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A year after an earthquake devastated Haiti, one aid official says there is hope

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

It has been a year since a massive earthquake rocked Haiti. More than 2,000 people were killed. Many more were injured, and hundreds of thousands of people needed emergency humanitarian assistance after roads and power and running water - after just about everything washed away. Well, two days after the earthquake last August, I spoke with Ronald Jocelyn, the education director for a nonprofit aid organization called Hope for Haiti, and he told me about the devastation the people were facing.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

RONALD JOCELYN: They are suffering. They lack everything, like medications, medical supplies, food and shelters. People gather on the street, on parks, on, you know, soccer fields, on the streets. That's where they live. That's where they sleep.

KELLY: Well, a year later, we have called Ronald Jocelyn back to tell us about the situation in Haiti today, one year later. Ronald Jocelyn, I'm glad to speak to you again. Welcome back to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

JOCELYN: Thank you for having me on the show.

KELLY: So I want people to know that we're talking to you from Les Cayes. That's one of the cities hardest hit by the earthquake a year ago. What is it like there today?

JOCELYN: There is a lot of change, even though there are things that still need to be done. But buildings are being rebuilt. And actually, this is one thing that Hope for Haiti is helping with - with renovation of homes in, you know, places in southern Haiti. So people are trying to rebuild their homes, and schools are being rebuilt, too. Hospitals are being rebuilt. And people, you know, are hard at work at the moment.

KELLY: And the soccer fields? Are people playing - back to playing soccer on them and not sleeping on them?

JOCELYN: Fortunately, no more people are sleeping there. So it just needs to be renovated so the youngsters, you know, can go back to the field and play and have fun together.

KELLY: Yeah. It sounds like a lot has been done. A lot remains to be done. What are the most pressing priorities now?

JOCELYN: First of all, let me tell you that, in Haiti, for the moment, we are facing a lot of challenges, like insecurity, you know, civil unrest, fuel shortages, food shortages. It's really expensive to buy the most essential items that the people need for living. And we are in need of electricity. For example, in the city of Les Cayes, we have only two or three hours of electricity every two or three days.

KELLY: Wow.

JOCELYN: So we really are in need of these infrastructures for the people to live a decent life in Haiti, particularly in the southern part of the country.

KELLY: Well, I was going to ask how even or uneven it is from one part of the country to another. You're in the southern part of the country. You were hit very hard by the earthquake - different story in Port-au-Prince or in other parts of Haiti?

JOCELYN: Well, in the southern part of the country, it is the hardest for the people. Because of the gang violence in Port-au-Prince, it's not easy for people to come from Port-au-Prince to Les Cayes, and you need to pay the gang members to be able to pass. But what I want to highlight is that most of this violence is in Port-au-Prince. Sometimes, people tend to compare the whole Haiti with Port-au-Prince, but Haiti is not Port-au-Prince. Port-au-Prince is just a city of Haiti.

KELLY: It's true that, for us here in the United States, many of the headlines that reach us from Haiti are about bad things happening - either about the violence or about the political chaos or about an earthquake. Is there anything you would want people listening to know about Haiti - about your country in this moment?

JOCELYN: Yes. I want them to know that there is still hope for Haiti. We have created local leaders on the ground who want to do their part. They just need to be empowered. And as you know, sustainable development takes time to happen. It takes effort and dedication. So we have the people. We want to make the effort. We just need the resources to make it happen.

KELLY: Ronald Jocelyn - he's the education director for Hope for Haiti. Thank you very much for your time today.

JOCELYN: Thank you for having me, Mary Louise.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.
Michael Levitt
Michael Levitt is a news assistant for All Things Considered who is based in Atlanta, Georgia. He graduated from UCLA with a B.A. in Political Science. Before coming to NPR, Levitt worked in the solar energy industry and for the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington, D.C. He has also travelled extensively in the Middle East and speaks Arabic.