Haiti pauses to catch its breath and remember

One month on from the devastating quake, thousands join memorial services

In tent cities, outside demolished churches, and at the mass graves that have become a symbol of their appalling loss, the people of Haiti paused yesterday to mark the one month anniversary of the natural disaster that killed 230,000 people and left millions more struggling for survival.

The national day of mourning brought the shell-shocked nation together to honour victims of the devastating earthquake, which measured 7.0 on the Richter scale, flattened much of the capital city, and made an estimated 1.2 million of its citizens homeless.

Priests from Haiti's two official religions, the Catholic and Voodoo faiths, joined Protestant clergymen at yesterday's main remembrance service, held under mimosa trees outside the presidential palace in Port-au-Prince.

They were watched by the 125,000 victims who are now living under makeshift tarpaulins in the nearby park. Like many mourners across the city, they wore black armbands, and sang hymns and gospel music.

The country's president, Réne Préval, whose administration is under increasing political pressure, wept throughout the service. He was comforted by his wife. "Haiti will not die; Haiti must not die," he said.

At 4.35pm local time, the moment the quake struck, Haitians at home and abroad kneeled to pray. They remained silent for 40 seconds, as long as the ground shook that fateful January day.

Yesterday's anniversary was also marked at hundreds of smaller religious events. Churches in the Petionville suburb were so packed that loudspeakers had to be set up. "All families were affected by this tragedy and we are celebrating the memory of the people we lost," one mourner, Desire Joseph Dorsaintvil, told Associated Press.

The day of mourning allowed the nation to catch its breath, after weeks of chaotic emergency operations. It also provided an opportunity to reflect on the challenges that face aid workers battling to treat the injured and feed, clothe, and provide water to survivors.

Although the immediate crisis has receded, and the largest humanitarian relief effort ever mounted is now underway, millions of refugees will soon have to contend with the hurricane season, which begins in earnest in April.

The government said this week that rains could become the biggest threat to recovery. Flooding will damage already-limited sanitation, and aid workers fear it could turn crowded camps into outdoor sewers.

"There's a massive concern about the possible outbreak of disease, and so we are working to combat that quickly," Aisha Bain of the International Rescue Committee told CNN. "We are working on a large-scale buildup of providing clean water, latrines, showers, hand-washing stations."

The coming rainy season could also affect the long-term success of reconstruction efforts. The European Union has proposed a military mission to step up the construction of shelters, while charities campaign to provide tents.

However Port-au-Prince is running out of space to pitch new tents, which take up more room than makeshift shelters: "Tents are great, but they basically impede the process of economic development and reconstruction," Lewis Lucke, the US special co-ordinator, told CBC news.

Tens thousands of Haitians have meanwhile fled overseas. However some foreign countries have begun turning away refugees, leading to fears from the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, that they will return to the country and add to local problems.

"We are concerned about the large numbers of highly vulnerable people, including the injured and separated or orphaned children," the UNHCR said yesterday, "Therefore until such time as people can return safely and sustainability, [we] call on all countries not to return Haitians and to continue granting interim protection on humanitarian grounds."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: 'Time Heist' sees a darker side to Peter Capaldi's Doctor
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

KS1 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1 Supply Teacher re...

KS2 Teaching Supply Wakefield

£140 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS2 Supply Teacher r...

Year 1/2 Teacher

£130 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1 Teacher required,...

Primary Teachers Needed for Supply in Wakefield

£140 - £160 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1&2 Supply Te...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam