Thony Belizaire, who won numerous awards while working as Agence France-Presse's photographer in his native Haiti for more than 25 years, died on Sunday. He was 54.

Belizaire, who joined AFP in May 1987, died at a hospital in Petion-Ville from complications related to respiratory difficulties.

Belizaire was AFP's eyes in Haiti for the past three decades, covering the political upheaval that has bedeviled his homeland and natural disasters such as the 2010 earthquake that left more than 250,000 people dead.

In the last months of his life, Belizaire had been working on a photo essay about the environment and the work that needs to be done to improve the lot of the Haitian people.

Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe said the country had lost an "outstanding professional."

"Mr. Belizaire devoted more than 30 years of his life to covering the major social, political and cultural events in the life of the Haitian people," Lamothe said.

"He was a profound influence on Haitian photographers, particularly photo journalists."

David Millikin, AFP's regional director for North America, also paid tribute to Belizaire.

"Thony was a gentle but very courageous man -- not only for ignoring personal risk while covering the momentous events which marked Haiti's recent history, but also for pursuing his career with passion and diligence despite battling serious health issues in recent years," Millikin said.

Belizaire is survived by his wife, Marie-Florence, and three children Jeremie, 17, Jonathan, 13, and Jovanny, 5.

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