Opinion

Commentary: Haiti's long, slow recovery

President Rene Preval of Haiti has moved back into an undamaged portion of the Presidential Palace to receive official visitors for the first time since the cataclysmic earthquake of Jan. 12. It is just one of several small but encouraging signs that Haiti has started the long and painful process of recovery.

Given the onset of the rainy season, the vast population scattered in hundreds of refugee camps, living in rudimentary shelters and still vulnerable to mudslides and the threat of flooding, no one is ready to declare the end of the emergency. But it is important to note that the mountains of aid and intense levels of attention Haiti has received from the world community in the last 15 weeks have made a positive difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands of Haitians.

Most important, perhaps, is that epidemics of contagious disease that many feared would ravage the population have failed to materialize -- so far. This is not just a matter of good fortune. Haiti's doctors, U.S. and U.N. medical authorities, nonprofits like Doctors Without Borders and the International Medical Corps have been working tirelessly to give medical attention to the needy and create disease-free conditions in the sprawling camps.

In some cases, they have been too successful. U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, who visited Haiti this weekend, noted that some Haitians had left their undamaged homes to live in camps where they could be assured of sanitary living conditions and a guaranteed food supply. He said some of the camps have grown to three and four times their original size.

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