Simply Surviving

Haiti’s Slow Recovery Creating Dire Circumstances for Those Displaced by Earthquake

Leonne Dorcemon, mother of five children, shown here with one of her children, lives in a small tent in Tapis Vert. She says that life is very hard. Her husband does not always find work and the kids have no school available. © Adam Cole 2010

People of the tent village Cappva sit outside their tents that have been home for the past nine months. © Adam Cole 2010

The heartbreaking thing about Haiti, eight months after the earthquake brought a good portion of the capital of Port-au-Prince to rubble, is that the devastation here has transformed into a kind of normalcy.

Life has resumed here, yet it appears that rebuilding from the wreckage is an afterthought: traffic zooms in all directions; the marketplace is packed with people selling their wares; neighborhood restaurants buzz with a sense of jubilee. But there exists village after village of tent cities; piles of rubble go as if they are mere cracks in the sidewalk; and crippled buildings stand as they were made on Jan. 12, seemingly untouched since then.

The worst after-effect is the housing situation, as evident by the seemingly endless villages of tents in Port-au-Prince and surrounding cities; there are an estimated 1,300 of such villages. International development experts report that Haiti will need 125,000 transitional shelters to house what equates to 1.3 million displaced currently in camps. So far, according to a United States Agency for International Development (USAID)/Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) grantees, only a little more 5,855 shelters have been completed, with those only being a temporary solution. Instituting permanent housing is a much more distant goal.

Beyond the element of housing people, is giving them services needed to survive and thrive. Inside the Tapis Vert and Cappva tent villages located in Citie Soleil, their leaders complain that non-governmental organizations delivered tarps and tents at the outset and distributed food for the first couple months and have since given no other support. Leaders say they need food, education for the children, medical help, in addition to the eventual prospect of having their homes back.

“We tell our issues to NGO’s, and they listen, but we have not seen them respond,” said Elisma Etzer, Tapis Vert president. “We have nothing.”

As for the government stepping in, Etzer said he had not been approached by any government representatives.

Those within the tent villages are caught within an undercurrent of not having money or any work, leading way to the hunger issues that tent residents complain of. Without school to attend, kids wander to and fro without anything to do except play with other kids.

Leonne Dorcemon, mother of five children, lives in a small tent in Tapis Vert. They have one bed and a mattress between the 7-person family. They have no possessions, save for what they keep on a coffee table-like stand in the middle of the tent.

Dorcemon holds up a bundle of towels inside her tent. She sells the towels, at 10 goud (Haitian currency) a piece, to make money, though with chronic headaches and dizziness she rarely goes out. Dorcemon says that her husband is “sometimes” able to get work and that the family copes by way of communal sharing of resources.

While the situation seems hopeless for Dorcemon she says that she continues to have faith in God. “He is the only one who will take us through.”