Four weeks after an earthquake shattered the capital, Haiti is still in a precarious situation with no clear idea of how to house 1 million people living in the streets, Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive said on Tuesday.
Bellerive said it could take his impoverished Caribbean nation three or four years to return to its pre-quake state and up to 10 years to rebuild 250,000 houses destroyed by the magnitude 7 temblor.
Planning for shelters and new homes is not far along and the number of spontaneous tent encampments around the city -- where most Haitians are living under plastic tarps or cloth bedsheets -- has grown to nearly 500, he said.
"We are still in a very difficult situation," Bellerive told Reuters. "We still don't have a clear vision of certain problems -- how we are going to relocate all those people."
Bellerive, an economist who became prime minister only two months before the Jan. 12 quake, said conditions were improving in some areas, with better food distribution and better health services, but shelter remained the biggest problem for the government.
Sanitation in the camps, most of which have no toilets or water, was a big concern with the rainy season just weeks away, he said.
The government hopes to have latrines in place before the rain starts, but he said officials still needed to decide whether to try to move everyone into shelters and organized tent camps, or just leave some of the spontaneous encampments in place.
"We have to take some decisions ... how we are going to move everybody or accept in some places we are just going to accommodate those people because it won't be suitable to move them."
Although health officials have seen rising cases of tetanus and other ailments, Bellerive said there had been no major outbreaks of disease.
"We believe we are controlling any surge of any epidemics in Haiti," he said. "We don't have any epidemics in Haiti up until now."
The government has said 250,000 homes were destroyed by the earthquake, most of them in the capital. Asked how long it would take to rebuild those homes, Bellerive said: "A long time ... I've said 10 years. I say it will be at least three to four years to go back to the 11th of January."