Port-au-Prince, Haiti—Nearly four months since the devastating earthquake, life in Haiti has been nothing but a constant nightmare. By all account, support for the victims and the country as a whole was enormous, but it looked like the relief effort has yet to reach some of the most effected victims, and the worldwide T.V. coverage has simply vanished like a thief in the night.
On every street corner, on every block, the raw poverty is unavoidable. The plea for help cannot be ignored. Haggard faces of children, who line up the roadside with their dull bellies and reddish kinky hair, are a vivid reminder of another catastrophe in the making if something is not done quickly to save these children and their parents from the brink of starvation. Food is a precious commodity, and many families are simply surviving on one meal a day, and sometimes, one meal every other day. The streets are filthy. There are no words for the stench of trash burning and sewage running in the streets.
It is estimated that over one million Haitians are internally displaced. Even though, the U.N. and Red Cross have been working along with other nongovernmental organizations (NGO), thousands of Haitians continue to live in makeshift tents. When the rain comes, it washes away their belongings. Mud-clogged huts popped up everywhere.
Since the earthquake, it was the first time I went to the southern suburb of Carrefour, near the mouth of the epicenter of the quake. I purposely decided not to set foot in the area because the memories of gruesome pictures of collapsed houses with people in them—many of them were people I knew—were still too vivid. Last week, after many sleepless nights, I was resolute in overcoming my fear. I wanted to challenge myself to see how far I could go in fighting my own inner demons that seem to forever dwell in my body since that terrible January afternoon.
So, I took a taptap and rode down the road to Carrefour. My younger cousin, who lives in the United States and who came down for the first time since the tragedy, rode along with me. Along the way, countless tent cities and huge boulders on the side of the crumbled highway could be seen. Passengers in the car claimed those boulders to be the same boulders that flattened hundreds of people on Jan. 12.
As we arrived in Carrefour and got off the taptap, we headed east to the neighborhood of Saint Charles. A trail of smashed cars lining in the middle of the street immediately greeted us. Pedestrians were passing by with an unusual nonchalance, and my cousin began to ponder if these people walking through their neighborhoods still have a sense that the world has crumbled around them. He shook his head in disbelief. I was a bit surprised, but I was not as heartbroken as he was, for this is my world, the world I’ve been living in for 4 months now—a world clouded in despair, glum and deep seated melancholy. Far off in one street corner, few barefooted children were playing soccer, using a plastic ball. Their feet got caked in the dust. Yet, they seemed happy and hopeful about their future. This was impossible to comprehend under these abnormal circumstances. But they are Haitians after all, totally accustomed to hardships. “Life will be better tomorrow,” one of them told me when I asked him about the daily life in his neighborhood.
Further up the road, a little puppy was giving an agonizing bark and starting to wag its tail upon seeing us. Its head buried between its paws, one could visibly see that it was hungry. If people can’t find food, don’t even think about the animals. The streets were swamped by piles upon piles of garbage, rubble and debris. Flattened houses were left untouched as if the authorities have no plans to do something about them.
The world now has come to learn about the incompetence of the Haitian authorities and their blatant passiveness, even as Haiti seems to be sinking with them.
Note: Yves Ducher lives in Port-au-Prince and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Also see Haiti: what is the way forward?