By TRENTON DANIEL
Some 18 months after the quake, Haiti’s government and international partners are trying to create jobs and housing in the countryside in an effort to relieve strain on dangerously crowded Port-au-Prince. The city is one of the Caribbean’s biggest, with about a third of Haiti’s population, having swollen from 200,000 people just a few decades ago to more than 3 million.
Part of the reason was that Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier, the late dictator, shut down ports and tore up roads to undermine his opponents in the countryside. And in the 1980s, new factories lured farmers to the city from fields where they were struggling to survive.
Today, on the mountainsides surrounding the capital, cinderblock shanties are piled on top of one another. Seasonal rains often trigger mudslides, sending homes crashing down the crowded hills.
When the magnitude-7.0 earthquake struck on Jan. 12, 2010, some 300,000 people died, according to government figures. Densely packed neighborhoods became death traps. Whole neighborhoods were flattened. Many in Haiti have speculated that the death toll would have been lower had there been jobs and basic services in the countryside to keep people there.
Now government officials and foreign aid groups see a rare opportunity to fix the problem.