Market a symbol of hope in Haiti

AN historic symbol of hope and vitality reopened among the rubble of Haiti’s capital yesterday as figures showed the struggling country’s citizens were starting to leave emergency camps.

Ahead of today’s one year anniversary of the earthquake which killed over 250,000 people, Irish businessman Denis O’Brien was joined by former US President, Bill Clinton in opening the city’s iconic “Iron Market”.

The city’s main trading area — which was decimated on the January 12 quake — has been rebuilt at a cost of $12 million, (€9.2m), all funded by Mr O’Brien.

Over 900 vendors will operate from the building, selling arts and crafts, fruit and veg, dried produce and beauty products.

Speaking at the much-celebrated reopening, Mr O’Brien told the Irish Examiner: “I hope this will encourage other projects in the city because the whole city needs to be rebuilt. 80% of buildings have to be removed as they are rubble.

“Tens of thousands of families used to get their living from the market from selling and buying goods. It was a matter of getting people back in and out of the sunshine.”

Asked about recent criticism that donors were failing in their commitment to rebuild the Caribbean nation, the Digicell chief disagreed and added: “The problem is there’s been an election mode in recent months here and it’s difficult to make decisions.

“This was compounded by cholera.

“Donors from all over the world will have to meet their promises because they’re going to be embarrassed into doing so.”

Fellow Irish businessman and chair of food company Jacob Fruitfield, Michael Carey also attended the opening ceremony.

Local materials and workers were used in the market’s rebuilding which will be powered by 533 solar panels — the largest solar installation in the Caribbean.

The opening of the iconic trade area in Port au Prince comes with news that the number of homeless Haitians has begun to fall.

Figures released by the United Nations reveal that an estimated 810,000 people are still living in 1,150 camps but this is down from the peak of 1.5million people last July.

Of the 700,000 who have left camp thousands have moved into aid agency transitional shelters, many which are hurricane and fire-proof and provide sanitation.

Many others are returning to their homes but are living in their yards because they are afraid of further collapses of concrete.

The UN also said that 95% of children in the earthquake zone who were going to school before the disaster have now returned to the classrooms.

Meanwhile, peace marches and ceremonies are expected to take place across Haiti today.

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