Haiti hasn't seen many homes built for the poor following a devastating earthquake almost two years ago, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said Monday.
In a 10-minute interview with The Associated Press, Carter said he noticed little housing reconstruction for struggling Haitians as he drove from the international airport to the residence of the U.S. ambassador in Port-au-Prince to Leogane, a coastal city 18 miles (29 kilometers) west of the capital that was largely flattened in the earthquake because of its proximity to the epicenter.
He added that there may be construction in other parts of Haiti but that he hadn't seen it.
"We haven't seen very much reconstruction of homes for low-income people," Carter said with his wife Rosalynn seated at his side. "We have seen some the villas, some of the fancy homes along the beachfront being repaired. But there hasn't been much evidence yet of reconstruction of the homes in Port-au-Prince."
Rosalynn Carter weighed in with her own observations of the earthquake zone, her voice shaking: "I don't think anybody on earth ought to have to live in situations like this."
The Carters came to Haiti as part of a six-day mission to help 500 volunteers from the Atlanta-based Christian charity Habitat for Humanity build 100 homes for families displaced by the January 2010 earthquake. The housing effort aims to house 500 families, and they are due to move in February, after latrines and wells have been installed.
Nicole Sully, a 39-year-old wife and mother of five, will be among those to take a new home. The one-room houses are built with cinderblock bases and plywood walls.
"It's good for us because where we are now it's not really a good situation," Sully said as volunteers hammered away on two-by-fours on the frame of her home.
Sully was among the tens of thousands of people to lose her home in the earthquake and sought shelter in flimsy constructions patched together with tin, twine and nails.
Community leaders in Leogane deemed her eligible for a free house after they found her to be among the "most vulnerable," said Claudy Jeudy, the national director for Habitat for Humanity.
The $6 million housing project, funded mostly by the Inter-American Development Bank, is unique in this sense: The group secured the land, a 34-acre plot of land at the end of a dirt lane, from the mayor of Leogane, who gave it away. Builders have complained since the earthquake that they've been unable to move forward on home construction because it's unclear who owns which parcels of land. Many land titles were lost in the quake.
"They came to help us," Leogane Mayor Santos Alexis said in his office at town hall. "We had no choice but to give them the land so they could build the houses."
There are still 3,000 people living without proper shelter in Leogane, Alexis said. Nationwide, there are more than 500,000 people living in makeshift camps, down from a peak of 1.3 million just after the quake, according to the International Organization for Migration.
Carter, 87, has long been involved in Haiti, whether as president or after he left office.
He last visited Haiti in 2009 with his Atlanta-based nonprofit the Carter Center to launch a campaign that sought to eradicate malaria and lymphatic filariasis, a mosquito-borne illness that causes limbs to swell to grotesque proportions. Carter and his wife hope to bring attention to the diseases on this trip.
This week, he also meets with Haitian President Michel Martelly and Dominican President Leonel Fernandez. Carter leaves Haiti Saturday.
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