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One year after a devastating earthquake, Haiti's recovery efforts have stalled


One year ago today, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck the southern coast of Haiti. It devastated the Caribbean nation, killing more than 2,000 people, razing entire neighborhoods just five weeks after the assassination of President Jovenel Moise. Since then, recovery efforts have stalled as intense gang violence and political instability are plunging Haiti into deeper crisis. Rachelle Seguin is a medical coordinator with Doctors Without Borders, also known by its French acronym, MSF. She joins us now from Port au Prince. Welcome.


RASCOE: Can you start by telling us what's happening? Roughly a thousand people have been killed so far this year, and nearly 700 have been kidnapped.

SEGUIN: Basically, what I've been witnessing is definitely an uptick in violence, sometimes in pockets that are very well, unfortunately, known for this kind of gang violence, but also in some areas that weren't necessarily accustomed to it. It's been a really, really difficult year. There has been different issues with shortages in fuel. The currency is going on quite the downward slope, and inflation has definitely hit Haiti. So it's a really difficult situation in many different ways.

RASCOE: Many Haitians have fled, coming to the U.S. to seek asylum, but the Biden administration has been repatriating them. A report released by MSF on Friday says that sending people back like that is essentially a death sentence for more than, you know, the 26,000 people who have been sent back this year. Tell us about the conditions to which Haitians are returning.

SEGUIN: Well, certainly for people that have fled, often there's a reason. For us, specifically in MSF, we employ a lot of medical professionals, and we've seen people - director of hospitals, etc. - have been kidnapped. This has led to strikes in different hospitals. One of the largest university hospitals in Port au Prince was shut down for over a month, I believe, in the spring, kind of in protest of these kidnappings. And they've continued. It hasn't stopped.

RASCOE: Do you have any sense of the status of earthquake recovery efforts?

SEGUIN: It's definitely not finished. What we've seen is progress, but it's still - it remains slow, and there's still needs, facilities and other infrastructure that were completely destroyed in that earthquake. It takes time to rebuild. The violence that happens here - just getting the raw materials that are needed can be really difficult when different roads become more and more insecure. So maybe guys taking things with trucks down south have a more difficult time getting there, or just the importation process becomes more difficult depending on where things are received in the ports.

RASCOE: What happened in 2010 with the large earthquake at that time - were there security concerns then like there are now?

SEGUIN: Definitely, like, what we're living through now is more intense than in 2010. Certainly there was gang violence, and we were aware of it, but it did not affect us in the same way as it does today.

RASCOE: That's Rachelle Seguin, a medical coordinator with Doctors Without Borders. Thank you for speaking with us today.

SEGUIN: No problem. Thank you.

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