mission keeps her going, she said.

She and her superintendent have by now given up pleading with the government or international organizations for aid. The rest of the school would be built, slowly, maybe never, and perhaps not strong enough to withstand another earthquake, but it'll have to do, they said.

When asked where the government was to help her, she said "The government is here and yet it doesn't exist."

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