Haiti Survivors Mourn, Pray One Month After Quake

The sounds of prayer and weeping could be heard on Friday in Haiti as survivors of the Jan. 12 disaster participated in a national day of mourning exactly one month after the massive 7.0 quake killed over 200,000 people in the country.

Thousands of survivors gathered amidst the rubble of destroyed buildings and churches to commemorate the day, including President Rene Preval, who wept as he gave his first public address in weeks.

"What can I say to the people who are dead, the people who are injured, the people who have lost loved ones?" Preval said. "Haitians, the pain is too heavy for words to express."

Preval went on to exhort Haitians to pray for those who were lost in the quake, as well as for former U.S. President Bill Clinton, who underwent heart surgery on Thursday and is the U.N.'s special envoy for Haiti.

"Let's dry our tears and rebuild Haiti," he said. "Haiti will not perish. Haiti should not perish."

Following his address, Preval met with U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and other government officials for a visit to medical facilities and aid distribution sites, which relief agencies have reported are more efficiently meeting survivors' needs.

In contrast to the painfully slow delivery of relief in January, humanitarian aid is now getting to those who need it, aid pipelines are opening up, and rehabilitation programs have begun, according to Tommy Bouchiba, acting country director for Action By Churches Together (ACT) Alliance.

"It is getting better," Bouchiba said in a statement released by ACT.

The U.N. has reported that safe drinking water and two-week rations of rice have been distributed to nearly one million of Haiti's victims, although sanitation emergency shelters continue to be priorities, especially as the raining season approaches.

Meanwhile, Haiti's international airport has said that it will restart its operations on Feb. 19.

Making note of the resilience of the Haitian people, ACT worker Prospery Raymond said that such an attitude is the foundation on which any international humanitarian support should be built.

"I'm optimistic," he said. "Yes, this happened but it has to be seen as an opportunity to rebuild the country."

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