FOUR MONTHS AFTER ‘THE CATASTROPHE,’ HAITIANS STILL IN EMERGENCY MODE
May 20, 2010 Leave a comment
By MONI BASU, CNN
Port-au-Prince, Haiti — Horror has given way to acceptance; it can be seen on people’s faces. But desperation surfaces everywhere:
In the rubble still strewn about the streets, in the steadily rising piles of garbage, in the 1,300 makeshift camps that still house so many people.
Four months on, the tragedy of the massive January 12 earthquake is fresh.
Relief operations thwarted widespread hunger here and so far, there have been no reports of killer disease outbreaks. But Port-au-Prince is very much running in emergency mode. Still.
No humanitarian worker will argue with that sad fact.
Despite the efforts and good intentions of a host of foreigners and a government that got a wake-up call, progress has been timidly slow.
The future has a different meaning now for Haitians such as Edline Pierre, who worries not about where to enroll her three daughters in school but how to get them up off the floor fast enough when the rains start falling.
She poured cement around her shack in the city’s central Champs de Mars plaza. But that doesn’t keep the water out or her girls safe at night.
The future means getting through the night and when the sun comes back out, scrounging together a meal.
On the streets, a bright spot: the sight of schoolchildren in uniforms. But only 700 of the 5,000 or so schools around the Haitian capital have opened. Some were destroyed; others are occupied by the displaced.
Another welcomed sight: Hundreds of street vendors, many of whom are women, sit under a rainbow of umbrellas to sell mangoes, plantains and coconuts. Or they display a collision of goods in one basket — shoe polish, spaghetti, shampoo, cigarettes and molasses.
These are snippets of life as it was once, before that fatal day.
Give us work — not handouts
In the aftermath of what most Haitians refer to as “the catastrophe,” people asked for food. They patiently lined up for hours to receive a sack of rice, a quart of oil.
The lines are gone, along with the massive aid drops. International agencies are wary that too much help could stymie the local economy.
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