Inside The Camps

Nearly 400,000 people are still living in tents 32 months after the January 12, 2010 earthquake and apparently these homeless families are not a priority for the Haitian government and the ninternational community. 

Despite the government’s efforts to remove the internally displaced people in the most visible camps around the capital with inadequate resources, there is no indication of a long-term plan.

When Tropical Storm Isaac hit Haiti there was great material destruction and twenty-four people were killed. It created problems on top of problems for people living under tents. Several mothers explained to our team how they spent the night when the storm passed, trying to remove water from their tents, unable to sleep at all.

It is clear that in the camps, the lives of homeless earthquake victims grow more precarious with each heavy rain. In order to protect their families, many people have added solid building materials to their tarps/tents and this is transforming the camps into permanent communities.

The silence about the situation of the people in the camps after Tropical Storm Isaac is disturbing. The hurricane season won’t be over until November, and the silence about people in camps could have several interpretations. 

The political crisis and the economic situation in the country is very complicated, and in the last few months many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have abandoned the camps after disbursing the majority of their funds in a variety of programs that didn’t create sustainable solutions, and now the efforts that existed to help people living in tents are diminishing. The homeless families in the camps are most visible in the discourse of those impatiently waiting for them to leave the camps.

Just as always happens after a heavy rain, Isaac increased the chances of the spread of cholera, especially in the camps where the situation of sanitation is continuing to deteriorate.


We Slept in the Water Last Night

How was your night last night?

Oh, under water, we slept in the water last night.

Water entered into your tent?

Water came inside, the tarps are rotted and the water leaks in.

How many people are living in your tent?

Myself and four children.

What are you doing now?

I'm removing the water for the children, removing the water so the mud can dry for the children.

Did any authorities come to see you and talk with you as the hurricane was approaching to see how they could help you?

Lydie Parent [the mayor] came here and told us to look for houses or go up to the mayor's office. Go look for houses but I don't have any means to do that. They don't see the misery that we are in here. When the rain falls we are people under water, we are living in misery.


Inside Haiti's Displacement Camps, 32 Months After the Earthquake


It's Houses They Can't Give Us and Houses We Can't Find

Madam, how did you experience the storm last night?

Last night there was so much water, the water invaded everything.

Did the inside of your tent get wet, the children couldn't sleep?

Yes, the children couldn't sleep.

Do you know about the program 16/6 that is removing sixteen camps in the capital? Isn't Parc St. Therese one of the targeted camps to remove? What did they promise you, what authority came to speak with you?

The Mayor, Lydie [Parent] came and gave us a card, explained to us that we needed to go and find housing, but right now we can't find houses. They are asking for a lot of money from us and we don't have enough money to rent a home. They are giving us $4,000 Haitian ($500 U.S.) and you can't even rent a house for six months with $4,000 [In Haiti most rent must be paid one year in advance.]  They send us to find houses with $4,000 that we can use to rent a house for six months and we can't find housing.

But what are you asking for exactly, you want a nice house or what?

We need houses but it's houses they can't give us and houses we can't find. They are offering us this money but its houses we can't find. They know we are left here, under tents, under the water, with our small children.

We know cholera has been in the country for more than a year, and its when it rains that cholera cases increase so tell me, how do you feel at this moment because each time it rains the camp fills with water. What do you think?

I'm not comfortable, but everyone in the camp is not at ease because the water invades all of our tents. We are not well when the rain is falling.

Are you afraid you could get cholera?

Yes, I'm always afraid. There is the cold, and there is cholera.


Everywhere Flooded

I see you are gathering the water?

"Last night we pushed the water out, we couldn't get it all out. We had no choice but to leave it, and everywhere was flooded, where we sleep, it all flooded."

These are your two children?

"Three. The oldest's father died in the earthquake. My daughter's father is alive, but the others, their father died - he left me pregnant."

Since the earthquake, have you been taking care of the children on your own?

"I used to sell things but the little money I had is gone. I don't know what to do about school."

The president has free schools?

"We're not benefiting from that. My kids are 8, 5 and 1 and 1/2. Me and my three kids live in this tent."

Is it like this every time it rains?

"Yes, don't you see my children's bed? We are flooded everyimte it rains. The water goes as high as that taller bed." 


Nearly 400,000 Still in Haiti's Displacement Camps, 32 Months after Earthquake