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Three years later, Haiti honors earthquake victims

Dieu Nalio Chery / AP

A man sweeps an exposed tiled area of the earthquake-damaged Santa Ana Catholic church, where he now lives, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Jan. 12. Haitians recalled on Saturday the tens of thousands of people who lost their lives in the devastating earthquake three years ago. Most of the rubble created by the quake has since been carted away, but more than 350,000 people still live in displacement camps.

Former President Bill Clinton was in Haiti Saturday to honor the third anniversary of the massive and devastating quake that killed more than 250,000 people.

Orlando BarrĂ­a / EPA

Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, left, Haiti's President Michel Martelly, former U.S. President Bill Clinton, and Haitian first lady Sophia Martelly attend a ceremony in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, to commerate the third anniversary of 2010 earthquake.

Rebuilding looks promising, particularly in the bustling city of Port-au-Prince, but unemployment hovers at 70 percent and 350,000 people displaced by the quake remain homeless, living in a sprawling tent city. Cholera, too, has had devastating effects.

Clinton, the United Nations special envoy for Haiti, joined the country’s president Michel Martelly for a quiet ceremony at a mass burial site on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince. The Clinton Foundation reports spending $28 million in Haiti.

"I'm encouraged by the work that's being done on the airports, some of the road construction that's been built, but we still need a lot more infrastructure work," Clinton told Reuters.

Rebuilding looks like 80 schools built by the Jamaica-based cellphone company, Digicel. It looks like a modern teaching hospital built by Partners in Health, a global nonprofit, and like an airport expansion to accommodate international flights.

But how money is being spent has triggered controversy. Canada’s international cooperation minister made controversial remarks about freezing its $1 billion annual contribution to Haiti. Officials backtracked although said they are reviewing how the aid is spent, according to Canada’s CBC.ca

Martelly says that progress is slow because relief money has gone to aid groups.

“We’re not lobbying for Haiti to get all of the money, but we are lobbying for Haiti to get enough money where our institutions are not weakened,” he said.

--NBC’s Mark Potter and Isolde Raftery and Reuters’ Susana Ferreira contributed reporting.

Uppa / Zuma Press

Images of the aftermath of the 7.0 earthquake that struck Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010.