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Americas
Haiti still desperate one month on
Haitians mark day of mourning as families struggle for basic food and shelter.
Last Modified: 12 Feb 2010 21:40 GMT

As mourners gather to mark a month to the day since Haiti was shattered by a devastating earthquake, thousands of families around Port-au-Prince are still struggling to shield themselves and their children from hunger and disease.

Haitians dressed in white emerged on Friday from among the shanty towns that have sprung up around the nation's capital to grieve for lost loved ones and to pray for their own future.

People began to gather before dawn in the central Champs de Mars square, where the impact of the 7.0 magnitude tremor can still be seen in the sprawling tented camps that now dominate the plaza.

Part memorial service, part rally, mourners cried "hallelujah" among the tears for what locals simply refer to as "the catastrophe."

"All the religions of Haiti - voodoo, Catholics, Baptists, Protestants – we are all gathered here to pray because Haiti has retained the richness of the eternal spirit," a preacher told the Agence France Presse news agency.

"The Haitian people may be poor but they are richest in the world in grace and spirit."

Al Jazeera's Rob Reynolds reporting from Port-au-Prince, said: "Today is really a chance for Haitians to come together and offer one another's support - or at least begin with coming to coming to terms with the unimaginable suffering that has engulfed the country since that day one month ago."

About 212,000 people are reported to have died as a result of the January 12 quake and an estimated 1.2 million people remain homeless.

Day of mourning

The government called a day of mourning as many businesses closed and Port-au-Prince's normally bustling streets were eerily quiet.

Al Jazeera's Jonah Hull spoke to a mother-of-four, Edmonde Roseline, as she strove to provide the bare necessities for her children.

"As long as the children can eat and drink, that's enough for me," she said.

"When I am here with them I just try to stop them getting sad."

While parents like Edmonde finally struggled to the front of one of the rice queues set up to feed the destitute, Haiti's agriculture minister was pitching his country's longer-term food production needs in a meeting with UN officials, diplomats from around the world and banking leaders.

Minister Joanas Gue was the keynote speaker on Friday afternoon at the headquarters of the UN World Food Program in Rome.

Poor nutrition

While aid workers from foreign governments and private organisations rushed to feed the disaster's survivors and homeless in the days immediately after the quake struck, Haiti is now concerned about how to feed its people in the medium and long-term.

"I want to find a tent before the rain starts, to shelter my children. The rain will bring diseases and I don't want them to get sick"

Edmonde Roseline, mother-of-four

Poor nutrition was common in Haiti even beforehand, when three-quarters of Haitians were living on $2 a day.

The country's approaching rainy season is making the agricultural situation even more urgent - while bringing danger for families like Edmonde's.

"I want to find a tent before the rain starts, to shelter my children," she told Al Jazeera.

"The rain will bring diseases and I don't want them to get sick."

An estimated 50,000 families, or about 272,000 people, have received emergency materials to build their own shelters, according to the UN office that coordinates humanitarian affairs.

Meanwhile, 10 United States missionaries accused of kidnapping 33 children in the wake of the tremor look set to be released after the weekend after a judge signed a release request.

A final decision seems unlikely to be taken before the prosecutor's office works on the request on Monday.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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