In Port-au-Prince and its environs, more than a million people are living in sordid, makeshift encampments vulnerable to flood and epidemic. These camps, which look temporary to outsiders, seem strangely permanent to those familiar with Haiti and its shantytowns, from which much of Martelly's support derives. Indeed, many of the shacks in the new camps seem more solidly built than the squalid lean-tos of stick and tin that were the architectural norm in the sprawling bidonvilles of the capital even before the earthquake. Meanwhile, a slow but steady cholera epidemic has killed thousands.
Among all this misery, the young, blond, carefree cadres of nongovernmental organizations skitter around in their SUVs, trying to fix a few small things. They start new orphanages; they feed a neighborhood; they erect a school; they make sure Bill Clinton, the U.N.'s special envoy to Haiti, gets from one event to the next. They go out to bars and restaurants in the better parts of town.
On the anniversary of the quake last week, the difficulty of the task ahead was clear. But the character of the Haitian people was also on display, and that in the end could be the nation's greatest asset, with competent and honest leadership.